'Blackpool are much stronger now than they were at the start of January': Matt Scrafton's verdict on the Seasiders' transfer window business

Chris Long, one of six new arrivals in January, celebrates after scoring on his Blackpool debut
Chris Long, one of six new arrivals in January, celebrates after scoring on his Blackpool debut
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Even the most ardent of cynics among us must agree that Blackpool’s transfer business during the January window was mightily impressive.

READ MORE: Terry McPhillips comments on Blackpool's game at Accrington being called off


In total six new players arrived at the club – if you’re counting Callum Guy’s loan move being made permanent – to add an exciting blend of youthfulness and much-needed extra quality.

Terry McPhillips knew exactly what areas of the pitch needed addressing, i.e. in attack, and subsequently brought in two forwards along with attack-minded midfielders.

But most importantly of all, Blackpool managed to keep their first team together without losing any of their key players.

In fact, if McPhillips is to be believed, the club didn’t even receive any bids.

Had I been told on New Year’s Eve, hours before the window opened, that not a single club would express serious interest in any of Pool’s players I would have found that extremely hard to believe.

Why no club in the Championship came in for Curtis Tilt, I’ve no idea. I understand why plans might have changed for Ipswich Town, who have had a change of manager since the summer, when they were knocked back on a few occasions with bids for Tilt, but that doesn’t explain why no one else lodged an offer.

Not even a cheeky one – say £500,000 to £600,000 – to test Owen Oyston’s resolve given the money he still owes Valeri Belokon. Yes the club wanted £1m during the summer, but you never know, circumstances always change.

Any club worth their salt scouting-wise will know Tilt is more than good enough to make the step up to the second tier.

Wigan Athletic came in with a last-minute bid during the summer, so I was expecting them to return with added interest last month. With their star defender Dan Burn making his move permanent to Premier League Brighton & Hove Albion, it appeared even more likely they would ramp up their interest for the 27-year-old. But that interest never materialised.

There was also tentative speculation surrounding Tilt’s defensive partners Donervon Daniels, whose one-year deal runs out in the summer, and Ben Heneghan who – despite being on a season-long loan from Sheffield United – could have been recalled and sent out elsewhere had the Blades received an offer for his services.

Given Blackpool’s dire situation off the pitch, I’m always expecting other clubs to take advantage during transfer windows and put in offers for players below their market value in an attempt to snatch a player for a bargain deal, but for some reason it just doesn’t seem to happen.

The likes of Marc Bola, Ollie Turton and Armand Gnanduillet – as well as the aforementioned players – are surely on the radars of clubs with proper scouting networks given their regularly consistent displays for the Seasiders.

The players that did depart the club last month were, you have to say, players on the fringes of the squad that were never likely to get into the first team.

Other than a 100 per cent fit Mark Cullen, you’d have to be brutally honest and say the rest were better off looking to get game time elsewhere.

Steve Davies, who is now at SPL side Hamilton, was a move that never looked likely to work out and so it proved. Paudie O’Connor, who is now at Bradford City, has potential but found himself well down the pecking order at Bloomfield Road.

Ryan McLaughlin and John O’Sullivan never really got a proper look-in on the Fylde coast and their exits were moves that suited all parties involved.

Coming in the other way was Elias Sorensen, an exciting prospect that is described as a clinical finisher – which is exactly what Pool have been lacking.

Chris Long, meanwhile, has already made an impact having come off the bench to score on his debut in the win at Portsmouth and he will add a different element to Blackpool’s attack.

Nya Kirby has undoubted quality on the ball and if he can adapt to the harsh realities of men’s football, he should prove to be a fine addition. The neat footwork and drop of the shoulder he produced to win the penalty in the draw against Wycombe Wanderers last week showed a small glimpse of what we can expect to see in the coming weeks.

Matty Virtue’s arrival could come at a vital time given the recent injury to Jay Spearing which – while the full extent is not yet known – will keep him out of action for two or three weeks minimum.

And Antony Evans, another Merseyside player to add the mix of ever-growing numbers of Scousers at the club, comes highly regarded by Morecambe fans who watched him play 15 times on loan during the 2016/17 campaign – a season where he scored at Bloomfield Road in Pool’s 3-1 win.

Given Liam Feeney’s struggles, it was imperative that Blackpool added more competition in the wings.

It would have been exciting to see Virtue and Evans – both signed on deadline day – to have been thrown straight into the deep end at Accrington Stanley on Saturday.

But you’d like to think the postponement would work in their favour and provide them with more time on the training ground to bed in with their new teammates.

Are Blackpool stronger now than they were at the start of the month? You'd have to say absolutely, yes.

I’ve seen and heard Blackpool fans expressing concern at Oyston’s investment during the transfer window.

As we all know, the Seasiders don’t tend to do much business, if any, on deadline day, so I understand the surprise and paranoia among those who are desperate to see his departure.

But Owen has little, if anything, to do with transfers. His intervention during the summer to block Tilt’s move to Ipswich was very much a one-off – genuinely because he thought keeping Tilt at the club would result in Blackpool getting back to the Premier League.

His daughter Natalie Christopher deals with transfer business and, while many were surprised to see Pool pay a fee for Virtue, I’m assured everything done last month was completed within budget.

To get players in, others had to go out and that’s exactly what happened with six arrivals and seven departures.

Now we’re set up for an exciting end to the season, helped by Peterborough United’s defeat at the weekend which means the Seasiders are now only six points behind the play-offs with two games in hand. There’s everything still to play for.