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Fan Focus: Blackpool fan Sean “wasn’t disappointed” about Elliot Embleton not leaving Sunderland

Ahead of Sunderland’s Carabao Cup tie with Blackpool, we spoke to Tangerines fan and writer Sean McGinlay to discuss how Neil Critchley’s side have faired since their promotion to the Championship.

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Matthew Crichton: Blackpool have failed to win any of their first four matches in the Championship so far, are you starting to become worried that the club are facing a tough battle to avoid relegation?

Sean McGinlay: I think we were always going to have a battle because the step up is more stark than you initially realise. The physicality of the league is much tougher than expected and, when you pair that with technical midfielders that tended to play through a press in League One who now face a physical battle it’s a tough step up.

That being said, Blackpool are creating lots of chances and against Bournemouth it began to click. With players coming back into contention and Richard Keogh dropped, the Blackpool side that got promoted are starting to awaken.

MC: Neil Critchley did a fantastic job to achieve promotion with Blackpool. Do you think that even if your club struggles in the Championship that fans will support him?

SM: Neil Critchley is adored by the fanbase, even a relegation won’t stop the club nor most of the fans from supporting Critchley.

He’s a level above in terms of preparation and player development and the long-term plans of the club are identical to what he has to offer. I’d be more expectant that a lower Premier League/high Championship club will test our resolve in January.

MC: Blackpool have enjoyed a productive transfer window so far, which of your new recruits have impressed you the most and why?

SM: Shayne Lavery looks the real deal. Questions were asked about whether he could step up but his movement, turn of pace and composure point to a player that will only thrive here.

The same goes for Josh Bowler who, apart from his quality when going for goal himself, has all the hallmarks of what you want from a pacey winger. Callum Connolly plays right back whilst the battle for Jordan Gabriel goes on, but he’s doing a fine job and, when he finally moves across to centre half, he’ll easily step up to the division.

Blackpool v Coventry City - Sky Bet Championship
Blackpool manager Neil Critchley.
Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images

MC: One player which your club missed out on was Sunderland’s Elliot Embleton, were you disappointed to not see him return to Bloomfield Road?

SM: I wasn’t particularly disappointed about Embleton. He certainly grew into the role with Blackpool but faded out of games too often, and Keshi Anderson is a better technical player who understands the role required of a 10 in Critchley’s system.

I’ve no doubt he’ll make a success of it this season with Sunderland, but for the money needed to buy him, it would be served better elsewhere.

MC: Ex-Sunderland left-back Reece James joined from Doncaster Rovers on a free transfer - how has he performed so far?

SM: Reece James has been playing centre mid so far and has looked relatively lost in that role. I’d argue he shouldn’t be judged just yet with the positions he’s played.

He works well as a defensive midfielder in a 3 or at left-back, so early days but I think opinions will change the more he feels his way into the division.

MC: Another former Sunderland player, Ethan Robson, was loaned out by Blackpool to MK Dons back in League One. Do you not think he was ready to play regular Championship football?

SM: I was a fan of Robson, particularly in late 2020 when Blackpool beat Portsmouth at home. But an injury saw others step up and take their chance, Robson never let the club down but the likes of Dougall and Ward offered a lot more off the ball and technically.

I don’t think it’s the end for Robson and believe he’ll grow under a progressive setup at MK Dons. There’s certainly a reason why they were the club we chose as his option.

Manchester City v Blackpool - Pre-Season Friendly
Ex-Sunderland left-back Reece James.
Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

MC: Given that both clubs will be focusing on their league fixtures, who are the eleven Blackpool players that you believe Critchley will select?

SM: Dan Gretarsson and Kevin Stewart are expected to return from injury so I anticipate they will be given fitness minutes. Blackpool made an abundance of changes vs Middlesbrough and dominated the game so the side that went through will probably largely start again in this one.

MC: What style of play can Lee Johnson’s men expect to encounter during the cup tie?

SM: The style is similar to that of last season. Aggressive press high up, brave to play in tight areas alongside looking to isolate the opposition full back in order to cut balls back into the box.

Central midfield options are light which could be the sticking point for Blackpool in this one as they look ahead to Millwall at the weekend. But no matter the personnel, Critchley will demand a high tempo throughout the game.

MC: Blackpool done the double over Sunderland last season, which team do you think will be going into the hat for the next round?

SM: Think Blackpool will win 3-1. Expect Sunderland to prioritise the league this season and as such the reserves will potentially take the mantle. That being said the quality Sunderland possess this season is enough to go through.


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