Paul Ince is starting to see his vision taking shape at Blackpool but insists there’s still a long way to go.
The Seasiders are away to Brighton today and believe a point will be enough to secure their place in the Championship for next season.
It’s Ince’s 12th game as Pool boss and he feels he’s finally beginning to make strides forward.
Ince said: “We are getting a glimpse now of what I’m trying to do but it’s very early doors.
“I’ve inherited a very good squad but a team who were down in the dumps.
“You could feel that it was a difficult place to be, but now you can just see on their faces that there’s a much better atmosphere. “The players have smiles on their faces. That was one of my biggest challenges – to turn that around.”
It’s been a torrid season at Bloomfield Road and Ince is blunt in his evaluation.
He said: “We were going down before I got here. We’ve steadied the ship and you can see it in the players. How they are feeling is starting to reflect in their performances.”
Ince feels the problems may have brought his squad closer together. “The lads have that siege mentality. No-one ever says anything good about Blackpool – they only ever say bad things. “It’s been a good chance for us to show everyone what we are all about.”
Ince has big decisions to make in the summer, with dozens of players out contract. He insisted: “This has been a good learning curve for me.
“I’ve found out so much about my players. I’ve found out which ones are willing to go the extra mile for their team, the fans and the club. But they all seem happy and enjoy being here. That’s the most important thing for me.”
Ince could field the same starting 11 for the third game running at promotion-chasing Brighton. Pool have lost only one of their last nine games and Ince said: “I think we’ve picked up nine points in the last five games, so sometimes it’s a case of, if it ain’t broken then don’t fix it.
“I don’t really want to change too much as the lads have done so well. I don’t want to change the back five, that’s for sure.
“We’ve played two games in four days on a bad pitch. We couldn’t train much on Thursday because the lads were stiff.”
Isaiah Osbourne completes his three-match ban today but the rest of the squad are looking forward to playing on a perfect pitch at the Amex.
“Hopefully you’ll see our passing game,” Ince said. “It will be hard because Brighton have a talented squad and have spent a lot on players, but we are a very good side when we get the ball down and play our game.
“I’m just hoping our pitch hasn’t taken too much away from the players’ legs. But Brighton is a lovely, big pitch, so bring it on.” Ince knows Brighton boss Gus Poyet well. “Gus is a good friend of mine. We spent last year together in Abu Dhabi. We watched Manchester City win the league together over there and he was taking the mickey out of me because United (Ince’s former club) lost it.
“The way his teams play is a joy to watch. We are using his training ground on Friday afternoon, so that shows what good friends we are ... but we won’t be on Saturday at 3pm.”