Neil Critchley can't wait to reconnect with Blackpool supporters

Neil Critchley is counting down the days to when Blackpool fans are able to make their return to Bloomfield Road.

Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 12:30 pm

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Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the UK’s first national lockdown.

Since then, all of Blackpool’s games have been played behind closed doors, barring one test event in September, when 1,000 supporters watched the Seasiders’ 2-0 victory against Swindon Town.

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Neil Critchley applauds the fans after September's win over Swindon Town, the only game played in front of spectators at Bloomfield Road this season

“It’s that social interaction with the people around you that I miss most,” head coach Critchley said.

“You miss that connection with the supporters, not just during the game but also before the game or during the warm-up.

“You miss that support and the chance to speak to supporters and being able to build relationships.

“That’s what football clubs are all about – community, being together, that sense of belonging and the value of feeling part of something. We’ve all missed that.

“Every game it gets to you. You’re always thinking, ‘What would the atmosphere be like for this game if the fans were in?’

“It would have been an unbelievable atmosphere against Peterborough in a game where we know we can get into the play-offs with a win. They would have got right behind the team.

“That could play a huge part for us but unfortunately we’re not going to have it – but we’re no different to anyone else in the country at this moment in time.

“It’s been a crazy year for everyone. We want the health and safety of everyone, of course, but mental wellbeing is important too and we want the normality to return as soon as possible.”

Critchley has only experienced three games with supporters since being appointed Blackpool boss a little more than a year ago.

The 42-year-old still has fond memories of his first games in charge, which only makes him yearn for the return of supporters even more.

“The Fleetwood game was my first game and I often picture that game in my head,” Critchley said.

“I remember the Tranmere game as well, my first home game.

“Particularly in the second half, when we were kicking towards the North Stand, I have that visual image of looking up at the supporters at the top of the stand when they were getting right behind the team. I couldn’t believe the support we had that night.

“When I came here, I said I wanted the Blackpool team to reflect the support and the people of this area – a team that gives everything, fights for everything and is on the front foot.

“We’re getting closer to that and I hope the supporters are seeing that.

“We want to bring some hope, some belief and some excitement to the supporters and I hope they’re feeling that at the moment.

“We want that to continue but to do that we’ve got to keep doing the things we’ve been doing to get us to this point.”#

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