THE last time Plymouth Argyle faced Blackpool – October 17, 2009 - in a competitive fixture at Bloomfield Road, things were very different for both teams.
Quite aside from the circumstances of the game itself – Ian Holloway getting one over on his old side; Marcel Seip and ‘Thumbgate’ – Blackpool’s 2-0 win over Argyle took the home side into fifth position in the Championship table. Argyle were 23rd, and went on to be relegated that season. Blackpool were promoted to the Premier League via the play-offs, reaching the top flight for the first time since 1971.
For the Seasiders, elation. For Argyle the start of a serious slide that threatened the club’s existence; only in the last three seasons has this been somewhat turned around.
Now Blackpool have joined us in the bottom division. In 2010-11 they began their Premier League season with a 4-0 win at Wigan Athletic, and faced Manchester City in their third home game. The attendance that day, in a game City won 3-2, was over 16,000, virtually the full capacity of Bloomfield Road at the time.
Just six seasons on, we are the visitors in their third home fixture, and the Tangerines began with a 2-0 win at home to Exeter in front of just 3,754.
Knowing what we went through in our darkest years, it feels wrong to drag any Blackpool fans through a description of their hard times. Suffice to say, it has been a bleak period on and off the pitch, and two successive relegations has landed them in Sky Bet League Two.
Their start to 2016-17 has been a mixed bag – an opening day win, followed by a loss at Morecambe and a pair of draws against Barnet and Wycombe – and Blackpool sit one position below Argyle in the table, in 11th.
Off the field, the situation is tense to the say the least. On the field, though, the Tangerines will fancy themselves as one of the division’s favourites to go up, which brings with it its own set of pressures.
“They are a big club, and they will be looking to get out of the division at the first time of asking,” said Argyle manager Derek Adams.
“If you look at it, at this football club, we still call ourselves a Championship club. I think they will probably still call themselves a Premier League club.
“They have changed manager, and personnel. It will be an interesting game. The pitch is looking great up there. Hopefully that will suit us.
“I think there is pressure on a whole host of clubs. It could be because of the division they were in, or the finances that some of them are spending - that causes pressure from above, and expectations of supporters.
“Every club has got different pressures to deal with. Blackpool, along with about eight others, have that pressure.”
Though a far cry from Seip and Holloway’s case of the ex, this weekend’s game may feature a couple of familiar faces. Kelvin Mellor and Jamille Matt, both with Argyle as recently as last season’s denouement at Wembley, are both Blackpool players, these days.
Kelvin, who spent two years at Home Park, playing 92 times, has played in all six of Blackpool’s games so far this season, while injuries have limited Jamille to just two appearances, following his 14-game loan spell at Argyle last season.
They will not be the only names Derek is aware of, having studied the opposition, and coming across a few from his days in Scotland.
“They have got quite good experience, but also some youth in their side as well,” said Derek.
“I know a couple of their players that have played in Scotland - (Clark) Robertson and (Jim) McAllister - and they have Philliskirk, a very good player for them, who is injured at this moment in time.
“It's always nice to see players that played here before. They are two boys that did really well for us last year. It will be nice to see them.
“Jamille is injured at this moment in time. I'm not sure if he will be back for Saturday.
“When you come up against a player that has been at the football club before, they want to do really well against us. They up their game a notch, and it will be difficult match against Jamille and Kelvin.”