You did the double over Leeds last season, has much changed for Blackpool since we last met in April?
Not that much really. Looking at our line-up from that night, eight of that starting 11 played in the 2-0 win at Millwall this weekend. Of the other three, Angel Martinez only just missed out at The Den, and Matt Phillips would have played but for handing in a transfer request amid allegations of an illegal approach from Southampton. We had very little turnover of players during the summer and that should really help us this season as we finished really strongly last time round.
What are your expectations for this season?
A lot will depend on what happens during the next two weeks, and the sooner the transfer window closes the better. Due to the wage structure in place at Bloomfield Road, our players are always ripe for being targeted by clubs who can wave huge sums of money under their noses, and we will do well to hold off the advances for not only Matt Phillips, but Tom Ince who is sure to attract interest after following up an impressive first season with a brace at Millwall. If we hold on to both, there is no reason we can’t challenge for a top two spot. It would also be nice to add another striker before the window closes, and that does appear to be at the top of Ian Holloway’s wishlist. At the very least, I’m confident we can replicate last season’s achievement with a play-off spot, and with a bit of luck here and there, automatic promotion is a possibility.
Who should we be looking out for in your side on Tuesday night?
The obvious danger man is Tom Ince. The former Liverpool youngster took some time to break through last season, but at the end of the campaign had firmly established himself as one of our key players. Saturday provided yet more evidence of being a match winner and keeping him quiet should be Leeds’ top priority. Elsewhere we have an embarrassment of riches in midfield, any of which could be selected and cause problems with quick passing through midfield. We’ve recently signed Nouah Dicko back on loan from Wigan and he might start after only being on the bench at the weekend – Dicko has pace to burn and it was his speed which drew a foul from Darren O’Dea in April for which he received a second yellow card. Gary Taylor-Fletcher always has a moment of magic in his locker, and if Matt Phillips can be persuaded his immediate future lies on the Fylde coast, he too will be a threat. And that’s even before I mention Kevin Phillip’s penchant for scoring late goals…
If you could sign one current Leeds player for Blackpool, who would it be?
Under Ian Holloway it has always been our attacking threat which has led to much of our success, but it has often been at the expense of conceding goals at the other end. Tightening up at the back would definitely go a long way to claiming an automatic promotion place and as such some more quality in defence wouldn’t go amiss. For that reason I’d like to have seen Jason Pearce sign from Portsmouth in the summer, rather than move to Elland Road where he ended up. I was really impressed with Pearce when I saw him last season and I think you got something of a bargain for the fee you paid.
The Championship 2012/13 – 3 teams to go up, 3 to go down?
Without wanting to jinx it, I do genuinely feel we have an excellent chance of automatic promotion, but perhaps not quite enough in the squad to claim to the title, so I’ll say we will finish as runners-up. Bolton should do very well with the squad at Owen Coyle’s disposal, and although they suffered an opening day defeat at his former club, I can’t see past them for the title. As for the play-offs, a good outside bet might be Burnley. I think they’ve recruited really well during the summer and with the players they already have there, they could be dark horses to go up.
As for at the other end, everyone seems to be tipping Barnsley and it’s hard to argue. Like Wigan in the Premier League, they always seem to somehow defy gravity, but their squad looks weaker than last season and they finished that campaign so terribly that they have strong downward momentum. Having seen them at the weekend, I suspect Millwall will really struggle. It was obviously only one game, but with the league being so competitive, I do think they’re up against it. The other team I think will go down is Derby. Nigel Clough has never really done much better than mid-table at Pride Park, and after losing some of their better players I get the feeling they could drop.
Finally, what’s your prediction for the game?
Like many matches this season, I don’t think there’ll be much in it – I’ll say 2-1 to Blackpool.