Neil Critchley's mission to make Blackpool proud
Neil Critchley hopes his Blackpool side have helped to restore pride in the football club.
The Seasiders head to Wembley on Sunday to compete in the League One play-off final, the eighth such promotion decider in the club’s history.
Lincoln City stand in the way of Pool clinching a return to the Championship after a six-year absence, which has included a season in League Two.
It’s been a long, hard road back for the Seasiders, who had to endure off-pitch battles with the despised Oyston ownership.
But under Critchley and new custodian Simon Sadler, the future certainly looks bright for the club, regardless of what happens at Wembley next weekend.
In a fabulous season, it has been difficult for Critchley and his players to strike up a bond with the fans, who have been locked out for almost the whole campaign due to the pandemic.
But the Seasiders certainly made their feelings heard on Friday night, when 4,000 fans returned to witness the breathless second leg of Pool’s triumphant play-off semi-final against Oxford United.
Boasting a 3-0 lead from the first leg, Pool completed the job with an entertaining, topsy-turvy 3-3 draw.
Head coach Critchley said: “I said before the game I hoped our performance would make the fans proud, but they made me and the players proud with the way they supported the team.
“It was quite emotional walking around the ground at the end seeing what it meant to the supporters.
“You could see on their faces the passion they’ve got for the team and how happy they were.
“It’s been such a difficult time for everyone in this country and we wanted to bring some pride back to the people of this town.
“This team has gone some way in giving the people of Blackpool some hope and excitement. We want that to continue.
“We’re still not finished, we have a job to do. We want to go to Wembley and win to give the supporters a special day.”
Critchley was visibly emotional as he beat his chest and cheered the Blackpool fans during a lap of honour after the final whistle. Normally an understated character who likes to keep his emotions in check, Critchley admitted it was nice to finally let off some steam.
“We’re all football supporters at the end of the day, I’m a football fan,” he said.
“I’m used to being in the stands myself and I follow teams, so I know what it means.
“I have that passion inside me. You don’t always see that, I don’t always show it visibly but I can assure you it’s there.
“I love seeing that passion and that emotion, so for us to share that with the supporters gives me a fantastic feeling.”