Writer: Eamonn Moore
Date:Tuesday May 24 2011
These types of articles are always the hardest; nobody likes to criticise their club (well at least those of rational mind!), but sometimes it is neccessary, especially if lessons are to be learned for the future.
Don't get me wrong, I'm incredibly proud of our efforts over the past nine months; for the large part, we caught the nation's attention with some absolutely sublime football, and came so, so close to achieving Premier League safety.
Ultimately though, we fell at the final hurdle, and it falls to me as Co-Editor to examine why, hopefully in a rational manner, before drawing a line in the sand and moving onto the new season.
I have waited until now to publish this article so I had time to collect my thoughts, and because hopefully it will inspire debate - something that was unlikely in the hours immediately following our relegation, when emotions were obviously very raw. As always, your views are very welcome, either in the comments section below or on our forums.
So why did the Seasiders get relegated? Well, in my opinion, like most events in history, there were a majority of factors that combined to present the resultant outcome...
1. We weren't (quite) good enough: A very harsh point to start on, but a point that many other pundits will immediately state, so I may as well address it.
The vast majority of our squad worked their proverbials off this season, and many exceeded expectations, performing well beyond their ability.
However, there were some players that simply didn't make the grade, often at key times - see Richard Kingson, David Carney (at left back), Andy Reid and James Beattie. Rather than the squad not being good enough as a whole, I think it was more a case of some individuals undermining (not intentionally it must be said) the efforts of their team mates. This conveniently leads onto point two...
2. A inept transfer policy: This topic has been done to death, but when Ollie resorts to signing players off the basis of DVDs because he can't afford to send his scout out, you know there's problems.
Although many signings were made this season, very few had any real impact. This is partly because they weren't good enough (and the pressure will be on Ian Holloway to spend whatever money he gets this summer wisely), but also because our transfer policy was inept.
Take the case of Sergei Kornilenko. A very nice guy and a decent player, but not fit because he joined us during his pre-season and he didn't/doesn't speak English... yet we thrust him into a relegation scrap - crazy!
Sometimes transfers don't work out and admittedly our promotion caught the club on the hop in terms of scouting networks etc, but instead of trying to improve the situation methodically, a 'suck it and see' policy seems to have been adopted - a policy that ultimately failed.
3. Karl Oyston: Related to point two is our chairman. The recent AVFTT meeting with Oyston illustrated that whilst his fiscal policies may make sense at face value, they often hold the club back. Indeed, one poster on AVFTT quipped that BFC would be the first club to save their way into oblivion, a post that immediately struck a chord!
KO's often got away with his approach to running BFC because of the hard work and application and others, but that will only get you so far in the Premier League. Ultimately, he failed to step up when the club needed him to most.
Yes, there's no guarentee that throwing more money at the situation would have kept us up, but on transfer deadline day in January, KO said he didn't want to get to the end of the season and be saying 'What if?'... whilst he'll undoubtedly still be delighted with the influx of money coming into the club from the Premier League despite our relegation, part of him will surely be saying 'What if?' with the Seasiders having come so close to safety (and more importantly to KO, more £££).
4. Ian Holloway: A Blackpool legend no doubt, but there's no doubt that Ollie also dropped the ball at times during the second half of the season.
James Beattie playing on the left wing, and Elliot Grandin starting one game then not even being in the squad for the next game are just two examples of the lack of joined-up thinking he demonstrated at times.
Ultimately we were at our best when we kept it simple, played to our strengths and Ollie motivated the lads, as the last few games of the season demonstrate.
Ollie said that he learned a hell of a lot during his year out of the game... hopefully he learned a hell of a lot last season as well, and will be better equipped should he return to the Premier League with us.
5. Tactics: Whilst the football we played during the season was absolutely tremendous for the large part, you can't help but feel that a few tactical tweaks here and there would have carried us over the finishing line.
Two such tweaks that immediately spring to mind would be giving the full backs more protection, and also closing the opposition down more in key areas, preventing them from getting balls into the box or shooting.
No system is perfect of course, but at times it was glaringly obvious where our flaws were, and all too often they weren't adequately addressed.
6. The weakened team v Aston Villa: Ollie said at the time of this incident to judge him on it at the end of the season, so judge him we will.
Yes, we came mightily close to getting a result, but considering that Villa were in a real mess at the time, it goes down as an opportunity missed.
7. Late goals: The amount of late goals we conceded was a joke (the Villa game being just one example). Some have suggested that this was a fitness issue, and Matt Gilks' recent comments in the national media on this have added weight to those claims.
However, I also think it was a mental issue: once it happens a couple of times, players (and supporters) are understandably nervous about it happening again. And happen it again it did, time and again. If games lasted 89 minutes, we'd probably have finished comfortably in the top half!
8. Refereeing decisions: Man City scoring two goals that shouldn't have stood. Having stonewall penalties turned down against Manchester United and Arsenal. The ridiculous decisions that lead to Blackburn's equaliser at Ewood Park. Just a few of the game-changing decisions that went against us.
They say that these kind of things balance themselves out over the course of the season, but you can't help but feel that Ollie hit the nail on the head when he said that we don't get decisions because we're not a big club.
Eight factors, some in the club's control, some not. Combine them though and unfortunately you have a recipe for relegation... a recipe that whatever way you look at it is very bitter to swallow.
Date:Tuesday May 24 2011
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