Will Watt: Is McDonald getting the best out of this squad?
When being interviewed, there are certain things footballers will always say.
To a man they “jumped at the chance to sign as soon as they heard of the interest”, they “love the fans” and are “working hard on the training ground to get a win”.
And at Blackpool this season, just about every player has mentioned how good the current squad is at Bloomfield Road.
I know there’s a positive atmosphere built by the manager, who has attempted to keep his players in a bit of a bubble away from all the off-the-field nonsense, but it doesn’t half make you wonder.
If the squad is so good, why are Blackpool struggling so badly?
No matter what happens between now and the end of the season, this has been one to forget for the Seasiders.
Results have been totally hit and miss, and the fact Blackpool have been slumped towards the bottom of League One almost all season proves they are probably where they deserve to be.
But if the squad is as good as they all keeps saying, Neil McDonald must have big questions to answer.
Are Blackpool getting the best out of their current group of players? The answer is probably no.
Take January’s main signings – Danny Philliskirk and Mark Yeates.
Their arrival boosted Pool and they appeared to give everyone a real shot in the arm.
But in recent weeks, Philliskirk has been played out of position on the wing and Yeates isn’t even making the 18.
The Yeates one, in particular, doesn’t really seem to make much sense. Why offer him a wage rise and a two-year contract to have him out of the squad for the last four games.
Surely his experience and quality would have been a major weapon from the bench at least when Pool were struggling last weekend, especially against one of the winger’s former clubs.
That brings us to look at McDonald’s transfer dealings in January – he boasted at the time of how well the club had done.
In came Philliskirk, Yeates, Uche Ikpeazu and Will Aimson. In recent weeks, only one of the four has been involved.
Then we get to the team’s style. It was interesting to hear Ben Burgess describe it as “narrow and negative”, while Keith Southern quickly determined that it’s all about getting the ball forward and playing for knock-downs.
It’s hardly a style which will get the best out of the team’s ‘footballers’. As a result, Brad Potts has now become a victim of fan jeering, Yeates isn’t even in the 18 and Jack Redshaw looks a shadow of the player we know him to be.
And considering those are three of the most naturally talented players in the squad, I’d consider that a major concern.
By the sounds of the pre-match interviews, we can expect Pool to battling their way through the final four games and hoping to nick wins along the way.
If that keeps Pool up, then every credit; but it’s surely not a style of play McDonald and the club will want to become the ‘Blackpool way’.
One thing is for sure – whether they stay up or go down, it’s not going to be pretty.
---- I’m constantly being asked whether I think Blackpool can avoid the drop this season. The answer is: yes they can.
Last Saturday’s performance against Colchester sent major alarm bells ringing after a very decent run of form for Neil McDonald’s men.
But I think the number of teams in and around the bottom four could be key.
With at least four teams trying to avoid the last remaining relegation place, not all of them are going to win all of their games and there’s likely to be one who collapses under pressure.
The Seasiders must make sure it’s not them.
Tomorrow’s trip to Rochdale is another huge game, one which really could shape their future.
With Fleetwood playing Oldham, a win for Blackpool will see them overtake at least one of those sides.
And with a trip to Highbury the following weekend, Pool’s fate could soon be back in their own hands.
On the flip-side, defeat tomorrow would make the derby in Fleetwood as big as they come for Blackpool.
Each week the positioning will change, it’s that tight.
Somehow Blackpool need to find a way to keep their heads just enough about the water to breathe.
It won’t be easy.