Pool’s players are staying strong

Blackpool striker Mark Cullen
Blackpool striker Mark Cullen
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Mark Cullen says Blackpool are squaring up to and matching the ‘bullies’ of League Two.

And he relishes competition for places – as well as the fact that he is no longer a man alone up front.

Speaking on the eve of this afternoon’s home clash with Plymouth Argyle, the Blackpool striker spoke of confronting the physical demands of the division and also of how his role has changed for the better.

He said: “A lot of sides in this league are teams who get it forward early and try and bully you.

“We have stood the test and picked up a couple of points.”

And Cullen says that playing off a big target man, as is the case this season, is a welcome development.

He said: “Having a big man alongside is something that can only be of benefit to me.

“A lot of the time last season, I was on my own, trying to be the big man and the little man rolled-into-one!

“To get the best out of me, I probably need to play alongside a bigger man.

“We have a few of them now and hopefully I will get some time alongside one of them.”

Cullen says the manager Gary Bowyer will not allow players to take it for granted they have an automatic place in the team.

“There is a good competition within the squad and when the lads get fit it will be a good battle to see who gets the shirt.

“The gaffer said as soon as he walked in that he wanted competition for places in all areas and we have pretty much got that now.

“To test yourself you have to go out and prove to him you are the one who should be playing on Saturday and Tuesday.”

Cullen says he expects Plymouth to lay more emphasis on getting the ball down and play at Bloomfield Road this afternoon, which is not always the norm in League Two.

“Hopefully, it will be more of a football type of game and we can show the quality we have in the squad.

“They will try and get it down and try and play decent football.

“We have to match that and show our quality on top of that.”

Cullen says he senses a change of atmosphere around Bloomfield Road, so often the centre of such deep division and fans’ strife over the last three seasons as they tumbled inexorably down the league.

He insists: “The atmosphere around the club is on the up.

“Compared to last year, there is a lot more chanting, clapping and cheering.

“It only benefits the lads when the fans get behind the team and it is really pleasing to see.

Footballers are used to featuring on the Channel 5 football highlights how on a Saturday night, but Cullen and Blackpool team-mate Will Aimson are to take it to a different level with an appearance on the kids’ network Nickelodeon.

It involves a question-and-answer session and there is an unforgiving face-splattering for getting something wrong.

All Cullen would say was: “It is something to do with custard pies in my face, and it should be eventful!”

Blackpool manager Gary Bowyer is fully aware that Plymouth have a stand-out player in Graham Carey, but he says it would be wrong to single him out as the sole driving force in Argyle’s attacking strategy.

The highly-regarded Carey has been linked with a pre-deadline day move to clubs higher up the league ladder, but Bowyer said: “I don’t think it is just him we should be aware of.

“The other team-mates help him and enable him to play.

“We can’t go into the game looking just to stop him. You have to look at how to stop Plymouth.”

Bowyer is hoping that his side will continue to be lacking in generosity to visiting attacks.

“The fact is that we have kept two clean-sheets in our home games in the league, and we have to build on that.

“We feel there is more to come from our football.”

Bowyer’s counterpart at Home Park, Derek Adams, is looking forward to pitting his wits against a couple of former players.

Pool duo Kelvin Mellor and Jamille Matt are known well to the Argyle boss from their time with the Pilgrims.

“It’s always nice to see players who have played here before,” Adams said. “Obviously we go up to Blackpool and there’s two boys who did very well for us in Kelvin and Jamille – so it’s always nice to see them.

“They’ve quite good experience and they’ve got a wee bit of youthfulness in their side as well.

“I know a couple of players who have played in Scotland in Jim McAlister and Clark Robertson.

“They have Danny Pugh in the middle of the park.

“We’ve just got to deal with their good players and our good players will come on show as well.”