Blackpool FC review of the year

Neil McDonald
Neil McDonald
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When we sat down to look back at 2014 this time last year, the headline was ‘Year Blackpool fans will want to forget’.

Unbelievably, things got worst in 2015, on and off the field as Blackpool FC were relegated from League One and were subject to some unsavoury off-the-field incidents.

As 2016 approaches, we take a look back at another crazy year at Bloomfield Road, concentrating on the football side of things.

January

Believe it or not, the first week of 2015 was actually pretty positive for boss Lee Clark and his side, and it started in the Premier League surroundings of Aston Villa in the FA Cup.

After handing youngster Mark Waddington his debut, only a late goal saw Pool crash out of the cup 1-0 with their heads held high.

The following weekend Peter Clarke fired home to secure a win against Millwall.

Defeat away at Wolves followed before an afternoon which highlighted just how far off Blackpool actually were.

2-0 up at half-time away at Watford, the Seasiders totally collapsed, losing 7-2, with Clark left having to answer tough questions about his decision to leave out keeper Joe Lewis.

The month ended on a high, with Jamie O’Hara’s goal earning a 1-0 win against Brighton. Little did we know Clark’s side wouldn’t win again.

February

After a couple of positive signs in January, this month was probably when Blackpool knew the game was up.

It began with a 4-0 hammering at Norwich, where keeper Elliott Parish’s abilities were again questioned, after it had been reported Pool that attempted to end Joe Lewis’ loan season early for financial reasons.

Clark asked for a response from his players and he certainly got one on a freezing cold evening against Nottingham Forest.

Leading 2-0 and then 3-2 with 12 minutes to go, the Seasiders somehow drew 4-4 in a crazy game which just about reflected the season.

After a decent point at Blackburn, a Tuesday night footballing lesson and a 4-0 defeat against Brentford brought Clark’s men back to reality.

The month ended with Clark suggesting the game against Wigan was ‘must win’. Pool lost 3-1 on an afternoon they were all but relegated and cut adrift at the bottom of the table.

March

With protests growing off the field, it would appear the Seasiders totally gave up in March as relegation was all but confirmed.

It started with back-to-back 1-0 defeats against strugglers Birmingham and Sheffield Wednesday, before soon-to-be-promoted Bournemouth taught Pool a lesson with a 4-0 hammering.

A Gary Madine strike against Leeds in the middle of the month earned the Seasiders’ only point of March with a 1-1 draw as the gap between Pool and safety grew larger and larger.

The Seasiders ended the month one defeat away from relegation to League One.

April

It was a matter of when rather than if for Blackpool now as Lee Clark himself admitted the team were down.

A shame really since they were actually starting to improve, with the boss talking about experimenting ahead of next season.

Michael Jacobs brought some freshness on loan from Wolves and youngster Dom Telford was catching the eye in attack, although his ongoing contract talks were overshadowing his progress.

The month started with a must-not-lose game against Bolton, and Jacobs’ goal looked to have won it for Pool only for a 90th-minute equaliser to break their hearts.

The following day Blackpool were relegated with six games to play after Rotherham beat Brighton 1-0.

It prompted huge criticism of chairman Karl Oyston, and off the field talk of a major protest on the final day, something we’ll come to later.

It was pretty miserable from then on in, with defeats against Ipswich, Cardiff, Fulham and Derby ending the month.

May

Only one game was played this month but it will go down as one of the most memorable, for all the wrong reasons.

After major protests outside the ground, around 300 fans burst on to the pitch with the game against Huddersfield still goalless three minutes into the second half.

A delay of more than 40 minutes followed before the referee abandoned the game, much to the delight of the Pool supporters.

It saw Blackpool’s season end in disgrace, and with a record low points tally for the Championship of 25.

Within a week Clark resigned as Blackpool boss, claiming he could no longer take the club forward.

All but six of the first-team squad, including skipper Peter Clarke, left the club.

June

This month started more positively for the Seasiders, with former West Ham assistant Neil McDonald named as manager.

Richie Kyle is promoted from the youth set-up to assist him, with former Blackburn keeper Bobby Mimms arriving as goalkeeper coach.

With just six players at the club, McDonald was forced to move quickly in the transfer market, making keeper Colin Doyle his first signing of the summer.

Mark Cullen, Kyle Letheran, John Herron and a number of others followed as the new manager aimed to make up the numbers quickly.

Blackpool’s small squad returned to training at the end of the month.

July

After building a bubble of positivity around the club, July was the month McDonald quickly got a real taste of life at Bloomfield Road.

During a routine friendly at Lancaster, around 30 fans invaded the pitch, forcing Pool’s second game in a row to be abandoned.

If McDonald wasn’t sure what he was in for, he soon knew.

A few days later they did manage his first full game, a 2-0 win away at Blyth Spartans.

A Scottish pre-season camp was followed by a behind closed doors draw with Morecambe.

August

On the eve of the new season, Blackpool and McDonald’s problems continued, with the departure of keeper coach Mimms for Bolton.

McDonald moved quickly to lure Fred Barber from Crewe to replace him, only for the former Pool keeper to quit after just one session at the club.

By the time the opening game of the season at Colchester arrived, Pool were just desperately pleased to see some action.

David Ferguson was named as captain, piling the pressure on his team-mates by declaring they were going to win the league.

Mark Cullen twice fired Pool ahead on his debut only for Colchester to peg them back both times for a 2-2 draw.

The rest of the month was a total disaster for the Seasiders, losing to Northampton, Rochdale, Burton and Sheffield United, all before a 4-0 home hammering against Walsall.

September

With Neil McDonald openly admitting he was struggling to sign players due to negative headlines, Blackpool travelled to Scunthorpe with confidence at rock bottom.

But it was an afternoon when they would pick up with first win of the season and first on the road in more than a year.

Brad Potts bundling the ball home to beat Scunthorpe 1-0.

Sadly it didn’t change luck much, and a 2-0 defeat away at struggling Shrewsbury bought major doubts over the future of boss Neil McDonald.

A win on the final day of the month at home to Ian Evatt’s Chesterfield came at the perfect time, with Brad Potts and Mark Cullen on target.

October

If September was a month to forget, then I suppose October was a month to remember for Neil McDonald and his boys.

Mark Cullen was again on target to earn a win against Swindon before an understrength Pool side beat Port Vale 2-1 in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy

Solid enough draws against Coventry and Millwall followed before goals from loan full-back Hayden White and Jack Redshaw secured a sixth game unbeaten for the Seasiders as they beat Crewe 2-0 at Bloomfield Road.

The run came crashing to an end in front of a big travelling support at Bury, though, with Pool 3-0 down in half an hour amid yet more protests against the Oyston family.

After a late flurry the game ended 4-3, but it wasn’t enough as Pool ended the month on a low.

November

After watching Pool end October in goalscoring form, November will go down as one of the club’s worst ever months.

Six matches, six defeats and no goals followed for the Seasiders, with Neil McDonald’s insistence on playing weakened sides in the FA and JPT cups well and truly backfiring.

Bradford, Southend, Port Vale and Doncaster all recorded wins against Pool, who ended the month facing an all-time club record and a huge embarrassment as Fleetwood arrived at Bloomfield Road.

It was the first time the pair had met in league action and you got the feeling it was a game Pool could really do without.

After a huge build-up from the north end of the Fylde coast, Pool eventually scrapped a 1-0 win without even managing a shot on target.

Fleetwood’s Nathan Pond put through his own goal and that was the difference on the afternoon.

December

With the pressure of the losing run over, Blackpool travelled to Wigan on a soaking wet day and pulled off the most unlikely of wins.

Tom Aldred’s first-half header was followed by the Seasiders defending for their lives and recording their second 1-0 win on the bounce.

The third straight win came a week later, this time in much more clinical fashion, with Brad Potts and Mark Cullen on target as Pool beat Peterborough 2-0.

After the Boxing Day clash with Oldham was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, Pool ended the year with a trip to Barnsley.

In a fashion befitting the year, Pool lost 4-2, wasting the lifeline provided by Mark Cullen’s second half equaliser as Neil McDonald’s men end the year 18th, two points above the drop zone.