Blackpool boss vows to pick strongest team for Cup clash at Eastbourne

Neil Critchley has played down the chances of Blackpool fielding a slightly weakened team for tomorrow’s FA Cup tie against Eastbourne Borough.

Saturday, 7th November 2020, 8:30 am
Blackpool manager Neil Critchley / Picture: Getty

The depleted Seasiders head to East Sussex looking to avoid a cup upset in front of the BT Sport cameras.

With a number of injury doubts and Dan Ballard and Ethan Robson remaining out through suspension, there have been calls from sections of Blackpool’s fanbase to freshen up the side following last week’s back-to-back league wins.

But Critchley says that is unlikely to be the case and his Blackpool side will be going all out to reach the second round.

“Every game and every competition is important to us. I don’t see the level of importance of games being any higher or lower than any others, it’s just the next game,” Pool’s head coach said.

“We look at the squad, the health of the squad and the fitness of the squad and we pick what we think is the best team for that game.

“We always take into consideration the health and welfare of the players, I wouldn’t want to put any players at undue risk. But players also have to be ready to play game after game.

“The circumstances of this season are different than any other season. I read something the other day that there’s been a 15 per cent increase in injuries in the Premier League at this moment in time and you only have to look at the amount of injuries right the way through the country at the moment because of the circumstances of what we face on a weekly basis.

“But this is our next game, it’s an important game and we shall be going there to do our best to be in the next round of the cup.”

One bonus for Blackpool is that Sunday’s cup tie has to be decided on the day, with replays in the competition being scrapped.

Should the Seasiders come through the first round tie and qualify from the EFL Trophy group stage in midweek, the club will be playing Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday right up until January 2021.

“For it to be decided on the day, because of the nature of the congested fixture list this season, it makes perfect sense,” Critchley added.

“If it takes an extra half an hour and penalties (to get through), then so be it. Ideally we will get it done in the 90 minutes but I’m sure Eastbourne will say the same.”

One thing Blackpool will have to contend with is Eastbourne’s 4G pitch, which Critchley says will require extra preparation. “It makes a difference,” he said. “We’ve trained on astro-turf on Friday and the plan is to train at their ground on Saturday.

“We want to try to prepare the players as best as we can, but it’s different. Grass to astro-turf, there is a difference.

“They’re used to playing on it because it’s their home pitch. It bounces differently, it rolls differently, it’s just an obstacle we have to overcome.

“It is what it is, we can’t do anything about it. We’ll prepare as best as we can and look forward to what is going to be a tough game away from home.”