The phrase “you never change a winning team” is trotted out by fans and managers up and down the country on a weekly basis.
But has Blackpool boss Neil Critchley proven it’s a load of clichéd nonsense?
Pool’s head coach has developed a reputation of being something of a tinkerman, regularly changing his starting line-up regardless of what form his side are in.
As he has stated on a number of occasions, Critchley will pick the best team to beat the opponent on any given day.
If that means making two or three changes to a side that might have won 3-0 in its previous outing, then so be it.
Different opponents throw up different challenges, after all.
Just because 4-2-3-1 worked to get a result away at Reading last week, for example, doesn’t mean it will be just as effective for the next game against Preston North End.
Neil ‘tinkerman’ Critchley has built a reputation for making changes to his Blackpool side
Indeed, Critchley and his staff opted to revert back to 4-4-2, bringing Gary Madine back into the fold for his experience, know-how and physical attributes in both boxes.
Sonny Carey was unfortunate to drop down to the bench after producing a Man of the Match display against Reading, but the change paid dividends, the Seasiders running out deserved 2-0 winners against their fierce rivals with Madine grabbing the second goal.
Of course, there will be times when Critchley is forced into making changes. That’s often been the case with injuries being a recurring theme of his tenure at Bloomfield Road.
Looking back to last season, suspensions also played their part – especially at the beginning of the campaign – while Covid also took its toll.
Ahead of every game, as part of my pre-match previews, I take a stab and predict what side I think Critchley might put out. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve guessed correctly.
To see just how much of a tinkerman Critchley is, The Gazette has taken a look back at the 65 league games he’s taken charge of and worked out how many times he’s named an unchanged side.
The results are staggering.
We’ve disregarded cup games, as the Seasiders often make wholesale changes and look to hand minutes to some of their fringe players for these encounters.
Beginning with the 2019/20 campaign, Critchley only took charge of two fixtures as the season was curtailed early due to Covid.
But Blackpool’s boss still made one change to the side that drew 0-0 away to Fylde coast neighbours Fleetwood Town for his second game in charge, the 2-1 defeat to Tranmere Rovers.
But it’s the next season, Blackpool’s promotion-winning campaign in League One, that throws up the most remarkable of stats.
Taking into account Pool’s play-off run, Critchley oversaw 49 league games last season. But on just three occasions did he name an unchanged team.
After beating Swindon Town at home in August, Critchley named the same 11 for the following game, the trip to Gillingham which they lost 2-0.
The Seasiders wouldn’t name an unchanged side again until March, when the same side that beat Charlton Athletic 3-0 away from home also took to the field in the following game, the 1-1 draw at home to Crewe Alexandra.
Later that month, Critchley also kept faith with the same team that beat Peterborough United 3-1 at home for the following game against Plymouth Argyle, which they drew 2-2.
Fast forward to this season, Pool have only named an unchanged side on one occasion.
That was for the 1-0 home win against Barnsley, which came off the back of Blackpool’s 2-1 victory against Middlesbrough at the Riverside.
Critchley then made two changes to his side for Pool’s third game in that run, the 1-1 draw away at Hull City.
So in total, Blackpool’s head coach has named an unchanged side in just four of the 65 games he’s taken charge of. In percentage terms, that’s just over 6%.
Feel free to keep us all guessing Critch, it’s clearly working.
0 times in 2 games Critchley named an unchanged side
3 times in 49 games, including the play-offs, Critchley named an unchanged side
Once in 14 games Critchley has named an unchanged side
TOTAL: 4 times in 65 games