Blackpool boss takes heart heading into Championship campaign
Neil Critchley believes Blackpool’s record last season against League One’s best sides should give them confidence they can compete in the Championship.
They beat Peterborough United and Sunderland home and away, while also taking four points from Hull City and Oxford United.
The only side in the top six Pool struggled against in terms of points return was Lincoln City, but they managed to exact revenge in the League One play-off final.
While Critchley’s side struggled at times against teams at the bottom of the table, who set out to frustrate them, they always seemed to be at their best when coming up against sides at the top end.
That, Critchley believes, is a promising sign ahead of the club’s return to the Championship next season after a six-year absence.
“Our record against the top six this season and the way we’ve played should give us confidence in the Championship,” Pool’s head coach said.
“In fact, our record against the top six teams was actually the best in the division.
“Ironically, the only team we hadn’t beaten was Lincoln, so I’m glad we saved the best one until last.
“I was so proud of how we played in that game. We got off to the worst possible start, but we showed a real calmness and assurance to our game.
“We had shown that over numerous games, even the Oxford play-off game at home when they scored early, we just responded straight away and scored two at the other end.
“We played our way back into the game at Wembley and the players made me feel calm on the sideline because of how we were playing.
“We didn’t show any nerves, we gradually got better and improved and over the course of the 90 minutes, I don’t think anyone can begrudge us of our victory.”
Blackpool’s promotion was all the more remarkable given they lost six of their opening nine games.
That sticky patch actually turned out to be the making of the Seasiders, who learned to respond to any setbacks in the best manner possible.
When asked for the key turning point in Pool’s season, Critchley said: “I’d say early on, I remember when we had a bad patch of losing games, I said in a couple of interviews this might actually be a good thing.
“It didn’t feel like that at the time, but even though you have doubts – it’s only human nature to have doubts if you’re losing games – I still had that inner belief in the group.
“I saw enough in their performances, I saw enough in their character and I hoped the players saw enough in me and stuck together, then we’d come through it and be successful.
“If you had told me we would get to Wembley and get promoted at that moment in time, I’m not sure I would have said it was possible.
“Sticking together, through the belief growing, through the performances getting better and we had to adapt to so many things, the players got the rewards and success they deserved.”
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