Ben Burgess column: Blackpool’s draining training problems

Squires Gate always proved a challenging training base for Blackpool players and coaches like Richie Kyle
Squires Gate always proved a challenging training base for Blackpool players and coaches like Richie Kyle

It has been a frustrating couple of weeks for Gary Bowyer and his men, as Saturday’s game at home to Northampton Town was called off.

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It’s already a bit of a logistical nightmare to cram all the Football League fixtures into the available weeks, so with cancellations comes even more chaos.

Blackpool’s next fixture – weather permitting – is a particularly mouthwatering affair; a trip to Ewood Park to face local rivals and promotion favourites Blackburn Rovers.

Again there will be a lot of comparisons between the two clubs and what is happening with their respective owners.

For many Rovers fans, much of that animosity towards the Venkys has been replaced with the joy of seeing their side actually winning games regularly for the first time in years.

Rovers were especially impressive at Bloomfield Road earlier in the season and rightfully coasted to all three points.

Bowyer’s preparations to face his old team have been hampered by the extreme conditions that the wonderfully named ‘Beast from the East’ has provided us.

When conditions begin to deteriorate, it’s imperative that you have a good, well maintained training ground.

We all know that Blackpool certainly don’t have the benefit of that.

Bowyer talked this week of having to juggle venues and find artificial surfaces to train on; you can guarantee Rovers would have been enjoying their luxury Brockhall training complex.

Now if only the Seasiders ever made enough money to reinvest in the infrastructure of the club…

Finding training facilities has often been a logistical nightmare for Blackpool managers and players down the years.

When I first signed, under Simon Grayson, we trained at Myerscough.

Then we moved back to Squires Gate, which always had its unique conditions and challenges.

The amount of times I saw Tony Parkes and Steve Thompson chasing after cones that had blown away were ridiculous.

The wind was a major factor for at least two-thirds of the training sessions.

We would marvel at how we could curl the ball from well behind the byline and into the goal, as though we were a superhuman version of Roberto Carlos.

The summer after we achieved promotion to the Championship, we were informed on our return to pre-season training that Squires Gate was being ‘spruced up’ and we were in essence, homeless.

We trained on Stanley Park next to the artificial pitches and among all the lovely dog excrement!

It wasn’t just the Blackpool first team that have had their fixtures disrupted.

The youth team had their original quarter-final with Blackburn Rovers cancelled and it was instead played on Tuesday.

To reach this stage of the prestigious competition is a huge achievement for John Murphy and his players.

Not only have they got the aforementioned poor training facilities to contend with, they’ve also seen some excellent coaches depart for Fleetwood Town over the years.

The game itself sounded like a cracker as Blackpool were 1-0 up and then 2-1 behind.

It was eventually left to Rowan Roache to show all the composure of a seasoned professional and slot home a stoppage time penalty to clinch a 3-2 win and a dream semi-final clash with Arsenal.

Murphs has obviously helped mould these young players into a fantastic team that plays for each other.

When you look at the past winners of this competition like Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Joe Cole, Michael Carrick etc you realise how important it is and what a great platform it can be for a successful career.

Let’s just hope that those exciting young players are tied down to long term contracts…