Meet Town’s opposition: Appeal for fans’ return, and a threat from CJ
- Credit: PA Archive/PA Images
Football writer Carl Marston casts his eye over tomorrow’s hosts Blackpool, focusing on the absence of fans, the threat of CJ Hamilton and the presence of Luke Garbutt
Blackpool have played in front of a home crowd this season – and not many clubs from the top four divisions can say that!
The Seasiders were one of only a handful of clubs to host a successful pilot event last month, when a socially-distanced ‘crowd’ of 1,000 were allowed into Bloomfield Road for the 2-0 win over Swindon.
Unfortunately, the pilot scheme was scraped shortly afterwards, in response to the rise in Covid-19 infection rates, with now only clubs from the seventh level of the football pyramid downwards (below National League South/North) allowed to have smaller-capacity fans inside grounds.
Ironically, Blackpool’s only points of this season, so far, came via that 2-0 win over Swindon in front of a handful of home fans, courtesy of a brace from summer signing CJ Hamilton.
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The lack of match-day revenue is hitting clubs like Blackpool, and of course today’s visitors Ipswich Town, very hard, so no wonder that there is a big nationwide push for the return of limited crowds to EFL games.
Blackpool boss Neil Critchley is a leading voice in this campaign.
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He insisted: “It’s of paramount importance to get fans back.
“You only have to read the reports in the media to see the implications this could have on clubs, particularly in League One and League Two. It could be potentially devastating. The supporters are the lifeblood of the clubs and the community.
“It was an unbelievable experience (Swindon match). It was such a special feeling before the game. You could sense in the dressing room before the game the lift it gave the players and the staff. It was only 1,000 but it seemed like a lot more.”
CJ POSES A THREAT
Blackpool may have lost three of their first four league games, at the hands of Plymouth (1-0 on the opening day), Gillingham (2-0 away) and league leaders Lincoln City (3-2 at home last weekend), but they have a dangerous weapon in CJ Hamilton.
One of a glut of summer signings, ex-Mansfield winger Hamilton bagged both goals, scoring either side of half-time in the solitary 2-0 win over Swindon, and was also on target with an early opener in last weekend’s unlucky defeat to Lincoln.
In fact, only Lincoln’s Jorge Grant (four) has scored more goals than Hamilton so far this term. The 25-year-old is level with Portsmouth’s Marcus Harness, Doncaster’s Madger Gomes and Gillingham’s Jordan Graham on three goals from four outings.
A GOOD TEST
Seasiders boss Neil Critchley is relishing the prospect of third-placed Town’s visit.
“The game will be a good test for us,” enthused Critchley.
“It’ll give us a good barometer of where we’re going to be ourselves and our own aspirations this season. “If we want to be up there at the end of the season, then we’re going to have to compete and get results against teams like Ipswich.”
Town fans know all about Luke Garbutt – the talented left-sided specialist played 30 games on loan from Everton last season.
Now the 27-year-old is settling into life at Bloomfield Road, following his switch from Everton. His 11-year stay with the Toffees ended over the summer.
Garbutt only made just five Premier League outings, otherwise spending most of his time away from Goodison Park on loan at six different clubs, the last of them being Ipswich.
Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti famously looked nonplussed when asked about Garbutt’s departure from the club during a press conference in June, merely replying “who?”
Blackpool’s total of new recruits is in double figures, such have been the sweeping changes since the premature end to the last truncated 2019-20 season.
The two most recent arrivals are the defensive duo of Daniel Ballard and Daniel Gretarsson.
Arsenal centre-half Ballard, a Northern Ireland international, has signed on loan until January, while Iceland defender Daniel Gretarsson has been secured on a two-year contract. Ballard has yet to make a first team outing for the Gunners. Gretarsson, meanwhile, is an Iceland international who was recently at Aalesunds FK.
Other new additions include defender Jordan Gabriel (on loan from Nottingham Forest), full-back Demetri Mitchell (from Manchester United), midfielder Daniel Kemp (on loan from West Ham) and striker Bex Lubala (from Crawley Town).
Slovakian keeper Alex Fojticek was signed from Manchester United’s Academy in August, shortly after midfielder Ethan Robson arrived from Sunderland.