Here, Gabriel Sutton discusses why Seasiders shareholder Simon Sadler should go all out for Nathan Jones as the next boss at Bloomfield Road.
Re-igniting the place
One of the first things that stands out about Jones is his passion.
The fiery Welshman is fiercely determined to not only bring success to the teams he manages but implement an attractive style of football in his image.
He sets high standards for his teams and when they are successful, he celebrates with the kind of furious, chest-thumping euphoria that captures the hearts of fans.
Bloomfield Road has been a forlorn place for the last decade, even when Blackpool went up and while the mood had been lifted temporarily by Sadler’s arrival, Jones could truly re-ignite the place.
Better ball retention
Whenever Blackpool have been pressed in possession this season, their response has been very much a mode of flight, rather than fight.
Grayson had imposed on his players the dangers of giving the ball away in cheap areas and while there is a place for pragmatism in League One, Pool were too content to clear the ball at the first sign of trouble and cede territory.
There is no chance that Jones will stand for any of that.
If, in training, he sees a defender such as Ben Heneghan or Taylor Moore clear the ball when a passing option was available, one imagines that he will interrupt the session straight away and get the player in question to revise their choice, so that it does not happen repeatedly in match scenarios.
Blackpool have a technically capable squad and they should be using the ball a lot better than they are.
Nathan Jones has emerged as one of the early favourites for the job
The main reason that the Tangerines are not in a relegation zone this season is because of the Feeney-Gnanduillet combination.
Feeney has assisted Gnanduillet six times this season, more times than any other player in League One has supplied one specific teammate.
The right winger, who sometimes operates as a right wing-back, has 12 assists, the most in the division.
Gnanduillet’s 15 goals represents 39% of Blackpool’s overall league tally – the West Lancashire outfit are statistically more reliant on Gnanduillet for goals than any other League One team is reliant on one player.
Grayson deserves some credit for getting the most out of these two players, but the dependence on the duo has become unhealthy and the 50-year-old has proved unable to shake things up.
After signing 11 new players in January including attacking left-back Marc Bola, vibrant midfielder Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall and target man Gary Madine, there should be more variety in this Blackpool side and a progressive coach like Jones may be required to yield it.
Former Stoke and Luton boss Nathan Jones has been installed as the new favourite for the Blackpool job.— The Sack Race (@thesackrace) February 13, 2020
Meanwhile, David Dunn can now be found at 6/4 after being named caretaker! 🍊#UTMP
Odds subject to change | BeGambleAware | 18+
Diamond suits the squad
Jones was famed for his success at Luton with an attacking diamond system, which allowed a lot of rotation in the midfield quartet and full-backs operating high up the pitch.
Given how advanced Jack Stacey played for the Hatters in that setup, it seems plausible that Feeney could adjust to playing right-back if, at the base, inspirational captain Jay Spearing protects the defence as well as expected.
Plus, vibrant midfielders like Dewsbury-Hall, Connor Ronan and Matty Virtue-Thick might relish seeing more of the ball in the opposing half and could thrive in a system with smartly co-ordinated movement.
In some of Pool’s games this season, one might have felt sorry for Joe Nuttall: the striker, signed from Blackburn in the summer, always puts in an excellent shift but most occasions on which he triggers the press, nobody appears to follow him up.
In a Nathan Jones system, Nuttall’s work rate could be put to better use – the same might be said for Nathan Delfouneso, who is also full of energy and either player could relish playing in a side with more central creativity.
Blackpool have pressed well for parts of certain games this season – they started superbly in September’s 3-2 loss at Coventry, for example – but then once they got in front, regardless of what the stage of the match, they would shut up shop and invite the opposition on.
Jones would see that Pool operate higher up the pitch for longer periods within their games and they would only drop deep to defend a one-goal lead for the finale.
Promotion challenge next season?
If coached to their highest potential, Blackpool have what must be regarded as a top six squad.
Before the season started, they certainly would not have swapped their group of players with Lincoln, Bristol Rovers, Burton, Gillingham, Doncaster or Wycombe; and on paper the current crop is arguably at a similar level to what Fleetwood, Oxford, Portsmouth, Sunderland, Coventry, Peterborough and Rotherham have – all those teams are above them.
If Blackpool appoint Jones, that might seem like a big investment, but the former Brighton coach has the tactical nous and man management qualities to improve the players they have, meaning relatively little would need to be done to the squad in the summer.
Appoint Jones and the future’s bright: the future’s Tangerine.