Gazette opinion: Blackpool owner Simon Sadler had no option but to sack Simon Grayson

The old adage in football is that you should never go back.

Wednesday, 12th February 2020, 5:05 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th February 2020, 7:13 pm
Simon Grayson gave owner Simon Sadler no other option but to relieve him of his duties

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Simon Grayson sacked as Blackpool manager after run of just one win in 12

While I don’t always subscribe to that particular view, in this instance it couldn’t be much more pertinent.

When Simon Grayson returned to the Bloomfield Road hotseat during the summer, it’s fair to say the reaction was lukewarm at best.

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No-one could argue with his stellar CV, which includes a promotion with Blackpool to the Championship during his first spell and three others with Huddersfield Town, Preston North End and Leeds United.

But Grayson’s decision to leave Bloomfield Road in 2008 to join boyhood club Leeds still claws with many Pool fans.

The fact he then went on to manage arch rivals Preston only served to add further salt into the wound.

It meant the 50-year-old was facing an uphill battle to win over the fanbase from the very start.

Fortunately for him, those concerns eased a little as he enjoyed a three-game winning streak to kick off the new campaign - as the football club rode the wave of the new post-Oyston era.

But, while Blackpool remained well positioned in the league table up until early December, the football on offer simply wasn’t what the fans were looking for.

With the euphoria of Blackpool’s fans being back following the end of their self-imposed four-year boycott, what was required during the summer was a manager to come in, release the shackles and produce a team that played with an entertaining and attacking brand of football.

Grayson, of his own admission, was never going to be that guy. He’s a pragmatic manager whose teams play with the handbrake very much on.

Playing in that manner is fine when the team were grinding out results, as they were in the early stages of the season. But as soon as those results disappeared, the writing was on the wall.

I said from the start of the campaign that, were Blackpool to finish 10th for a second season running, but were able to show clear signs of progression on the pitch, then the fans - and ultimately the owner - would probably be satisfied.

But instead of progress, the team has gone backwards - both in style and in terms of results.

The pace of Blackpool’s slide down the table was alarming.

Upon beating Fleetwood Town 3-1 in the Fylde coast derby on December 7, Pool were fourth in the League One table and just two points adrift of the automatic promotion places.

Grayson now leaves the side in 15th, 13 points off the play-offs following a run of seven defeats in their last nine league outings. Pool are now closer to the relegation zone than they are the top six.

Ultimately, owner Simon Sadler was consequently given no other option but to wield the axe.

My concern from the very beginning was that Grayson’s experience at Sunderland, with the Netflix documentary and everything that came with it, affected him more than he might care to admit.

In hindsight, his decision to leave Deepdale in the summer of 2017 to make the move to a club that was on a downward spiral was a pretty horrendous one.

He went on to win just three of his 18 games at Sunderland, before winning just three more during a 14-game spell at Bradford City.

He departs Bloomfield Road with a record of 13 wins from his 38 games, just nine of those coming in the league, meaning Grayson has won just 19 of his 70 games since leaving Preston - where he had the club in a safe, stable position in the Championship.

The clock started to tick for Grayson when Pool were beaten 1-0 at Lincoln City last month, a result that was met by dissenting voices from the away end for the first time this season.

The pressure simply grew and grew and, as Grayson repeatedly refused to take responsibility, instead pointing the finger at his players over and over again, his excuses began to wear thin.

Even with the backing he received from Sadler during the January transfer window, which saw 12 players arrive and 12 players depart, Grayson still couldn’t turn it round. It soon became clear that he wasn’t the right man for the job.

So what next? Former Barnsley, Leeds United and Hibernian boss Paul Heckingbottom has shot straight to the top of the bookies’ odds.

The 42-year-old is well known to the club’s chief executive Ben Mansford, who will have worked closely with him during his time at Oakwell and Elland Road.

Meanwhile former Luton Town boss Nathan Jones is another one who could be in the frame having left Stoke City earlier in the season.

He did some sterling work with the Hatters, producing winning football and entertaining football in equal measure.

But ask the majority of Blackpool fans who they want and they will give you one name: Ian Evatt.

The Blackpool legend, who made over 200 appearances for the club in a six-year playing spell, is performing miracles with Barrow, who top the National League.

The 38-year-old has admitted himself his playing style is very much based on that of Ian Holloway’s 2010 promotion-winning side, which Evatt featured heavily in.

In an ideal world Evatt, who I understand is interested in speaking to the Seasiders, would have a promotion under his belt before taking the Blackpool gig, but alas, we don’t live in a perfect world.

For me, he’s the right man for the job.