“Of course supporters want to see their team winning. Of course attendances drop when the club is relegated. Of course directors and managers are worried when the team has a bad run. But the only way to get out of trouble is to play yourself out of it.
If a team has to be relegated it must be a great deal more comforting to everybody concerned to be aware of these things:
1) That even in defeat the team still played good football. It still gave the crowds entertaining fare.
2) There have been eleven good men in the team. They are not carrying any passengers. They are still a reasonably good side. They haven’t kicked themselves down the league ladder and therefore they have a reasonable chance of playing themselves back.”
That lengthy quote is from a football book written 60 years ago. The author? None other than Blackpool FC legend, Harry Johnston.
What on earth would he have made of the state of our club today, on the brink of a third relegation in five years? One demotion is unlucky (for somebody always has to go down); two is poor planning; three begins to look like incompetence or dereliction.
The team of 2010/11 was very unlucky to get relegated from the Premier League (although the funding of a better stand-in for Matt Gilks would probably have ensured survival). That team was good, even in defeat and demonstrated the next year that they had a reasonable chance of playing themselves back. Indeed they got into another Championship Play-Off final, one which they were unlucky to lose.
However, from the autumn of 2012, everything began to fall apart and Blackpool FC failed to follow Harry Johnston’s script. There appeared to be no coherent plan. Good first-team players were let go without adequate replacement. There was an over-reliance on one-year deals and loan players. Promising youth players were sold on. Training facilities were not upgraded. Managers came and went in the space of a few months. We started the 2014/15 season with only 8 registered players and got relegated with the lowest ever points total. On Sunday we have to win and Fleetwood have to lose or we are back where were in 2000, in the bottom division again.
Last Saturday was a day of high emotion and contrasts at Bloomfield Road. That we were hosting Wigan – a team that was relegated along with Blackpool last season but is going back up as Champions – is an irony not lost on anyone. Blackpool should have been doing what Wigan have done. The sorry fact of the matter is that our team never had a reasonable chance of “playing themselves back” (to use Harry’s phrase). The set-up isn’t right and the players, despite their best endeavours, are not good enough.
The responsibility for all of this rests squarely with the owner and the chairman for not getting so many fundamentally basic things right over many years. As Ian Holloway observed, our castle is built on sand!
The real issue for many supporters is that the Oystons didn’t use the revenues that flowed in from our Premier League success to greater effect on the footballing side of the business. For a “cash rich” club to be dropping through the divisions is, frankly, unforgivable.
That is why 3,500 disenfranchised and very unhappy Blackpool fans marched through town to Bloomfield Road last Saturday, in peaceful but noisy protest against the way Blackpool FC is being mis-managed and demanding substantial change in the way our famous old club is run. We will continue to work for that change until we get it.