Opinion: Have Blackpool really rebuilt the club’s structure?

Karl Oyston
Karl Oyston
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So at last Karl Oyston broke his silence to give Blackpool fans an insight of his plans and intentions - or did he?

While it was good to hear him finally talking publicly after a year of silence, the interview possibly left more questions than answers.

Oyston was quick to talk about the ‘horrific’ mistakes he’s made and how he’s rebuilding the club, but he didn’t actually explain how.

One of the interesting lines was: “Neil has rebuilt the structure of the club in terms of football staff and the team. We are now getting to the position of getting back to where any properly run football club should be.”

Well for me that still isn’t the case. Looking at the structure of the football side of the club, it’s actually smaller than it was this time last season.

While Lee Clark had Alan Thompson and Paul Stevenson on his coaching staff, Neil McDonald has just one in Richie Kyle.

It prompted me to look at what a like-for-like ‘properly run football club’ actually has, using neighbours Fleetwood as an example.

In terms of structure, Fleetwood Town have a Chairman, Vice Chairman, Chief Executive, Director of Football, Technical Director, Manager, Football co-ordinator, Assistant manager, first team coach, fitness coach, goalkeeping coach, head of recruitment and two kit men.

Blackpool have a chairman, manager, a first team coach, fitness coach, goalkeeper coach, one kit man and a chief scout.

Now you may say Fleetwood are below Blackpool in the league table, but baring in mind they were in non-league when the Seasiders were in the Premier League, it certainly gives food for thought.

While I would probably say Fleetwood maybe have too many people involved, there’s no doubting the huge gulf between the structures of them and their close neighbours.

I won’t even compare the club’s proposed new training grounds. This week McDonald revealed he’s only had one pitch available for ‘months’ as the other is ‘under water’, something which may have shown in Saturday’s stale start.

In the interest of fairness, we have to say some things have changed at Bloomfield Road.

Pool now have a decent manager in Neil McDonald and have finally sorted a decent Secretary in Nick Alford, they also have changed their transfer policy (in terms of contracts length at least) for the better. But when talking about a rebuild of the football club’s structure, I’m not sure that’s the case.

Oyston’s work is far from done. Should McDonald walk away at any point all the steps made forward could very quickly crumble. While personnel has clearly improved at Bloomfield Road, I’m not sure the structure has at all.

And on Saturday we had a stark reality check about just how short those ‘green shoots of recovery’ really are at Blackpool. Now I don’t want to fall into the trap of getting too carried away with one bad result, but it’s a reminder than Pool are still in a battle at the wrong end of League One - a place the club shouldn’t be near in a million years.

Saturday’s problems weren’t helped on the morning of the game Blackpool’s plans were thrown up in the air a little, with news they didn’t have a fit goalkeeper.

Injuries to Colin Doyle and illness to Kyle Letheren meant a quick call to Burton to borrow Dean Lyness, luckily he was able to sign in time to start on Saturday.

Elsewhere, it was the same outfield line-up which beat Gillingham two weeks earlier.

As for Shrewsbury there were plenty of familiar faces, with five former Seasiders in the 18. Richie Wellens, Mark Halstead, Andy Mangan, Scott Vernon and Elliot Grandin all enjoyed spells at the Bloomfield Road.

If the away side felt at home in their surroundings, you could tell with the way they started the game.

They had the afternoon’s first chance after just five minutes when defender Zak Whitbread lost marker Brad Potts from a corner to fire goalwards, only for his effort to be blocked on route to goal.

From the resulting corner they weren’t to have the same luck, although it was a sensational effort which broke the deadlock. A clearance sat up the box in front of Nathaniel Knight-Percival who, back to goal, produced a wonderful bit of skill to overhead kick past Lyness in goal.

Blackpool were shell shocked and just two minutes later things were to get worse.

Good work from Ian Black saw the ball played into Shrewsbury’s box and a terrible mix-up between Tom Aldred and David Ferguson allowed Shaun Whalley to compose himself and double Shrewsbury’s lead.

It was a lead Micky Mellon’s side deserved, they came out of the block quicker, out played/battled/defended and attacked the Seasiders.

Sadly for Blackpool things weren’t looking like improving, Shrewsbury were finding space in attack as Pool tried to push forward more, and almost made it three on 25 minutes.

A swift counter from Shrewsbury ended with former Pool youth team player Mangan finding space to turn and shoot from 25 yards, luckily it drifted just wide.

While the defending was shocking at this point, Pool’s biggest crime was their ball retention. Time and time again they gave it away, with skipper Ferguson guilty on a number of occasions.

And just before the half-hour mark things got even worse. Whalley was again involved for the Shrews, holding up the ball brilliantly before teeing-up Mangan to blast home from 10 yards.

It was a lovely goal and one which prompted hundreds of Blackpool fans to head to the exit. It also forced McDonald into a change, with Mark Yeates being replaced by Jim McAlister on the left, and a change of formation.

4-3-1-2 was Pool’s plan B, with Jack Redshaw tucking in behind Danny Philliskirk and Mark Cullen.

It was the first mention of any of those, it would be easy to have forgotten they were even on the field. Ever committed, Aldred had seen enough and decided to take things into his own hands and pulled one back on 36 minutes.

The defender turned at the edge of the area and fired a wonderful effort into the top corner. Sections of Pool’s supporters were singing Glad All Over – at this point there was very little to be glad about.

Out of blue they were almost off their feet again three minutes later when substitute McAlister headed Redshaw’s cross against the post - from nowhere Blackpool had found home hope.

Sadly that hope would quickly fade for the rest of the second half, with only Aldred’s incredible verbal bashing of left-back Ferguson after another mistake worth noting. The defender tore a strip off the youngster, clearly in an attempt to liven him up.

At half-time the message from McDonald would have been to get an early goal back and to be fair they started with purpose. Only a strong save from Jayson Leutwiler denied Philliskirk on the half volley after he found space in the area on 52 minutes.

And they didn’t have long to wait before pulling themselves right back into the game. McAlister found Philliskirk at the edge of the box and with a lot to do the former Oldham man did brilliantly to drive right-footed into the far corner. It was a lovely finish from a player who certainly knows where the net is.

Despite the early promise Pool were frustrated until the game once again burst into life with 11 minutes remaining. First Potts scrambled a Ferguson free-kick goal wards at the back post, only for Leutwiler to turn the effort onto the bar.

Then a minute later Philliskirk couldn’t have come much closer to levelling, twice having efforts cleared off the line.

His initial header was blocked by the keeper before substitute Dominic Smith cleared on the line when Philliskirk followed it up.

While Mellon’s side had all but collapsed, their breathtaking opening half hour probably meant they deserved a bit of luck, and he will have been delighted when Potts and Ferguson wasted direct free-kick opportunities in key areas.

For Blackpool, and Oyston, it was a reality check.

The rebuild isn’t much more than simply laying foundations so far.