Key player: Sulley Kaikai
Much will be expected of 25-year-old Kaikai after what has been a very stop-start career to date. Six different loan spells in as many years saw the Englishman leave Crystal Palace in January 2019 for Dutch side NAC Breda permanently. His time abroad was short, however, as the tricky winger returned to the EFL that summer with the Seasiders.
A respectable seven goals and assists in 22 appearances followed in a season disrupted by injury, that saw the former Charlton loanee on the sidelines from February onwards, missing the club’s last 10 matches of the season in which Blackpool managed to win just three. A fairly pacey winger, with trickery and an eye for a pass, Kaikai looks as though he will fit well into the philosophy that Neil Critchley is trying to implement at the club.
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Manager: Neil Critchley
The 41-year-old will perhaps best be known for his stand-in role as Liverpool manager last season on two occasions which caused much controversy. Firstly a fixture clash caused the U23 coach to stand in the dugout for the club’s 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Aston Villa in the EFL Cup whilst the senior squad were participating in the FIFA Club World Cup. Secondly, Critchley also stood-in for the club’s FA Cup Fourth Round replay against Shrewsbury, this time coming out a 1-0 winner of the tie whilst the senior squad opted to enjoy their winter break.
Gaining a reputation in the game, he was made Head Coach of Blackpool in March 2020, although due to the Covid-19 pandemic, his season with the Seasiders was limited to just three matches, which resulted in two draws and a defeat. Critchley has been allowed to stamp his own authority on the club this summer, adding a youthful look on his side with all 11 of the club’s signings being under the age of 25.
Shot stopper: Chris Maxwell
The Welshman will be looking to take over from the departed Ben Alnwick after making nine appearances last season in League One. The 30-year-old will be competing with former Manchester United youngster Alex Fojticek and 21-year-old Jack Sims for the number one jersey.
Starting the season at Scottish Premiership side Hibernian on-loan from parent club Preston, the former Wales youth international made 12 appearances before making the switch to the Seasiders in January, again on-loan. He kept just two clean sheets in his nine appearances, conceding 12 goals as Blackpool finished comfortably in mid-table. The former Fleetwood keeper started the season brightly however, keeping a clean sheet against Championship outfit Stoke in normal time before his side crashed out on penalties.
Last season: 13th in League One
After a Jekyll and Hyde season, a 13th placed finish for Blackpool was probably a fair result. The Seasiders struggled to put a significant run of results together for much of the season, but it was their Christmas and New Year form that truly put the stake in any hopes they had of securing a Play-Off spot after a period of winning just once in 12 League One matches.
A tally of 44 goals was far from impressive and with the majority of the club’s 11 signings proving to be attack minded, it would appear that the Critchley’s side are addressing the necessary problem in order to push on in the forthcoming season.
Key transfer: Jerry Yates
The 23-year-old arrives from Rotherham having spent last season on-loan at then League Two side Swindon Town. Despite scoring a respectable 13 goals in 31 appearances, he was deemed surplus to requirements at the Millers. The club lost top scorer Armand Gnanduillet during the summer, despite their best efforts to keep hold of the 15 goal forward.
Yates and Gnanduillet are completely different players, but this will be much down to manager Neil Critchley’s altering of how he wants the side to play. Rather than a physical, experienced side, the former Liverpool U23 manager has opted for a younger, more energetic, and technical approach which has been thoroughly demonstrated in the clubs signings this summer.
The plethora of impressive signings brought in by Critchley should see the Tangerines improve greatly on their uninspiring 13th place finish last season. Despite losing last season’s top scorer Armand Gnanduillet, the likes of former Swindon duo Jerry Yates and Keshi Anderson, Bez Lubala and CJ Hamilton should more than provide enough attacking return to ensure that Pool manage more than the unimpressive 44 goals they managed from 35 League One games last season.
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