Can rejuvenated Blackpool push top six?

Can rejuvenated Blackpool push top six?

New ownership regime, new manager, fans back at Bloomfield Road and six points from the first six available – should we see Simon Grayson’s Tangerine Army as serious promotion contenders?

Strong showing at Southend

The bare statistics of Blackpool’s 3-1 win at Southend United on week two do not quite do justice to the nature of the contest.

The Tangerines had just 37% possession against their fellow coastal hosts, with 8 shots to 18 – that, alone, would suggest a smash-and-grab job: in fact, Simon Grayson’s side were dominant for the first hour.

Attacking trio

In the Yorkshireman’s 3-4-1-2 setup, the attacking trio of Sulley Kaikai, Nathan Delfouneso and Armand Gnanduillet caused huge problems in transition.

Kaikai, known as a pure speedster earlier in his career, showed the technical side of his game in the 10 role here with some delightful through balls; Delfouneso was a willing runner in behind while the gangly Gnanduillet acted as the focal point for these swift attacks.

Grayson’s organisation

Blackpool have shown the ability to carve teams open without allowing more than four players – the aforementioned trio plus a wing-back depending on the flank used – to break deep into the final third in open play.

Add to that ability to retain possession even when attacking the relentless tenacity of midfield patroller Jay Spearing and we can expect Blackpool to keep a lot of clean sheets this season.

Set piece strength

The Lancashire outfit also looked a threat from set pieces: Jordan Thompson’s deliveries caused problems throughout, as we saw for the first and third goals in Essex.

Whisper it, but the Seasiders looked in that hour reminiscent of the 2014-15 team Grayson last led to promotion from this level – for Blackpool fans reading, we won’t mention their name!

Defensive resolve

Just when Pool were pushing for a fourth, James Husbands’ ill-advised challenge saw him handed a straight red – a dismissal that altered the complexion of the contest as Southend pulled one back to make it a nervier finale than expected.

Still, Blackpool showed the kind of defensive resolve that will please Grayson, with Curtis Tilt – who the club have thus far managed to retain – producing a commanding display at centre-back next to Ryan Edwards, who has started superbly since joining from Argyle and the adaptable Ollie Turton. 

The late defensive action means Blackpool begin their campaign with back-to-back wins, having beaten Bristol Rovers 2-0 the week before.

Oyston out

Clearly, the mood around Bloomfield Road has been lifted hugely by the end of the three decade-long Oyston regime.

From a human perspective, it is wonderful to see the club have this fresh start, owned by Seasider Simon Sadler.

As a symbolic gesture, the new chairman offered fans a free drink after the first fans’ forum which must have contributed to this new lease of life, this new wave of positivity, as NAPM fans who had boycotted the previous regime have been given an opportunity to fall in love with their club all over again.

The price shift

So, how much should we read into these early feel-good vibes? This strong start? Are Blackpool the real deal, or should we wait until they play a team that are not expected to be battling relegation?

17 mainstream bookmakers offered odds on the Tangerines reaching League One’s top six this season before kick-off at Roots Hall – at that point, the implied probability of each price averaged out at 23.8%.

15 of those bookmakers have shortened the price since full-time and, according to them, there has been an 11.5% increase to 35.3% in the likelihood of Blackpool making the Top Six based on their latest victory.

SkyBet currently have Blackpool at 15/8 to finish inside the top six.

Pompey clash an early test

For those less inclined to jump to any immediate conclusions on the leaders of the embryonic league table, save the date for Pool’s early possible promotion punch-up with Portsmouth on 31st August.

If Grayson’s troops are still flying high after that contest, then it will be time to take the rejuvenated Seasiders seriously.