Blackpool’s pre-season came to an end tonight with a 1-1 draw against Accrington Stanley, but what have we learned?
On the pitch there’s certainly improvement and hope, with Neil McDonald appearing from the outside as the sort of manager who will get the best of of his limited resources.
He’s also managed to, at least inside the dressing room, bring a new breed of hope and positivity to his young, fresh squad.
Last night’s display wasn’t exactly one which will have people scrambling to the bookies to pile on a title challenge but, in the second half in particular, Blackpool showed plenty of promise. A result which see’s McDonald end pre-season unbeaten and in plenty of confidence.
Off the field sadly the club appears to remain a ‘shambles’.
Before I’m accused of being overly negative, that’s the phrase used by Nile Ranger this week after yet another mishap involving the headline making striker.
This week alone we’ve had a host of issues, from work permits, pitch damage, social media outbursts and as ever PR disasters from the club, not to mention the FA charge and the fact no-one knows for sure who’s making the decisions while chairman Karl Oyston is banned.
It’s those sort of distractions which Lee Clark last year said made the job almost impossible and ones which must simply be cut-out of Blackpool FC should McDonald’s bright start to his job as manager stand even the slightest of chances.
As for the Ranger situation, it’s one I actually sympathise with the manager, I’d have done exactly the same.
With his talent, and Pool’s shortage of strikers, he was correct to offer the forward a second chance to return and prove himself at Bloomfield Road. But once he failed to turn up for a second time, there’s no way he could be welcomed back.
So well done to McDonald on being strong, although it would be nice for the club to give some indication of what’s going on.
And it’s the issue of communication which has dominated the pre-season talk, even taking away the decision to prevent The Gazette from talking to any of the players or the manager.
After a chaotic end to last season the PR at Bloomfield Road should have gone into overdrive, instead there are still more questions than answers.
As for last night’s game, it showed Blackpool’s squad are looking sharper and ready for the new season, but they’ll need more than that should they wish to compete towards the top end of League One.
After saying he wanted his full squad in place for the start of pre-season training, to be fielding two triallists on the final preparation game can’t be pleasing to McDonald.
But he can only work with what he has, and it looks as though Blackpool will be playing 4-4-2 this season - it’s the fourth time this summer they’ve lined up in that way.
Former Wigan captain Emmerson Boyce played for the first time on trial and he was solid enough before being replaced at the break.
The opening 25 minutes wasn’t one which many will remember, mainly because nothing happened.
It was a typically scrappy, battling opening to the game you’d expect in pre-season against League Two opposition, that said Accrington gave as good as they got and certainly weren’t second best.
In fact, the only sight of goal in the opening 45 minutes came from the home side, when Josh Windass’ stinging effort flew just over from 25 yards.
Apart from that just about everyone inside of the Crown Ground was pretty relieved to hear the half-time whistle.
After the break a different Blackpool side came out and they finally started to get joy in Stanley’s final third.
Bright Samuel was involved in most of Blackpool’s threatening play down the left, much to the delighted of the few hundred Blackpool fans who made the short trip across Lancashire - they clapped his every move.
New boy Kwame Thomas, who arrived from Derby on loan earlier in the week, certainly made a difference after being introduced at the break, his movement and pace caused real problems to the home side and created much more space than for team mates than the first half pairing of Mark Cullen and Jack Redshaw.
But it was winger Samuel who managed to fire the opener, and well deserved it was too.
The youngster again cut-inside from the left and fired low through Jason Mooney and into the net.
Maybe the Stanley keeper will feel he should have done better, but it was a goal Samuel certainly deserved as he fires himself right into McDonald’s plans for next weekend’s season opener at Colchester.
Blackpool did have the odd glimpse of goal as the half went on but it was a screamer from the home side which eventually earned them a draw.
As the ball bounced around the edge of the box it fell kindly to substitute Seamus Conneely who blasted an unstoppable effort into the top corner from 25 yards.
Overall the pre-season report is simple, things appear much better on the pitch, but huge changes are still required off it.
McDonald’s start as Blackpool manager should give fans cautious optimism for the future, but he has to be helped from above.
All eyes turn to the opening game at Colchester, it will certainly be interesting.
Pool: Doyle, Ferguson, McAlister, Robertson, Jones, Potts, Cullen, Redshaw (Thomas 45), Cameron (Drury 60), Samuel (Dunne 86), Boyce (Aldred 45).