IT’S fair to say Keith Millen doesn’t have particularly fond memories of Bloomfield Road.
His final 90 minutes as a player, before a knee injury forced him to quit the game, were at Blackpool.
And last year, the 45-year-old southerner cut a forlorn figure as he traipsed on to the Seasiders pitch to applaud the visiting Bristol City fans.
He was manager of a team which had just been tonked 5-0, and Millen was sacked two days later.
“Yeah, thinking about it,” he said with a smile, in his new office at Squires Gate, “Blackpool owed me a job.”
Perhaps it’s a case of if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, as Millen is now part of the Blackpool set up, and a key man at that.
After parting company with the Robins – his first management post after a lengthy spell on the club’s coaching staff – Millen was contacted by Ian Holloway, a man he knew well from their playing days together at Brentford.
Holloway (pictured right) asked Millen to do some scouting. He agreed.
But come the summer, and knowing that Millen, a man with every coaching qualification under the sun, had much more to offer than just spying on the opposition, the Seasiders boss asked him to come to Bloomfield Road permanently to oversee the club’s new academy.
Despite never living north of Birmingham in his life, and having a wife and two young children back in Bristol, Millen could not resist the challenge.
He started work a fortnight ago, and has already impressed with his organisation and attention to detail.
Overseeing a coaching staff which includes Pool old boys John Murphy, John Hills, Alan Wright and Ciaran Donnelly, Millen’s main task is to whip the development squad and the youth set-up into shape.
But he will also be involved in first-team duties, which means he has plenty on his plate. That, though, is the way he likes it.
“I spoke to the gaffer and chairman at Blackpool and they really sold me this position,” said Millen, who has bags of experience – racking up more than 500 career appearances playing as a defender with Brentford, Watford and Bristol City, before becoming a coach.
“I wouldn’t have come up to Blackpool if it had just been balls, bibs and cones.
“I wanted something I could get my teeth into, and there is plenty of work to do here.”
Millen’s appointment is an example of how the Seasiders are trying to improve as a club.
As Holloway has outlined, the idea is to turn Blackpool into a club which parents around the North West and beyond choose to send their talented children to.
“I am trying to make it so anybody around the world can come to a football academy in Blackpool and play a modern, passing game,” said Holloway.
“With Keith Millen in charge and the extra staff we’ve now got at the club, I believe we will attract parents who want to give us their boy to get him playing the way we think the game should be played.”
Millen is crucial to the plan.
“It is great to listen to Ollie and how he works and what he wants to do with this club,” Millen added.
“I feel I can bring a bit of freshness, and basically whatever the gaffer does with the first team, it is my job to make sure that filters through to the development squad and the youth team.
“Hopefully we can develop players so that they get into the first team, as there haven’t been many over the last three or four years.”
Millen makes no bones about the fact that he would one day like to get back into management – “I definitely want to do that again, that is my goal,” he said – but for the time being, he knows being involved with a club actively trying to get to the Premier League is a terrific opportunity for him.
That, in itself, shows how much Blackpool has changed in recent times.
In 2005, no one in their right mind would have wanted to come to Bloomfield Road.
Now, being at the club, whether as a player or on the staff, is viewed by many as an opportunity not to be missed.
“From the outside it is plain to see how brilliantly Blackpool have done as a club in the last few years,” Millen said.
“You can say that they have over-achieved.
“But when you come up here and see them work and the atmosphere, the togetherness and the way they get on with each other – you can see why they have been successful.
“It is not always about having the most expensive players on the most money.
“You need good players, without a doubt, and they have some good players here.
“But it is how you blend them as a team and about whether they work hard together.
“They have got that spot on at this club.”
Millen’s task now is to make sure the continental, Spanish-style of football that Holloway is so fond of, becomes standard throughout the club at all ages.
He said: “It is great the way the gaffer wants them to play, the shape and the style he tries to get.
“That is one of the main attractions for me coming here to be honest, to learn and to see how he works that shape.
“There aren’t many teams in England that do it but it is very common abroad, and the best team in the world are Spain, who play in a similar fashion.
“It is just really about whether you’ve got the players to make it work.
“I wouldn’t go into a club, for instance, and make players who aren’t capable of dealing with the ball play like that. You are committing suicide.
“What the gaffer has done here, helped by being given time to do it, is bring in players who suit his style and they have developed over the years.
“Unfortunately in football you don’t always get that time to develop a team.
“I have a dream that the next club I go into, I have a philosophy and a way I want to play, to develop the players and make the club successful.
“But that’s for another day. My job now is make sure Blackpool become a really well organised and envied club at all ages.
“I am really excited by that challenge, excited about learning off someone like Ollie, excited about working with a tremendous hard-working staff – and I think the season ahead will be terrific.”