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Blackpool: From the Premier League to having eight players

Tags: jersey
Blackpool: From the Premier League to having eight players
blackpool-from-the-premier-league-to-having-eight-players
The new Football League season is a month away and most clubs are putting the finishing touches to their squads for the Bills Sammy Watkins Youth Jersey forthcoming season. All but one. One former Premier League club, who were mixing it with the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool three seasons ago, have just eight players. Not one of the eight is a goalkeeper. Since the end of last season, 27 players have left, including their player of the year and one of the most highly-prized assets in British football. With the club's first pre-season friendly a matter of days away, fans and recently-departed players are frustrated, uncertain what the future holds. Yet the club's chairman is unruffled. In fact, he thinks the club is in a strong position. Step forward Karl Oyston, chairman of Blackpool FC. "There is no panic," he tells BBC Sport. "In fact, I see it as a benefit rather than a downside. It allows the manager to bring in his own team, as opposed to a manager picking up a squad that is already overloaded and he doesn't think is good enough." That is not how some of the fans see things. "The squad is not just thin, it is almost non-existent," says Glenn Bowley, chairman of the club's official supporters' association. "There seems to be a significant lack of progress. It is a complete and utter shambles." The Football League will not comment officially but privately concedes the situation is "unusual". What is causing widespread unrest and anger is a perceived lack of investment since a Premier League season that generated £80m - a sum the chairman claimed would "change the club forever". While Blackpool almost won promotion back to the top flight at the first time of asking - losing to West Ham in http://www.billsshop.us.com/Bryce_Brown_Jersey the play-off final - they have endured two disappointing seasons since. Last year, the team narrowly avoided relegation to League One, while some fed-up fans hurled tennis balls on to the pitch in protest at one game. The mood of supporters did not improve when they learned that the club paid £11m to a company owned by Owen Oyston - Karl's father - during the Premier League campaign, equating to £211,538 a week and putting Oyston senior among the highest earners in world football in 2010-11. In the past few years, players such as Charlie Adam, David Vaughan, DJ Campbell and - most recently - Tom Ince have departed. They have been replaced, in the main, by free transfers. Keith Southern, who played in midfield during Blackpool's year at the top and is now at nearby Fleetwood Town, understands the frustrations. "When we were relegated that should have been the start of it, not the end," says the 33-year-old. "There should be a legacy the club can look back on and in 10 or 15 years say, 'we got relegated but this is what happened, this is what we built from that day'. "But unfortunately it didn't happen and it doesn't look like it ever will. Neither the foundations or the infrastructure is in place and it breaks my heart." Blackpool's promotion was so unexpected that it even caught the players by surprise. Achieved on the lowest wage bill in the Championship, it was witnessed by one of the smallest average attendances in the division and masterminded at a dilapidated training ground used since the days of Stanley Matthews. After beating Cardiff City 3-2 in the play-off final in May 2010 to clinch a top-flight place for the first time since 1971, striker Brett Ormerod said: "It feels like we have landed on the moon without a space rocket or a helmet." The starting XI at Wembley contained a defender bought from Mansfield for £5,000, several players regarded as surplus Bills Cyrus Kouandjio Blue Jersey to requirements at previous clubs and two loan signings. Even the manager had a touch of the bargain basement about him; prior to arriving at Bloomfield Road that summer, Ian Holloway had been unable to get a job for a year following his sacking by Leicester. For a deprived town in a part of Lancashire, having a club in the Premier League was the perfect fillip. More than 70,000 people - half the population - lined Blackpool Promenade to salute the promotion-winners. Holloway said: "It's not just our lives we're trying to change, it's everybody in the town. Everybody will prosper." But it hasn't happened. Holloway left for Crystal Palace in November 2012, his replacement Michael Appleton didn't last long and, after an encouraging start, Paul Ince failed. Former Rangers and Scotland captain Barry Ferguson took over briefly but couldn't halt the slide. Jose Riga, a 56-year-old Belgian who impressed at Charlton last season, has been hired to try and turn things around. But he has not spoken to the media since he was unveiled last month and there have been reports - denied by the club - suggesting the new man might even quit. The chairman is getting the majority of the blame for the unrest, with the criticism always the same - why hasn't some of the Premier League cash been spent? "I don't think I'll dignify what a lot of people say about my stewardship of the club with a response," Oyston replies. "The Championship is a £1bn in debt. £1bn. 24 clubs. It lost £240m last year. It doesn't take a genius to work out that isn't sustainable. "It's not rational, it's not sensible, and if any club allows itself to be pressured or harangued into making decisions that could effectively destroy the whole future of the club then they deserve all they get. I will never be one of those people." Oyston points out that he has run the club the same way for the last 15 years and that frugal approach got them to the Premier League. "As a Championship club, we're only one good season from going back up," he added. But as it stands, the chances of that happening this year appear slim - not least because to succeed you need players. The exodus since last season has been astonishing and it has worsened with last term's player of the year, goalkeeper Matt Gilks, joining Burnley, and up-and-coming youngster Harrison McGahey poised to drop a division to sign for Sheffield United. Of the eight players under contract, there is one midfielder and no goalkeeper. "Up until very recently this club was in League One and Two for 30 years. So I never understand the angst among fans and I don't think it ever helps," Oyston argues. "We've been absolutely inundated with the offer of players. By the time this season starts we will have a full squad and hopefully a good team, rather than a team that will struggle because we panicked and signed the first thing that came our way. "It is about getting things right, not doing it quickly." Blackpool have several players in on trial and, with the first pre-season friendly at Penrith on Saturday followed by a week-long training camp in Spain, they are expected to make signings over the next few days. Whatever the chairman might say, for the fans it can't come quickly enough.

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