Blackpool to come up against a familiar face in opposition dugout in opening friendly at Southport

There will be a familiar face in the opposition dugout tomorrow when Blackpool take on Southport in their first pre-season friendly of the summer.

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The Seasiders will be reunited with their former boss Terry McPhillips when they take on the National League North side at Haig Avenue on Saturday (3pm kick-off).

“Hopefully there will be a good few coming through the turnstiles on Saturday,” McPhillips told The Gazette.

“I’m looking forward to it because when the footy finishes, you’re bored aren’t you? It’s just a bonus that it’s Blackpool, so I’m really looking forward to the game.”

While he refuses to take any credit, Southport enjoyed a huge upturn in form last season once McPhillips entered the building.

The Sandgrounders were bottom of the league at the time of his arrival, but they didn’t stay there for long - finishing the season in 11th after a brief flirtation with the play-offs.

McPhillips led the Seasiders to a 10th-placed finish in League One during his one season with the club

“They should never have been bottom, they just had a really hard start and some bad luck,” McPhillips added.

“I had been to watch them two weeks before Liam rang me up and I saw them beat Chorley in a replay, and they’re one of the better teams in their league, so it was obvious they shouldn’t have been down there.

“We did go on a good run but that wasn’t down to me. We had a good group of lads, a lot of youngsters, all having a good go, which always helps.

“We were particularly strong at home because it’s a hard place to come to, so we went on a run and got into the play-offs from the bottom.

“But we lost Marcus Carver, who was scoring a lot of goals, to Hartlepool in January. We lost Doug Tharme to Blackpool - he got loaned back but he got injured in his first game, so we were missing two of our stronger players for a good chunk of the season.

“We teetered around the play-offs and just dropped out near the end, which was a shame. But we won the Lancashire Cup, so all in all - with the players we lost and the injuries we had - we did fine.”

Tharme could ironically be in for his Blackpool debut on Saturday against his former side.

McPhillips only has good things to say about the defender, but admits it’s hard to predict how well he’ll do considering the huge jump between the levels.

“He’s a great lad, he wants to learn and for a big lad he can play and run,” he said.

“It’s a massive jump for him, but he’s got all the attributes to play much higher than with us and obviously Blackpool have taken a punt on him.

“You just never know. But you look at someone like Dion Charles, he went from Southport straight into Accrington in League One, does well and gets an international call-up, so it can certainly be done.

“If you’ve got the personal qualities he’s got, where he wants to learn and get better, then he will, no doubt.

“He’s still only a young lad and the full-time training will help him no end. He’s a good player.”

McPhillips still has fond memories of his time at Bloomfield Road, where he guided the club to a 10th-placed finish in League One during the 2018/19 season.

The Liverpudlian initially took the role on an interim basis following Gary Bowyer’s surprise resignation, but took the job full time after an impressive run of results.

McPhillips ended up stepping away himself at the end of the season, coinciding with the beginning of Simon Sadler’s new ownership.

Much has changed since his time at the club, but he’s delighted to see how far the Seasiders have progressed on and off the pitch - even factoring in Neil Critchley’s surprise departure.

“I was absolutely delighted with how Critch did, he’s done brilliantly,” McPhillips said.

“The owner has been superb too and things have obviously changed a lot. He’s backed the manager and Critch did an amazing job to get the club promoted and then to finish with 60 points in the Championship was incredible.

“I was surprised when I heard he left but it’s also not a bad move for him either.

“I know a little bit about Michael Appleton and he’s good, so hopefully he can carry on all the good work and Blackpool can have another cracking season.”

As for Southport, McPhillips is quietly confident Watson’s men can enjoy another strong season in the sixth level of English football.

“We’re still young, we’ve got a couple of new signings and maybe one or two more to come,” he said.

“It’s a similar squad to last season, albeit without Doug and without Carver, so most of the players stayed.

“We’re not one of the bigger clubs in that league that splash the cash, so we’re very much value for money and we certainly got that last year.

“Southport is a good place to attract players because Liam has a good track record of selling players into the League and beyond.

“The pitch is the best it’s ever been because Everton play their Under-23 games on it and they help with the pitch, so it’s good for the level we’re at.”