Former Liverpool coach Neil Critchley bidding to end first full season in senior management with promotion via League One play-offs with Blackpool
Blackpool boss Neil Critchley is gearing up for the play-offs after his first full season of senior management.
Pool’s head coach took charge of two games during the 2019/20 campaign, before it was curtailed early due to the pandemic.
After a lengthy career learning the ropes in academy coaching with both Crewe Alexandra and Liverpool this is the 42-year-old’s first full season in charge of a senior side.
It makes his achievement all the more impressive, as the Seasiders recovered from a disastrous start to the season – losing six of their opening nine games – to finish the season in third place with 80 points.
It leaves the Seasiders just three games away from a potential return to the Championship, just six years on from their demotion.
First, they must get past Oxford United over a two-legged semi-final, with the first tie taking place at the Kassam Stadium tomorrow night.
No club in English football has a better record when it comes to the play-offs, with the Seasiders chasing a sixth promotion from just nine campaigns.
The concept of the play-offs began in the 1986/87 season and, since then, Pool have won 16 of the 23 ties they’ve taken part in.
"I think it’s a fantastic concept,” Critchley said.
“If it was only the top two or three that went up, most of the league wouldn’t be playing for something for a vast majority of the season.
“When the top six or seven teams have something to play for, it keeps the season alive and you get drama on the last day like what happened in our league.
“The play-offs are always packed with excitement and drama, and we’re just really looking forward to what will hopefully be a fantastic end to the season.”
Critchley was always adamant he had no preference as to who his Blackpool side would face in the semi-finals.
With little at stake for the Seasiders on the final day after a play-off spot had been guaranteed in their penultimate game, Pool’s head coach wasn’t even aware of who they would face until after full-time.
“We had no news or indication of what was happening elsewhere during our game,” Critchley said.
“Thankfully we weren’t one of the teams that was relying on other results, we just concentrated on ourselves that day.
“So it was only after the game that I found out that Portsmouth had been beaten and Oxford had won.
“They’ve had a great end to the season and a really good run to steal that last play-off position, which will give them a lift.”
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