Ben Burgess column: Bowyer’s brave calls for the season ahead

Blackpool manager Gary Bowyer has revamped the squad following promotion back to League One
Blackpool manager Gary Bowyer has revamped the squad following promotion back to League One
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Twelve signings completed and all in time to gel in pre-season!

This is unchartered territory for Blackpool in recent years.

Not only are they adding depth to the squad, they are also entering the season on a high for once.

Instead of the dread and embarrassment of starting a new season in a lower division – than they started the previous campaign – the Seasiders have that excitement of challenging themselves against bigger and better teams.

On the subject of tougher opposition, Blackpool have a real test of their League One credentials in the first four fixtures with Bradford away, Wigan away, MK Dons at home and then Doncaster Rovers away.

The players themselves would have had one eye on this Bradford game from the minute the fixtures were released.

The Bantams were unfortunate to miss out on promotion at Wembley in May and it will be interesting to see if they are suffering a hangover from that disappointment on Saturday.

Pre-season appears to have gone well for Gary Bowyer, remaining unbeaten and scoring plenty of goals.

He made some brave decisions in releasing the likes of Sam Slocombe and Jack Payne, who both played major roles in the Wembley success against Exeter City.

Bowyer clearly thought he could replace these players with more quality signings and judging from his success in bringing players in last season, who would bet against him?

The one big loss was Tom Aldred, who decided against continuing his role as defensive lynchpin at Bloomfield Road, to join Bury and his ex-manager Lee Clark.

No disrespect to Bury, but the fact a player is choosing them over Blackpool is a sad indication of how low the club’s standing has sunk in the football world.

Having looked at Blackpool’s and many other League One and even Championship sides fixtures in pre-season, I can’t help but feel disappointed for both fans and players alike.

Take the Seasider’s final warm up game as an example.

Macclesfield away doesn’t really stand out as a glamorous tie for either side.

It used to be routine that you would have at least one fixture at home against a big local side that would pack the stadium out and get everyone buzzing for the start of the season.

As players, it was great to test yourself against the Premier League’s finest and the fans loved witnessing the spectacle.

Sadly, the cash cow that is the top division in England believes itself far too important for these local gatherings.

Instead, you have practically all 20 top teams heading to the furthest flung places on earth, ironically to play against each other, in the sorts of conditions that will never be replicated when they return home and the season begins.

Oh how football has changed!

I was at Blackburn Rovers when they were a good side and we would travel as far as Austria for pre-season and would usually warm up with a few easier fixtures so the players could get into their stride.

Now we have the first games being Manchester United v Manchester City and Arsenal v Chelsea!

Keeping on the Rovers theme, they raised eyebrows in the football world when they signed Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton for a combined fee of £8.5m all those years ago!

That wouldn’t even pay Ronaldo’s wages for 12 months now.

When the likes of 27 year-old Gylfi Sigurdsson is valued at £50m and Neymar is demanding more than that annually, you know that things are spiralling out of control.

It just highlights the gap and the challenge that teams face in trying to crack it in the top league and also the gravy train Blackpool are missing out on.