Matt Scrafton column: Blackpool have the right man in charge for the Championship's challenges
The world of football moves so fast, you barely get time to reflect.
Barely an hour or two had passed after the full-time whistle on Sunday before minds had already switched to how Blackpool were going to tackle the Championship.
“Which players do we need to sign?” fans pondered. “When will the retained list be announced and which players will be allowed to leave?” others asked.
It’s just the nature of the beast, I suppose, especially for those in charge who have no choice but to be prepared.
After all, if you’re not constantly moving forwards and addressing the next challenge, then you risk being left behind.
For us mere mortals, however, I do think it’s important to look back and ponder every once in a while, especially when we’re discussing an occasion and an event as triumphant as Blackpool’s play-off final success.
Even when the Seasiders fell behind to a freak own goal after just 48 seconds at Wembley, you never truly felt this was going to be Lincoln City’s day.
You even got the impression their supporters felt the same way. The Imps, normally a noisy bunch at Sincil Bank, were surprisingly quiet at Wembley – almost as if they never truly believed.
The Seasiders, on the other hand, had belief in abundance; it was bordering on arrogance – but in a very good way.
When you’ve been promoted via the play-offs on six occasions from just nine campaigns, you don’t do it by hoping for the best and being timid and nervy.
The Seasiders didn’t panic, they simply composed themselves, found the answers and slowly but surely began to take control of proceedings. In many respects, it was the perfect illustration of their season at large.
Once Neil Critchley’s men stopped the supply source to Lincoln dangerman Brennan Johnson, who had caused havoc early on for poor Luke Garbutt, the Imps rarely, if ever, threatened.
It was just a matter of time until Blackpool levelled, the only surprise was that it came from the boot of Kenny Dougall. That shock only intensified at the start of the second half when the Aussie slammed home his second and, it transpired, Blackpool’s winner.
The midfielder only scored once during the regular season but bagged three goals during Blackpool’s play-off campaign.
Talk about stepping up to the plate when it really matters to permanently write yourself into Blackpool folklore. King Kenny, indeed.
Barring a late onslaught from Lincoln, which was to be expected, Blackpool were never in much trouble.
The level-headedness and control they’re able to exert over games never fails to astound me. But what’s the saying? Sides often play in the image of their manager. That’s certainly the case with the Seasiders and Critchley, who is the complete antithesis of the emotional, heart-on-your-sleeve types like Karl Robinson and Joey Barton. And that’s not to say they’re not good managers.
But when your team finds itself in a hole or in trouble, who would you prefer to be in charge? A head coach who is able to calmly compose himself and analyse the situation or a manager who makes rash decisions based on emotion and ‘passion’? I know what I’d prefer.
Critchley has been an absolute breath of fresh air in his first full season in charge at Bloomfield Road.
Even after Blackpool’s disastrous start to the season, he never panicked. Or if he did, he certainly didn’t do it in public.
The 42-year-old always said it would take something special to tempt him away from his Under-23s role at Liverpool. Well it’s fair to say he won’t have any regrets.
It was great to see Critchley’s release of emotions at the full-time whistle during the celebrations with supporters and his players.
Normally a relatively understated guy who likes to play things down, Pool’s head coach could finally let his hair down.
All the praise that came his way has been fully deserved.
A word for those above him, too. There was a bit of pressure mounting on Critchley early in his reign but Simon Sadler, Ben Mansford and co kept faith and gave him their full support.
They’ve certainly since reaped the benefit.
In fact, the notion of sacking Critchley early into the season was laughed off by the club’s hierarchy.
This is a long-term project the club are embarking on and Critchley is their man to lead the way.
A lot of clubs talk a good game about long-term projects, philosophies and the like, but Blackpool have talked the talk and walked the walk.
Whatever happens in the Championship next season – I personally think Blackpool will be absolutely fine, but that’s a discussion for another day – Pool fans can be safe in the knowledge their club is in good hands.
After years of hurt, that’s a victory as good as any.
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