While Jose Mourinho and the official Chelsea website can protest, deflect and delude themselves after seeing their ageing squad pushed into early retirement by a fresh and vibrant Manchester City, who ran out convincing (at least in the eyes of most) 3-0 winners at the weekend – there can be no doubt that Blackpool are in a very real situation!
As I strolled towards fortress Bloomfield on Tuesday night, alongside Keith Southern and Shaun Barker, I felt as though I was transported back seven or eight years.
Often back then we would be walking in, chatting to the throngs of tangerine faithful outside the ground.
We’d be feeling the buzz and excitement of match day, knowing that we had complete faith in our team-mates and that every opposition team feared coming to Bloomfield Road and encountering the wind, the passion from orange shirts in the stands and the never say die attitude from the team.
“Where’s your ticket?” We were brought back to earth as we tried to enter the ground.
We eventually negotiated our way in, but not before reflecting on how desperately things had changed and how flat the whole pre-match atmosphere appeared to be.
When we were passed the team sheets, it was clear how much the squad is short on numbers.
The same team was named as the one that fell to a miserable 2-0 home defeat to an average Rochdale team.
As the teams ran out and the game started, two things entered my head.
The first was that Burton manager Jimmy Floyd-Hasselbaink had previously taught me a great life lesson.
That lesson was never to buy an autobiography from a footballer! I haven’t read a footballers book since... I’ve had more fun mowing my lawn!
Anyway, the second thing I noticed was how big a gap there is in quality between League One and the Championship.
The Seasiders were quite bright in the first half, as they have been in previous games.
I was impressed with Henry Cameron who looks to be a very intelligent footballer with some great attributes.
Brad Potts was making surging runs from midfield and Mark Cullen was working tirelessly in his link up play with Jack Redshaw.
Burton on the other hand looked half asleep, almost as though Hasselbaink had spent his whole pre-match talk reading extracts from his own book!
Sadly, the second half was a different story altogether.
Blackpool were completely dominated by Burton who should in all honesty have won by a much bigger margin.
It took two goals from a very impressive Dutch player called Abdenasser El Khayati.
I struggled pronouncing his name nearly as much as Blackpool’s defence struggled in trying to stop him.
So, here’s the big question. Who is to blame for these second half collapses?
The players? The manager? I don’t think either can be blamed because this is exactly what happens when you have too many young players in a team.
The first half is all about energy and enthusiasm, which these young players have in abundance.
The issues arise as the players start to tire and concentration starts to wane.
You can’t expect a young player to know how to handle situations that are alien to them. What do you do when the opposition’s wingers are controlling the game?
What do you do if the ball is not sticking up front? What happens if the defence can’t push up and the pressure is relentless?
The answers to these questions come from experiencing those situations in real first team games and being guided by older heads on the pitch.
I felt sorry for the Blackpool players because they were working so hard, but they just couldn’t retain possession and every ball up to the strikers was smashed in the corners.
If Keith Southern was in midfield with those lads then he would be telling them to calm down, get your foot on the ball, keep possession.
If Shaun Barker was in the middle of that defence, he would be shouting to push up, don’t sit back.
Those two have had to learn themselves or been taught by more experienced players over the years.
The elusive perfect mix of young and old is something that both Mourinho and McDonald will be searching for in the next 10 days.
Anyway, it’s only Sheffield United away on Saturday...