‘A decent window now becomes a very good one’: Matt Scrafton’s verdict on Blackpool’s deadline day business

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The belated but welcome confirmation of Blackpool’s last-minute deadline day deal for Owen Dale has made a decent transfer window a very good one.

 

The main focus yesterday had to be securing the services of a right-back. The Seasiders started the day with zero, but ended it with two.

In that regard, it was job done.

The 21-year-old comes with plenty of pedigree, having featured heavily under Thomas Tuchel’s Champions League winners in pre-season. Fans of his former loan club Coventry City also rate him highly.

It transpires right-backs are very much like London buses. You wait all window for one to arrive, and all of a sudden you have two within the space of an hour.

Jordan Gabriel was the next full-back through the door, the 22-year-old sealing a sensational return from Nottingham Forest.

Blackpool boss Neil CritchleyBlackpool boss Neil Critchley

Gabriel is a real favourite among the Blackpool faithful after his performances in tangerine during last season’s promotion-winning campaign.

Not only that, he clearly took the club to his heart and was dead-set on returning to Bloomfield Road, despite starting the season in Forest’s first-team. As Gabriel said himself on social media, he wanted to be at a place where he felt wanted.

The Seasiders have received plenty of criticism in recent weeks for their steadfast refusal to rush into a deal, leaving them without a recognised right-back for their opening five games of the Championship season.

But the club’s patience has now paid off, Neil Critchley now having not just one, but two high-level right-backs at his disposal.

Pool have shown previously they’re not willing to pay over the odds just to get a deal over the line and refuse to be taken to the cleaners over a potential swoop. They’ve adopted the same approach again this summer and I expect they will do in future, too.

It might mean the playing squad is a little weaker than we’d ideally want for the opening stages of the season, but the club aren’t prepared to navigate away from its ideals and nor should they. It served them extremely well last season, after all.

Blackpool’s head coach clearly wanted to get a central midfielder into the building before last night’s deadline but, it has to be said, their approach did come off a little scattergun.

They were linked with Josh Vela from Shrewsbury Town for a reported £300,000 fee last week. It must be stressed though that Shrews boss Steve Cotterill came out publicly and said he was never made aware of an offer being lodged.

Come deadline day, Blackpool were still being heavily linked with Oxford United’s Cameron Brannagan. But an agreement always seemed unlikely given the high fee the U’s would require for the midfielder’s services. A bid of just over £500,000 was never realistically going to cut it.

Eventually, Karl Robinson came out in the local press before Oxford’s EFL Trophy game against Cambridge United and confirmed Brannagan was staying put, putting an end to Pool’s hopes well in advance of the 11pm deadline.

Then, as MK Dons battled Burton Albion in the EFL Trophy, it was reported that Blackpool had lodged a bid for their midfielder Matt O’Riley.

Somewhat comically, the 20-year-old scored an own goal within minutes of the announcement going live on Sky Sports’ website.

Leaving a potential move so late in the day left MK with precious time to find a replacement, so again this always looked like an unlikely one.

Nevertheless, the three midfielders all fit the right profile of what the club is looking for, which is young, up-and-coming players, often from the division below.

Unfortunately young talent costs a lot of money and the selling club has every right to demand they’re paid sufficiently. That’s just life.

Either way, Blackpool’s approach for O’Riley was knocked back and the club would end the window without strengthening their central midfield options, where they’re looking a little light due to long-term injuries to Matty Virtue and Grant Ward.

The Tangerines still have Kenny Dougall, Kevin Stewart and Ryan Wintle, though, while Reece James, Callum Connolly, Cameron Antwi and Sonny Carey can also fill in there if required.

Another midfielder coming through the door would have been the icing on the cake, rather than a necessity.

Heading into the final hours, minutes and seconds of the summer window, Pool’s business looked satisfactory. The Seasiders had two players in each position, as Critchley likes, and the right-back conundrum had been solved.

All they were lacking was that final sprinkling of stardust to cap it off, but in Dale – a young winger who scored 12 times last season – it appears the Seasiders finally have it.

A central midfielder would have made things even better, but we can’t have everything in life, can we?

Deadline day really takes on a life of itself and clubs can find themselves getting sucked into the melodrama.

Ideally Pool would have sorted their business weeks in advance, but it doesn’t always work out that way.

The Seasiders are just one club within a chain and they can often be stuck twiddling their thumbs waiting for other clubs to make their move, which then frees up the player Pool are after.

It’s pain-staking business at times, but unfortunately it’s a necessity.

It’s also a rollercoaster of emotions. Come 11am, when Sterling and Gabriel had already been announced, Pool fans were feeling ecstatic. By 4pm they were impatiently waiting for further deals, by 9pm they were getting frustrated after news broke of the Brannagan and O’Riley setbacks. Come 11pm, confusion and uncertainty reigned. Once the Dale move was eventually confirmed, things were all quiet and pleasant again.

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, analysing a whole window’s work of recruitment based on the final day is ludicrous. But we continue to do it. I’m guilty of it myself, so we need to look at the club’s business as a whole.

Simon Sadler has put his money where his mouth is yet again, forking out a reported £750,000 for Gabriel, having previously paid fees for Oliver Casey and Sonny Carey earlier in the window.

A FOUR-YEAR deal for Gabriel, as well? That’s unheard of in these parts.

Before I finish, it’s time for my by-annual reminder that Blackpool are still able to sign free agents outside the window.

This was an avenue that proved highly successful last season, with both Kenny Dougall and Kevin Stewart – two key components of Pool’s promotion-winning side – arriving shortly after transfer windows had closed.

If my calculations are correct, Pool could well have one free spot remaining in their 25-man squad list, which they must now submit to the EFL now the window has closed.

Most Championship sides will have already filled their 25-man quota, so this gives Pool leverage when it comes to the best free agents on the market.

INS (13)

Josh Bowler (Everton)

Oliver Casey (Leeds)

Sonny Carey (Kings Lynn)

Callum Connolly (Everton)

Owen Dale (Crewe, LOAN)

Jordan Gabriel (Nottingham Forest)

Daniel Grimshaw (Man City)

Reece James (Doncaster)

Tyreece John-Jules (Arsenal, LOAN)

Richard Keogh (Huddersfield)

Shayne Lavery (Linfield)

Dujon Sterling (Chelsea, LOAN)

Ryan Wintle (Cardiff, LOAN)

OUTS

Ben Garrity (Port Vale)

Liam Feeney (Tranmere)

Alex Fojticek (Partizan Bardejov)

Sullay Kaikai (Wycombe)

Ethan Robson (MK Dons, LOAN)

Jack Sims

Nathan Shaw (AFC Fylde)

Jordan Thorniley (Oxford, LOAN)

Ollie Turton (Huddersfield)

Adi Yussuf (Yeovil)