Neil Critchley has proven to be an absolute masterstroke of an appointment by Blackpool.
After getting off to a rocky start at Bloomfield Road, the manager stuck to his guns and implemented his vision rather than switching up his style.
The players bought into his methodology and finally, things began to click. He got the Seasiders playing football the way he wanted them to and the former Liverpool man ended up taking the club back into the Championship after a long time away from the second tier.
He is already adored by Blackpool fans for the feat and he will gain even more brownie points if he can build on his work so far by keeping the side in the Championship this year and then perhaps even working towards a promotion push in future years.
Quiz: Have Blackpool FC ever been involved in these 18 scenarios?
His stock then has never been as high and there will no doubt be teams that sack their managers who could come sniffing around Critchley in their hunt for a potential replacement – and Blackpool won’t want that.
However, when Critchley was initially appointed, the news split the fanbase and it wasn’t universal acclaim for the coach from Blackpool fans. Some were overjoyed with the new boss, who came highly recommended from Liverpool and their fans, who were full of praise for the manager on Twitter.
Look after him guys, he’s a cracking coach.
— The Academy (@TheAcademy21) March 2, 2020
Hope he gets you guys promoted. He's a top coach.
— – (@chielinilookout) March 2, 2020
Big loss to the LFC pyramid; good hire for Blackpool and nice to see him get a step forward for his career
— Arun Krishnan (@arun7989) March 2, 2020
Some Blackpool fans were also delighted with an appointment that some called ‘ambitious’ – and that’s ultimately what it turned out to be, as given the chance Critchley has thrived in a permanent managerial role.
Not sure if people realise how good this appointment is. He was highly regarded by Jurgen Klopp and responsible for bringing through world class players and integrating them into the first team. His links to Liverpool can only help us in transfer windows. Very excited by this.
— Max Whitlock (@MaxWhitlock3) March 2, 2020
Really excited about this, no previous club baggage, will have great contacts, his knowledge will be invaluable for bringing lads through from our academy, part of the set up that is producing the best football in this country and probably the world at the moment
— Lee Charles TV (@LeeCharlesTV) March 2, 2020
Really think this could be a top appointment this, very excited to see us play under him
— Danny Morgan (@bfcdannymorgan) March 2, 2020
However, there were some who at the time would have preferred a more experienced man to get the job. There were calls at the time for Bolton boss Ian Evatt to be handed the reins at Bloomfield Road, as they believed he could do a solid job with the side. When the former Barrow boss was snubbed in favour of Critchley, some Blackpool fans were unhappy to see the former player snubbed in favour of a man who, at the time, had never held a permanent managerial role.
If we hire/ appoint Neil Critchley then it’s ridiculous, didn’t go for Evatt because he has “ no experience” but yeh go for a under 23 manager????
— lewishogg (@lewishogg3) March 1, 2020
Can’t pretend I’m not disappointed we didn’t go for Evatt, but I certainly am excited about Critchley too.
You don’t hold the job he had at the club he had it at without having the respect of one of the best coaches in the world.
— SixStarsUK (@SixStarsUK) March 2, 2020
Critchley Out. We should have made a move on Evatt.
— Dan Baines (@DanBainesLol) October 10, 2020
However, the coach with plenty of credentials to his name quickly got to work and implemented his own philosophies at Blackpool and it got them exactly the results that every Seasiders fan would have wanted. Evatt may have been a decent appointment – he is certainly doing a good job with Bolton at the moment, having gotten them promoted and now battling near the top in League One – but Critchley has taken them back to where they wanted to be. Not only that, but the boss has got them playing some attractive football and making some shrewd signings to boot.
Despite that initial reaction then, not one Blackpool fan now would be wanting anyone in charge at Bloomfield Road – not even Ian Evatt.