MX23RW : Tuesday, October 16 06:30:55

Blackpool relegated: Where did it all go wrong for the Tangerines?

After their relegation from the Championship to League One was confirmed, Sports Mole wonders where it all went wrong for Blackpool this season.

After eight years in the top two tiers of English football, Blackpool are back in League One six games before the end of their Championship season.

The Tangerines are 19 points adrift of 21st-placed Rotherham United, who edged out Brighton & Hove Albion yesterday to officially confirm Blackpool's doom before tonight's game at home to Reading.

Screenshot of bottom of Championship table confirming Blackpool's relegation

The writing has been on the wall for some time, and manager Lee Clark has openly admitted that it has felt like a slow death in the second half of the season.

It has been a disastrous campaign for the Seasiders from start to finish, but why has it been so bad for a side that were in the Premier League four years ago and setting the early pace in the Championship last season? Here, Sports Mole investigates.

Blackpool manager Lee Clark looks dejected during the Sky Bet Championship match against Watford at Vicarage Road on January 24, 2015© Getty Images

The Managers

After ending a 40-year wait for top-flight football with promotion in 2010, it has been a steady decline for Blackpool since. They lasted just one season in the Premier League under Ian Holloway, but almost came straight back up in 2011-12 as they lost in heartbreaking circumstances to Ricardo Vaz Te's late goal for West Ham United in the playoff final.

That brought an end to a remarkable 11-game unbeaten run in Football League playoff games and it could certainly be a long while before they earn another trip to Wembley.

Holloway was poached by Crystal Palace the following season before the shortest managerial reign in the club's history as Michael Appleton lasted just two months before switching Lancashire clubs by joining Blackburn Rovers.

Former England captain Paul Ince was soon brought in and after guiding the Tangerines to a mid-table finish in his first two months, he led them to their best-ever start to a season with 16 points out of 18 to top the table.

Another push for the top six looked on the cards, but Blackpool tailed away dramatically and on the final day of the season needed results to go their way to ensure their place in the second tier for another season after winning just three games between December and May.

Jose Riga, Manager of Blackpool looks on ahead of the Sky Bet Championship match between Millwall and Blackpool at The Den on August 30, 2014© Getty Images

Ince was sacked midway through the season and Barry Ferguson's interim appointment did little to improve results. Before the start of this season, Blackpool appointed Jose Riga as their first overseas manager.

The Belgian had impressed in the Championship just months before by helping keep Charlton Athletic up. He led the Addicks to eight wins in two months, but wasn't given the job on a longer contract so Blackpool pounced and he accepted their offer.

What followed in pre-season was a catastrophe as countless players left the club, meaning that Blackpool were forced to cancel their pre-season tour of Spain. At one point it seemed that they might not have a squad in time for the start of the season as they played pre-season friendlies with several triallists in the side.

In the end, they scrambled together a team of free agents and loan signings and unsurprisingly got off to a woeful start, losing all five matches in August and failing to win a game until October. Riga's first Blackpool win came at the 11th attempt in the league, but a run of four straight defeats followed and it was after the third of these - a 3-0 loss at Reading - that the 57-year-old was sacked after less than five months in charge.

Lee Clark, who had lost his job at fellow Championship strugglers Birmingham City just 10 days earlier, was quickly appointed and he got off to a so-so start with two defeats in seven games and one win. Clark's first victory ironically arrived when his former side Birmingham visited Bloomfield Road, with Blackpool inflicting a first defeat on Clark's Blues replacement Gary Rowett.

Blackpool Manager Lee Clark looks on prior to the Sky Bet Championship match between Fulham and Blackpool at Craven Cottage on November 5, 2014© Getty Images

Since then, Blackpool have had 20 league games and won just two. The gulf in class between them and some of the division's top sides has been clear, with current leaders Bournemouth scoring 10 in two games against them and Watford scoring seven in one half after being 2-0 down at Vicarage Road.

Clark must have known when he took the job that it was a tough ask to keep Blackpool up, but he might feel more at home next season in League One after his exploits with Huddersfield Town earlier this decade.

The footballing community was perplexed when Clark was fired by the Terriers in 2012 with the club still in the race for automatic promotion from the third tier. His three-and-a-half-year spell in West Yorkshire included a Football League record 43-game unbeaten run and Blackpool supporters will certainly hope he can rediscover that touch next season.

The Players

Blackpool lost multiple key players before the start of the season, with star youngster Tom Ince joining Hull City and the defence made especially weak by the departures of Chris Basham, Kirk Broadfoot and Craig Cathcart. The incomings did little to excite and the acquisition of three strikers who have lost their way in recent years - Nathan Delfouneso, Ishmael Miller and Nile Ranger - showed just how hard Blackpool were struggling to sign quality talent with the right attitude.

Blackpool players huddle during the FA Cup Third Round match against Aston Villa at Villa Park on January 4, 2015© Getty Images

They were taking risks on unstable personalities and went on to add several free agents, some of whom had never played in England before and were always going to take time adapting to a new environment. The club's scouting policy certainly needs to be addressed when you look at how other sides have built a Championship-ready squad on hard work and the right attitude without breaking the bank. Mick McCarthy's Ipswich Town and Stuart Gray's Sheffield Wednesday spring to mind.

Signing young players on loan from bigger clubs can often be a masterstroke - see Patrick Bamford's impact at Derby County and Middlesbrough the last two seasons - but if they join a club in deep trouble it rarely works out. Norwich City's Jacob Murphy caused Blackpool unnecessary harm when he sent a Snapchat which was leaked that said "We are going to lose... Again" before a game against Rotherham United. Ironically, Blackpool drew the game and the winger was soon sent back to Norfolk.

Things have been so bad this season that it has affected the players' lives away from the field. Tony McMahon, who started the season as captain, revealed recently that his wife and kids had been subjected to a glum household and that he was glad to be away on loan at Sheffield United.

Even one of the worst news stories in the world had a link to the Lancashire club as midfielder Andrea Orlandi revealed that he was close to boarding the Germanwings plane that was flown into a mountain in the French Alps.

Off-field Issues

Not only have Blackpool been by far the worst team on the field this season, they've also been subject to plenty of bad press off it.

Club chairman Karl Oyson expressed his confidence in the club being competitive this season, but it's gone very wrong for both Oyston personally and the team. Oyston's relationship with Riga was not a good one and when he approached Burton Albion over Rowett, he couldn't convince the up-and-coming manager to join them and soon he was named Birmingham boss - a decision that you have to say Rowett got right.

Despite Riga clearly being a dead man walking as the two continued to fall out, Oyston didn't get rid of him until October and things began to look up in Clark's decent start as manager.

However, it got a lot worse for Oyston when his mobile phone number was posted online and he received abusive text messages from supporters. One of them riled him so much that he sent back a reply branding the supporter a "retard". He quickly apologised, but the damage was done and the fans called for his head.

Supporters of Blackpool protest against chairman Karl Oyston at the beginning of the second half during the Sky Bet Championship match between against Cardiff City at Bloomfield Road on October 3, 2014© Getty Images

The Football Association launched its own investigation into the matter and recently Oyston was charged with misconduct. Hoards of abuse was hurled at Oyston in online forums and he even took action against one supporter after defamatory comments were made. All of this while the team continued to struggle on the pitch has made it a truly awful season to be a Blackpool supporter.

Bloomfield Road

Those with a season ticket have not only had to endure one of the worst seasons in the club's history, but also had to watch games be played on surely one of the worst surfaces in recent Championship memory.

Opposing managers wouldn't know whether to look forward to a winnable game away at the league's bottom side or dread having to play on a cut-up pitch that isn't even fit for Sunday league games. It increased the chances of injury and in the modern day was allowed to get unacceptably bad. Comparisons were unsurprisingly made to the nearby beach on the Lancashire coast.

The Numbers

Delving into our Championship Stats Centre, it's clear to see where some of Blackpool's biggest problems lie.

The Tangerines have let in almost two goals a game and kept just six clean sheets in 40 outings this season. Second-half performances have been what's really cost them. If games finished at half time, they wouldn't be bottom and they would only be four points from safety and still in with a chance of staying up.

They've let in 48 goals after half time - five more than anyone else - compared to 31 in the first 45, which is the second-worst behind fellow bottom-three side Millwall.

Screenshot of Championship goals conceded in first and second halves in 2014-15

Other stats that stand out are the fact that the Tangerines haven't won away from home all season, drawing seven and losing 13 of their 20 games on the road. They are also the only side to have not scored a penalty and are one of two sides to not come back and earn a win from a losing position (the other being Birmingham).

All four of their league wins have been 1-0 triumphs at home, but what about the cups? Would they offer Seasiders supporters any respite?

Nope. In the last three seasons, Blackpool have exited both the League Cup and FA Cup at the first hurdle. This season they didn't score a goal in either competition, going down 1-0 in away ties at Shrewsbury Town and Aston Villa.

All in all, it's been a season to forget for the Tangerines. Clark is confident that he'll remain in charge and is planning a big overhaul to get the club back up to the Championship. An uncertain future looks on the cards and it could be a long time before we see Blackpool supporters this gleeful.

Blackpool fans celebrate the team's second goal during the Sky Bet Championship match against Watford at Vicarage Road on January 24, 2015© Getty Images

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Blackpool Manager Lee Clark looks on prior to the Sky Bet Championship match between Fulham and Blackpool at Craven Cottage on November 5, 2014
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