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Opposition Lowdown: Neil Critchley's Blackpool

Reading return to league action after their nine-goal demolition of Exeter City during the week, facing the long trip up north to take on Blackpool. Join us as we take a closer look at the opposition.

Blackpool v Wigan Athletic - Sky Bet League One Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images


Blackpool finished 23rd in the Championship last season, facing relegation to League One alongside Reading. They finished on the same number of points as The Royals, but sat one place below, due to a two-point margin in goal difference.

The Tangerines have had an average start to life back in League One, sitting in 14th place following two wins, three draws and two losses. They are yet to lose a home game this season, having beaten Burton Albion and Wigan Athletic and drawn with Port Vale and Leyton Orient at Bloomfield Road.

Last season’s fixtures saw Blackpool beat Reading 1-0 at Bloomfield Road on the opening day of the season, before Reading secured a home win in February, winning 3-1 after two goals from Tom Ince and an Andy Carroll penalty.

The boss

Neil Critchley: Critchley began his second spell as Blackpool manager in May this year, taking over from Mick McCarthy, who left the club in April. The 44-year-old started his coaching career at Crewe before joining Liverpool in 2013 as a coach for the under-18s. He also coached their under-19 and under-23 sides in his seven years at the club.

Critchley left Liverpool to take up his first full-time manager role at Blackpool in March 2020. He led The Tangerines to promotion from League One in his first full season at the club, beating Lincoln City in the playoffs after finishing in third place in the league.

Critchley led Blackpool to a 16th-place finish in his first season in the Championship, before joining Aston Villa as Steven Gerrard’s assistant last summer. He left Villa following Gerrard’s sacking in October and then had a three-month spell as manager of QPR, having only managed one win in 12 games.

The former midfielder is highly rated in the coaching world and likes his sides to play possession-based football.


It has been a busy summer in Blackpool with 11 players joining the Tangerines and nine leaving Bloomfield Road. Last season’s top scorer Jerry Yates was one of the key outgoings, signing for Championship side Swansea City for a fee believed to be around £2.5m.

Other notable outgoings include striker Gary Madine, midfielders Keshi Anderson and Tom Trybull and defenders Luke Garbutt and Reece James.

Striker Kyle Joseph joined Blackpool on a permanent deal from Swansea, swapping places with key man Yates. Midfielder Oliver Norburn also joined from Peterborough for an undisclosed fee.

Blackpool signed a number of players on free transfers with goalkeepers Mackenzie Chapman and Richard O’Donnell, defender Matthew Pennington, midfielders Tashan Oakley-Boothe and Albie Morgan and forward Kylian Kouassi all joining the club. They have also signed three players on loan with winger Karamoko Dembele, midfielder Jensen Weir and forward Jordan Rhodes all joining for the season.

Striker Kyle Joseph and defender Jordan Gabriel will both miss out through injury, however forward Shane Lavery is expected to return.

Expected line-up

Grimshaw, Hamilton, Pennington, Casey, Husband, Connolly, Morgan, Norburn, Weir, Lavery, Rhodes

Key player

Jordan Rhodes: Striker Rhodes joined Blackpool on a season-long loan deal at the end of August. He started his career at Ipswich Town and made his debut for the club in 2007. He went on to make 10 appearances for the club before then having loan spells at Oxford United, Rochdale and Brentford.

A permanent move to Huddersfield Town followed, where he made almost 150 appearances for the club, scoring 86 goals. Rhodes then made a big-money move to Blackburn in 2012, becoming their club-record signing. He spent four seasons with Rovers, notching up another 84 goals. Moves to Middlesbrough and Sheffield Wednesday then followed, before he returned to Huddersfield in 2021.

The 33-year-old is a prolific goalscorer who has scored 158 club goals over the course of a 16-year career.

Rhodes has also been capped by Scotland and has represented his country 14 times. Rhodes is a natural goalscorer, who has one goal to his name so far this season.

One to watch

Karamoko Dembele: Winger Dembele joined Blackpool on a season-long loan in August, signing from French Ligue 1 side Brest.

He joined Celtic at the age of 10 and made his debut for their under-20 side when he was only 13 years old. He made his senior debut in 2019 and went on to make 10 appearances for the Bhoys, scoring one goal.

Dembele signed for Brest last summer following the end of his contract at Celtic. He represented his new club 18 times last season but has now returned to the UK for his first season in English football.

The 20-year-old has represented both Scotland and England at youth level, most recently representing England under-18s. Dembele is a diminutive but skilful winger, who has made two appearances for Blackpool since his loan move last month.