4 Year Critch by BFC76

When Simon Grayson fell on his sword after serving up just 13 wins in 38 games and boring the Bloomfield Road faithful rigid, Simon Sadler had the unenviable task of finding a new manager. Looking back at AVFTT at the time names like Nathan Jones, Ian Evatt, Karl Robinson, Richie Wellens, David Dunn, Steve Thompson and even Diego Simeone were talked about (the latter very much tongue in cheek). Looking back all would have done a decent job, however Simon decided to go in a direction that took everyone by surprise in appointing Neil Critchley. Having signed a three and a half years deal, fans were intrigued as to what the new man could serve up. Fans had been bereft of any sort of connection with a manager after NAPM and this felt like it could be an interesting new direction. 15 days later and we were in lockdown.

In hindsight, fans watching from home the following season was definitely an advantage for the new manager. After a 1-0 home defeat after 7 games, 'Pool were 23rd in the league. However, fans couldn't vent their frustration in the ground as they were at home but inevitably talk on AVFTT and social media was that Sadler had hired a duff. Even after the final game of 2020 and our annual defeat at Shrewsbury, the Seasiders were well off the pace in 12th place and a defeat in the opening game of 2021 left Critchley's side 14 points behind leaders Lincoln and in the bottom half of the table. There is no doubt the arrival of Ellis Simms and Elliot Embleton on loan and the signing of Kevin Stewart made a difference at the start of that year and the result was another Play Off win for the 'Pool. It also felt like the football got better. Critchley reverting to a 4-4-2 at the start of the year having tried a few different formations and whilst at times it wasn't pretty, there was a cohesion there which lead to promotion.

When fans returned to Bloomfield Road in 2021, the feelgood factor was massive. Promotion, back in the ground and the arrival of the likes of Josh Bowler, Shayne Lavery and Richard Keogh made a big difference. Critch playing a 4-4-2 at the start of that season had a bumpy start with just 2 points in the opening 5 games but as the campaign went on, the team's biggest win of the season a 6-1 win against Birmingham. Beesley and Lavery up top with Hamilton. Anderson, Dougall and Kirk across the midfield. It was a formation that worked and served Blackpool well in that first season in the Championship.

Of course Critchley left, relegation followed and then last summer Critchley 2.0 arrived. So what happened in that 12 months away? Did the manager get blinded by Gerrard's management, get dented by his time at QPR or in the months he wasn't working did he just watch too much football which skewed his idea of the way the game should be played. Either way, the football this season has been well below the expected standard. Some blame the players, others the summer recruitment and a few the standard of football in League One dragging us down. However, when you look at those 6 players in midfield and up front for Blackpool in that 6-1 defeat of Birmingham, is the current squad any worse? We still have Beesley and Lavery, Dembele is head and shoulders above those others in midfield and Byers has been a welcome addition to the squad. Yet at Wigan, an over-complicated 3-4-1-2 was his preferred option. I have a theory that until our best player Dembele leaves that Critchley isn't for turning. Of course this season might still have enough life in it to get us to those Play Offs but I get the feeling if it doesn't and Critchley doesn't change his ways next season that the 7 year itch in this relationship might become the 4 year Critch.
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