Blackpool head coach cannot wait for supporters' return

Neil Critchley is chomping at the bit for his Blackpool side to play in front of fans again.

Saturday, 15th May 2021, 12:30 pm

Around 4,000 Seasiders will return to Bloomfield Road for the decisive second leg of their play-off semi-final against Oxford United, which takes place next Friday night (7.45pm).

A similar number of Oxford fans will also attend Tuesday night’s first leg at the Kassam Stadium, which kicks off at the earlier time of 6pm.

It comes after clubs involved in the play-offs were given the green light to welcome back spectators when Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed the planned easing of lockdown restrictions will go ahead from Monday onwards.

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Under the roadmap out of lockdown, 10,000 fans will be allowed to attend events from May 17, or alternatively, 25 per cent of capacity – whichever is lower.

The Seasiders have played all but two of their 46 league games this season behind closed doors.

“It’s fantastic news, I can’t wait,” Critchley said.

“It will be a bit surreal and different, won’t it, because we’ve faced pretty much the whole season, other than two games (without fans).

“We had 1,000 in against Swindon and we also played Shrewsbury away when they had 1,000 or so.

“The Swindon game was the second game of the season, back in the sunshine, so that feels like many games ago now! Other than that, we’ve played 44 games without supporters.

“Now we’re in the play-off games, the really important games, we get 4,000 Oxford fans and 4,000 Blackpool fans, so that’s great.

“It should be a great atmosphere and I’m sure the supporters will be looking forward to getting back in the ground and supporting their teams.

“I’m looking forward to both games but, in particular, our game at Bloomfield Road on Friday night. A game under the lights, it should be a great occasion.

“I’m excited. I’ve never been involved in the play-offs as a coach, so it will be a new experience for me.

“I’ve been involved in some play-off games before through my time at Crewe and I’ve been involved in many tournaments, like the UEFA Youth League.

“The play-offs are different, particularly the psychology of the games. Everyone loves the play-offs don’t they?

“There’s usually drama involved. I’m really looking forward to it, I can’t wait.”

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