Gary Taylor-Fletcher column: Blackpool can be full of festive cheer going into Christmas fixtures
Blackpool will be looking forward to Christmas in the right spirit: they are on a good run of form and in a healthy spot in the table.
Not many teams will go to Sunderland and be disappointed with a draw, and by all accounts, Blackpool could have come away with all three points.
Make no mistake, this was a massive game for Sunderland too: they may only be mid-table but victory would have left them within three points of Pool and with a game in hand.
The big-club mentality can be a problem for a team like Sunderland at this level and can help visiting sides.
A lot of their fans still think they are a Premier League club and can turn against their team when things are not going well.
Managing expectations can be an issue for clubs with such a history and it’s difficult for fans to get their heads around the fact their team may not be as good as they would like to think.
Blackpool are flying and are unbeaten in seven league games, and I think the return to fitness of Nathan Delfouneso and Sullay Kaikai is the key factor.
Before this unbeaten run, there was some grumbling among supporters about the team Simon Grayson was putting out but his hands were tied by injuries.
Delf and Sullay had been playing well and the team lost some momentum without them. Simon didn’t really have the players in form to step up and replace them.
But a lot of work went on behind the scenes and they are reaping the rewards now.
Those key attacking players are impressing again and Armand Gnanduillet is getting on the end of things. He’s over his niggles and is finding his rhythm as well as his goals.
Shrewsbury will be no mugs tomorrow and their position is similar to that of Sunderland.
It may look as if they are moving quietly along in mid-table but three points would lift them within two of Blackpool with a game in hand.
So, for the Seasiders, this is a massive chance to open up a gap between themselves and the teams below them.
Simon has talked about the need to use his squad over the busy Christmas period, and with four games in 12 days, I know what he’s talking about.
But after tomorrow’s game they have four days to rest before Boxing Day, so I’d be surprised if the team that faces Accrington Stanley on Thursday is very different to the one Blackpool select tomorrow.
It’s after Boxing Day that Simon really has to manage his squad for Sunday-Wednesday games. And that may be when the squad really comes into play.
Naturally I was pleased to see Liverpool progress to tomorrow’s Club World Cup final, though I have mixed feelings about the event.
Seeing a young Liverpool side crash out of the Carabao Cup 5-0 at Aston Villa on Tuesday reminded me of Manchester United pulling out of the FA Cup a few seasons ago to enter a similar FIFA competition.
It’s not good for football to see our top clubs sacrificing our domestic competitions, but Liverpool have been asked to represent England in Qatar and are doing so.
But from a Liverpool perspective, it is a good distraction from the Premier League, and especially on a weekend when our two closest rivals, Manchester City and Leicester City, play each other.
Whatever happens Liverpool will be left with a game in hand, and if tomorrow’s game at the Etihad is drawn, then all the better for the Reds.
My old boss Ian Holloway has been speaking in The Gazette this week and is talking of a reunion for our promotion-winning squad.
Of course, 2020 will mark the 10th anniversary of our promotion to the Premier League and I’m happy to play a leading role in the planning of a reunion event.
We’ll have a meeting in the New Year to push it forward, and although there will be some logistics to finalise, I expect everyone will be up for it.
Somehow I doubt it will be too difficult to get all the gang back together. Have a great Christmas!