Transfer state of play with 18 days until Blackpool’s season opener against Reading
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Michael Appleton’s side are currently stepping up their preparations with a training camp in Scotland, which got underway yesterday.
Upon their return, they will host Europa League finalists Rangers in front of a packed crowd at Bloomfield Road before taking on Salford City and Everton in their final pre-season friendlies.
Off the pitch, the club continues to work tirelessly to strengthen the squad as they look to match and, if possible, build upon last season’s 16th placed finish.
As it stands, and as far as I’m aware, Blackpool are one of just two clubs in the Championship yet to make a signing this summer - with the other side being Wigan Athletic.
In one respect that can be considered a good thing. The Seasiders already have strong foundations in place and don’t need to make wholesale changes to their squad.
But, as previously admitted by former boss Neil Critchley and his successor Appleton, there is a need to add quality, especially in certain positions - most notably at right-back.
With Jordan Gabriel unlikely to be fit for the start of the season, that leaves Appleton without a recognised fit and available player in that position - other than academy product Jack Moore.
With Dujon Sterling returning to Chelsea at the end of last season, there was already a need to get a new right-back through the door. But that need has only been heightened over the last week or so.
Brentford’s Fin Stevens has been linked recently, but it’s understood the Bees – who are now away in Germany on a pre-season camp – are wanting to assess their options before making a final decision on whether or not to loan him out or keep him with the first-team.
Elsewhere, there might be numbers in central midfield but there isn’t the desired quality.
A lot of people are expecting great things from Sonny Carey in particular this season and I also share some of those hopes, with Appleton’s 4-3-3 system likely to suit him. But that’s a lot of pressure on the shoulders of a 21-year-old who was playing non-league football as recently as 14 months ago.
I’ve no doubt Carey will come to the fore this season should he stay fit, having only made 11 league appearances last season, but he needs time to develop before he acclimatises to the rigours of playing 46 games in a division as difficult as the Championship.
Whether Josh Bowler stays or goes, Blackpool still need to improve in the wide positions regardless - someone who will regularly chip in with goals and assists to help aid the front man/men.
Morgan Rogers could well still be that man but, contrary to recent reports, as of last week I was told nothing was imminent, despite there being interest from the Seasiders, interest that dates back to the January window.
Appleton told The Gazette after Thursday night’s friendly against Leeds United that he was hopeful of a signing arriving before the team headed north of the border on Sunday. Clearly that hasn’t happened.
Those comments came after he admitted the previous few days had been frustrating ones, after the “one or two exciting signings” Appleton had mentioned after the Southport friendly failed to come to fruition.
Whether those potential deals have completely broken down or just been delayed, we can’t be sure. But Appleton said himself he is keen to get players in the building ASAP so they can get used to his system and style of play, so I’m sure he’s just as frustrated as some of you out there stressing about the lack of movement.
Following the recent outgoings of Oliver Casey and Reece James, the Seasiders now have two ‘free slots’, so to speak, with their 25-man squad.
It must be emphasised though that their official squad list doesn’t have to be submitted to the EFL until after the window closes on September 1, but it’s obviously something the club have to keep in mind and work towards.
As previously mooted, it’s my understanding Appleton will look to utilise the loan market and make the most of his connections with certain clubs higher up the food chain.
Blackpool will naturally face competition for a lot of these players though and sides in the Premier League can often be hesitant to loan out some of their youngsters until later in the window.
Because of that, there is a need to be patient. Blackpool have shown before they’re willing to remain to take this approach in the market and bide their time if it means getting the right man and the right deal at the right time and at the right price.
But Appleton himself has publicly stated he wants signings in the door sooner rather than later, while insiders at the club were hopeful of making additions soon after his appointment – which was almost a month ago now, so I strongly suspect some of the frustration among the fanbase will also be shared by those inside Bloomfield Road.