Parkes' Life - A Mere Tangerine Blur?
Parkes' Life - A Mere Tangerine Blur?
By Chris Blackburn
Sandgroanun's Review Of The 2008/9 Season
As we all know our beloved Chairman's mantra throughout his time at the helm has been two words - 'measured progress'. And if the statistics are to be believed - a final league position of 16th with 56 points - then 2008/9 was just that.
However there is every chance that season 2008/9 could go down in Blackpool FC's history as a watershed season! Which, when you consider that we used over 20 loan signings, were dispatched out of both major Cup competitions comfortably by lowly opposition, contrived to lose ten League matches at home and saw our Messiah walk out of the club days before Christmas, seems a little far fetched to say the least!
However what we, the long suffering fans of this great club have witnessed, most clearly in our excellent end of season run, has been a club that is united both on and off the pitch.
An amazing return of 33 points from our away campaign demonstrates that when Blackpool players walk out onto the big Championship arenas they are inspired to deliver Championship performances. Eight wins on foreign territory bears testament to this achievement, with the most impressive being the 1-0 victories at Birmingham City, and Preston North End and the quite breath-taking 4-3 win at Watford.
Conversely a Bloomfield Road that continues to resemble a cross between the Somme on a good day and my neighbour's allotment on a bad one meant that we amassed a paltry 23 points from our home games. The notion that teams do not like coming to a two sided, wind assisted ground have worn thin in recent times and the opening day defeat at the hands of Bristol City set a marker for the remainder of the campaign.
With the South Stand now in the throes of being built it appears that in 2009/10 the players will finally get to play in a home stadium that their endeavours over the past three seasons have undoubtedly deserved. However just as important as having at the very least a quality three-sided stadium, is the quality of the pitch that our stars are expected to perform on week in week out. It is no co-incidence that the Seasiders have this season won at the three grounds officially deemed to be the best in this league - Swansea, Preston and Southampton. Is it therefore too much to ask that the Board invest just a fraction of the reputed £2.5 million windfall from the new television rights deal in a ground staff team that can turn Bloomfield Road into a pitch that can rival the best in the Championship? Hopefully not!
Returning to the subject of loan signings it is interesting to see that the venerable Sir Bobby Robson has added his weight to the notion of reducing the number of loan players that teams can field. In fairness to Blackpool they have continued to work within the rules so rather than attack the club for what appears to have become a major reliance on temporary signings maybe an overhaul of the rules does need to be looked at. Of the players who agreed to a short term stay at the seaside there have been some major successes, with two - DJ Campbell and Charlie Adam - immediately coming to mind.
However the impact that those star acquisitions have made at the club speak volumes for the man management skills of another dynamic duo - Tony Parkes and Steve Thompson. Unexpectedly thrown into the limelight after Simon Grayson's hasty departure to Leeds United they have gone about the task of keeping the Seasiders in the Championship with two qualities that sadly seem too rare these days in football management - honesty and integrity.
Confronted by a situation where eight players returned to their employers in the New Year they have carefully remoulded the team into one that has honest endeavour and skill in equal measure. Tony Parkes in particular looks like a man who thrives on working with Championship footballers and the returns in recent weeks suggest that the players like working with a manager who works ceaselessly on the training ground to get the best out of them.
Ever since Parkes and Thompson were installed in a caretaker capacity over four months ago there have been numerous rumours about who would inherit the Bloomfield Road hot seat in a permanent capacity. Names such as Iain Dowie, Andy Ritchie, Jim Gannon, John Hughes, Aidy Boothroyd and John Sheridan have done the rounds in that time. However a haul of 17 points from the last 10 games suggest that the management team have grown into the role, and have succeeded in building on the foundations laid by Grayson. And of more importance the recent public comments of the likes of Campbell and Adam suggest that if deals could be struck quickly they would be happy to make their moves here more permanent.
So we can look back on 2008/9 as a very good vintage indeed. Second season syndrome has been vanquished and we have finished in a very creditable league position. However when you consider the respective achievements of our two arch-rivals, both of whom are now gearing up play-off campaigns and the ultimate prize of a £60 million place in next year's Premier League, maybe the time has now finally come for Blackpool FC to use its current achievements as a springboard for success, rather than mere incremental growth. And that should start with the speedy appointment of a management team with the necessary resources put at their disposal to enable us to become a major force in the second tier of English football.