Blackpool FC review of 2021 part two: Back in the Championship

In the second half of his Seasiders review of the year, Matt Scrafton focuses on the Seasiders' return to the second tier after six years away.

By Matt Scrafton
Tuesday, 4th January 2022, 12:30 pm

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Blackpool FC review of 2021 Part 1: Play-off kings crowned yet again

JULY

Chris Maxwell and Jerry Yates committed their long-term futures to the club as Neil Critchley made it a policy to tie down the club’s assets rather than risk losing them down the line, as had often been the case at Bloomfield Road under the previous ownership.

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Josh Bowler sealed Blackpool's first win of the Championship season against Fulham

Blackpool’s head coach also felt it was important to keep the nucleus of his promotion-winning squad together ahead of their Championship campaign.

Richard Keogh was signed as Critchley brought in some much-needed experience to help out the younger members of his squad.

The month ended with the Seasiders confirming the loan signing of Tyreece John-Jules from Arsenal after their attempts to bring back Ellis Simms from Everton were thwarted by the striker requiring surgery.

AUGUST

After a pre-season disrupted by Covid, Blackpool made a solid start to life back in the Championship with a 1-1 draw away to Bristol City thanks to Shayne Lavery’s last-gasp strike.

Unfortunately this was followed up by back-to-back home defeats against Cardiff City and Coventry City.

Pool showed great character to come from behind to claim a 2-2 draw against promotion favourites Bournemouth before losing at the death with 10 men at Millwall.

The draw at Bournemouth came at a cost, with Grant Ward suffering a serious Achilles injury.

The Seasiders were knocked out of the Carabao Cup in the second round by Sunderland after seeing off Middlesbrough in the first.

Deadline day went right down to the wire as Jordan Gabriel sealed a welcome return on a permanent deal from Nottingham Forest, agreeing an unheard-of four-year deal.

Dujon Sterling and Owen Dale also made loan moves, the latter with a view to a permanent deal in January.

SEPTEMBER

This was a much better month for Neil Critchley’s men as they returned from the first of three international breaks in successive months with a hugely impressive 1-0 win against high-flying Fulham.

A harsh 3-0 defeat at home to Huddersfield Town followed but the Seasiders would then claim back-to-back wins against Middlesbrough and Barnsley before being held to a frustrating draw at Hull City, who levelled late on despite having a man sent off.

Even so, the Seasiders sat in 14th place in the division at the 10-game mark, one point and one position above fierce rivals Preston North End who would head to Bloomfield Road the following month.

OCTOBER

Blackpool began the month with a backs-against-the-wall win against Lancashire rivals Blackburn Rovers.

The 2-1 victory was all the more impressive given Chris Maxwell, Richard Keogh and Shayne Lavery all picked up injuries.

Neil Critchley’s side then fell to a 2-1 defeat against a rejuvenated Nottingham Forest before pulling off an unbelievable comeback from two goals down to beat Reading 3-2. Owen Dale was among the scorers on his Blackpool debut.

This set up a mouthwatering clash against Preston Norther End, which the Seasiders won 2-0 in comfortable fashion thanks to goals from Keshi Anderson and Gary Madine. It was the first league meeting between the sides since 2010.

The month ended with a smash-and-grab win away to Sheffield United, which left the Seasiders in sixth place in the table.

There was more good news off the pitch, with Matty Virtue and Kenny Dougall both agreeing new deals.

NOVEMBER

Blackpool entered the month on an impressive run, having lost just once in eight games.

This all came crashing down as Pool embarked on another run, this one of the unwanted kind as they went seven games without a win.

Pool were unfortunate to lose 1-0 at home to Stoke City before they drew three on the spin against QPR, Swansea City and West Brom.

In the main, performances remained good but the Seasiders were struggling for goals, scoring only twice in seven games.

They ended the month with a poor 1-0 defeat away to Birmingham City, who offered very little during the 90 minutes but Blackpool were far too wasteful in front of goal.

Nevertheless, November was still a month to remember and celebrate for Blackpool fans as Neil Critchley signed a new long-term contract to keep him at Bloomfield Road until 2026.

DECEMBER

Blackpool have historically struggled over the winter months and that trend looked set to continue as the month began with a 3-0 home defeat to Luton Town.

This was followed by a dire 1-0 reversal away to Derby County, a club mired in off-the-field strife and hit by a Covid outbreak in the days leading up to the game.

Thankfully Blackpool’s run without a win came to an end at Bloomfield Road, where struggling Peterborough United were beaten 3-1 thanks to late goals from Jerry Yates and Sonny Carey, the latter scoring his first goal for the club.

That lifted Pool back into the top half of the table for Christmas but they had slipped to 13th by year end following two defeats.

Covid left Neil Critchley’s squad increasingly low on numbers but they twice led at Huddersfield Town, conceding two late goals after Jordan Gabriel’s dismissal for a 3-2 defeat. Shayne Lavery scored a consolation in the 2-1 home loss to Middlesbrough.

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