BST column: McDonald, Burton and fan reaction

Blackpool manager Neil McDonald
Blackpool manager Neil McDonald
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Last Saturday afternoon Blackpool FC were battered for an hour by the 10 men of Burton Albion.

Some fans vented their frustration with our team’s performance by chanting that the players weren’t fit to wear the shirt.

At the final whistle, at least one player reacted angrily to the barracking from supporters and after the game the manager was outspoken in his criticism of the travelling fans, contrasting it unfavourably to the support the team gets at home.

In the wake of those various heated responses to events on and off the field at Burton, let’s take a step back and attempt a calm analysis of what’s really going on, starting with some home truths – and we hope that fans, players, the management team and the owners read this column and take note.

Fact number one: this is the most light-weight team that Blackpool has possessed in over a decade.

It comprises many young players and lacks an experienced spine.

That said, it possesses more spirit and endeavour than teams we have had representing the Seasiders in the last couple of seasons, but for all that it is struggling to hold its own in a very mediocre league.

Fact number two: for many of the supporters attending away matches, those are the only times they see the team play, having decided not to re-enter Bloomfield Road until the current owners have gone.

They are among the most passionate and committed Blackpool fans and they spend a lot of hard-earned cash travelling up and down the country in support of the Seasiders.

They have seen some battling performances (Coventry, Wigan) and some very poor ones (Sheffield Utd, Shrewsbury, Southend). It takes a lot for them to criticise the team.

Fact number three: Saturday’s game was one such poor performance. By the manager’s own admission “for half an hour in the second half we never got going”.

Actually, the view from the terraces was that we only posed any competitive threat in the opening 10 minutes and the final 10.

We were over-run for the hour or so in between and only an inspired display by Colin Doyle stopped it from being 6- or 7-0.

It was not a tactically astute performance and it landed us back in the relegation zone.

If any conclusions can be drawn, they should probably be along the following lines: while it’s possible to understand why supporters voiced their frustration with the performance, it was perhaps unfair to take it out on the players who are in an invidious position.

Aldred, for instance, has been one of the strengths of the side this year. The manager should take more responsibility for that display (and others like it), and for not getting the best out of frankly limited resources, rather than turning on the fans on the one hand and trying to make it sound as though Pool were unlucky not to nick a draw on the other.

Beyond that, though, as we hope most people realise, the ultimate responsibility for us having a team that will struggle to avoid a second successive relegation lies squarely with the owners.

Their seeming unwillingness to make the significant investment in the playing squad that would give us a decent chance of getting promoted back to the Championship is the real reason for days like Saturday at Burton Albion.

It will be interesting to see what happens during this transfer window – or maybe we can predict that one already?

If the owners believe it’s not worth investing in the team because the support is not there anymore, then they need to realise that the support will come back in droves as soon as they have gone.

It is a classic double-bind, and as fans we walk a thin line between loyalty to the team and criticism of the regime.

It is not always easy. That is why, as a Supporters’ Trust, we reiterate our calls for the current owners to sell and move on, and we will continue to work by all legitimate means to make that transformation possible.