Blackpool Promoted Despite Ownership Controversy

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar May 30, 2017 15:50

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Blackpool Promoted Despite Ownership Controversy

By Richard Piggford © Richard Piggford (May 29th 2017)

Blackpool off to League One after Play-off Final Victory

Blackpool beat Exeter City 2-1 at Wembley Stadium to complete a memorable season both on and off the pitch for the troubled Seasiders. The club have had much to contend with throughout the season, with supporters continuing to boycott games and stage protests towards the club’s owners, the Oyston family.

Blackpool had around 5,000 fans in attendance, a far cry from the 37,000 that saw them promoted to the Premier League just seven years ago. The game started in electric fashion. A long ball was controlled beautifully by Mark Cullen who laid it off for the very impressive Brad Potts, who fired a low shot into the Exeter goal after only 3 minutes. The game steadied before Blackpool suffered a major blow, losing Captain Tom Aldred to injury.

Aldred, who’d played every minute of every game this season, left the field in tears and was consoled by Exeter boss Paul Tisdale whilst leaving the Wembley pitch, in a fine moment of sportsmanship. The loss of Aldred rocked Blackpool, who were forced into a change of formation reverting to a back four following the introduction of Aldred’s replacement, youngster, Bright Osayi-Samuel.

Deserved

Exeter got the goal their first half dominance deserved when David Wheeler nipped in to lob the on-rushing Sam Slocombe and send both sides into the break level. The second half started much like the first with Blackpool showing early dominance. In truth, Exeter never really got going in the second half and despite finishing the game with 64% possession the Seasiders always looked the more likely to get a winner.

In the 64th minute, Blackpool’s pressure paid off, as Brad Potts, who was a constant menace to the Exeter defence all afternoon, squared well for the on rushing Cullen to knock home, and give Blackpool the lead. Cullen finished the season in superb form, scoring 10 goals and 5 assists since March – more than any other player in the top 4 divisions of English football. Cullen won’t be short of offers in the summer and Blackpool will do well to hang on to him if they have the desire.

Credit

Exeter huffed and puffed but to no avail, and Blackpool, who lay 14th place in February, were promoted. Gary Bowyer, deserves huge credit for the re-building job he has done at Blackpool. Not only has he achieved his main objective of stabilising a club on the back of a double relegation, but he’s gone one better and got them back to League one at the first time of asking.

Speaking after the game he told BBC sport: “It was a massive team effort but Cullen made a massive sacrifice for the team after we scored, as we asked him to play in midfield.

“Exeter, a great footballing team, put us on the back foot and we had to change our shape and then we lost our captain and had to adjust again.

“It was like a scene from A&E at one point because of the changes that we had to keep making.”

The Protest and Disappointment

Bowyer also addressed the boycott by fans. “It is a shame because it would have been great to have more here, but the ones that were here made a hell of a noise like they have all season,” he said.

“On the first day that I walked into the club I said we couldn’t control it – I was used to that situation at Blackburn, where fans weren’t happy with their owners, so I was used that experience.”

Paul Tisdale, also spoke of his disappointment for his side and believed his young side struggled in the Wembley surroundings.

“I’m disappointed, clearly,” he said. “I’m disappointed that we probably didn’t do our best in the last half an hour.”
“It’s a tough environment to play in – the pressure – and the performance doesn’t always get the result.”

“I’m really proud of the players for the season they’ve had – we certainly will regret today in terms of the result, but we should be very pleased in terms of what we’ve done this year.”

“We gave ourselves an opportunity, which unfortunately we didn’t take, but we’ll have to look again for next year.”
For the 5000 Blackpool fans inside Wembley Stadium this would clearly be a day to remember. Among all the unrest and uncertainty, Gary Bowyer has done a terrific job at Blackpool, and is unsurprisingly being linked with other jobs. Many believed he was harshly treated at Blackburn Rovers, who as he mentioned, were in a similar position that Blackpool find themselves in. Few would blame him, if the opportunity arose in the future to have a crack at a job, where all of the clubs fans are behind the team and the club.

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar May 30, 2017 15:50