BEN Burgess talks Michael Appleton, transfers and wonder goals in his latest column.
Work in progress
I think Blackpool will be a bit disappointed not to have taken all three points at the weekend. Bristol City were on a seven game losing streak and if it wasn’t for a debatable penalty decision against Matt Gilks, then the Seasiders would have come home with maximum points. It doesn’t help when Ian Holloway is working his magic at Crystal Palace and overseeing big wins every week.
From what the players are saying, they have had a tough week of training, which was expected after Appleton said that fitness needed improving. It obviously helped because they managed to snatch an equalizer in the 90th minute. The first few training sessions under a new manager are always interesting. The players are all so pumped up to impress the new boss, that tackles are flying in everywhere, some players are dribbling around like they are in the school playground, and generally everything is done at 100mph.
I think Blackpool will be a lot more solid defensively under Appleton and I fully expect them to go on a run of victories now. The next three games are easily winnable for the boys in Tangerine. Watford and Birmingham at home and then Peterborough away should produce nine points and that will get Blackpool back in the promotion race. At the moment there is only a gap of five points between the Seasiders and Blackburn Rovers who occupy the final play off place, so the play-offs are still within reach.
Michael Appleton has spoken of his desire to cull the playing squad at Blackpool. 40 players in a squad is ridiculous, especially when you consider how small the changing rooms at Squires Gate are! Appleton will want to bring his own players in soon, and he will be well aware of the importance of getting rid of a few.
The main problem is how do you go about that? It’s not always as cut and dried as calling a player into the office and saying, “We don’t want you, you can go now”. There are so many factors that people don’t’ always consider. A lot of the players will already know they aren’t wanted at the club anymore, because they haven’t played for so long. From a players perspective there are two ways of looking at things:
1. If they don’t want me, then I will join the first club that shows interest in me. It’s only a short career and I want to be playing football.
2. They gave me the contract, so they should honour it. I’m not just going to leave. My wife and children have moved with me to the area and I’m not going to uproot them again.
I know the second choice looks a bit selfish and greedy, but as players get older, they have more things to consider. Just imagine if you had moved all your family to somewhere new because you had been given a fantastic contract, and then six months in you’re told that you’re not wanted and can leave. It suddenly becomes a lot more complicated.
Surprisingly enough, I have only been put on the transfer list once in my career. That was at Notts County with Martin Allen as manager. He called me in at the end of the season and told me he was putting me on the list. My initial reaction was a determination to leave over the summer, and spoke to a few clubs, but they were all in Scotland, or even further away.
I went back to pre-season training, and as you can imagine, I wasn’t feeling much love. Full credit to Martin Allen though, he changed his mind, put me in the team and took me off the transfer list. I think the following months were the most successful of my Notts County career.
So it could be a tough few months for Karl Oyston trying to get rid of some players, but if anyone can then I’m sure it’s him.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s four goal wonder show against England last week, was significant for a few reasons. The main one for me though, is that his performance just might have saved the ‘big striker’ role for a few more years. It seems that recently the target man has started to be replaced with a dazzling array of vertically challenged, jet heeled magicians.
Barcelona have Messi, Villa, Sanchez etc. Manchester City have Tevez and Aguero.
Don’t get me wrong, I love watching the agile, nimble strikers darting around everywhere, and when it works, as it does at Camp Nou every week, then there is no better football to watch. But just maybe there is still a place for the gangly beanpole. After all, this beautiful football doesn’t work all the time and sometimes teams need a plan B. Saying that though, I don’t think big strikers should just have the ball shelled in the air at them all game. I know in the lower leagues there are plenty of big strikers who can’t control the ball, but the higher up you go there are plenty of cultured six footers.
Big strikers have the problem of being the first players that people notice when things are going wrong. Berbatov was always criticised at Manchester United if they lost with him in the team, just because he wasn’t sprinting around and tackling back, it didn’t matter that he often showed sublime touches and wonderful skills. Emile Heskey was ridiculed weekly, even though he is up there in the Premier League top goal-scorers list. Peter Crouch has had his fair share of stick, and his international goal-scoring record is phenomenal. I must admit that tall strikers do struggle with their body language at times. They are never going to be able to charge around like maniacs, because they aren’t built for that. Just like Lionel Messi isn’t going to hold the ball up from a long goal kick that’s aimed at his head. Everyone has their strengths, and Mr Ibrahimovic might just have reminded people that big strikers are here to stay.