What A Year!
At the end of the season Larry and co had succeeded in their only goal; avoiding the drop, and the whole Belokon 'episode` - smoke screen or not - was talk of the town.
The Seasiders had announced a pre season tour of Latvia, in conjunction with the Latvian connection and local news show, North West Tonight did various features on Valeri and the 'pool. This in turn generated more publicity for Blackpool, and further enhanced the public opinion of the club.
This public opinion was extended to players within the game, as former Chelsea stopper - Rhys Evans signed, along with Michael Jackson, Adrian Forbes and Wes Hoolahan. The signing of Jackson raised a few eyebrows (especially my own!) - as it was rumoured that Tranmere had offloaded the former Pres*on man, as they didn`t see him in their first team plans.
I found myself asking why a club with '£5million to spend` (clearly not, but that`s how the official press release made it sound!) would want somewhat of a reject from a club in the same division? To see him as captain at Fleetwood Town in a pre season friendly made me think what the hell was going to happen this season with him as captain, and the heart of a defence that included trialist, Chris Slater? Of course, little did we know so early on that Grayson was going to snap up star man, Shaun Barker for a snip at 30K - as he was looking like staying at Millmoor until August. Nor did we know that Ian Evatt would sign on loan from QPR. I for one have always been a great admirer of Evatt, as the big man always played well against us!
I in fact had a discussion with Big Toronto earlier this season when we did sign these top draw players - notably at the time the two to stick out were Evans and Evatt - that we had both been keen watchers of these two every since Evans left Chelsea and Evatt joined Cheaterfield - and that we should have signed them under McMahon!!! I ask too much!
On the eve of the new campaign, club captain, Peter Clarke was transferred to newly promoted Southend United for a reported 400K - leaving best friend Rhys Evans behind at the seaside after a matter of weeks with his new club. Clarke joined two footballing geniuses in Adam Barrett and Efe Sodje in the defence, and Clarke was promptly left on the bench for the opening few games of the season, as Barrett and Sodje outclassed the former Everton man!
Then we went and signed another well known player! Andy Morrell joined the club from Coventry, and with several other clubs after him (Championship clubs I`m lead to believe), it seems Grayson did a very good 'selling job` to the former Wrexham front man. More kudos for Larry because we had lost our opening three games by the time Andy signed on the 15th!
Sadly in those three games, I saw every minute and also watched on as we gave up at Griffin Park to an average Brentford side; as we were outclassed and outfought by league leaders Nottingham Forest; and put in a woeful performance at home the next Saturday against Rotherham. We were yet to score a goal!
The club again spent big money on two more Championship players, Ben Burgess and Claus Jorgensen. Finally, the mighty have an international in the squad supporters cried. Not for long we didn`t. Claus was benched as his second nation, The Faroe Islands, we trounced by Scotland and straight after the match, and he retired from the international scene! Good while it lasted, eh?
Pool picked up towards the end of the month, a superb 4-2 victory at Ashton Gate against Brizzle City the highlight of the month.
League form after that never got going, and, out of the League Cup also, fans were asking questions over whether or not Larry should be allowed to continue his job? I myself would have sacked him after a dreadful September where only a measly four points were picked up before a scrappy win at home to Leyton Orient in the last fixture of the month. This record was made worse as the team played seven matches in this period.
October saw the rise of Simon Grayson (the month ultimately saved the likable manager his job), and perhaps more notably, Wes Hoolahan. The nippy Irish winger had League 1 defences drooling at his dribbling techniques and his man of the match performances. The ability to swap wings with other loan starlet, Simon Gillett kept all defences on their toes also, but also wasn`t such a great move…as it gave the opposing right back a breather from Wes the magician! Grayson was pipped to the manager of the month post by Rotherham`s Alan Knill, thankfully, we don`t need any curses thank you!
The side at that time was settled, with a great back four with Barker on the right, adapting well and Jackson bossing the game from his vantage point, being able to see most of the game and tell players exactly what`s needed. He isn`t the most gifted now, but he`s certainly well worth his place, and knocked back certain preconceptions myself and others had about him.
Away wins at Crewe and Brighton were massive, and I know go into games not expecting us to lose, bucking previous trends!
After a weird sort of year for BFC, it finally looks like we`re moving in the right direction, on and off the pitch.
What will I be saying this time next year I wonder? Where will we be? Will we be even playing in the 1st round of The FA Cup next year? These remain to be seen, and exciting times lie ahead.
Happy Anniversary, Larry!