CHAMPIONSHIP GAME OF THE WEEK
Blackpool v Derby County – Wednesday 17th August 2011 – 8.00 pm kick-off
Last time the sides met
Derby County 0-2 Blackpool (26th December 2009)
Buxton (O.G) (38)
Two wins out of two. Perfect start. Blackpool and Derby County fans are suddenly full of optimism for the season ahead. At the start of the season, these two clubs were tipped for mediocrity, as they both ended the last campaign on a disappointing note. Blackpool were desperately unlucky to be relegated from the Barclay’s Premier League, going down to a narrow defeat at the home of the Champions. Manager Ian Holloway had provided so much enthusiasm that appeared to have been completely sapped over the summer, as top players departed for paltry sums of money. Last season, Derby County were impressive during autumn, yet deteriorated in spectacular style. They gained only 4 league victories in 2011, ending the season in a dismal 19th place. If the Rams do not improve upon that position, then do not expect Nigel Clough to remain in charge at the end of the season.
Transfers In: Transfers Out:
Bojan Djordjic (Videoton B) Paul Rachubka (Leeds United)
Matt Hill (Barnsley) Richard Kingson (Released)
Kevin Phillips (Birmingham City) Marlon Harewood (Shenzhen Phoenix)
Barry Ferguson (Birmingham City) Andy Reid (Nottingham Forest)
Tom Ince (Liverpool) Charlie Adam (Liverpool)
Angel Martinez (Girona) David Vaughan (Sunderland)
Rob Harris (Queen of the South) D.J Campbell (Queens Park Rangers)
Craig Sutherland (North Carolina) David Carney (Released)
Miguel Angel Llera (Charlton Athletic) Rob Edwards (Barnsley)
Paul Bignot (Newport County)
Gerardo Bruna (Liverpool)
“I haven’t enjoyed it at all.” Ian Holloway, pre-season of the 2010-11 season.
“This has been the worst few months of my life. We are back to square one”. Ian Holloway, pre-season of the 2011-12 season.
When analysing these two statements, anyone would be forgiven for thinking that Ian Holloway doesn’t want to be the manager of Blackpool F.C. Despite being promoted to the Premier League for the first time in their history, Holloway portrayed a suicidal character as his desperation for signings understandably took hold of him. Yet his players not only surprised him, but they exceeded everyone’s expectations by competing against giants such as Liverpool and Manchester United. The cruelty of relegation was a bitter pill to swallow, but their pride remained intact.
Holloway’s success may be down to the fact that he realises Blackpool’s limitations. His negative attitude at the start of each season seems to have had the reverse effect of inspiring his players, and created a siege mentality in the process. He laughed off claims that his side would not achieve 10 points last season. Perhaps his players will relish being away from the lime-light and the typically patronising comments from pundits that made them their second team, being the “breath of fresh air” that they were.
Despite the loss of Charlie Adam, David Vaughan and top-scorer D.J Campbell to the vultures of the Premier League, a lot of very talented players still remain at Blackpool. They possess a very settled back five, who will have learned a lot more about each other last season. Their 4-3-3 system is very flexible, as they displayed solidity away at Hull City whilst looking dangerous on the counter attack. Whilst new signings Barry Ferguson and veteran goal-scorer Kevin Phillips from Birmingham City will give the Tangerines the experience and class to fend off most Championship sides. They will need to add further quality to the squad by the end of the transfer window. Perhaps a natural wide player from the left as youngster Matt Phillips added a different dimension from the right-hand side last season.
Expected Starting Line-Up
A.Baptiste (RB) I.Evatt (CB) C.Cathcart (CB) S.Crainey (LB)
K.Southern (CM) B.Ferguson (CM) E.Grandin (CM)
B.Ormerod (RS) K.Phillips (ST) G.Taylor-Fletcher (LS)
Transfers In: Transfers Out:
Frank Fielding (Blackburn Rovers) Ben Pringle (Rotherham United)
Jamie Ward (Sheffield United) Robbie Savage (Retired)
Craig Bryson (Kilmarnock) Chris Porter (Released)
Jason Shackell (Barnsley) Arnaud Mendy (Released)
Chris Maguire (Aberdeen) Greg Mills (Released)
Theo Robinson (Millwall) Michael Boulding (Released)
Nathan Tyson (Nottingham Forest) Luke Varney (Portsmouth)
Adam Legzdins (Burton Albion) Miles Addison (On loan to Barnsley)
Chris Riggott (Free Agent) Ross Atkins (On loan to Burton Albion)
Kevin Kilbane (On loan from Hull City) James Severn (On loan to Eastwood Town)
Derby County manager Nigel Clough will have been desperately disappointed as to how the season unfolded last season. An injury hit campaign once again hampered the Ram’s chances of pushing for promotion, as Clough was unable to reinvest in the side in January. The club has been poorly run in the past leaving huge debts that have reportedly been reduced to around £15m. The club were constantly looking over their shoulders during the latter stages of the season and were thankful that Preston North End, Sheffield United and Scunthorpe United were not even close to over-taking them.
Since arriving at Pride Park, Nigel Clough’s away form reads played 46, won 11, drawn 16, lost 30. This is a significant reason as to why Derby have never looked like challenging for promotion since Clough arrived. In one sense, the departure of club-captain Robbie Savage might be positive for the club, as his ego boiled over in a clash with Clough in the depressing home defeat to Nottingham Forest last season. This incident demonstrated a lack of harmony within the dressing room, although Savage’s passion and influence from midfield will be sorely missed.
New signing Jason Shackell has had two very good performances, slotting in alongside young centre-half Mark O’Brien. Former Tranmere Rovers striker Steve Davies netted two spectacular goals ensuring victories against Birmingham City and Watford. Whilst Frank Fielding produced a number of important saves to give the Rams their first clean sheet of the season. Left midfielder Lee Croft has shown early signs that he has got his career back on track, having been out of favour last season.
Expected Starting Line-Up
J.Brayford (RB) J.Shackell (CB) M.O’Brien (CB) K.Kilbane (LB)
C.Bryson (RM) J.Hendrick (CM) B.Davies (CM) L.Croft (LM)
S.Davies (ST) T.Robinson (ST)
Tactical Battle – Where the game might be won and lost
Blackpool goalkeeper Matt Gilks is expected to be fit for this clash. However, if he fails to recover from an ankle problem, there might be a lack of understanding between the back four and back up goalkeeper Mark Halstead. Theo Robinson is expected to deputise for Jamie Ward and his pace and power will be a direct threat for central defenders Ian Evatt and Craig Cathcart. They may also have to put their bodies on the line to stop Steve
Davies from reproducing his accurate long-range attempts.
In midfield, Irish youngster Jeff Hendrick is expected to replace James Bailey and will look to Ben Davies to continue his role of marshalling the midfield. This could be an area where Derby struggle, should Clough persist with 4-4-2. Competing against a three-man midfield of Keith Southern, Barry Ferguson and Elliot Grandin may be too much for the pair to handle.
Veteran striker Kevin Phillips bagged himself a brace against Peterborough United on Sunday and has impressed since arriving at Bloomfield Road. He was particularly unlucky not to score on the opening day of the season at Hull City, as he hit the post from 30 yards out. His prolific career record of 227 goals in 502 appearances ensures that he is the biggest threat to the Derby defence, meaning Jason Shackell will have to be weary of his timely runs into the box. Blackpool may change their tactic by bringing on right-sided winger Matt Phillips, should the game remain in deadlock. His pace and trickery may be too much for 34-year-old left back Kevin Kilbane to handle in the latter stages.
Ian Evatt and Craig Cathcart should be able to contain Theo Robinson, as they competed well in the Premier League. Despite an excellent victory at Vicarage Road on Saturday, Derby still possess an abysmal away record under Nigel Clough that cannot be ignored. Blackpool’s superiority in midfield might overwhelm the Rams, whilst they will be backed by passionate supporters at a tight Bloomfield Road. Therefore, I expect Blackpool to win this game 2-0 with a goal in each half.
Kevin Phillips – 9/2 (First Goalscorer) – Kevin Phillips has a habit of scoring against Derby County, and he is probably the most likely to open the scoring having taken a lot of confidence from his brace last weekend.
Matt Phillips – 11/1 (Last Goalscorer) – Despite Kevin Kilbane’s experience, he has never been a player with blistering pace. If the game becomes stretched, then Matt Phillips will relish taking on the tired Irishman. He impressed in the Premier League last season, and will be looking to nail a starting place on the right-hand side.