Another international break finds our fans’ panel in reflective mood, contemplating the season so far, hopes, fears and desirable areas for strengthening...
The international break comes after 10 games into the season, a time when most teams have settled into some sort of pattern of play, and the table is beginning to shake itself out.
With Blackpool just outside the play-off spots, we can take comfort from the fact that, with one or two exceptions, they’ve been the better side in the games played.
We have a firm base from which to press on.
The creative midfielder that has been missing from our game seems to have been sorted, at least temporarily, with the signing of Shelvey. Hopefully he can make a real impact through to the New Year, and maybe beyond.
We still haven’t settled on a forward to add competition up front. Kevin Phillips has proved he is still a force, while Gary Taylor-Fletcher adds guile and touch to the mix. The third place up front has had a number of contenders, none of whom has really claimed the position as their own. I’d like to see Tom Ince given a run there, as he adds pace and directness to that front line. Bogdanovic will also think that he deserves a chance.
The conundrum for the manager is to use the players already in the squad and determine who gets the place, or goes back into the loans market to fill that gap.
The season resumes with a trip to Upton Park, probably the toughest of our fixtures this season. Get a result there, and I believe we can be right up the table come the end of the season.
The season following relegation can be a hard one. And with some teams bouncing straight back up like Newcastle in 2010, or disappearing into the mires of English football like Leeds, you never know what to expect.
With the departures of Charlie Adam, David Vaughn and DJ Campbell, arguably three of our best players, you’d be forgiven for thinking we might be preparing for a vanishing act.
So it seems all the more remarkable that, even without those three, we now sit in the same league position we ended our promotion campaign in – sixth.
That hasn’t been a fluke. It’s thanks to Holloway. While I was quick to judge him last season, and while I still think he is a little one-dimensional tactically, it’s down to him that we’re fighting, early days or not, for promotion.
He’s brought in two very good players in Kevin Phillips and Barry Ferguson, and one of the brightest young stars to have worn the tangerine shirt in the last 20 years, Jonjo Shelvey.
Watching Big Ben Burgess feature for Notts County against Hartlepool on TV was probably the highlight of my weekend in a footballing sense.
Thank God the international break is over!
News that a Blackpool fan has been sticking up posters around Bloomfield Road, showing Karl Oyston with a wedge of cash, probably illustrates our position at the moment.
Even though we are doing relatively well so far this season, more money could be injected into our squad to make us even stronger promotion contenders.
The attack is the area which will make or break our season, and I feel it would be wise to mostly invest there.
There is an evident lack of pace in the final third, and signing a quick frontman with an eye for goal will provide a much-needed boost.
With an acquisition like this, I would see there being no trouble of us challenging for the play-offs at least.
Ollie revealed in his Sunday Mirror column that two members of the squad have refused loan moves this week in a bid to gain more regular first-team action, which is quite frankly a disgrace.
If players aren’t challenging for a place in the team then they should be made to prove their worth at another club instead of just training every week and picking up their wage packets.
Alas, if we remain in the top half of the Championship by Christmas, I’ll be a satisfied fan.
An area crying out for strengthening all season is upfront, and I’d like a striker with a physical presence so we can adopt plan B if the need arises. Another attacking midfielde,r as Jonjo Shelvey’s young and can’t be expected to make a difference every time he plays, so, with Elliot Grandin out, we need an option. I’d like to see Stephen Dobbie back as he can play that role, and also as one of the front three.
It is also crucial to try to extend Shelvey’s loan deal until the end of the season. He is clearly determined to prove himself during his time at Bloomfield Road.
I think he will inspire our players and supporters. That is vital if we want to challenge for promotion.
My attack would comprise Gary Taylor Fletcher, Kevin Phillips and young Tom Ince. One thing that the Bristol City win showed us was that our bench is capable of changing a game. If the loan signings I mentioned materialise, then I’d loan out Clarke, Sutherland and Matty Phillips to get games. I’d also let Chris Basham, Neil Eardley, Bob Harris, Stephen Husband, Boran Djordic out on loan, however, as Ollie is discovering, this is not quite as straightforward as it sounds.
I’ve seen nothing following Pool this season or watching other Championship games on TV to be frightened, of and I think we should be looking to go up automatically.
We are as good, if not better, than any team in that division.”
It was difficult to know what to expect from Blackpool this season. I have learnt over the years never to expect anything, but always to hope.
Having been relegated and lost three of our starlets, we could have found ourselves floundering at the foot of the table, licking our wounds. But that’s not Blackpool, is it? Our spirit remains strong. And those departed are always replaced. This is a special unit which is stronger than any individuals.
Now we have a new crop of players to get excited about. We have ‘wow’ players in Super Kev, Tom Ince and Jonjo Shelvey. Does it matter that Shelvey is on loan? Aren’t they all, when all is said and done?
We have started strongly, yet we have barely got going. We saw a glimpse of magnificence against Bristol City last weekend. We are going to see more of that.
I know it is still early days, but it looks as though we may finally have found our feet in the upper echelons of the football pyramid.
Anyone who has endured the lower leagues will know that this really is the life up here.
Our record since the first international break has been exactly the same as that leading into it, and we’ve been able to consolidate a position in the top 10 with two wins, two draws and a defeat.
The victories have been reasonably comfortable ones. Ipswich were poor on the day they came to Bloomfield Road, although it appears they have since picked up form and are pushing on. Bristol City, on the other hand, have resorted to sacking Keith Millen since their trip here, and they could be in for a long season.
Cardiff provided the best test we’ve had at home this season, and I think most of us were happy with a point from that one. The Coventry away game promised much more, but a combination of some slack play and ‘Substitutiongate’ meant we had to be happy with a draw.
As for the defeat at Portsmouth, I don’t think we deserved that, but these things happen in football.
After 10 games the team is starting to settle down, and we look to have readjusted to life in this division. We are now treated as a well-established club in the Championship, and there is no reason for us to believe that we cannot finish in the top six again in this campaign.
Saturday sees us reacquaint ourselves with a fellow relegated side, and it could be said of West Ham that they have a better team now than they did when they were in the Premier League. They have already lost twice at home this season but I’m reading nothing into that and if we can take a point from this one before we have two home games, then I’ll be happy.