What a preposterous question to ask – Blackpool are confounding expectations; they sit in 10th place in the Premier League and just did the league double over Liverpool. However, recent seasons have told us to expect a big drop off in performance from the side promoted through the playoffs and it normally starts about now.
Cast your minds back to 2009 to an even more unlikely hero Hull City, in the top flight for the first time in their history. The Bantams had famous back-to-back wins away to Arsenal and Tottenham, a heroic 3-4 defeat at Old Trafford and were lauded for not following the conventional defensive mindset of promoted teams.
A team mostly filled with journeymen pro’s that worked hard on the field was supplemented by the Brazilian Geovanni, a creative midfielder picked up on a free transfer, who was winning praise for his play and spectacular goals; and they had a young English, media friendly manager. What was not to like?
Unfortunately, we know the bubble burst, winning only 1 of their last 21 league games that season Hull squeaked home in 17th place, which gave rise to some terrible Phil Brown karaoke.
Undoubtedly, Hull would have taken 17th place had it been offered to them before the start of the season, but it was a substantial drop off in form that foretold their eventual relegation the following season.
Burnley had a similarly delirious start to Premier League life, with consecutive home wins against Manchester United and Everton, and were a top half team going into December, but 3 wins from their last 27 games consigned them to only 30pts and relegation.
Even Derby, who by no means set the world alight in their 11 point 2007-8 campaign front-loaded their points, winning over 50% in the first 10 games.
Coming up through the playoffs seems to provide clubs with a momentum to take into their first Premier League campaign, but the consistent complaints of managers are that the Playoffs doesn’t give them the same time to prepare as their rivals. Are clubs being found out in the second half of the season because of this?
Looking at the last three playoff winners before Blackpool, they each had between 64-77% of their points by this stage in the season. If Blackpool falls into this range they would end up with between 36-44 points.
In recent seasons that would be enough to stay up – but the relative failure of teams at the top of the division compared with previous years should return the number of points need for survival towards the traditional 40 mark.
There are ominous signs for Blackpool. They have conceded 36 goals, the 16th worst defence in the league; Liverpool aside they have lost 3 of their last 4 league games, and two of those to teams in the relegation fight (Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion); and they may be losing their best player – Charlie Adam.
If the notably frugal Blackpool Chairman decides to cash in on Adam, who has 18 months left on his contract thinking the Seasiders are safe. I’d urge him to think again. Selling Adam may secure £5million but losing Premier League status is worth a lot more than that – of course his continued presence is no guarantee of anything either, anyone can get injured or lose form.
It is true that Blackpool have games in hand, they have played the joint fewest games in the division, but most of those games in hand come at Bloomfield Road, where they have a worse record than on the road. Perhaps finding teams more difficult to break down with fewer counter attacking opportunities. However, playing more games than your rivals in the same space of time is difficult, less time for rest and niggles to subside, and Ian Holloway isn’t exactly blessed with the deepest squad.
Norwich (1995) and Sunderland (1997) fans can attest that being well placed in January is no guarantee of safety come May.
Blackpool are 6 points off the relegation zone, and for me 9/2 looks a big price for them to be relegated.