Can Simon Grayson replicate his previous success at Blackpool?

Jack Kitson by Jack Kitson / 21 August 2019, 13:28

The new League One season is not even three weeks old, yet a wave of optimism has already swept over the seaside town of Blackpool following their unbeaten start to the campaign.

Under returning boss Simon Grayson Blackpool have accumulated 10 points from their opening four league games, which includes victories over Bristol Rovers, Southend and Oxford followed by a 2-2 draw against Steve Evans’ Gillingham, where they battled back from two goals down to register a point.

In stark contrast, the club carded only three wins from their final 16 games last season.

Blackpool’s 100% winning start may have come to an end at Priestfield on Tuesday, but the point was enough to propel Grayson’s troops to the summit of the League One table, at the expense of Danny Lincoln’s newly-promoted Lincoln who fell to a 2-1 defeat at MK Dons.

November will mark 14 years since Grayson began his managerial career at Blackpool, originally as caretaker following the departure of Colin Hendry. After he steered the club clear of the relegation zone and secured a 19th place finish in League One he has handed his first permanent contract in management.

In his first full season in the managerial arena Grayson impressively led Blackpool to 3rd, just two points off the automatic promotion spots. Oldham and Yeovil were swatted aside in the play-offs as the club ended a 29-year wait for a place back in the second tier of English football.

A couple of early wins at the start of the 2007/08 season cannonballed Blackpool to a club record of 12 straight triumphs, only for the club’s form to tail off, yet come May they’d preserved their Championship status by two points.

It proved to be Grayson’s second and final full season at the helm, as he was controversially lured over to former club Leeds in December 2008 despite Blackpool rejecting Leeds’ approach for Grayson.

He proceeded to guide Leeds, Huddersfield and Preston to promotion to the Championship, only to then endure a wretched 18 games stint at free-falling Sunderland in 2017, followed by 14 games at the helm of Bradford.

Grayson spent a year away from the dugout, but was tempted back into management earlier this summer after he was contacted by Blackpool following the departure of Terry McPhillips, a decision he couldn’t turn down.

"It's now a new era and it's important that we get this football club, with its fantastic history and tradition, back to some good, positive days again," a buoyant Grayson said at the time of his appointment.

When asked ‘what sort of manager returns to Blackpool?’, Grayson quipped: “An older one with less hair! But I like to think a better, and more experienced one.

“A lot of sad things have happened for both myself and the club since I left. But hopefully a bright new era is ahead for us.”

A rejuvenated Blackpool have so far thrilled their fans in winning their opening three league games for the first time since 2012/13, before they battled hard for a point at Gillingham.

Grayson’s side are currently the league’s joint-highest goalscorers, with nine goals to date, three of which have been scored by Armand Gnanduillet, the club’s top goalscorer last season (14 in all competitions).

It’s early days, of course, but after three seasons of gradual improvement under promotion-winning Gary Bowyer then Terry McPhillips, Grayson will discreetly hold hopes of replicating his feat of 2007 when he led Blackpool into the Championship, although publicly he’s already stated that he’s not going to get ahead of himself.

“I’ve never, ever, made any sort of prediction because I’ve learned from that first full season at Blackpool, when I said ‘judge me after 10 games’ yet I only won two,” Grayson told the Gazette.

“I decided never to put any sort of timescale on players’ injuries, predictions or results hence why you’ll get a straight bat from me a lot of the time.”

Blackpool will hope to continue their undefeated start on Saturday when they travel to Brian Barry-Murphy’s Rochdale, who are yet to win in the league on home soil this season.

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