Chief executive Ben Mansford outlines Blackpool’s long-term strategy and updates supporters on new training ground plans

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Members of Blackpool’s hierarchy were grilled by supporters before Saturday’s game against Luton Town.


Chief executive Ben Mansford and director Brett Gerrity took part in a Q&A session during Blackpool Supporters’ Trust’s Annual General Meeting.

Ash Hackett, CEO of the club’s Community Trust, was also involved at the event, which was held at the Armfield Club on Saturday lunchtime.

A range of topics were discussed, but the most significant items revolved around the club’s long-term strategy and the latest on plans for a new training ground.

Mansford also addressed why only one of Blackpool’s Championship fixtures has been chosen for live coverage this season, when other sides have already had over 10 games picked.

Here’s what he had to say…

The club’s long-term philosophy and strategy

Chief executive Ben Mansford, right

Chief executive Ben Mansford, right

“One of the things we did when we made the decision (to part ways with Simon Grayson), and it was a difficult one because Simon was a really genuine football person, but when Critch came in it was clear we needed to talk about how we were going to play football.

“While we were in League One, we were a big club at that level and we were able to be competitive thanks to the fantastic support of 5,500 season tickets, all the sponsors and Simon.

“When you go to the Championship, we’re not (a big club for that level) but we want to continue to punch above our weight.

“We felt we needed three things, which was quality of coaching, quality of recruitment and quality of our academy.

“I think Neil ticks the first box and that’s been seen, because he finds a way to win even when we have injuries because he’s so tactically astute. So everyone has seen the journey Critch has been on and he leaves us well prepared.

“He gives the players very little excuse, because they’re so well prepared and well drilled, there’s good analysis and we get the travel right.

“We’ve improved the sports science, we’ve improved the medical side of the club all to give him the best opportunity to over-achieve. We’re doing that at the moment in terms of our budget.

“In terms of recruitment, we made initial appointments in Tommy Johnson and John Gibson and that’s now been led on by John Stephenson who is our head of football operations. He’s spent about 12 months at the club now.

“He has a few grey hairs that maybe we need, because he’s a very, very experienced operator in that role and he heads up an extensive team for recruitment.

“When it comes to Ciaran Donnelly, we brought him back after his three-year sabbatical up the road.

“Of course, the academy will take some time. It’s not a secret that we were one of the lowest ranking Category Three academies because of the lack of investment that was made in that area under the previous ownership.

“Ciaran is now working with an extensive staff that is beyond the core requirements of what is required for Category Three.

“I’m quite excited by the recruitment he’s doing, we are really in the arm wrestle now for some of the best young players that are released from Category One and Category Two youth teams and that’s a credit to the work Ciaran has done.

“We’re having a right go across those three.

“Simon has given us some fantastic support with some fairly heavy capital investments, the work that’s been done around the stadium is considerable, the work that is being done around the new training ground is considerable and at some point further down the line will hopefully come a new East Stand as well.

“To also give us a budget that will compete towards the top end of the Championship, player trading may need to be a part of that like we’ve seen with the journey Brentford went on or Barnsley went on as well.

“I want to be honest about that, because we have to do it sensibly, we have to do it with a model and we have to stay within our remit.

“I’ve been on some of the EFL Championship calls on profitability and sustainability, it’s fantastic I can sit there knowing we don’t need to fall out over any of these type of numbers because we’re going to manage ourselves in a way that doesn’t put the future of the club at risk and Simon gives us a budget he thinks is sensible and we stay in our lane.

“On deadline day we were looking at various things: do we get a really expensive short-term loan in or do we go and get Owen Dale?

“The Owen Dale one feels right for us because we’re taking a young man that is on modest wages at Crewe and we’re giving him good Blackpool wages.

“He wanted to come and there’s an eye of the tiger about him, there’s a hunger and a desire to be here because these players see Blackpool as a football destination.

“That suits us rather than finding short-term solutions or eeking out the last 12 months of somebody.

“We’ve got a young, hungry squad in the main with a smattering of over-30s and we’ve got a good blend.

“I’m quite pleased with where we’ve got to across those three strands and hopefully with the togetherness and the hard work we can continue to over-achieve.”

Announcement over the new training ground

“I don’t want to blame lawyers but we kind of are really.

“A preferred site has been identified as me and Brett have said in recent dispatches over recent weeks. We are so close to being able to make an announcement.

“I think it would be really silly of us to make an announcement before the land assembly piece has been done and we’ve got all the different signatures secured on binding contracts.

“We are very close, we’re into our third or fourth knock-back on the various documents between solicitors.

“We’re very, very close to making a really exciting announcement and we’re very fortunate with the support Simon gives us that we’re not just sat waiting for that land assembly to reach us and then everything else kicks into action.

“We’re continuing to work behind the scenes so that we’re very close with our architects and our project managers and our agronomist and those who tell us where pitches can and can not be done and where drainage does and doesn’t need to go.

“Hopefully we can make some fairly swift progress as soon as everyone’s signature is on the contract which means the site is secured and we can be getting in front of the relevant councils and planning departments.

“I’m hopeful we’re still weeks away from making that announcement.

“I can assure you it’s going to be a fantastic site, it’s going to be an absolute legacy for this club and Simon’s ownership and it will be a centre for the development of hopefully some of the best talent of the young people on the Fylde coast.”

Games being picked for Sky Sports

“We’re contracted to be on Sky twice a season, so we’ll definitely be on again at least one more time.

“I would love to be on there as often as possible because you do get a substantial financial payment.

“I think given the level of support we’re receiving I think that would be really helpful extra money. We’ve got a core support that get right behind us whether we’re on TV or not.

“Sky are a business though and they’ve got advertisers they’ve got to satisfy, so they want eyeballs so they will tend to pick the teams where they can get those eyeballs.

“I know other clubs are fed up of playing on Friday nights, Monday nights and never having a 3pm game on a Saturday. We all like that routine.

“But ultimately so much of the money we receive from the EFL is generated from domestic and international broadcasting and the EFL has just extended their deal.

“It would be great to be on TV because we will give a great account of ourselves and there would be a financial upside.

“QPR and Derby are two teams that seem to be on regularly though.”