A shade over four years ago, Blackpool FC were on cloud nine.
A thrilling Championship play-off final had concluded. The Tangerines edged out Cardiff by the odd goal in five. The Premier League had unlikely new boys.
Fast forward to July 2014, however, and the prevailing question in the minds of Blackpool diehards is: was it worth 12 months in the top flight to be in the situation they are now?
They begin the 2014/15 league campaign on August 9, away to Nottingham Forest. That’s three weeks from now. At time of writing, here is their entire squad:
None of them are goalkeepers, either. One fan handily provided an infographic as to how the current crop might expect to line up at the City Ground:
this is currently the entire blackpool first team squad pic.twitter.com/UGERyNCpFJ
— tomas (@tomcharlieleach) July 16, 2014
Only that’s also unlikely: two of the eight players have reportedly refused to return to training until the club’s situation is resolved.
Their desperate situation led to the cancellation of a nine-day pre-season trip to Spain, which was to include friendlies against Granada and FC Cartagena.
It gets worse: new manager Jose Riga, who arrived at Bloomfield Road after helping keep Charlton safe in the closing stages of last season, appears to have already fallen out with chairman Karl Oyston over transfer policy – despite the club being more ‘beggars’ than ‘choosers’ at this stage.
Riga has yet to give an interview to the media since taking the job and is highly expected to walk out, having not overseen a single game.
The fall of a side who spent a brief moment of time as the darlings of the world’s most fashionable footballing top flight and came within an eyelash of rekindling their love affair with the Premier League in 2012 has seen Oyston’s relationship with the fans deteriorate.
Oyston and father Owen came 759th on Britain’s rich list, according to The Sunday Times with a value of £105 million – and yet stars such as Tom Ince slip through the club’s grasp while financial figures show payments as big as £11 million are moving from the football PLC to Owen even with relegation imminent.
A second drop was only narrowly avoided this year, as the Tangerines went on a run of 18 games without a win, only managed three victories in 30 games and finished two points above the relegation zone with a goal difference of -28.
Despite this, Oyston is confident they will be a competitive part of the Championship title race!
"I see absolutely no reason why we shouldn't be able to recruit sufficient numbers and quality to be able to compete in the Championship,” he said.
"The main thing people want to see is players signing for us and I think once we get some signed, and everything settles down, then we'll soon forget about some of the problems.
"We're finding it difficult to land some of the players we've been chasing.
"That's always the case, but unfortunately it's with the backdrop of not having many players, so it probably focuses things a little more than would normally be the case."
One particularly disgruntled voice of the club’s fans - @BlackpoolFCBlog on Twitter – is aware of the very real (and yet, in other ways, surreal) problems facing his beloved side.
“The only reason Karl is still here is because he’s able to make money out of the club – he doesn’t enjoy it being a football chairman, he doesn’t like football. The club earns him money – easy money too, a little abuse here and there isn’t too much to take for the millions taken out.”
And while this story is doing the rounds on various media outlets this week , we’re the first to admit the blogger has a point when he says:
“The media will cover it for a week until they can start showing highlights of pre-season games or start the countdown to the transfer window closing. Colleagues at work will mention it, general football fans will be chatting about it online.
“But for us this farce is something we’ve lived with for years…. some of this you couldn’t make up…”
To emphasize that point, he has a laundry list of the problems the club have endured under Oyston:
- “The pitch being in a terrible condition for a number of seasons
- A milk man being the groundsman
- Half built stadium for a couple of seasons
- A temporary stand which fans fell through with no roof
- A “temporary” stand we still have now
- Professional sport people being responsible to clean their own kit
- Players on contract for only a year resulting in mass change every summer
- Players leaving to go to other clubs as they can get two-year deals
- Losing players like David Vaughan for no fee due to the one year deals
- Having to rely on loan players to make up the core of the team
- The £11 million pound payment to Owen Oyston
- The loans to various Oyston businesses that have no sign of being paid back
- Saying that money hasn’t been taken out of the club – we need it now to sign players – but it’s not there.
- £90 summer contracts
- Steve McMahon farce trying to leave then not leaving – happened with most managers
- Losing Appleton after only months in charge
- Taking too long to appoint new managers
- Not willing to pay agents fees
- Spending a tiny proportion of money on transfer fees
- Trying to fob us of saying that money was spent on wages rather than fees
- Promising a new training ground but nothing happening
- Posting images posing with anti Oyston banners
- Crap seats
- Lack of pies at half time
- the list goes on http://oystonout.tumblr.com/”
You can read more of that here.
Oyston parody account @SuperKarlOyston sums up the mood at the club these days.
But with the clock ticking towards the new season, and no definite sign of progress on the transfer front forthcoming, it’s a very real possibility that the side who provided more entertainment in the top flight than half of their divisional rivals in 2010-11 could endure the embarrassment and subsequent punishment of having to forfeit their Championship opener.
And if that happens, there’s little chance of the media ‘moving on’ from their plight and forgetting all about it.
Liam Happe | Follow on Twitter @liamhappe
- Sports & Recreation
- Premier League
- Blackpool FC
- Karl Oyston