New manager Lee Clark fighting losing battle
15 November ~ The experts were clear in their pre-season assessment of Blackpool’s prospects and the predictions have turned out to be chillingly accurate. It was widely expected that the Seasiders would finish rock bottom in the Championship and after 17 matches, that is precisely where they sit. The squad that was belatedly assembled was just not of the quality required to win games in the second tier, yet chairman Karl Oyston felt compelled to dismiss Jose Riga, appointed manager in the summer, after Blackpool took only six points from their opening 14 league fixtures.
The sacking was a largely unpopular decision with the fanbase, who instead pin the majority of the blame on Oyston. The unenviable task of salvaging the sinking ship falls to Lee Clark, who had been sacked himself by fellow relegation strugglers Birmingham City only a week beforehand.
Clark inherits a squad low on confidence and ability, but also faces a challenge in winning over the section of support still aggrieved that Riga is no longer in charge. That a manager with such a poor record can still command the respect of the fans says much for the tough circumstances he had to endure.
The incoming manager has been bullish about survival, although whether he genuinely believes that the cause is not lost only he can say. His second game in charge might have brought a win at Fulham were it not for a contentious sending-off.
Clark has been able to bring in a few of his own players but is currently limited to loans and those out of contract, such as Jamie O’Hara who arrived last week. Major overhaul of the squad will have to wait until January, by which time the game could be effectively up. Blackpool already need something approaching play-off form for the remainder of the season to reach the magical 50 point mark. It’s a target most Pool fans have given up on.
A tiny glimmer of light exists in the shape of the Latvian minority shareholder Valeri Belokon, who remains engaged in a war of words with the Oyston family. Legal action has been threatened over a financial disagreement and Belokon has intimated he would be willing to be part of a takeover bid. Many consider the Latvian’s original investment during the Simon Grayson and Ian Holloway eras to be the spark that guided the club to the Premier League, but for now the Oyston family seem intent on sticking around. Chris Walker