September Review - Suddick The King
I remember looking at the fixtures for September at the start of the month and thinking 'The honeymoon is over, this is where we find out what the Championship is all about', yet here I am, 30 days later and no defeats to write about!
First up were Hull, a big side who threatened to overpower us but we fought toe to toe and bagged all three points with BBB grabbing a 90th minute winner. Perhaps a little tough on the Tigers but, as we were to see in the following weeks, you don't leave a Blackpool match early!
Burnley away - this was what we had been dreaming of for so long, a proper 'derby' against one of our two traditional foes. I imagine that there are quite a few young 'Pool fans who have never seen us play at Turf Moor; could the occasion live up to the billing? The answer was emphatically 'yes'. A cracking atmosphere as nearly 4,000 members of the Tangerine Army roared the Wizards on, twice battling back from a goal down to take a deserved point. This team of ours just didn't know the meaning of the word 'defeat' and Larry got the tactics/substitutions right again.
Barely had we time to recover than it was the visit of the mighty (expensive) Blades under the floodlights at Bloomers. Bryan Robson's big money side outclassed us for 45 minutes and at times the gulf in quality seemed insurmountable. However, the dogged determination of those boys in tangerine kept the opposition down to a single James Beattie goal (poor defending too) and when Stephen Crainey did a 'Robbie' on the stroke of h-t we went in level. Football is a funny old game and 'Pool proceeded to batter their illustrious opponents in the second half and when that man BBB got on the end of an Andy Welsh inswinger with three minutes to go we were in dreamland. Almost immediately though, the gasp of disbelief was audible as a desperate 30 yard punt towards our goal somehow went right through Rachubka and rolled into the net. Who'd have thought before kick off that we'd have been disappointed with only a point against Sheffield United?!
Colchester were on my list of 'teams we must beat' pre-season and the two contrasting 2-2 draws in our last two games meant that we really could do with a win. Unfortunately, despite dominating the match and being ahead twice we were 'done' by two identical free kicks and another 2-2 draw resulted.
Next up an easy trip to the league leaders, Watford. Not the easiest of fixtures at the best of times, but after taking 120 minutes to dispose of Southend in the Carling Cup four days earlier and losing four players to injury, when Radio Lancs said we were playing a 4-5-1 formation I feared the worst. Well, not for the first time this season Larry got it spot on and I was delighted to eat humble pie as we gained a well merited point.
The only problem with draws is that you only get one point. Statistically, it is better to lose one and win one than draw two, but the boost to morale of not losing must be huge. Larry has created a team mentality the likes of which we haven't seen for a long time - King Billy Ayre's teams were probably the closest to what we have now although at a lower level of football. More importantly I believe that our manager has learned many lessons very quickly. When he first got the job he was another 'tinkerman' and seemed to change for changes sake. The last 12 months has seen him keep faith with the players who serve him well and they now know that no matter who they are, they are fighting to keep the shirt. The only problem comes when we get injuries or suspensions. We just have not got the size of squad to cope - we saw against Southend that once you get past the first 12 or 13 we look short of quality. In this league it is buy or die - we must bring in some new players before it is too late. All the great work and everything we have achieved so far will count for nothing if we start losing because of lack of depth of squad. It can become a really slippery slope - look at the Clampets last season who went 19 games without a win and slumped from promotion contenders to trap door avoiders. I have faith in Larry's ability to spot decent players but whether the finance is there to get them I'm not sure. I had high hopes that Mr Belokon's arrival would signal a new financial era where we move onwards and upwards both on and off the pitch but there is STILL no movement on the South Stand and generally no signs of progress in the way the club operates.
A final word to say how sad I was to hear of Bill Perry's passing; a true legend and a genuinely nice bloke. However, on the plus side it was lovely to see 'Gentleman' Jimmy Armfield at Bloomfield Road last week. Come on Karl, build his stand.