Barry Ferguson made player-manager
23 January ~ The least surprising news of the week was the departure of Paul Ince from Blackpool. But as you would expect from the club chairman Karl Oyston, even the sacking of a manager is done differently. Oyston is opposed to a lot of the things regarded as normal in the football business – for example he refuses to pay large fees to agents, which has given managers over the years problems in the transfer market. And he always says he will runs the club "like a business" – in other words no big gambles, cautious investment and profit as the key objective.
A lot of Blackpool supporters hate him because they want him to invest millions in players in the hope of getting back to the Premier League but Oyston always says he is not interested in what the "mob" says. So Ince was not sacked because Blackpool have lost nine and drawn one of the last ten games but, according to the chairman, because he had not made proper plans for the transfer window and hadn't lined up a number of suitable targets. To Oyston, losing a string of games is less important than failing to make contingency plans.
As for the fans, there is a bit of confusion now because many can't seem to decide whether they are happy that Ince has gone, or still angry at how the chairman is running the club. Before the news came out there were plans for various forms of protest at the home game on Saturday against Doncaster – massed silence, chanting and turning away from the pitch. Now some would like to continue with those plans in protest at the chairman, while others – the majority I think – want to get behind the team and the new player-manager, Barry Ferguson. The outcome on Saturday will depend on how things go on the pitch. The crowd will support Ferguson but their backing will be fragile, especially if Blackpool go behind.
A recently set up independent fan group called Seasider's Independent Supporters Association has previously campaigned to get Blackpool's stadium registered as an Asset of Community Value and aims to increase the level of influence the supporters have at the club.
In the longer term a player-manager is always a bit of a worry, especially when the individual concerned is still an important part of the team. Ferguson would be an automatic choice for the first team every week so he will need good support on the touchline to help him with substitutions and tactical changes during the game. Hopefully we will see more flexibility than under Ince, where the only substitutions were like-for-like swaps, we never changed team shape to respond to the opposition.
Off the pitch Ferguson will have his work cut out too. His immediate challenge will be to make use of what's left of the window to strengthen the team. But he will also need to tackle the morale in the dressing room, which must be at rock bottom. There is also the question of Tom Ince and whether will he stay. If he does, can we expect him to give his fall for the club which just sacked his father? Interesting times, Barry. John Secker