How Blackpool are shaping up in the transfer market with one month until the window closes

In exactly one month’s time we’ll be waking up to a closed transfer window. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait.

Tuesday, 2nd August 2022, 9:56 am

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It’s been an eventful summer for Blackpool. Plenty has been said, plenty has happened and a few things haven’t happened either.

Has everything gone to plan? Nope, and Simon Sadler and Ben Mansford conceded as much in their sit-down interview with The Gazette. But thankfully there’s still plenty of time to rectify that.

What are Blackpool in need of? Another midfielder seems to be one of the top priorities, while the club have also been looking to strengthen at both right-back and in the number nine role.

Additions have yet to arrive in those latter two positions, so one can only presume they remain high on the to-do list.

With uncertainty over Josh Bowler’s future amid recent speculation, the club will also have to have targets lined up on the wing should the worst happen.

Whether we like it or not, departures are going to be inevitable moving forward if Blackpool are going to fully embrace the Brentford model, as they’ve previously hinted is the way forward, so we might have to get used to seeing the likes of Dan Grimshaw, Marvin Ekpiteta, Jordan Gabriel and so on linked elsewhere.

Michael Appleton will be looking to strengthen his squad before the month is up

With Bowler out of contract next year, the last thing the Seasiders need is to lose him on a free because that’s not how the model is supposed to work. It’s about bringing in players, in this example on a free transfer, coaching them, developing them and giving them playing time before selling on for a big profit, with that cash being reinvested back into the side.

Of course in a perfect world Bowler will sign a new deal, perhaps with a minimum release clause, and I’m sure that will have been discussed since January. But the power belongs in Bowler’s hands on this one.

Either way, the uncertainty certainly didn’t affect his performance levels on Saturday because the 23-year-old was an absolute joy to watch. If he does go, he’ll be missed and the club will have a job on their hands replacing him.

I think we’re set for a fascinating and hectic four weeks because if the club are able to bring in another two or three players, as has been suggested, that will take the club up to 30 ‘senior’ players in their squad, meaning five will either have to leave or be left out - so it’s not all about who comes in.

But on that topic, Sadler addressed suggestions there’s “no money” available for transfers because of the club’s capital investments, namely the training ground and new East Stand, which will cost in the region of £35m to £40m.

That comment originated from a recent scheduled dialogue meeting but appears to have been taken slightly out of context.

“The club won’t be splashing out big transfer fees whilst there are these investments to make,” Sadler told supporters in May of this year.

He’s since expanded on those comments to The Gazette, saying there are unlikely to ever be any big transfer fees spent under his ownership, and neither has he ever claimed otherwise.

It’s interesting though, because it depends on your definition of “big”, doesn’t it? Clearly if we’re comparing it to clubs in the Premier League, then offers around the £1.2m mark, as we saw last week for Cameron Brannagan, aren’t particularly significant.

But for Blackpool, whose budget is at the bottom end of the Championship, it’s clearly a big deal, especially when you consider the £1.25m spent on DJ Campbell in 2010 remains the club’s record transfer fee.

So money is there to be spent if the right player becomes available, as we also witnessed with the £500,000 offered and agreed for Colby Bishop. The club also matched Everton’s demands for Ellis Simms before the striker decided to join Sunderland, so it’s not like they’re penny-pinching and they’re competing for a good calibre of player.

Instead, the frustration among certain fans seems to relate to the actual strategy and the failure to get certain deals over the line.

I think the perceived negativity over the summer is because of a perfect storm. It started with Critchley’s sudden departure, which certainly set the club back a few weeks, the lukewarm reaction to Michael Appleton’s appointment and since then, the deals that haven’t happened.

Just to clarify the confusion and some of the conjecture surrounding those three high-profile transfer pursuits, here’s what happened: the club agreed to Everton’s terms for Simms but he opted to join Sunderland instead, fair enough.

Bishop was all but done before an issue came to light with his medical, so the club opted not to take the risk while Portsmouth did. Again, it happens. He scored on his debut for Pompey and he could well go on to be absolutely fine, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Blackpool were wrong to renege the deal.

If anything, they should be applauded in my book for now operating a much more rigorous medical process to ensure previous mistakes of the past don’t occur again.

As we’ve seen and are still seeing now, big injury lists have been a recurring theme of the past few years – with nine players absent for the season opener against Reading at the weekend.

As for Brannagan, Oxford absolutely smashed their existing pay structure to keep him at the club. I’ve seen a few different figures floating around and I understand they’re in the right ballpark, which if true, is an eye-watering salary to be offering in League One, especially for a club like Oxford who, with all respect, don’t have the fanbase of a Sheffield Wednesday, Ipswich Town, Portsmouth and so on.

Why Blackpool waited until the eve of the new season to trigger Brannagan’s release clause, I’m not entirely sure, but there we go.

Chief executive Ben Mansford seems to be copping most of the flack for some of the comments he’s previously made, so again let’s look at exactly what was said during his interview with Tangerine TV after Critchley’s departure.

While the club has a recruitment team in place with head of football operations John Stephenson at the helm, Mansford did actually admit transfers would be on hold while the search for Critchley’s replacement was ongoing – contrary to what has been claimed elsewhere.

"Clearly because we’re without a head coach it’s difficult to push on and plan in the same way because I think the new head coach needs to have an input in that,” he said. “I’d just ask supporters for a bit of patience with that."

While some clubs continue with their recruitment without a head coach or manager – take Cheltenham Town as an example, as they signed players after Michael Duff’s departure to Barnsley – Blackpool prefer to have their boss involved in the process.

The second frustration with Mansford appears to relate to his assertion that Blackpool’s budget is likely to increase this summer.

That’s one we might never know an answer to, because we’re not party to what wages the four new signings are on and how much money has been saved from the departures of Cameron Antwi, Ethan Robson, Grant Ward, Oliver Casey (loan) and Reece James (loan). The fee paid to bring Dom Thompson from Brentford also remains undisclosed.

But, as previously mentioned, the fact Blackpool are offering in the region of £1.2m for Brannagan and £500,000 for Bishop suggests there could well be more money available.

What I would say is I’ve not seen many, if any, supporters demanding the club splash the cash. I think it’s more of a concern over the strategy in general since Critchley left, the failure to get certain deals over the line and the squad being “under-cooked” for the start of the season.

But what we’ve seen in previous windows is that things can change very quickly. We even witnessed that last week when, for a very brief moment in time, it seemed like Brannagan to Blackpool was finally happening. The mood was instantly uplifted and a frustrating transfer window was suddenly transformed into a positive one.

That’s why we can’t offer a proper assessment of Blackpool’s summer dealings until September 1, when the window finally closes.

Blackpool still need those two or three quality additions in the building before the end of the month, but if they arrive, it might not have been that bad a summer after all.