Should Karl Robinson trade life at Oxford United for a fresh challenge at Blackpool?

Callum Pragnell by Callum Pragnell / 26 February 2020, 15:51

Blackpool are still on the hunt for a new manager after dismissing Simon Grayson a fortnight ago. The Tangerines have been linked to an array of potential candidates in recent weeks, including former Barnsley manager Paul Heckingbottom and current Rochdale boss Brian Barry Murphy. 

Ex-Luton and Stoke City manager Nathan Jones, former Tangerines defender Ian Evatt and the much lesser-known Sergio Lobera have also been touted for the role, though it is another manager in League One who currently heads up the bookmakers’ list of favourites: Oxford United’s Karl Robinson.

We take a look at the argument FOR and AGAINST the 39-year-old taking up the vacant managerial position at Blackpool, and assess whether or not it would be the right decision for him in the long-term.

We’ll start with the pros…

FOR

Just over a year ago, this wouldn’t even be a question. 

Blackpool found themselves in real turmoil under the not-so-watchful eye of former owner Owen Oyston, so much so that they were in danger of a monumental points deduction by the EFL midway through last season, which would have effectively spelled the end for the Seasiders in League One.

Indeed, after being taken over by Simon Sadler in the summer, the club is now in much better shape. Oyston was ousted from the board in February 2019, and Blackpool ended up finishing the campaign 10th in the third-tier, 11 points behind the play-off places.

This time out, despite periods of promise during the early stages of the season under Grayson, the club have struggled for form and consistency. A dismal run spanning from the middle of December right through to last weekend saw Blackpool pick up just six points from a potential 36 on offer, in turn dropping the Tangerines to 14th in League One. 

Indeed, a vital 2-1 win over bottom side Bolton on Saturday could well kickstart a promising run for Blackpool, who face an out-of-sorts Ipswich Town at Bloomfield Road this Saturday. 

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Karl Robinson is the new favourite for the Blackpool job

The club’s long-term prospects under new owner Sadler seem extremely promising, too.

Last month they captured the signature of Gary Madine, who just two years ago moved from Bolton to Cardiff City for £6m. The 29-year-old is a proven goalscorer in the third-tier, capable of playing in the Championship - proven by his successful loan spell with Sheffield United towards the end of last season - and will no doubt massively help the Tangerines with their quest for promotion next term. 

Madine spent a short spell on loan with Blackpool in 2015 and has settled back in perfectly at Bloomfield Road, scoring twice in his opening eight appearances for the Seasiders. Elsewhere, Armand Gnanduillet has 15 goals to his name this term - second only to Peterborough’s Ivan Toney in the League One goalscoring charts (22) - while winger Liam Feeney has more assists than any player in the division this season with 13. 

It is stats like these that show the quality Blackpool have to hand, as well as highlighting the startling potential of the club under the guidance of a top quality manager. 

Robinson would have the tools to create something special in west Lancashire, but does he want the challenge of building it all?

Above all else, though, the main draw to the Blackpool job for Robinson is undoubtedly the club’s location. 

The Liverpudlian has spent his entire managerial career south of the Midlands, starting with MK Dons in 2010 before moving to Charlton Athletic and then to Oxford United. 

Taking the job at Blackpool would mean that he could move closer to his family in Merseyside, which is a point that should not be underplayed regardless of how trivial it may sound on the face of it.

AGAINST

It’s all well and good stating the positives of this potential move with a luxurious amount of hindsight to play with, but let’s not forget what a good job Robinson is doing in OX4. 

The Yellows currently sit 8th in League One, just a point outside the play-off places with three months of the campaign still left to play. 

Unlike Blackpool - a club who have been on the slide in recent years - the Us have surged through the divisions at a rate of knots over the past decade.

Just 10 years ago the club were plying their trade in the Conference - now, they are on the cusp of breaking into the Championship (in its current form, 2004 onwards) for the first time in their history and it is largely down to Robinson’s good work whilst at the helm.

Oxford have enjoyed memorable runs in both the EFL and FA Cup during Robinson’s tenure, too, memorably beating West Ham 4-0 in the former back in September to help set up a bumper tie with Manchester City at the Kassam Stadium just before Christmas - the second time they have played Pep Guardiola’s men at home in the competition during the previous two years.

Oxford also forced a dramatic replay against Newcastle in the FA Cup earlier this month. After holding the Magpies in a goalless draw at St. James’ Park, Robinson’s men were unlucky to be knocked out in extra-time thanks to a late goal from Allan Saint-Maximin on home soil. Again, though, it was a memorable occasion for the supporters and one which would have generated fantastic revenue for the club from television rights.

VERDICT

In summary, Blackpool does offer an exciting proposition for Karl Robinson. There are plenty of positives to suggest that the 39-year-old would endure a successful career at Bloomfield Road, in charge of a club that has the potential to venture into an exciting new direction under new ownership. 

However, he is onto a good thing with Oxford. Promotion to the Championship is a big ask and there is still a long way to go if they are to achieve it, but there is nothing to say that they cannot manage it with Robinson in charge. 

The ideal situation for the former non-league striker would be to remain at Oxford until the end of the campaign, see how he gets on with regards to promotion and, should he miss out, then potentially assess his situation in the summer. 

By that time though, the managerial position at Blackpool would have been filled and that particular ship would have left the harbour; we do not live in an idyllic world, remember. So it’s decision time, right now. Blackpool signifies something new, shiny and exciting - not to mention the geographical pull the club possesses for a northerner who has spent the last decade in southern territory. 

Oxford, though, could make history and continue to grow under Robinson this season. And it would be a shame to see him jump ship on a club that he has built up from relegation strugglers to promotion contenders in League One.

Not just yet, anyway. 

Managers Departed

Last man down

Graham Westley
Graham Westley
(Stevenage)
16th February
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