Ben Burgess column: Bright spark shows Pool’s transformation

Ben Burgess
Ben Burgess
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It’s finally happening! Blackpool are clicking into gear just as the season hits the most important time.

Eight games unbeaten have taken the Seasiders to within just one point of the play-offs, and with the teams above them in decline things are finally looking rosy.

A big mental step was taken down in South Wales on Saturday, when they visited in-form Newport.

Newport have been buoyed in recent weeks by their managerial appointment of local hero and ex-Seasider Michael Flynn.

I spent a couple of years at Blackpool with Flynny and it doesn’t surprise me that he’s moved into management.

He was always passionate about football and more importantly he was a nice, genuine lad.

Players can tell if somebody cares about them and if they are honest. The Newport players clearly detect that in Flynny and are playing out of their skin for him.

Fortunately, that isn’t quite good enough to beat this resurgent Blackpool team. Gary Bowyer’s men raced into a two-goal lead and then it was all about being resilient and making sure they didn’t give away that two-goal lead as they had a few times last month.

Holding on to leads and even extending them certainly helps when you have quick players to release on the counter-attack, and they don’t get much quicker than Bright Osayi-Samuel.

As I watched Bright knock the ball way ahead of the full-back in the 95th minute, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the Newport defender. He was literally treading water by the time Bright glided past him and coolly slotted past the keeper.

It was also another example of goals being provided from a variety of sources in this team. At the start of the campaign, Kyle Vassell was providing all of the attacking force, and when his goals dried up the dip in form happened.

This late-season run of form is reminiscent of my first season at Blackpool, when we won the last eight games of the season to clinch promotion from League 1 in the play-offs.

When I arrived on deadline day at the end of August, we were hovering above the relegation zone and there was an influx of new players who needed to settle into the side. The likes of Claus Jorgensen, Andy Morrell, Ian Evatt, Simon Gillett and myself were all in and out of the side at the start of that season.

Despite our early-season form, there was never really any panic between us because we knew the quality we had in the side.

Once we began hitting form, the belief really flooded in and we went from being well outside the play-offs to missing out on automatic promotion on the last day of the season.

We actually finished that league campaign with a 6-3 away win at Swansea, which made us feel even more invincible.

Invincible is how Gary Bowyer’s men will feel as they entertain relegation-threatened Hartlepool at Bloomfield Road on Saturday.

I’ll be there working for BBC Radio Lancashire and for the first time in a while I’m actually looking forward to the game.

A victory on Saturday, allied with Carlisle and Exeter’s indifferent form, could well see Blackpool finally back in the play-offs.

Lastly, I’d just like to thank all the people who gave me feedback on last week’s article.

Grassroots football is something that’s close to every football fan’s heart and hearing people’s stories about their children and also tales of dedication in the act of volunteering has been really interesting this week.