Ben Burgess column: Pool paid for one key absentee

Hawes Side Academy's boys' team reached the Blackpool Primary Schools football finals
Hawes Side Academy's boys' team reached the Blackpool Primary Schools football finals
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With one hand giveth, the other taketh away; just as Blackpool celebrated back to back league wins for the first time this season, they managed to lose a few days later at Mansfield.

First of all, let’s talk about the positives of the excellent victory away at Leyton Orient.

Another goal for Jamille Matt and a first of the season for Tom Aldred pushed the Seasiders right to the verge of the play-offs.

Momentum was with the Tangerines as they headed to Mansfield on Tuesday but sadly they were missing one extremely vital ingredient in the side.

That ingredient was in the shape of striker Kyle Vassell.

Unfortunately, he failed a fitness test and the influence over the team that he clearly has was evident as Blackpool succumbed to a disappointing 1-0 defeat.

How much influence can one player really have over a team?

The answer quite simply is the difference between success and failure: Barcelona without Lionel Messi, Real Madrid without Ronaldo, Manchester City without Sergio Aguero.

Their absence is always evident in their clubs’ results.

Clearly, Vassell is not at the level of those world-class players but his value to his team is of equal proportion.

I’ve played in lots of teams where the presence of a star player can boost every other player’s morale and performance.

Wes Hoolahan had that influence at Blackpool and Charlie Adam similar.

They were players you could trust to pull you out of trouble or get you three points from nowhere.

On the topic of pre-match fitness tests, I’m somewhat of an expert.

Having spent most of my career in some state of injury I’ve experienced many tests.

Due to my knee swelling periodically, it was always a bit of a lottery as to whether I could play or train.

I would literally and tentatively bend my knee in bed every morning before having a quick look to see what state it was in.

Some days my knee could have swollen bigger than a balloon and others it would be normal(ish).

The content of a pre-match fitness test varies greatly from physio to physio.

I’ve had ones who worked me so hard that I was exhausted for the game.

And I’ve had others who were so desperate for me to play that all I needed to do was jog up and down the pitch in a straight line!

I found myself in Gary Bowyer’s position this week (minus the off-field issues).

My school, Hawes Side Academy, managed to reach the Blackpool Primary Schools football finals for the girls and boys.

A lot has been made in the press recently, and with the government’s report on childhood obesity, about children not being active enough.

Well Sport Blackpool do an amazing job to provide children of any age with a huge variety of sports.

We’ve had orienteering, golf, tennis, hockey, netball, football, cricket, gymnastics, dance competitions and practically any other sport you care to mention.

All are run impeccably well and at a considerable cost to Sport Blackpool.

On the subject of the football finals, my co-manager Barry Smith and I went through every emotion as we watched our teams play.

There were injuries, last- minute goals, goal-line clearances, crunching tackles, moments of brilliance, moments of despair, but most of all there were smiles on the faces of all the players and teachers in attendance, not to mention the watching crowd in the stands.

This was what youth sport should be all about – children enjoying themselves, expressing themselves and striving to win.

Fortunately, both our teams managed to win their competitions, with some great team work and individual inspiration.

That feeling of helplessness as a coach on the sidelines is certainly a strange feeling, but they obviously didn’t need much help from me anyway.