OPINION: Blackpool’s squad needs some extra strength for a promotion push

When Simon Grayson added the finishing touches to his squad during the summer the boast was loud and clear: ‘look how impressive Blackpool’s strength in depth is’.

Friday, 29th November 2019, 11:45 am
Joe Nuttall and Ryan Hardie have yet to impress following their summer moves to Blackpool
Joe Nuttall and Ryan Hardie have yet to impress following their summer moves to Blackpool

If the midweek EFL Trophy exit teaches us anything, it might be that Pool’s squad isn’t quite as strong as we previously thought.

This is not a column that will be all doom and gloom, because the Seasiders’ starting XI is a strong one – as demonstrated by recent results, which saw Pool enjoy a seven-game unbeaten run before coming unstuck against Scunthorpe United.

I remain of the belief that Pool can launch a genuine tilt at the League One play-offs this season, as I outlined before a ball was even kicked.

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I predicted it would be a case of staying in and around the top 10 until January, when Grayson can make the necessary additions to bolster his options.

Nothing I’ve witnessed in the opening third of the campaign has altered that view.

But beyond a core group of 14 or 15 players, is the required quality there to be called upon should it be needed? The jury is out.

Those players who are outside the reckoning when it comes to the first team probably answered that question for us on Wednesday night.

While the EFL Trophy is largely an irrelevance, it is a competition that presented opportunities to stake a claim for players including Mark Howard, Rocky Bushiri, Curtis Tilt, Ollie Turton, Callum Guy, Sean Scannell, Ryan Hardie and Joe Nuttall.

Without singling out individuals, put it this way, I’d be surprised if – Nuttall aside – any of those players are to start in Sunday’s FA Cup second round tie against Maidstone United.

That’s not to say Nuttall was particularly impressive against Scunthorpe, because I thought he struggled.

He wasn’t the only one, mind; from back to front it was a dire performance.

Nuttall is still yet to fully settle on the Fylde coast after his big money move from Blackburn Rovers during the summer.

To his credit, while his all-round displays haven’t been stellar, he has capitalised on Armand Gnanduillet’s thigh injury with two goals in as many games during this past week.

His midweek strike partner, meanwhile, continues to look bereft of confidence despite his recent hat-trick in the reserves.

It just hasn’t happened for Hardie in tangerine so far this season.

Admittedly chances have been hard to come by, but when he has appeared, he’s been well below par on each occasion.

He’s still young and I do believe there’s a good finisher in him, but currently he’s not getting himself into goalscoring positions and is also being bullied off the ball far too easily.

I can imagine those at the top of the club’s hierarchy are not exactly impressed with the form of the two strikers – especially given the sizeable outlay that was required to bring them to Bloomfield Road.

Here’s hoping the duo can put their struggles behind them and go on to play a part in Blackpool’s success in the coming years.

Elsewhere, Tilt still isn’t looking like the player that we all know he can be.

He’s being kept out of the back three by James Husband, a full-back by trade, and can have no complaints given the impressive recent displays from the on-loan Norwich City man.

Has Tilt’s head been turned? Has he already decided to leave the club, be it in January or at the end of the season? We can only speculate.

But what we do know is that his displays this season have been nowhere near what we’ve come to expect.

Tilt, at his best, is among the leading centre-backs in the third tier.

In other news, it was encouraging and heartening to see the club produce such a swift response to the video footage that emerged online after Wednesday’s game.

I know they were made aware of it very quickly and it’s since been flagged up to the police, so the appropriate channels have certainly been followed.

Unfortunately this isn’t an isolated incident as there have already been a few flashpoints this season.

In recent weeks, an undercurrent appears to have developed between a minority of supporters, police and stewards.

Why this is, I’m not entirely sure. One would hope the ousting of the despised previous owners would have brought unity to the club and the wider community.

Hopefully, those ill feelings will die down and we can concentrate on what is happening on the pitch, rather than off it, in what promises to be an exciting 2020.