ONE of the oldest cliches in football is that pre-season matches mean nothing.
Year after year, managers will tell the fans that it’s about fitness and the rest really doesn’t matter.
Well, try telling that to Billy Clarke.
While his team-mates lived the dream in the Premier League last season, Clarke watched on from the sidelines after damaging cruciate ligaments.
But after 12 months of hard work, the 23-year-old has shone like a beacon during Blackpool’s four games so far this summer.
His movement, his touch and his two goals have surely fired him right into Ian Holloway’s plans for the coming season.
Holloway mixed his squad up for last night’s friendly against the Latvian Cup holders.
None of those who started in Tuesday’s win over Hibernian was involved as the manager chose to hand valuable game-time to his fringe stars.
There were three new faces, though. Liverpool’s Tom Ince started on the left, new Spanish signing Angel Martinez in the middle and trialist Dean Bouzanis in goal.
The latter is on trial following his release by Liverpool.
It took only eight minutes for Blackpool to take the lead.
Striker Craig Sutherland, who caught the eye on his first outing on Tuesday, finished well from ten yards after superb work from Martinez and Ince.
Ince looked a threat during his 45 minutes as he ran at the Jelgava defenders and he could be one to watch over the coming season.
The best moment of the game, however, came from Jelgava’s Vladislavs Koklovs.
The winger cut inside from the left before firing an unstoppable drive in off the underside of the bar.
Bouzanis could do nothing about it. As half-time approached, Blackpool were restricted to a couple of long-range efforts from Clarke and Neal Eardley.
Eardley once again played in the middle of the park as the Seasiders try to fill the gap left by Charlie Adam.
And the departed skipper, who watched his former team-mates from the stand, would have been impressed by Eardley’s efforts.
The Welshman passed the ball well and has given Holloway another midfield option.
After the break it was much of the same as Pool pushed forward without much reward.
Ludo Sylvestre’s long-range drive and a Clarke shot which flew just wide were the pick of Pool’s chances.
As for Martinez, the Spaniard looked neat and tidy without catching the eye too much.
He has missed the whole of pre-season and looked to be well behind everyone else in terms of match sharpness, though he showed signs of being one to look out for.
Holloway rang the changes in the final ten minutes, when those introduced included the former Charlton defender Miguel Llera. The trialist replaced Ashley Eastham at centre-half.
With the Championship season starting a week tonight at Hull, Holloway will be looking to use Sunday’s final friendly at Sheffield United to play his strongest XI.
And with 28 players to chose from, he could have a bit of a headache.
Blackpool: Bouaznis, Bignot, Harris, Eardley, Eastham, Hill, Clarke, Angel, Sutherland, Sylvestre, Ince; subs: Bruna, Djordjic, Llera, Tomsett, Dodd, Barkhuizen, Egan, Husband, Almond; Attendance:1858