Season Preview: Blackpool
Season 2006/07 will always be remembered for 10 straight wins breaking a 70 year club record, 30,000 tangerine clad fans at Wembley and the return to the upper echelons of English of football. An impressive run of seven successive wins at the end of the campaign wasn't quite enough for automatic promotion, as the Seasiders fell two points short of Bristol City. But a stylish sequence of 10 straight wins, that culminated against Yeovil at Wembley, saw them into the Championship.
On Sunday, May 27, 2007 goals from Robbie Williams and Keigan Parker guided the Seasiders to a 2-0 win against Yeovil in the play-off final at the New Wembley. Winning a place in the Championship, alongside champions Scunthorpe United and Bristol City capped an incredible season for Blackpool. It will be the first time in 29 years they have played in the second tier of English football.
How do you expect you'll do this season?
The ambition for Blackpool won't be the title or the play-offs, their achievements last season. It will be a more admirable, magnificent, feat. Survival.
What have you done on the transfer market this summer? Which of your new signings are you expecting most from?
Keeper Paul Rachubka and long term servant Danny Coid both signed new deals. Striker Gary-Taylor Fletcher, full-backs John Hills and Stephen Crainey, and midfielder Michael Flynn have arrived during the summer. The player every Pool fan is waiting to see put on the famous tangerine though is Wes Hoolahan for which Pool are prepared to pay Livingstone £75,000 but the completion of his transfer has been held up and referred to FIFA.
Where do you think you'll need to strengthen in the January transfer window?
The Seasiders appear to be well served up front with Andy Morrell, already with previous Championship experience with Coventry, and top scorer Keigan Parker reportedly looking sharp in pre-season so the cracks may start to appear in either midfield or defence but judging by expenditure so far the club will be in a position to invest heavily if things look dire come January.
Have you any promising youngsters breaking into the team?
A most disappointing aspect at Bloomfield Road over recent years has been the lack of emergence of the young stars with former emerging striker Matthew Blinkhorn leaving during the summer for newly promoted Morecambe which left just midfielder Matthew Kay and defender Phil Doughty as Pool's young prospects for the future, although neither are likely to feature regularly this term in the first team.
Have you got the right man in charge of the team? Will he still be there at the end of the season?
Simon Grayson, the former Leicester and Aston Villa defender, was rumoured to have been within 90 minutes of the sack last September as Pool started the season with an awful run of just one win in eleven fixtures. It was no surprise therefore when he later described the achievement of promotion to the Championship as 'momentous'. He said: "I have had no bigger or prouder moment. This club has got a fantastic history and tradition. But I told the players to start a new era - to be the ones on the walls in pictures celebrating success, and make a name for themselves. They have done that." For many fans last season will probably be remembered as the Grayson season in the same way the 1953 final is recalled for Matthews' brilliance such is the high regard the manager is held by so many at the club for bringing the club back from the footballing abyss after 29 years.
Is the club being run well? Are you likely to be singing 'Sack the board' any time soon?
The driving force behind the scenes at Bloomfield Road is the club's Latvian president Valery Belokon. Billionaire banker Belekon owns a 10% stake in the Seasiders after striking a deal in June 2006 to invest £4.5m over three years - and he is now seeking a longer investment. Club Chairman Karl Oyston returned from a recent meeting with Belekon - during which the pair agreed on plans to increase the capacity of Bloomfield Road and insists that the mysterious Latvian is passionate to see the Seasiders succeed.
Which team do you most want to beat and why?
The prospect of playing former Lancashire arch rivals Preston North End after a gap of eight years has created a frenzy amongst fans at Bloomfield Road desperate for tickets for that trip to Deepdale down the M55 and which, despite the mouth watering renewal of hostilities against fellow Lancashire outfit Burnley, is for many fans the only real true "derby" fixture.
Who do you think's going up?
Take any pick from Charlton, West Brom, Wolves, and Southampton.
Who do you think's going down?
Anyone from Barnsley, Scunthorpe, QPR, and Colchester
How do you think Hull City will fare in the Championship?
I think the Tigers will be looking to improve on last season's performance which will need a return to the form that Stuart Elliott was producing a couple of years ago. Alongside veteran Dean Windass they both will carry a huge goalscoring responsibility. After the £10m takeover by Paul Duffin there have been a few new signings and if they avoid a bad start should finish at least mid-table.