Blackpool could spring surprise

Tuesday 30th July 2013 13:03

Tom Ince: Opted to stay at Bloomfield Road

Tom Ince: Opted to stay at Bloomfield Road

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Despite numerous players departing this summer, Blackpool FanZoner Adam Ogden believes the Seasiders could spring a few surprises this season.

How has your pre-season gone?

It's difficult to say. We've lost more games than we've won, which is worrying when most of the teams we've played have been at least two divisions below us, but that isn't the be all and end all. Most of the games we've played have included a glut of trialists and/or youth players, meaning that no real value can be put to them.

The one game where we've played close to a first team XI was on Sunday against Newcastle. Although we lost 1-0, the general opinion from the game was positive (I didn't go myself) and left fans positive for another good start to the upcoming season.

Happy with how things have shaped up in terms of transfers - both in and out?

If you'd asked me that a week ago I would have just laughed. This summer saw a complete exodus of Pool players: from Ollie's development squad who never played to experienced stalwarts like Ian Evatt and Stephen Crainey.

Despite the number of players leaving being well into double figures, we've bolstered the team with a massive total of four signings! When you take into account that Gary MacKenzie was our player anyway for the latter half of last season, it really isn't spectacular.

However it's not the end of the world. Our squad was too big anyway, and many of the players who left weren't really threatening the first team anytime soon.

The players we've brought in all look decent signings who will challenge the first team. As the purse strings were finally loosened last week, Steven Davies and Michael Chopra came in.

Both are proven goalscorers, and between them, they'll add around 20-25 goals for the season, replacing the roughly the same amount that we've lost this summer.

MacKenzie is proven as a decent defender, with Bobby Grant the only real gamble as to how successful he can be at Championship level.

The biggest transfer of the season for Pool however is not selling or buying. Tom Ince won the Seasiders roughly a quarter of our points last season; keeping him at Blackpool could well be the difference between this team succeeding or failing.

Is your current manager the right man for the job?

At the moment, yes.

Paul Ince seemingly attracts a lot of criticism from fans of clubs all over the country, with many presuming that he is destined to fail. However in his defence, everything he was asked of last season, he succeeded. He plugged the defence, got us playing attractive football, made us difficult to beat and, most importantly, kept us up.

For those reasons above, Ince Senior more than deserves a crack at the Championship this season. The (few) players that he has brought in are of good quality, and it seems as though he is really starting to impose himself on the club - after all, he got the chairman to open his wallet for Chopra and Davies!

Despite all the criticism, I think he might surprise one or two this year - at least I hope so. However I fear that if things don't go well, his reputation may lead to some kneejerk Pool fans calling for his head.

Dare to dream - if everything clicked into place what's the best you could hope for?

We'd win the Champions' League, after Bayern Munich decided that we were just too good not to take their place. Tom Ince would grow an inch or two, as well as a new right foot and I'd take my new wife Natalie Portman to see him score the ninth goal as we thumped Holloway's Palace in the final.

I'm a dreamer.

Back to reality - what are your realistic expectations for the new campaign?

Life off cloud-cuckoo land isn't quite as fun. From relegation favourites to title contenders, I've heard them all. The truth is we're entering a bit of an unknown season and to be honest I think both of those predictions are unlikely. I'm much more expectant of a reasonable mid-table finish.

As we saw last year though, the Championship is a ridiculously tight league and we do have the ability to make waves. A fit Matt Phillips coupled with an on song Tom Ince and revitalised Chopra could well be a forward line that propels us up the ladder to promotion like many other unfancied clubs (including us) have done before.

In the Championship anything is possible. However, I'd put my money on a dull but solid year, resting in mid-table with a casual push towards the top eight.

Who will visiting scouts be keeping an eye on this season?

If scouts don't know Tom Ince by know then they should be sacked. If he isn't already sold by the end of September then everybody will have their on him for the January transfer window.

One other player whose stock could be high this year is Bob Harris. The left back has been in the shadow of Stephen Crainey for the last few years, but with him departing for Wigan, 'Bingo Bob' really does have a chance to make an impression.

On the few occasions he has played in the first team, Bob's really impressed and many called for him to start ahead of Crainey towards the end of last season.

This year really will be Bob's chance and I for one think he may well grab it both hands.

If you had to pick one player who'd be fit for every minute of every game who would it be?

The obvious answer here is Ince Jnr, but it's not the correct one. For all his creativity and goals, it's at the end where we need to be a bit luckier.

With Matt Gilks our only real recognised goalkeeper we can't afford for him to be missing a single match or we could end up in serious trouble.

On the flip side (without being cruel!), who is the player with most to prove?

There are a large number who need to impress after last season. Matt Phillips had an absolutely stinker of a year, before starting to return to his natural self in May and when he returns from injury he needs to hit the ground running (at defenders).

For me, another who may be on his last chance is Isiah Osbourne. His first four games in tangerine were unpredictable. However, soon after, the midfielder turned from a brick outhouse to Lord Lucan, disappearing when games got tough.

'Ozzy' is going to have to work hard to get back into the first team (it'll be difficult to dislodge Ferguson and Angel) and prove why he should stay at Blackpool.

If you could sign any one player from any other side in the same division who would you plump for?

Welcome to the toy shop. The Championship is littered with wonderful players this season, as it has been for the last couple. For me though I think Watford has done the best bit of business this season.

Lewis McGugan is a player that I've always thought would be great in tangerine. An attacking midfielder with a lethal shot and free kick on him, that's something we've been missing since Charlie Adam left. To grab him on free transfer as well is just the best Bosman around at the moment - and I'm extremely jealous.

Failing that I'd take Andy Reid (guffaw).

If you only win one game all season who would take three points from?

Most Pool fans will point to not a three pointer but a cup game. The Carling Cup (is it still called that) match against Preston is not so much a must-win but a must-not-lose.

When it comes to league action though, the local derbies (of which season we have four) are not nearly as intense or as important. Call me a boring pragmatist if you want but a win against Bolton is worth just as many points as a win against, say, Yeovil.

If we want to be serious contenders this season we need to be winning around 20 games in the course of the season. Personally I couldn't care less how we win them, or who against, just as long as we do.

By Adam Ogden, FanZone's Blackpool blogger. Follow him on Twitter at @acogden - and don't forget to follow @FanZone too!

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