Gazette opinion: Off-field appearances overshadow encouraging Blackpool display

For the majority of Blackpool fans last night’s encounter at Mill Farm was their first opportunity to get a glimpse of the club’s new signings and Simon Grayson’s first game back in the dugout.

Wednesday, 17th July 2019, 11:01 am
Blackpool earned their first win of pre-season against AFC Fylde last night. Picture: Steve McLellan

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And yet it was those sitting in the stands, rather than in the thick of the action on the pitch, who garnered most of the attention.

Firstly there was Ryan Hardie, who turned up in Blackpool gear to all-but confirm his imminent arrival from Rangers.

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The 22-year-old striker is expected to be officially revealed as a Seasider at some point today, having been signed on a permanent deal from the Scottish giants.

Last night’s friendly came too soon for the highly-rated forward, but that did nothing to deter the excitement among the fans.

Not only are the supporters delighted to see the club bring in a new striker, something Pool badly needed given just 50 league goals were scored last season, but they’re also encouraged to see such an early sign of intent from Simon Sadler, who has dug deep into his pockets to fork out a significant transfer fee.

Such enthusiasm won’t compare to the self-combustion that will surely occur should former favourite Charlie Adam seal a sensational return to Bloomfield Road.

The 33-year-old did little to dismiss the rumour-mill by taking a watching brief on Tuesday night, which inevitably led to a wave of chants aimed his way from the away end.

The fans sent a clear message to the board, belting out “sign him up”, which was received by a wry smile from Ben Hatton who was sat just 20 yards or so away from Adam.

There are good reasons why Pool should steer clear of Adam, given his age and the wages he’s likely to demand.

But there's also a very strong argument in favour of the Seasiders snapping him up at the earliest opportunity.

Commercially, his acquisition would be a no-brainer. Imagine if Adam’s return coincided with the launch of the new kit, those shirts with his name on would fly out of the club shop. He will add numbers to the gate, too.

His legs might not be what they were and there will be those who express concerns regarding Pool’s ability to stop counter attacks were he to play in the middle of the park. But such fears should be allayed by the quality he brings on the ball, a level of creativity the Seasiders are currently screaming out for.

As it stands Pool have a plethora of midfielders all capable of doing a solid job in midfield, but they’re all a bit ‘samey’. Such an accusation can not be directed at Adam, who would be worth his weight in gold thanks to his set pieces alone.

The positivity surrounding the club right now is a breath of fresh air. What better way to maintain the momentum by bringing Charlie home?

Turning to matters on the pitch, Pool fans will no doubt have been encouraged by what they witnessed.

It wasn’t the complete performance, but that was never going to be the case in what was just Pool’s second pre-season friendly of the summer.

Grayson’s men came firing out of the blocks and, had they not wasted some gilt-edged chances in the opening 10 minutes or so, could have been 2 or 3-0 up before Fylde had even got a foothold.

Nathan Delfouneso in particular looked as sharp as I’ve seen him, catching the eye with some impressive, driving runs into the Fylde box.

The only thing lacking was a killer touch in front of goal, the forward wasting a couple of clear opportunities in the opening half.

But he soon atoned from those misses 15 minutes into the second period, directing a well-taken header into the bottom corner from Sullay Kaikai’s pinpoint cross.

Kaikai, a half-time arrival, provided the most eye-catching display, showing his lightning pace and the full array of his dribbling abilities. Already he looks like he will be one of Pool’s most important players this season.

Marc Bola, the subject of further transfer speculation overnight - Brentford the club this time linked - delivered a typically attacking display at left-wing back.

Pool began the game with three centre backs and Grayson later confirmed he will regularly switch formations throughout the course of the campaign and won’t be sticking to the same rigid system week in, week out.

Armand Gnanduillet was his typically frustrating-self, holding the ball up well on occasions and using his strength to good affect, only to misplace the most basic of lay-offs at other times.

But it was good to see Nathan Shaw get more minutes, the youngster holding his own after being deployed at left back in the dying stages.

All in all it was a good workout and an encouraging win, but there is certainly more work to be done. But will that work involve Charlie Adam? That is the million dollar question.