With the big kick-off just days away, Blackpool Football Club find themselves in a familiar position; starting a new campaign with a light squad.
It’s not as bad as things were 12 months ago, when only 12 players were registered on the morning of Pool’s first game against Nottingham Forest though. And the club has managed to organise a successful set of pre-season friendlies this time round, albeit if one of those games was postponed.
Going into the League One season opener away at Colchester United, manager Neil McDonald has admitted that he still needs to bring in more players. When he took the job, McDonald basically had to build a team from scratch.
McDonald also stated that he wanted to have the main core of his squad assembled by the start of pre-season training. The fact that he’s still playing trialists and scrambling around for last minute deals days before the season begins shows that he hasn’t got his wish.
However, the squad assembled looks to be one of promise. It’s a young and hungry dressing room that has managed to go the whole pre-season unbeaten.
Winger Bright Samuel and forward Kwame Thomas have really caught the eye with their pace and trickery displayed in abundance during Pool’s final pre-season friendly at Accrington Stanley. At the back, young Lloyd Jones looks to be a really promising centre-half.
Jones joined the club on loan from Liverpool, where he was the under-21 side’s captain. He played in all of Blackpool’s friendly games, making the centre-half spot his own. Extending his loan until the end of the season should be seen as a huge bonus for McDonald.
Despite this new, young feel about the Seasiders, there are still huge question marks that remain. With the squad’s average age just 22, will they be able to cope with the rigours of a League One season?
Emmerson Boyce has been on trial at the club, and signing a player with his experience would be perfect for the likes of Jones to learn from.
One player who looks certain not to be involved in McDonald’s new look Blackpool side is Nile Ranger. After agreeing to return to the club and ending his six-month exile, Ranger then turned up a week later only to then be told to leave the training ground.
For me it seems a shame that it hasn’t worked out with Ranger. I’ve got absolutely no sympathy for him. The amount of ‘last chances’ he’s had in the game is beyond belief. The one annoyance is that Ranger would have been such a useful asset to have in League One. The last time he played in this division with Swindon Town he scored a lorry load of goals, so not being able to exploit that seems a shame.
What is lucky, however, is that Saturday’s league game is being played away from home. The local paper reported that damage to the Bloomfield Road pitch, caused by a Neil Diamond concert, has resulted in a large section needing to be re-turfed. Whilst this is far from ideal, it is hardly surprising.
It should be fascinating to see how this new, young Blackpool team start their campaign away in Colchester. It’s certainly a long way from the Premier League…