Opinion: Billed as a fairly quiet January, Blackpool's transfer window is beginning to heat up
For what was billed as being a fairly quiet January transfer window, there’s been plenty of noise surrounding Blackpool.
Almost halfway through the month, the Seasiders have already brought in two new faces – well, one-and-a-half perhaps – in Jake Beesley and Owen Dale, whose loan spell was finally made permanent yesterday.
Pool have also been linked with a host of other names, most notably Cameron Brannagan of Oxford United, a player the Seasiders have revisited having been knocked back during the summer.
Let’s make no bones about it, Neil Critchley is crying out for another body in central midfield, but the club won’t be rushed or panicked into making a signing just to ease the pressure in the short-term.
Everything the club does, especially recruitment-wise, is for the medium and long-term.
If Brannagan does sign – and fingers crossed he does because he’s proved over the years at Oxford what a good player he is – it will be for all the right reasons, not just because the Seasiders are short in that particular area of the pitch at this current moment in time.
Blackpool’s previous interest and the fact Brannagan is well known to Critchley, having come through the academy at Liverpool, shows this is a player whom the club have followed for some time.
The Tangerines appear confident of getting a deal over the line and, judging by comments from Oxford boss Karl Robinson, that interest seems to be reciprocated by the player himself.
“His agent went straight to the owner trying to get a deal done, rather than phoning me which he’s meant to do,” an unhappy Robinson was recently quoted as saying.
“I don’t like people being deceitful and dishonest, and trying to manipulate a move secretly. I don’t think that’s right.”
It’s understood Blackpool’s bid is lower than Oxford’s asking price, as the League One side are holding out for seven figures.
The Seasiders do possess an intriguing bargaining chip in the form of Jordan Thorniley, who is currently on loan at the Kassam Stadium and wanted on a permanent deal.
Thorniley has no future at Bloomfield Road and the likelihood is Pool will be happy to let him go – but his presence in this particular transfer saga makes for an interesting aside.
Elsewhere, the speculation surrounding Josh Bowler only seems to be intensifying rather than evaporating.
Critchley revealed to The Gazette yesterday that he had sat down with the player to get his thoughts on the situation.
Amid the reported interest from a clutch of clubs, including Blackburn Rovers, Fulham, Nottingham Forest and Stoke City, Bowler is said to be happy at Bloomfield Road.
“I spoke to Josh and we had a good chat,” Critchley said.
“We explained what our thoughts and feelings were and Josh is happy here and is playing really good football.
“He’s of the opinion that what will be, will be, but he’s more than happy here and he’s playing fantastic football.”
Bowler has been a cracking signing for the Seasiders, having arrived on a free transfer during the summer following his release from Everton.
If he does depart – and let’s hope he doesn’t – the club will surely end up making a pretty profit, something we might have to become accustomed to in the coming years.
It’s important to remember Bowler is still only aged 22. He is a player who can frustrate with his end product.
Indeed, I’ve been one to point this out fairly regularly this season but, in terms of raw ability, he’s probably the standout player among Critchley’s squad.
He’s really come into his own in recent weeks as well and has shown signs of improving in the final third, which is one of the last pieces of the jigsaw alongside the need to work on his defensive side of the game, too.
Players like Bowler, Beesley, Dale and, previously, the likes of Jordan Gabriel, Sonny Carey, Shayne Lavery and Jerry Yates, will show signs of inconsistency because of their age. It’s only natural.
They aren’t the finished article and that’s exactly the point.
That’s what Blackpool are buying, players with high ceilings who can and – most probably – will improve and get better under Critchley’s tutelage.
Simon Sadler and the club hierarchy have made no secret about the need to build a sustainable model, one similar to clubs like Brentford, which involves selling your best assets and reinvesting that cash for the good of the squad.
That isn’t to say Blackpool are a selling club and are pushing players out of the door to recoup cash, because the model is worthless if it doesn’t go hand-in-hand with progress on the pitch.
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