'Blackpool remain a work in progress': Matt Scrafton's verdict on the pre-season defeat to Blackburn
Ahead of Saturday’s game against Blackburn Rovers, captain Jay Spearing said the friendly would serve as a good measure of where Blackpool currently stand.
So, with the benefit of hindsight, what can we take from the Seasiders’ 2-0 defeat?
I’d deduce Blackpool are very much a work in progress - both on and off the field. But still, progress is being made and that can only be considered a breath of fresh air.
The club is still attempting to become a ‘normal’ club again after years of neglect and misdirection. The rebuilding process might be a case of taking baby steps at first, it won’t be an overnight transformation.
But things are certainly heading in the right direction and the club will get there, but there could well be some hiccups along the way.
That’s not to say I’d describe a defeat against an established, experienced Championship side as a hiccup, mind.
Blackpool contested well and the game proved to be exactly what they needed on the eve of their curtain-raiser against Bristol Rovers: a good runout against high quality opposition.
But Pool were simply beaten by the better team, which is no disgrace whatsoever given the array of talent the visitors’ have at their disposal.
The Seasiders, on the other hand, have a competitive squad that shouldn’t have too much of a problem maintaining its top-10 status in League One next season.
However the club is more ambitious now and expectations have been raised, the play-offs have to be the aim. To do so, I’d argue at least two or three more signings are required.
Pool were already in need of defensive cover prior to Marc Bola’s impending departure, so that will surely become a priority next week. You’d think another striker will be on the agenda, too. The team is also crying out for some extra creativity in the middle of the park.
But at least Pool fans can be assured however much money is raised from Bola’s sale will be immediately reinvested in the squad - something that rarely, if ever, happened during the previous tenure.
Simon Grayson’s men are by no means a million miles away from contending, they’re close to being a very good side. It’s just a case of adding those finishing touches.
The manager, who returned to the home dugout at Bloomfield Road for the first time since 2008 on Saturday, experimented with yet another new system against the side he played for between 1999 and 2002.
It started out as an almost hybrid 5-2-3 system, Jay Spearing and Jordan Thompson holding in midfield and protecting a back three of Curtis Tilt, Ryan Edwards and Michael Nottingham - a backline that remained pretty solid throughout.
Nick Anderton and Ollie Turton were unspectacular as wing backs, while Sullay Kaikai and Nathan Delfouneso - the two standout performers for Pool in pre-season - ably supporting Armand Gnanduillet who continues to frustrate.
The Seasiders initially struggled to acclimatise to their new formation and Rovers took full advantage, gleefully taking an early lead courtesy of Adam Armstrong’s superb, curling effort.
But Pool settled as the game wore on and looked compact as a unit and were tough to break down. That will certainly come in handy when they’re facing possession-based sides this season, particularly away from home.
Going forwards, meanwhile, Pool were a threat on the counter thanks to the pace and driving runs of Kaikai and Delfouneso. Kaikai was the star performer and already you can tell he will rapidly become a fans’ favourite at Bloomfield Road.
Improve his end product and, dare I say it, he won’t be plying his trade in League One for too long. Hopefully he makes the step up to the Championship with Blackpool...