How Optimistic Should We Be?
When Blackpool were relegated from the Premier League, there was a dark cloud hanging over the club - at least as far as manager Ian Holloway was concerned. It took Ollie months to shake off his relegation hangover before eventually leading the Seasiders to their second Championship Playoff Final in three years.
You could have forgiven the 49 year old for suffering a similar hangover this summer following the defeat to West Ham, but instead he's been remarkably upbeat and says that he's targeting automatic promotion back to the Premier League in 2012/13. Cause for optimism definitely, but just how optimistic should we be?
Well for starters, Ollie's still here. After being linked with several other posts this summer - most notably the job at Swansea - the Bristolian remains at Bloomfield Road and has pledged his future to the club (although it is worth noting that he did this only after the posts he'd been linked with had been filled). Further to this, it's also reported that he's looking to buy a property in the area having rented various places since his appointment - no doubt Oyston Estate Agents will do him a good deal!
He's even been 'allowed' to strengthen his coaching team with the arrival of Keith Millen as Head of Development. Millen - who had been acting as 'Pool's Chief Scout last season - fills a much needed role and will hopefully give the Development Squad some much needed direction and focus.
The South East corner of the ground has finally been completed (Rome wasn't built in a day and all that), along with the additional hospitality facilities and restaurant (although it remains to be seen if the revenues generated from these will find their way back to the football club). The training ground is now the 'priority' we're told, so expect no progress on that!
Pre-season training seems to be going well - the players appear to be ahead of schedule fitness wise, which allowed Ollie and his staff to get down to some 'proper training' during the squad's recent training camp in Portugal. That said, whilst I like what Ollie's said about how we're going to set ourselves up tactically this coming season, I'm always concerned when he's so open about his plans as it potentially gives the opposition an advantage when it comes to countering us.
All in all though, things are looking rosy... or are they?
It remains to be seen whether Ollie's call for chairman Karl Oyston to be more liberal when it comes to opening his wallet struck a chord (there are suggestions that Oyston put the comments down to his manager's emotional state following defeat to the Hammers). Having come so close to promotion last time around though, surely it shouldn't take too much investment to see us go one step further in 2012/13 (provided we keep hold of the likes of Matt Phillips, Tom Ince et al of course!)?
We've only signed two players thus far this summer - Jake Caprice (free) and Isaiah Osbourne (six figure sum) - so we'll have to wait and judge our movements over the coming weeks before we have an answer to this one.
That said, Caprice has clearly been signed for the development squad and despite being surplus to requirements at Crystal Palace is the kind of player who's worth taking a punt on - although early comparisons to Seamus Coleman should be disregarded until we've actually seen more of him (remember James Hurst?).
As for Osbourne, I fear that Ollie's fallen into the trap of signing a player he's long admired when they're not actually required (which he's done a few times, although trying to second guess the manager's train of thought is a real occupational hazard).
For starters, Osbourne's not very good and despite The Gazette's claims that he was one of the stars of last season's Scottish Premier League (not quite sure which games they were watching!) he's only been given a one year deal with a year's option - hardly fills you with confidence does it?
Add to the melting pot that Osbourne looks like a replacement for Keith Southern (heavily rumoured to be signing for Huddersfield, despite the fact that he has a testimonial coming up), and you wonder if this is one deal that Ollie will live to regret. Let's just hope that I'm left pleasantly surprised by the ex Aston Villa midfielder's exploits in the number eighteen shirt…
All that appears to be the calm before the storm as it were though - we know that trialist Banvo Anderson has been offered a deal (another one for the development squad), whilst Portuguese attacking midfielder Tiago Gomes is also set to sign for the club. The club also have a young Spanish winger on trial (who's said to have impressed greatly) and have offered trials to ex Middlesbrough striker Massimo Maccarone and Egyptian international forward Amr Zaki, so expect a busy few days/weeks.
Banvo (a striker, who netted 29 goals for PSG's reserve team last season) has been released seemingly as a result of PSG now having mega millions to spend on big name players, whilst Tiago has recently left relegated Hercules after an impressive season in La Liga (and having been linked with a move to CSKA Moscow).
Although I've seen neither of them play, the fact that we're attracting this ilk of player can only be a good thing (provided they've been scouted thoroughly rather than seen on a DVD of course… Salaheddine Sbai anyone?!). Not only do both appear to have been high on Ollie's shopping list, but it also shows that we're casting the net far and wide for the right players to fit with our ethos. There's a further upside for our beloved chairman as well; generally, you get better value for money player wise by going abroad than you do by staying at home.
However, the key test for Karl will be when Ollie requires him to make a real commitment in the transfer market - i.e. will he back his manager when he wants to bring in the 20 goal a season striker that could well be the difference between winning promotion and just missing out?
Then, and only then, will we know how optimistic we should be.