Peterborough United's relegation shows why Blackpool's success shouldn't be underestimated

It only feels like a few weeks ago that Blackpool made the trip down the M6 and M5 for the season opener at Bristol City.

Friday, 6th May 2022, 10:00 am

Read More

Read More
Neil Critchley on the 'mutual respect' between Blackpool and Derby County suppor...

What’s followed has come and gone in a flash, but we’re now only a day away from the final game of the season.

Whatever happens at London Road tomorrow, it’s been an excellent first season back in the Championship for Neil Critchley’s side.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

They’ve eclipsed all outside expectations and now look well at home in the Championship. Solid foundations are also in place both on and off the pitch.

It seems oddly fitting that Blackpool’s final game comes against the side that finished one place above them in League One last season.

Posh ended on 87 points after being automatically promoted from the third tier last term, seven ahead of the Seasiders who obviously clinched their spot in the Championship a few weeks later through the play-offs.

Fast-forward 12 months and Neil Critchley’s side sit a huge 26 points ahead, which is some turnaround.

The Seasiders were 3-1 winners against Peterborough earlier in the season

The Seasiders aren’t solely comparing themselves to Peterborough, but nevertheless it’s a useful little reminder of how well they’ve fared back at this level.

Posh are relatively similar to Blackpool though in terms of budget, one would imagine, while they’re also a club that through the years have looked down the pyramid to pluck the best up-and-coming players and sell them on at a later date for a hefty profit.

At the beginning of the season, from outside observers and betting odds-makers at least, both clubs were widely tipped to go straight back down. But Blackpool have never really been in the picture, have they?

Despite coming up via the play-offs, I was never really concerned about relegation and I said as much in the days after the Wembley triumph.

Blackpool aren’t wedded to one strict style of play, they’re always adaptable and have the ability to change their personnel or system depending on the opposition.

Judging from Critchley’s recent comments, that’s something he’d like his side to move away from in the next year or two as they look to progress into the top half of the table and potentially beyond, but it’s served them well this season - so it will be fascinating to see how they manage that transition over the summer and into the first few months of the new campaign.

The Seasiders initially got off to a slow start this season as they adjusted to a new level and had to wait until their sixth game for their first win, which also owed a lot to a disrupted pre-season campaign (both injuries and Covid).

But once they got up and running, the Seasiders always felt comfortable in mid-table, never flirted with the bottom three and were even within touching distance of the play-offs with only a couple of months remaining.

Safety was also mathematically secured at the end of March, which is some achievement for a newly-promoted side, and they now sit on 60 points, 26 clear of the relegation zone.

One supporter made a good point this week that Blackpool’s safety was actually secured at the start of February, as that’s the point they reached 37 points - the maximum tally both Derby County and Peterborough can reach with victories this weekend.

Obviously things have been helped a little bit by Derby and Reading both being hit by points deductions but still, even without them, Blackpool would still be sitting comfortably.

The final game of the season always gives us an opportunity to speculate about the future in terms of which players will be here next term.

It will be fascinating to see if Josh Bowler is included in the squad having been left out for the previous two games.

When I asked Critchley about Bowler’s absence, he insisted it had nothing to do with a potential summer exit, which seems highly likely.

Even if the club trigger a year option on the winger’s contract, which seems inevitable, the club almost seem resigned to losing their prized asset to a side higher up the food chain.

While it will obviously be disappointing to lose such an exciting player as Bowler, that also has to be the model the Seasiders utilise.

We can speculate about a potential fee all day long, but whatever money comes their way will surely determine what incomings we may see.

There are some intriguing conversations to be had for Critchley, his staff and the club hierarchy in the coming days.

Stuart Moore, Richard Keogh, Jordan Thorniley, Ethan Robson, Grant Ward and Keshi Anderson are all out of contract, albeit - Ward aside - all have 12-month options.

Even those under contract, there’s been chatter among the fanbase about the futures of players like Jerry Yates, who hasn’t featured as much as he would have liked to have done in the last few weeks.

Yet he’s still made 41 appearances this season, so it’s not like he’s been ostracised from the side like some have made out.

Nevertheless, it’s still been a frustrating season for last season’s top goalscorer, who has only found the back of the net once in the last four months - and that was a penalty.

There’s a lot more to Yates’ game than just goals, granted, but has he shown it enough on a consistent basis in the Championship this season?

Whatever happens, it promises to be an intriguing summer of transfer deliberations. I certainly don’t envy Critchley and his staff because some tough decisions will have to be made.