Blackpool chief executive Ben Mansford discusses club's fixture list, transfer plans, Neil Critchley, kit launch and more

Blackpool’s chief executive Ben Mansford appeared on national radio station talkSPORT this morning to give his reaction to the release of the club’s fixture list.

Thursday, 24th June 2021, 12:19 pm
Updated Thursday, 24th June 2021, 12:20 pm

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The Seasiders will make the trip to Bristol City on August 7 on their return to the Championship, before hosting Cardiff City the following week.

Excitement continues to build among Pool fans, who will also be pencilling in the home game against fierce rivals Preston North End on Saturday, October 23.

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Mansford discussed Blackpool’s promotion, the step-up to the second tier, transfer plans and issues away from Bloomfield Road.

The former Barnsley and Leeds United man revealed Blackpool Council will continue to sponsor the front of the club’s home shirt, which will be launched today, while suggesting further signings can be expected over the “next few days”.

The Sky Sports cameras have also been down at Bloomfield Road today, interviewing the likes of Mansford and club captain Chris Maxwell.

Here’s what Mansford said to talkSPORT...

Chief executive Ben Mansford

How excited are you to be back in the Championship?

“I’m pleased for everyone that we’re back in the Championship and wherever we were going to start the season, we were going to be delighted.

“It’s been a fantastic two years since Simon bought the club.

“I’m looking forward to going to Bristol and having a good go against Nigel Pearson and everything he’s doing there on August 7.”

How do you prepare for the step-up in quality?

“The gap between League One and the Championship has got bigger over the years.

“I think we are trying to set out a way to play, a philosophy for the football club and something the supporters can get behind.

“We were running with a list that would maybe be Championship, a list that we’d be happy with whether we were in League One or in the Championship and of course we had to operate with some League One only thoughts.

“In the end, we’re looking for bright, young players that are athletic, can handle the ball and can play in a way that will excite the supporters but can also play with determination and commitment that resembles Blackpool.

“We’re really pleased and a lot of work was done regardless of what league we were in and we’ve started to execute that already.

“Shayne Lavery has joined us, he was one of the first ones, and we’ve also managed to keep the likes of Gary Madine, James Husband and Luke Garbutt that have been critical for us.

“We’ve signed Daniel Grimshaw, a bright, young goalkeeper coming out of Man City, so we’re really excited about the business we’ve done and I think we’ll be keeping you busy over the next few days as well.”

Is it a difficult transfer market to navigate post-pandemic?

“We were part of League One last year that for two windows operated under a salary cap with a squad cap too. But that is no more, courtesy of the PFA.

“I think that was helpful, because it provided us with a little bit of a reset that was needed.

“Coronavirus has clearly shown that, especially at Championship levels, club were too highly geared - most clubs were operating over 100 per cent of wage to turnover ratio.

“A reset is needed, but it’s part of looking at the redistribution of wealth from the top. The Premier League have got a part to play in that and I think the FA has got to become visible as well.

“I do think we need to make sure there are no more Burys or challenges like Bolton and god forbid we lose another club like Macclesfield as well.

“Football needs to have a think after what the so-called ‘big six’ did with the talk of a European breakaway and we need to make sure good clubs and good community assets stay in business.

“Maybe, just maybe, football regulation could also be looked at.”

Appointing Neil Critchley was viewed as a risk, but it was a risk worth taking wasn’t it?

“The risk on paper to take somebody that appears to have not managed a first-team competitive game before, but Neil has done a sterling job.

“He spent seven years at Liverpool and you look at the young players that have come through during the latter stages of Brendan Rodgers’ time and the five years of Jurgen Klopp.

“Critch knows what he’s doing, he’s one of the most decorated coaches in the country.

“For us, we knew, even despite a tough start, we were heading in the right direction. Of course I can say that now once the champagne has been sprayed all over the pitch at Wembley!

“But in all seriousness, Neil Critchley is a wonderful asset for the football club.

“He’s a proper football person. He doesn’t want to get involved in some of the things that go on around football clubs, he just wants to get on the grass with bright, young, hungry and ambitious players and just wants to coach them to win football games.

“We’re delighted to have him.”

After the Oyston era, how important is stability for the club?

“The fans will sing ‘we’ve got one of our own’ in Simon Sadler at the head of the club and we have, we’re very, very lucky.

“We’re delighted for him and we’re delighted for the supporters because everyone connected to this club has had a tough few years before Simon took over.

“I think now the future is really exciting. We’ve announced that Blackpool Council will remain as the sponsor on the front of our new Puma kit, the football club is back at the epicentre of everything that is happening and the football club will now play its part in the visitor economy for Blackpool.

“Covid has took a big swipe at all the tourism and hospitality industries, so the fact we’re now in the Championship and clubs we’re going to play against will bring big away followings, that’s brilliant for the town and I’m delighted for the council.

“After some really tough years, I’m delighted for the supporters too.”

Have you ever known a situation where the fixtures have been announced, but Derby and Wycombe don’t know what league they’re going to be playing in?

“It’s a very challenging time for the EFL and I’m sure Trevor (Birch) and Rick (Parry) and everyone in the executive team are dealing with that situation as best as they can.

“It’s just sad for football, isn’t it? All we want to be talking about is fixtures, promotions, excitement, getting fans back into stadiums because the game just isn’t the same.

“To be seeing that issue cloud what is really an exciting day is sad and it’s challenging. I just hope for the supporters of those clubs and for the good of football, the right decision is made and whatever rules and regulations are in place are abided by.

“The outcome has to be the right one because we know at this football club that when there are dark days, it affects everybody, so I hope the EFL are able to resolve that situation in the right way as quickly as possible.”

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