From caretaker boss to promotion specialist

When it comes to getting a side promoted to the Championship the go-to guy is certainly Simon Grayson.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 2nd December 2016, 8:47 am
Updated Tuesday, 6th December 2016, 12:40 pm
Grayson - on the ball
Grayson - on the ball

His track record proves it as he attained that status with four clubs, Blackpool, Huddersfield Town, Leeds United and Preston North End, an enviable c/v by any estimation.

He was pitched into the fray as a rookie manager back in 2005 when he was given the job as caretaker at Blackpool, where he had been working as a coach and got a crack at the hot seat in the wake of the sacking of Colin Hendry.

Grayson had enjoyed a commendable record as a player at the likes of Leicester City and Aston Villa, coming to Bloomfield Road at the tail-end of his career.

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When it came to being a manager, he could hardly have made a bigger impact at the outset.

In his first match in charge, Blackpool took on Scunthorpe United at Bloomfield Road, and there was extra scrutiny on Grayson and his new charges as the match had been chosen for tv coverage by Sky Sports.

As it turned out, the Seasiders - and Grayson - very much rose to the occasion.

Grayson had been a popular choice among the fans, a view that was augmented and enhanced by a whopping victory in a seven-goal game.

As Gazette reporter Steve Canavan wrote in his match report, it was Blackpool’s best league result for three years and three months and came at a time when it was most needed.

Canavan continued: “Not only did he get the team to deliver the performance and result every home fan has been waiting for, he also gave an excellent display himself on the touchline, even wearing a pair of management-style shorts, despite the near sub-zero temperatures in the second half.

“On-going arguments or strongly-worded discussions with the fourth official, while bouncing vigorously around the technical area and even the classic, looking intelligent and forward-thinking pose holding small piece of paper in hand, while every so often making notes.

“Who says those management courses are a waste of time?”

It was an emphatic victory for the home side in the end, but it was not the best of starts.

Indeed, Scunthorpe drew first blood and were ahead with only three minutes gone.

Billy Sharp, a noted goal-scorer at this level, put his side in front with a goal, his 13th in 14 matches.

He fired in a left-footed shot from the edge of the penalty-area, but a goalkeeping error paved the way.

The ball appeared to go through the hands of Les Pogliacomi.

That goal was the signal for yet more attacking intent from the visitors, but the Blackpool rearguard held firm.

And after weathering that particular storm, Blackpool responded in upbeat manner.

The equaliser arrived after 17 minutes.

Right-back Danny Warrender picked out a neat pass, which found John Murphy in plenty of space.

For a split-second it appeared as though the big Blackpool striker had lost control of the ball, but he re-gathered his composure and chipped it expertly over the advancing Irons’ goalkeeper Paul Musselwhite.

Just 33 seconds after the re-start, Scunthorpe’s task got a whole lot harder when they had a man sent off.

Andy Crosby was shown a red card for a challenge on Blackpool’s Tommy Wright.

Despite this setback, it was Scunthorpe who scored the next goal.

Pogliacomi, who was not having the best of days, was penalised by referee Mike Jones for a shove on a Scunthorpe player in the box.

Sharp duly slotted home the resulting penalty to make it 2-1, whacking it into the corner well out of reach of the Blackpool goalkeeper.

Canavan wrote: “With the bad run of recent form firmly in their minds, Pool could have buckled.

“Credit to the players that they didn’t and they hit back not once but twice before the break.”

Warrender went close only to be denied by the Scunthorpe ‘keeper, but the equaliser did arrive on 40 minutes.

Wiles’ deep, accurate cross from the right was headed in at the far post by Ian Morris.

It got even better on the stroke of half-time when the home side edged ahead for the first time in the eventful contest.

Wright, making a nuisance of himself in the penalty area, found the back of the Irons’ net with a low, angled drive after taking on and beating a defender.

The home side led 3-2 at break and continued to dominate in the second half, but could not capitalise in terms of adding to their goal tally.

It wasn’t until the 84th minute that Blackpool scored again to make it 4-2.

Rory Prendergast, coming on as a late substitute, made an immediate impact with his first touch.

The winger threaded the ball into the six-yard area and Murphy gleefully finished off the attack from close range.

Not to be out-done Morris notched his second of the contest too in the final minute to set up a fitting finale for the fans and those on tv enjoying this Sunday afternoon goal-fest.

Canavan described the goal as a ‘pearler’.

The 18-year-old out-muscled a defender, cut inside and curled an inch-perfect left-footer into the top corner of the visitors’ net.

Teenager Matty Kay came on as substitute and created a club record. The 16-year-old became the youngster player ever to turn out for Blackpool in a league match.

Grayson said afterwards: “The commitment the lads showed and the way they bounced back, I can’t praise them enough for that.”

After the match Blackpool chairman Karl Oyston was still assessing all his options about a new manager, but Grayson got the nod for the job in the end, a sound choice.

Grayson managed to steer the club away from the relegation-zone and was given the Blackpool job on a permanent basis at the start of the 2006-7 campaign.

Pogliacomi, Warrender, Clarke, Edwards, Armstrong, Wiles, Southerm, Doolan, Morris, Wright, Murphy. Substitutes: Vernon, Prendergast, Kay, McGregor, Jones