Are Blackpool fans right to be worried about the lack of signings?
Is it even pre-season if there isn’t the annual panic about the lack of signings?
This isn’t a phenomenon exclusive to Blackpool fans, I must point out, it’s something all clubs experience at one point or another.
Take a quick look at any official account, but especially those higher up the pyramid, and you’ll see replies of “announce signing”, “announce new contract”, “announce new kit” underneath every post.
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Since when did we all become so bloody impatient?!
Blackpool need to add quality to their squad, let’s get that out there nice and early. As far as I’m aware, no-one of a tangerine persuasion disagrees with that view.
I’ve previously gone on record before with my reservations about the squad as it stands. I know it’s popular to bash Critchley right now, but whatever you say you can’t deny he managed to eek out the very best of the vast majority of players. I’m not sure many other bosses out there would have got this side to 16th with 60 points.
Hopefully Appleton will be able to repeat that feat and/or improve upon it, but he could certainly do with some assistance in the way of an eye-catching signing or two (or three, or four…!).
Other than the three players that were released at the end of last season - Cameron Antwi, Ethan Robson and Grant Ward - there’s been no ins or outs so far this summer.
On the eve of Blackpool’s first pre-season friendly, some believe that is cause for concern.
Don’t forget, the transfer window doesn’t close until 11pm on September 1. That gives the Seasiders exactly two months to complete their business.
If, at 10.59pm on September 1, Blackpool remain in the same position as they are now, then I’d certainly join in with the panic. But somehow I don’t see that happening.
Some have quite rightly pointed out that the season gets underway on July 30, so we’d like to see the club get most, if not all of their business completed by the first game of the season.
I concur with that view and in a perfect world that’s what will happen. But there are certain mitigating factors should it not.
For a start, we’ve already seen over the three years of Simon Sadler’s tenure that the club are willing to remain patient in the transfer market if it means getting their target eventually. Think back to last season when Jordan Gabriel arrived on the final day of the window at the end of August, when five league games had already been played. Dujon Sterling and Ryan Wintle also arrived late.
If it meant Callum Connolly being the only right-back at the club for a month, then so be it. Not ideal, but it didn’t work out too badly in the end.
That doesn’t mean the club are actively planning to make signings on the final day and not before, by the way, that’s just how it transpires sometimes. And it certainly doesn’t mean the Seasiders are just sacking off the opening games of the campaign, as if they don’t matter.
I would also share some of the concern if Blackpool didn’t already have a healthy squad at their disposal when it comes to numbers.
But they already have 25 ‘senior players’ under contract (players aged 21 or over), which is the maximum permitted by EFL rules once the club submits its squad list after the window closes.
That means this window is going to be about quality over quantity and yes, players will also have to depart.
Although saying that, not every contracted player has to be registered, so there is some wriggle-room. But ideally you don’t want to be in a situation where you’re paying a player that can’t play for you!
Let’s look back to this time last year as a way of comparison. Perhaps part of the reason why some supporters are so concerned (I’m not saying it’s everyone), is because the club had already made seven signings by the start of July.
Reece James was the first arrival on June 8 and was soon followed by Josh Bowler, Sonny Carey, Oliver Casey, Callum Connolly, Dan Grimshaw and Shayne Lavery.
But last season the club didn’t have their head coach leave seemingly on a whim without as much as a goodbye, as Critchley did at the start of last month. So yes, that’s inevitably had an impact.
Appleton wasn’t appointed until June 17, only two weeks ago, so I think the club can be cut a bit of slack.
Some will say the club have a recruitment and scouting team in place and you shouldn’t necessarily need your head coach to be signing off on transfers, but that’s not how the Seasiders do it.
Yes, (head of football operations) John Stephenson and co identity players and put together shortlists, but the man in charge of coaching them and putting them into a team has to have an input.
That doesn’t mean Appleton has complete autonomy either, because he doesn’t. It’s a collective effort but the head coach is an integral part of it, as we saw during Critchley’s tenure.
At Lincoln, Appleton had an impressive track record in the loan market especially, bringing in players like Alex Palmer, TJ Eyoma, Morgan Rogers and Brennan Johnson, who were highly influential in the season they lost to Blackpool in the play-off final.
One would suspect the Seasiders will follow that model this season and look to utilise the loan market as efficiently as possible.
If they’re looking to take youngsters from Premier League clubs, those players in question often don’t become available until the latter days and weeks of a window, once decisions are finally made on whether or not they’re required to help fill numbers.
Premier League clubs, much similar to the EFL, are beholden to tight restrictions on how many players they’re able to include in their squads and also have to name a certain number of ‘homegrown’ players. So while some of these youngsters aren’t likely to be playing week in, week out, they may be required to stick around.
And besides, as far as I’m aware, most top flight sides haven’t even returned for pre-season training. I know Critchley and Villa are back on Monday but reigning champions Man City don’t return for another 10 days or so.
It’s also long been thought that a lot of Blackpool’s business might hinge on what transpires with Josh Bowler. Should he depart for £2m or £3m, that money can be reinvested.
But if recent reports are anything to go by, you can’t blame the club for turning up their noses at Bournemouth’s apparent offer of £1m.
If/when Bowler does depart, he’ll be what, one of three or four players to leave (pure guesswork, but it seems about right)? As it stands, that’s what we’re looking at in terms of potential incomings, unless anything drastically changes.
Whether we get one of those signings right this very minute, as some people are demanding, or in two weeks’ time, does it really matter?
Again, in a perfect world the club would have everyone together for the first day of pre-season so Appleton can get to know his squad and get six or seven weeks of work with them, but unfortunately that perfect world doesn’t exist.
It almost feels like some people want news just for the sake of it, for the club to rush into making a signing to help boost season ticket sales irrespective of whether that player will help improve the squad.
“Just announce someone, announce anyone, I don’t care who it is!”
If you actually look elsewhere, beyond the parameters of Bloomfield Road, there’s not a great deal of business being done.
Cardiff City appear to be trucking the trend in the Championship, making NINE(!) signings already, but otherwise the market looks to be fairly quiet.
As usual, it’s always best to reserve judgement on the perceived success of a transfer window once it closes.