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First Team News

In Focus: Blackpool

21 June 2021

First Team News

In Focus: Blackpool

21 June 2021

There’ll be one fixture in particular which PNE supporters will be looking out for when the full schedule is released on Thursday and that’s the return of the Lancashire derby with Blackpool.

The team just down the M55 have been away from the Championship since 2015 and the two sides managed to avoid each other at that time given that North End were promoted back into the second tier in the same season.

But for the upcoming campaign they’re back in the same division, so let’s take a closer look at how they made it back into the second tier.

2020/21 season

Blackpool headed into last season feeling optimistic with former Liverpool U23s manager Neil Critchley in the dugout as head coach.

Things didn’t get off to the best of starts, though, as the Tangerines lost six of their opening nine league matches.

That run was as bad as it got for Blackpool throughout the season, as their fortunes began to change and they found much better form as time went on, including a 16-game unbeaten run in the league between February and April.

They made their way into the Play-Offs and saw off Oxford United in the first leg, before coming back from a goal down in the Wembley final to get the better of Lincoln City and seal their return to the Championship.

Star man

While former PNE man Chris Maxwell impressed between the sticks, up at the other end Jerry Yates was lethal in front of goal in his first season at the club.

He arrived in the summer from Rotherham United and had a brilliant debut campaign on the seaside, scoring 23 goals in all competitions, which made him the team’s top goalscorer by a long stretch.

With goalscoring figures like that, the 24-year-old has unsurprisingly been the subject of interest from several clubs if reports are to be believed, but he currently has two years left on his deal at Bloomfield Road.

The gaffer

It was something of a risk from Blackpool when they appointed Critchley as their head coach in March 2020 given his lack of experience in the senior game.

In fact, Critchley had not even applied for the job and it was actually owner Simon Sadlier who contacted him first, but it is a move that has clearly paid off.

The 42-year-old worked with some of the best young talent during his time at Anfield, while also standing in as manager for the first team on two occasions for different reasons – one of which was for the cup tie against Aston Villa when most of the squad were away competing in the Club World Cup in Qatar.  

Recent clashes

PNE have not met their closest rivals since the League Cup victory back in 2013, when a Tom Clarke header in the 87th minute sealed a victory against the then Championship side managed by Paul Ince.

You have to go back to 2009 for the last time the Seasiders came out on top in a meeting between the two, with Charlie Adam’s late first half goal the only difference between the sides on that occasion.

That was the second meeting of that particular season – the first being a particular memorable one as a Neil Mellor goal inbetween Chris Brown's brace overturned Blackpool’s early lead to leave Bloomfield with the three points.

We will find out on Thursday when these fierce rivals will come head-to-head in the Championship, but before that we still have three more teams to preview on PNE.Com, so keep your eyes peeled.

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