The feared break-up of the Seasiders squad looks set to begin, with team captain Alex Baptiste poised to link up with Championship rivals Bolton.
The defender was one of seven out-of-contract players offered a new deal by Blackpool, though the 27-year-old has been wooed by a better contract and an opportunity to join Wanderers’ push for the Premier League.
Although The Gazette understands Baptiste has reached an agreement with Bolton, a spokesman for the Reebok club insisted last night the deal was not complete. However, Bolton are unlikely to confirm the signing until the end of June, when Baptiste’s contract officially ends.
Dougie Freedman’s Bolton look to have won a keenly-contested race to sign a player whose career blossomed at Bloomfield Road.
Baptiste had plied his trade with Burton Albion, Tamworth and Mansfield, whose exit from the Football League in 2008 signalled his £15,000 move to Blackpool. This proved a bargain as Baptiste played his part in the club’s rise to the Premier League. Indeed, he scored in Pool’s first match in the top flight – the 4-0 defeat of Wigan.
Baptiste made 190 appearances for Pool, netting nine goals. Injury kept him out of the side which killed off Bolton’s play-off hopes by holding them 2-2 on the final day. His final appearance was in the 6-1 hammering at Brighton.
Pool wanted Baptiste and the six other out-of-contract players to respond to the club’s offers by the start of this week. The search for replacements has now begun.
Another whose future is uncertain is striker Gary Taylor-Fletcher, who was understandably coy when asked about his position. “I can’t really comment about it at the moment,” he told The Gazette.
Baptiste, who was unavailable for comment, is believed to have agreed a three-year deal at Bolton.