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Michael Appleton out, Mick McCarthy in: The short, mid and long-term picture for Blackpool

Mick McCarthy is back in management with Blackpool.
Mick McCarthy is back in management with Blackpool.

In the blink-of-an-eye, Blackpool sacked Michael Appleton and appointed veteran Mick McCarthy as their head coach for the remainder of the 2022/23 season.

EFL pundit Gab Sutton takes an in-depth look at Blackpool's decision to swap managers and what it means for the club in the short, mid and long-term...

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Much like Sam Allardyce and Tony Pulis, once, in the Premier League, Neil Warnock and Mick McCarthy have found niches for themselves in more recent years as Championship firefighters.

It wouldn’t surprise me if CEO Ben Mansford’s first move to address the vacancy was to call Warnock then, having been told the 74-year-old wanted to continue doing podcasts and media, call McCarthy.

It’s not the most imaginative appointment, but arguably is the most pragmatic. 

Wigan and Huddersfield are going into the pressure cooker of a dogfight with first-time managers in Kolo Toure and Mark Fotheringham respectively, Cardiff may go that way too, whereas McCarthy’s experience comes to the fore.

Next Cardiff City Manager Odds

The old-school Yorkshireman is a safe bet in the Championship for an instant impact, having initiated three-game winning streaks inside the first month of his stints at Wolves and Ipswich - and a six-game one at Cardiff.

McCarthy will be aiming to have a similar effect at Blackpool, especially with relegation rivals Huddersfield being Saturday’s opponents.

It remains to be seen how well some of the loanees added for Michael Appleton’s more expansive style – playmaker Charlie Patino, and wide men Josh Bowler and Morgan Rogers - will adjust to a functional McCarthy 4-4-2.

Ipswich under McCarthy had a similar talent in Bersant Celina in 2017-18, on loan from Man City, who was outstanding when he played and scored some fabulous solo goals, but often found himself on the bench in favour of Martyn Waghorn, David McGoldrick and Freddie Sears.

The 63-year-old has been known to play industrious centre-forwards out wide ahead of enigmatic natural wide men, in the absence of a more orthodox Kevin Kilbane, Julio Arca, Michael Kightly or Paul Anderson type of grafter in his squad.

This would be one concern for Blackpool, for who’s safety it’s vital that Bowler and Rogers buy into the cause.

The latter worked successfully with Appleton at Lincoln, helping them reach the League One Play-Off Final in 2020-21, and probably made the move to Bloomfield Road under the assumption that it’s the Mancunian he’d be working with.

Playing Jerry Yates out wide doesn’t work, as we have seen this season, but there’s a chance McCarthy would favour that option, or Shayne Lavery, if the enigmatic types aren’t pulling their weight.

There are some concerns over how Patino will adjust to the new boss’ uncompromising man management style, especially seeing as the bulk of his progression in youth football has come under the softer touch of Dan Micciche and Kevin Betsy.

However, Patino at his best is energetic as well as creative, and he certainly has the legs to meet McCarthy’s demands.

Elsewhere, versatile grafter Callum Connolly impressed under the new gaffer at Ipswich, back in 2017-18, while Marvin Ekpiteta, Jordan Thorniley, James Husband, Tommy Trybull, Kenny Dougall, CJ Hamilton and Lavery are the type of players whom McCarthy can get the best out of.

For instance, Ekpiteta, Thorniley and Husbands are unlikely to have the required skill to play out from defence against the quality of press in the Championship, but in a tight McCarthy system that’s less problematic.

Trybull and Dougall are tenacious destroyers who would be hard to get past, while Lavery, when he signed, had glowing reviews from Northern Ireland over his work ethic, which the Barnsley born boss may love.

If everyone buys into the cause, the impact may be immediate and with just three points between themselves and safety, plus broadly favourable home fixtures, Pool could easily be 17th by March.

Championship Odds

On the flip side, most players in the modern game aren’t wired to rise to McCarthy’s style of management for more than a few months, although the counter to that argument would be that he delivered four top half finishes in five Championship seasons at Ipswich, while Marcus Evans was chairman.

However, McCarthy is known to be very strict with his players, treatment that isn’t what many are used to from the modern youth/Under-23s scene.

Plus, McCarthy and assistant Terry Connor like autonomy in the recruitment process, and can be sceptical of data, or influence from outside the management team, or senior professionals who have spent decades in the game.

And yet, as recently as November, the club appointed a Sporting Director in Chris Badlan, who has a strong background in recruitment, having been HoR at Coventry for four years, and a Recruitment Analyst for five.

If McCarthy stays long-term, where does this leave Badlan? Will he be open to compromise and collaboration?

As such, it’s important Blackpool look at longer-term options, regardless of the outcome of this season.

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The high-pressing template under Neil Critchley was very successful for the Tangerines, who had their two best seasons in nine years under the former Liverpool coach.

That blueprint allows the Fylde coast club to be progressive, innovative and developmental, whilst still maximizing their resources in a way that’s pragmatic and realistic.

As such, Pete Wild at Barrow could be a great appointment for Blackpool to return to the Critchley blueprint, only hopefully with a more amicable conclusion.

Wild is still arguably the best manager Oldham have had since Richie Wellens left in 2018, if not Lee Johnson in 2014, and subsequently led beleaguered Halifax to two National League Play-Off finishes in three seasons.

The 38-year-old then took over a Barrow side that had finished 22nd and 20th in its first two EFL seasons in 50 years, and has led them to League Two Play-Off contention this season with a high-octane, pressing style of play.

Thanks to Wild’s excellent coaching and motivational qualities, the Bluebirds swarm over their opponents ruthlessly, they are incredibly tenacious and sides that play them have to work extremely hard to make any kind of final third action, let alone get a shot away or create a chance.

Wild’s sides like to pounce on opposition errors high up the pitch, then attack in transition with a quick, fluid and opportunistic front-three.

Daily Football Tips

Seeing as how many teams in the Championship are trying to copy Pep Guardiola by playing out from the back with personnel who aren’t always suited to it, Blackpool have an opportunity to carve out a niche for themselves as the team that catches those sides out with structured pressing and quick transitional play.

Wild will engage, too, a fanbase that enjoyed the Critchley post-win fistpumps (even if to some they feel more hollow in light of the way he left), and bring the club together.

He’s used to working with a Sporting Director in Iain Wood, so would have a positive relationship with Badlan and be open to collaboration in recruitment.

Plus, Wild would by now be more established as an EFL manager off the back of the excellent work he did at Oldham, but the reason he went to Halifax in 2019 was because he lives in Royton in Oldham, Greater Manchester, and didn’t want to relocate.

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It was the same with the move to Barrow, who train in Greater Manchester.

Going to Blackpool would mean a slightly longer commute for the talented coach, but that would be offset by the opportunity to work either in the Championship or at a relatively big League One club with promotion ambitions.

As such, Blackpool can offer him an appealing opportunity whilst staying in the north-west, whereas other clubs who may be interested in Wild would have to persuade him to relocate, which hasn’t always been his preferred option.

McCarthy for the short-term purpose of keeping Blackpool up, then, but for the long-term, Pete is the Wild shout.

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Championship Betting Markets

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Show More
Odds correct as of 2023-01-27 00:17 Odds subject to change.
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