Will Watt: A fitting end to a shambolic season

Blackpool fans stage a protest and pitch invasion
Blackpool fans stage a protest and pitch invasion
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They say if you’re going to do something, do it right.

And in a season when Blackpool made a total mess of everything, Saturday’s shambolic ending was perfectly fitting.

The campaign has been branded the worst in the club’s history, and the players, management and, most importantly, chairman deserve that stigma.

From the second Blackpool began pre-season with just six players, we should have seen this coming.

Pool won just four games all season and none of the last 18. Their points total of 25 is the lowest in Championship history - in the end they didn’t even manage to complete all 46 games. A proud club is now in a disgraceful mess – and that’s putting it lightly.

On the weekend Hollywood director Tim Burton was in town, even he couldn’t have written a script like the one which has unfolded over the last nine months. If he had released a film with this plot, it would have been quickly laughed off the screen as too far-fetched.

While the abandonment of Saturday’s game was met by cheers inside Bloomfield Road, this is a desperately sad time for everyone associated with the football club and for anyone who cares. I, for one, fear for its immediate future. Who can blame even the most patient of supporter for being totally fed up and let down by the whole thing?

Where does Blackpool FC go from here? Who in their right mind would want to play for them, let alone manage them?

It’s that final question which I’m sure Lee Clark will be asking himself today. On Saturday, the Pool boss chose not to stand at the edge of the technical area during the game in fear of inciting fans. How on Earth has it come to this? The club’s fall is not Clark’s fault, and who could blame a man who has had a proud career in the game for now washing his hands of it? No-one needs to go through what he has.

But for myself and thousands of others, washing our hands of the Seasiders just isn’t an option. This is our club.

And it’s probably that feeling which caused Saturday’s protest, pitch invasion and match abandonment. People have had enough.

For months, many supporters had circled Saturday May 2 on their calendars as a day when they would make their point to Pool’s chairman and owners.

With that in mind, you’d have thought the club would send their PR into overdrive, go on a charm offensive and do everything they could to build bridges.

Incredibly, in the days running up to the game, they managed to make everything worse.

The removal of Stan Mortensen’s statue from outside the ground must rank among the most ill- judged of the Oystons’ actions during their quarter of a century in charge. I spoke to many former players last week, including some of the most famous in the club’s history, and the feeling was unanimous – the statue’s removal was a show of total disrespect.

I’m was never one who liked protests, but on Saturday you got the feeling that even the calm, mild-mannered and most reasonable supporters had turned.

I couldn’t find a Blackpool fan on Saturday who had any sympathy with the Oystons and I thought the way the majority of supporters conducted themselves on Saturday hit the right note. The pre-match march, the laying of shirts and the orchestrated gathering outside of Bloomfield Road was both peaceful and well organised.

For supporters to encroach on the pitch is potentially a criminal offence, so it would be irresponsible for me to condone it, though the bulk of those who did so acted respectfully and for almost all of the 71-minute on-pitch demonstration, I don’t think anyone in the ground felt threatened or at risk.

And I think the police and the club’s safety staff deserve credit for that – they handled the situation superbly. A heavy-handed response could have made the situation very messy, very quickly . Instead, they allowed events to play out, when protesters did cross the line by climbing on to the directors’ box balcony in an attempt to confront the Oystons, the police quickly stepped in to restore order.

So well done to the peaceful protesters who made their point in a safe and controlled way. As a football fan I’d usually be appalled at the abandonment of a game, but after the season we’ve all endured it really was hard to care.

Focusing on the onfield issues alone, the whole season has been so mismanaged it’s hard to believe.

Paperwork issues left manager Jose Riga with just 13 players to choose from for the opening game at Nottingham Forest. Needless to say, Pool went on to win none of their first 11 games – their worst start ever.

In the last nine months, players have gone missing and seen arrest warrants issued against them, while the chairman twice tried to appoint a new manager when he already had one in place and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Basically, this will be remembered as the season Blackpool played 45 games, earned 25 points and became the worst Championship team in history. While we’d love to know the thoughts of the club and maybe even hear an apology for the dreadful season, the only official statements since Christmas from anyone other than manager Clark have involved legal action against fans.

The weekend’s only club statement was of a threatening nature – saying that all CCTV footage of the pitch invasion would be studied with a view to taking action against those responsible for disorder. It’s time someone explained what on Earth is going on.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a story in which Karl Oyston declared he would always run the club until the time he felt he could no longer take it forward.

My message to him is that he should give serious consideration to the idea that that time has arrived.

Things must change, from the very top to the bottom, if Blackpool FC is to recover from the nightmare of the 2014-15 season, though many already insist the club is beyond the point of no return.

If Oyston insists he’s going nowhere, then he must take dramatic, unprecedented steps to put this club back where it belongs.

That means a major change of strategy .... or at least it means having a clear strategy!

If that doesn’t happen, then the words on the protest banners are right – it’s time to move on.