Clark lifts the lid on ‘toxic’ Blackpool

Lee Clark
Lee Clark
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Lee Clark has lifted the lid on his time at Blackpool by describing the atmosphere as ‘toxic’ and pointed the finger of blame at off-the-field issues which don’t happen at a ‘normal’ club.

The 42-year-old walked out of Bloomfield Road just seven days after the abandoned final home game of the season against Huddersfield.He suffered a torrid time in charge of Blackpool, with relegation topping off a traumatic six months.

And after a couple of weeks of silence, he’s finally spoken to explain just how bad things were.

“The atmosphere was toxic – there is no getting away from it,” he said.

“Once I was in the door, it was tougher than I had seen looking in.

“A lot of little things that would normally make a club run smoothly made things very, very tough for us. We lost a kit man and he wasn’t replaced. There were issues with player registrations, travel, accommodation.

“It is just about getting things done in a proper manner.

“There always seemed to be something happening that could be prevented, something that would create a negative.

“As a football manager, they were things I didn’t expect to have to deal with.

“I wanted recruitment put in place early.

“What happened at the club was making things even harder – I was going the length and breadth of the UK trying to convince players because they saw negative stories.”

Clark’s time was overshadowed by protests against chairman Karl Oyston from Pool supporters, something he found himself dragged into near the end.

But he wasn’t willing to blame the fans, saying what they were asking for wasn’t ‘unrealistic’.

He said: “The supporters believe they are doing things for the right reasons and I don’t think they are being unrealistic.

“They don’t insist on a Premier League team, they just want a team that can compete in the Championship, keep progressing, and they have shown before that it can be done.”

“The atmosphere that day just showed the disconnect that existed between everyone at the football club: the main stakeholders, the team, the fans, the directors,” he says.

“The police couldn’t guarantee the safety of the players. That just showed the level of discontent.

“It was around before I got to the club but things just seemed to get progressively worse. That final day was a horrible way to compound a horrible season.”

After having to stay sat on the bench for the final game in fear for inciting the crowd, Clark quickly decided enough was enough.

Although he admits now it’s a decision he considered making much earlier.

“Were there times when I could have left earlier? Probably,” he said.

“It got more and more difficult. They had taken six points from 14 games before I got there, had a pre-season which consisted of two games – one of them was against Penrith with a team made up really of trialists. They weren’t prepared in a way any professional team would need.”

“In my first 14 games we were taking a point a game but it wasn’t going to be enough for us because of the predicament we were already in. We were going to teams in the top six, trying to be open and play with two strikers because we needed wins, and being blown away.”