OPINION: Blackpool will lay down a marker if they can follow Bristol Rovers win with Southend United success
After the groundswell of optimism that has engulfed the club this summer, it was always going to be key Saturday’s opener didn’t end up being an anti-climax.
It’s fair to say the Seasiders didn’t disappoint.
In fact, it was a memorable occasion for all the right reasons.
I’d go as far to suggest it topped last season’s homecoming game against Southend United.
It is the Shrimpers who again provide the opposition this weekend, as Simon Grayson’s men make the long trip down to Essex looking to make it two wins from two.
There’s no reason why Pool can’t continue their good start; in fact one glance at the fixture list shows what a priceless opportunity they have to put themselves in the mix right from the off.
In the next four league games, Pool only face one side that finished in the top half of the table last season and that’s Oxford United, who ended the season in 12th.
Even then, Oxford were battling in the bottom half for the majority of the campaign.
There’s also Southend (19th), Gillingham (13th) and Rochdale (16th).
Yes it’s a new season and last season’s league table counts for diddly squat. But you can’t help but feel Pool have a big chance to put themselves in the top six positions early on.
Judging from Saturday’s stellar display, who’s to say they can’t stay there?
Blackpool were in impressive form, mixing entertainment and attacking flair with a practical professionalism that got the job done. You can already see the difference Grayson has made.
While Sullay Kaikai delivered the most eye-catching performance in attack, it was a defender who was the real star man.
Curtis Tilt showed those supporters who have been boycotting for the last few weeks just why he is so keenly sought after.
When he’s in that mood, Tilt is simply too good for this level, which makes it imperative the club manages to tie him down to a new contract.
If he repeats Saturday’s display throughout the season there will inevitably be further interest this time next summer, but while he’s under contract, the club will be rewarded for the faith they first showed in him when Gary Bowyer plucked him from non-league in 2017.
It’s crucial that when Blackpool do lose a key player, as they did with Marc Bola to Middlesbrough a couple of weeks ago, they are financially rewarded for it.
For too long now the Seasiders have lost top players for free – most recently Kyle Vassell and Clark Robertson.
From all accounts talks are progressing well and Tilt himself wants to stay, which hasn’t necessarily always been the case.
Why wouldn’t he want to remain? The club is going places and the positivity must be infectious for all those involved.
Attention now turns to Southend, who began the season with a narrow 1-0 defeat at Coventry City last weekend – albeit the game took place down the road in Birmingham.
The Shrimpers survived relegation by the skin of their teeth last term courtesy of a win on the last day of the season.
By all accounts their squad hasn’t improved sufficiently.
In fact they have just lost a key man in Dru Yearwood, who has joined Championship side Brentford for a rumoured fee of £500,000.
Pool enjoyed a 2-1 win at Roots Hall last season, Armand Gnanduillet scoring a late winner after Ollie Turton had put them ahead. A similar result will do nicely on Saturday.
If three points do end up coming home with Grayson and his players, it would mark an ideal start to the new campaign.
Not only that, it continues the momentum surrounding the club which will be key to attracting those ‘floating’ fans back to Bloomfield Road every other Saturday.
Even if results don’t go Blackpool’s way this season, which at times they inevitably won’t, fans should still be encouraged by the attacking brand of football the team are playing, which at times, it has to be said, wasn’t the case when supporters returned last season.
Blackpool fans want to see winning football, yes, but they also want to witness a clear desire for goals.
The early signs on that one are certainly good.