A lot of criticism has been shelled at Blackpool for not going above and beyond to ensure that their match against Manchester United was played this weekend, but is it really justified?
Prior to this season, Blackpool were Barclays Premier League virgins, so their stadium, Bloomfield Road, did not have an adequate under-soil heating system, which caused the pitch to be frozen in some areas.
Peter Walton, who would have been the referee of the match, was given the authority by both clubs and Premier League to make the proper decision as to whether the game could be played or not, and he deemed it to be unplayable, which has created a bit of stir with some of the United supporters.
According Blackpool, their very capable groundsmen worked around the clock to do everything in their power to make sure that game had every chance to be played, but in the end, the unforeseen, adverse weather conditions got the better of Bloomfield Road pitch.
Even though it will be seen as a bad thing by most, there are definitely some positives from the match against Blackpool not being played this weekend.
The main condemnation from the supporters, is that United will now have an extra game to make up during the heated Premier League title race, but the positive aspect is that they have gotten an extra couple of days in the most wearing part of the season.
However, with all of the pitches in England becoming very heavy and fixtures coming fast and thick, United is on the brink of three season-changing matches in just a 12 day span, so Sir Alex Ferguson could be relishing this unanticipated short break in action.
The mini interruption will give some of Ferguson’s players a chance to recover as well as recollect their dismal performance against West Ham United so it does not happen again – especially during this very important trio of matches.
Yes, because they did not play their round of 16 fixture, United has now dipped below Arsenal at the top of the Premier League standings by a lonely point, and the Reds will have to play catch up, but that extra day’s rest ahead of their table-shifting, back-to-back home matches with Valencia in the UEFA Champions League and Arsenal at Old Trafford could be beneficial.
Additionally, Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Everton at Stamford Bridge, where United will travel in two weeks time, will also have given Sir Alex an unexpected, but welcomed smile, because the Blues are still a point behind the Reds having played one more match, so it should force the hosts to forward to get all three points from that match.
An added benefit that needs to be factored in, is that in cold weather, a team, especially with aging players like Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Rio Ferdinand, could always lose one of their significant players to a muscle injury of some sort by playing on an unsafe, slippery surface.
The small respite should allow the United players, like Darren Fletcher and Michael Owen, who have niggling little injuries that extra little bit to heal instead of being extended in the bitter cold weather in the northwest.
As it was evident with the performance at Upton Park, no away fixture against any team should be seen as an automatic win, because the away form of United is concerning, but with that said, Blackpool’s record at Bloomfield Road is quite poor.
Holloway does an admirable job to make sure that his team plays positively, so when the match is replayed, it will be there for the taking, because inspire of their poor away form, United has scored an impressive 11 goals in seven games away from Old Trafford, and Blackpool has given up 11 goals in six games at Bloomfield Road.
The final optimistic part is that this rearranged fixture will more than likely not be schedule on the cusp of a more exhausting, vital three-match period.
It will be interesting to see when the two clubs are able to reschedule this match, because, surprisingly, United has some space in their normally jam-packed January schedule to fit it in.
One telling fact that United supporters have failed to consider, is that they have been skimmed of three matches with their exit from the Carling Cup at the quarter-final stage.
Last season, not one supporter complained with the two extra fixtures – home and away matches with Manchester City – that United had the month mainly because of the chance to personally extend their local rivals woeful 34 years without of piece of silverware.
Now with those two fixtures gone, United has seven days between their Premier League fixtures with Tottenham Hotspur (1/15) and Birmingham City (1/22) to play the postponed match.
Yes, Blackpool should have been proactive and installed an under-soil heating system, which has been quoted to be around £300,000, but no one could have predicted the sub-zero, bone-chilling weather that the entire country received during the last week of November.
Everyone knows that it is always better to be proactive rather than reactive, but hindsight is always 20/20, so let’s be realistic.
To be fair to Blackpool, the United supporters have very lofty expectations due to United’s vast superiority over other clubs in terms of facilities, because the training ground pitch at Carrington is better suited than most Premier League team’s actual stadium.
United bit the financial bullet in the early days of the Premier League by investing tremendous amount of their resources to improve their stadium and other facilities, so they are not subjected to this negative assessment.
If you ask anyone besides Ian Holloway, no one would have predicted Blackpool to retain their top-flight status next season, so it was always going to be a big ask to have the small Lancashire club to spend money on that was not in their budget.
With the announcement that Bolton Wanderers are in debt up to their eye balls, a lot of focus has been on the budgets of teams and making sure that they do not spend frivolously.
Last season, Portsmouth, another small club, spent way over their means, and faced administration, and somehow they staved off becoming defunct and remained operational, so did their owners, Owen Oyston and Valeri Belokon, act responsibly or foolishly?
Sir Alex was quoted a few weeks ago that a lot of people are not able to see the long-term picture, which looks to not include the two Blackpool owners, because they are
The only way they could be criticized is if they were advised to install the under-soil system prior to the season, and whether they were or not will never be told unless someone sells their story to a tabloid.
Is Blackpool the only one really to blame, though?
The one group of individuals that have been given a pass are the absent-minded, money-hungry Premier League chiefs who have let this should-be requirement not be a prerequisite to a club’s top-tier status.
Going forward, it is almost certain that the executives will require that all stadiums for Premier League clubs will have to have a heating system in place to prevent this from happening again.
The supporters could find all the reasons in the world as to why this postponement will negatively effect Manchester United’s target to reclaim the Barclays Premier League’s title, but that isn’t that what prevents us from being on level-pegging from those often disgruntled Liverpool supporters?