Richie Wellens In Focus: Title-chasing Swindon boss emerges as a contender for Blackpool vacancy

Jack Kitson by Jack Kitson / 27 February 2020, 12:20

Another day, another new name in the frame for the Blackpool vacancy, which now features Richie Wellens.

Earlier this week Karl Robinson, manager of fellow League One side Oxford, was installed as the new frontrunner for the post. However, the promotion pushing Us have unsurprisingly swatted away an approach from the Tangerines for their gaffer.

The unemployed duo of Paul Heckingbottom and Nathan Jones remain in the mix in the next Blackpool manager market, as does Rochdale’s Brian Barry-Murphy and Barrow boss Ian Evatt while Simon Rusk and Sergio Lobera can be backed at 14/1 and 16/1 respectively.

However, focus has now spun in the direction of Swindon boss Wellens. Below we look at his record in management to date and his chances of jumping up a division should Blackpool come calling.

Sir Alex Influence

Manchester-born Wellens was spotted by Man Utd’s then youth team coach Brian Kidd when he was just 10-years-old. He would only make one appearance under Sir Alex Ferguson, but after venturing into management with Oldham in 2017 he could count on his old boss for some invaluable advice.

“I did ring Sir Alex up when I first got the [Latics] job,” Wellens told The Guardian earlier this season.

“He helped me with loads of stuff that I’ve taken forward. He was just the master of everything regarding management. If I was even one-tenth as successful as him, I’d snap your hand off.”

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Blackpool Bound? Richie Wellens' odds have been slashed in the betting...

A steep learning curve at Oldham

As a player Wellens made over 100 appearances for Oldham across two spells (2005 - 2007 and 2015 - 2016), before returning to his former stomping ground in the summer of 2017 as first-team coach. A couple of months later he took over as caretaker manager following the departure of John Sheridan, a role which was made permanent after a five game unbeaten start.

However, come the end of the season (2017/18) he was sacked after the club were relegated down to League. "I have learned a great deal from the experience and hope to find a role with a club that matches my ambition and believes in a long-term project; to develop players, a club identity and a playing philosophy,” Wellens later reflected.

"I know exactly what it takes to achieve success, and I believe that with the right ingredients I can deliver this as a manager.”

Soaring at Swindon

History tells us that it’s often difficult for a young manager to bounce back from a testing first experience in the dugout, yet five months after leaving Oldham Wellens was handed another stab at management with League Two side Swindon who had parted ways with Phil Brown.

"I want to get the ball down, play positive, quick, passing football and bring results and success to this football club, because at this moment it is underachieving,” Wellens stated upon his appointment.

“For me, that style of play is the most important thing, exciting the fans.”

Wellens has stayed true to his word. After steering the club from 17th to 13th last season, Wellens then enjoyed his first pre-season as a manager, during which he brought in 13 new signings as he set about moulding his own team together.

Fast-forward to the backend of February and Swindon are flying high at the top of League Two. At the time of writing the Robins are the only team in the Football League to accumulate 20 wins, while they are among the highest-goalscorers (60). 

Wellens’ troops have been scintillating at times, with the man himself winning plaudits for his man-management, style of play and tactical flexibility - you can read more about his impact here. His philosophy even has a name: ‘Wellensball’.

Could Wellens leave for Blackpool?

With the above in mind, it’s not too much of a surprise to see high-flying Wellens linked with a vacancy in the league above.

‘Linked’ being a loose word here, as Wellens’ name is in ‘contention’ solely due to movement in the betting market. It’s important to note that there’s been no word from either Blackpool or Swindon, or any prominent journalists for that matter.

However, it should also be noted that after leaving Man Utd in 2000 Wellens played for Blackpool for six seasons, during which he became a fans favourite after helping the club win promotion from the Old Third Division while he won the EFL Trophy twice.

But while he has a strong association with Blackpool, timing is key here. 

Wellens no doubt harbours ambitions of managing in League One again, but it’s extremely difficult to envision the 39-year-old suddenly taking a shortcut by jumping up a division at this stage of the season.

He’s currently in pole position to win League Two, and if successful in his quest he will lift the first trophy of his managerial career. His Swindon side are simply a joy to watch at the moment and he will be immensely proud at how he’s transformed the club over the last 18 months.

The Mancunian has a real connection with the fans, and simply put he’s going nowhere at the moment.

Unfortunately for Blackpool, they are likely to hit a dead-end should they actually be interested in luring Wellens to Bloomfield Road. However, a lot can change in a few months, and if the Seasiders are willing to play the waiting game in their search for a new boss - which looks possible - then their prospects could possibly be enhanced come the summer.

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Graham Westley
Graham Westley
(Stevenage)
16th February
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