Blackpool SLO column: Gearing up for an exciting end to the season
It’s that time of year in a good football season when tangerine hearts begin to beat just a little bit faster.
This is turning out to be a good football season after all, despite the slow start, despite the obvious drawbacks of lockdown, empty stadiums and the forced deprivation of those socialising positives that are so much a part of a football day out.
For the Seasiders have risen steadily in recent weeks: only two league defeats since New Year, on a run of 10 games undefeated, four away wins in a row – the first time that’s been done since 2007 – and, for the first time in the campaign, they have climbed into the play-off places after Tuesday night’s excellent win over Peterborough United.
To be at the end of March and still with a quarter of the season to go – 12 games between now and May 8 – is quite extraordinary and will prove an immense challenge for the squad.
However, there is such a sense of positivity coming out of the dressing room and a growing mood of excitement among fans on social media about the quality of football being played by Neil Critchley’s side, that it’s not surprising the questions I get asked most often at the moment are ‘when will fans be allowed back inside Bloomfield Road?’ and ‘when is the League One play-off final?’
At the risk of tempting fate, and although the EFL is still to make a firm decision on which play-off games will take place when, we now know that the last three days of May are pencilled in for the finals.
If precedent is followed, the League One final will be the middle of the three on Sunday, May 30.
The question of when fans might be allowed back is a harder one to address.
Obviously, we are all desperate to get back after a year of missing live football.
Neil Critchley has made it clear how much he and the players would relish having the buzz of supporters inside the ground to help drive the team on.
Nevertheless, it’s unfair to speculate about whether or not that might be before the end of the current season.
Those of you who read the minutes from last month’s Structured Dialogue meeting between fans and the board will know that the club is still a willing part of the Government’s pilot scheme to trial a return of fans – the reason why Blackpool supporters were allowed to attend the home game against Swindon Town in September – and can reasonably expect to host fans whenever the pilot scheme is reactivated.
It would appear that strict measures, coupled with the success of the vaccination programme, are moving that normalisation nearer.
The EFL has reported that, for the first time this year, there are no new Covid-19 cases at any of its 72 clubs.
We must cross our fingers and hope, as it’s a decision that will be made at government level with input from the relevant agencies.
In the meantime, there are an absolutely massive six weeks coming up.
What we can all do is keep showing our support for the team and take advantage of the creative online ways to stay close to the Seasiders in this exciting, all-to-play-for last quarter of the campaign, via the club’s own live previews, podcasts, website and increased digital presence, via iFollow, as well as the various fan podcasts, blogs and social media platforms that are doing their best to keep the fanbase connected and involved.
Dare to dream, dare to believe again.
Stay positive, stay socially distanced, stay safe. Don’t hesitate to seek help if you need it.
Additionally, if you wish to contact me for any reason to do with supporter issues or have queries or suggestions, feel free to do so by email: [email protected] or message me: @BFCSLO on Facebook or Twitter – it’s what I’m here for. UTMP!
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