Ben Burgess column: Upbeat Bowyer has stopped Blackpool’s downward spiral

Ben Burgess column
Ben Burgess column

Never let it be said that Blackpool do things the easy way. At no point this season have things gone smoothly for Gary Bowyer’s men.

They’ve gone from the heights of beating the top teams and looking like a quality side to the lows of long winless home runs and mid-table obscurity.

None of that matters anymore because the main objective for this team was to reach the play-offs and the manager, his staff and his players should be commended for their efforts.

For the last four years, the club has been on a downward spiral on the pitch and in absolute turmoil off of it. To stem that tide of negativity shows what a strong man and manager Bowyer is.

He hasn’t used the club’s problems as an excuse. He has remained positive throughout, and his unwavering faith and belief in his players has proved fruitful.

Typically, it came down to the last match of the season for the Seasiders to confirm their spot in the top seven.

A home game against a young, demoralised Leyton Orient was just what was needed, but on the flip-side the game was almost second fiddle to the Judgement Day 3 protests taking place outside Bloomfield Road. The protest itself was (once again) well organised and tremendously well supported by fans from all over, who can clearly relate to the Blackpool fans’ frustrations. It’s great to see the togetherness and the power that these loyal fans can produce. Hopefully the publicity that the protests attracted can raise the profile of the supporters’ grievances and can go some way to action being taken at some level.

Goals from Neil Danns, Andy Taylor and another from the in-form Mark Cullen were enough to earn the three points and the last play-off spot.

Now all attention turns to the two upcoming games against Luton Town. Of all the teams Pool could have faced, Luton are the toughest and have recently beaten the Seasiders 1-0 as well as finishing six points ahead of them in League Two.

The play-offs are such an exciting way for the season to end and the players will be absolutely buzzing with the opportunity to make themselves a hero live on Sky.

A good omen for Pool is the fantastic record they have in previous play-off campaigns.

The first leg at Bloomfield Road will be hugely important and it’s vital that Bowyer sends his men out to attack Luton.

There aren’t too many teams in League 2 with the pace, experience and ability that the boys in Tangerine possess.

The in-form Cullen will be champing at the bit to put his old side to the sword and if the likes of Brad Potts, Nathan Delfouneso and Neil Danns can give him the supply, then he could be the matchwinner.

The prospect of playing the final at Wembley is a huge inspiration for the players. When I was at Cheltenham, we were just outside the play-off places with a few games to go and I remember giving an impromptu talk to the players.

It was along the lines of, “Playing at Wembley and earning a promotion in front of all your friends, family and fans is not an opportunity every player has.

“You may only get that chance once in your career and now is the time to grab it.”

Playing at Wembley is every football-loving kid’s dream and I’m positive Bowyer will be spelling out the importance of taking the opportunity that (unfortunately) near neighbours Fleetwood failed to take.

One team that has taken their opportunity is the Blackpool youth team, who wrapped up a league and cup double with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Morecambe.

Ciaran Donnelly has done a fantastic job with the young players and it’s such a shame for Blackpool he has announced he is moving to Fleetwood to head up their Academy.

He obviously sees the ambition and the fantastic facilities at the club and wants to further his own career.

Let’s hope the Blackpool Academy doesn’t suffer as a consequence.