Pool’s wanted stars

Tom Ince
Tom Ince
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That maybe the case but the Seasiders are determined to keep hold of these fantastic five players.

POOL’S epic journey to the Wembley play-off final was thrilling to watch, but ultimately ended in failure.

Alex Baptiste

Alex Baptiste

And that defeat to West Ham could be costly in more ways than one.

It means Premier League clubs, who have seen just how good some of Blackpool’s players are, might fancy their chances of luring one or two Seasiders away.

It happened last summer when Charlie Adam, David Vaughan and DJ Campbell were all snapped up by top-flight clubs.

They could not resist the chance to play at Premier League level, after Pool’s relegation back to the Championship.

Ian Evatt

Ian Evatt

There has been no relegation this year, but it almost feels like it.

Pool got to within 90 minutes of a return to the big time before having it pinched away by Ricardo Vaz Te’s right boot, and some wasteful finishing of their own.

That might encourage some of the so-called bigger boys to come knocking at chairman Karl Oyston’s door.

The encouraging thing this summer though, is that Pool are in no mood to sell.

Matt Gilks

Matt Gilks

All 19 first-team players are under contract, and with funds in the bank – the Wembley play-off final alone netted the club £1.5m, and everyone knows how much cash a year in the top flight brought in – it would take a huge bid for them to consider selling anyone.

However, that might not put off potential suitors. Here we take a look at which Seasiders’ players are most likely to attract interest.

TOM INCE

Pretty much unknown outside of the Ince household and a few of the more hardcore Liverpool fans 12 months ago, he is now a player being tipped for the very top.

Matt Phillips

Matt Phillips

Only turned 20 in January, but already playing like a seasoned pro.

A regular since the new year, Ince is the kind of player managers cry out for – he has that rare talent of being able to beat a man and make something happen.

He can also score too, as his double against Doncaster in particular illustrated.

He is remarkably consistent for such a young lad – rarely is there a game where he goes missing.

Part of that is down to an astonishing work-rate. He isn’t afraid to track back and get a tackle in – that’s a good trait to have, proving he isn’t just a fancy dan.

LIKELIHOOD OF LEAVING: 5/10 – Rumours that Southampton are eying up a £2m bid plus Jason Puncheon – but Holloway will not want to sell a player he believes is vital to the team’s chances of success next season.

ALEX BAPTISTE

The defender was almost inconsolable at the end of the Wembley defeat.

He couldn’t get his head around how Pool had been beaten by a West Ham side that he felt played the game the wrong way.

His mood wasn’t helped by a belief that he was fouled in the build-up to Ricardo Vaz Te’s late winner.

It will take a long while for Baptiste, who had his heart set on a return to the Premier League, to get over the disappointment.

The truth is that the 26-year-old is good enough to be a top-flight footballer, which is why it would be a surprise if at least one big team didn’t make a polite enquiry about him this summer.

Excelled at centre-back towards end of the campaign.

LIKELIHOOD OF LEAVING: 4/10 – Pool will not want to lose a player Ian Holloway regularly labels his best defender.

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IAN EVATT

Consistently played at the heart of the defence for the last six seasons, and has rarely let anyone down.

When Pool were relegated from the Premier League this time last year, Evatt was the subject of a £2.5m bid from Southampton.

He was also targeted by Portsmouth, and Scottish giants Celtic expressed an interest 18 months ago.

Evatt has had another good campaign, perhaps starting a little slowly, but returning to his best after Christmas, and ending the season in the form of his life.

Only just turned 30, there are many big Championship clubs who would like him in their team

LIKELIHOOD OF LEAVING: 3/10 – Signed a new contract 12 months ago and recently talked about how he might end his career at Blackpool. Settled in the town, with his wife and new-born twins. Pool would be loathe to sell a man who has become an integral part of the club and is hugely popular with supporters.

MATT GILKS

It is ironic that Blackpool are lauded throughout the land for their vibrant attacking style and their ability to score – yet Gilks, the club’s goalkeeper, almost swept the board at the player of the year awards.

Almost left last summer when he spoke to a number of top-flight clubs, but they wanted him as a number two, a back-up in case the regular keeper got injured.

Gilks, wisely, turned down those offers and re-signed with the Seasiders instead.

Since then, he has pulled off glorious saves like they are going out of fashion, consistently brilliant all season, producing the kind of form which won’t have gone unnoticed by others.

LIKELIHOOD OF LEAVING: 3/10 – Last summer was the time to worry, with Gilks out of contract. He’s now tied down for another couple of years, which means it would take something enormous to prise him away.

MATT PHILLIPS

The winger had an odd but ultimately memorable year.

It didn’t feel like it was going to be memorable in September when, handed what at the time was a rare start by Ian Holloway, Phillips twice raced clear on goal but twice missed.

A loan spell at Sheffield United got him back on track (six goals in as many games), and he carried on his red-hot form in tangerine, blasting 10 goals in 10 outings on his return, including two hat-tricks in four games – Barnsley on Boxing Day, followed by another at Fleetwood in the FA Cup.

Voted into the PFA Championship team of the year by his peers and became a full Scotland international at the weekend.

But a couple of misses at Wembley indicate the 21-year-old isn’t the finished article just yet.

Despite that, Swansea and newly-promoted Reading are apparently readying bids in the region of £3m.

LIKELIHOOD OF LEAVING: 6/10 – Under contract and Pool don’t need to sell. But if the lad himself wants to move on then, like Charlie Adam Pool won’t really be able to stop him.

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