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Michael Appleton has clear identity for Blackpool side and early signs are positive

LancsLive logo LancsLive 03/07/2022 Sean Mcginlay
Appleton saw his Blackpool side win their first pre-season friendly © Andrew Vaughan - CameraSport Appleton saw his Blackpool side win their first pre-season friendly

Fences thrown, goals scored, players impressing - Blackpool were well and truly back in action yesterday at Southport.

Besides the rude interruption from some young Southport fans getting above their station on the terraces, the Seasiders will be more than happy with the afternoon's proceedings at Haig Avenue. Goals from CJ Hamilton and Beryly Lubala sealed a comfortable 2-0 win as Michael Appleton took charge of the Tangerines for the first time in his second reign.

Once the football returns, the void that needed to be filled allows for an element of calm to return. Panic stations from some quarters on social media about a lack of signings partly comes through a thirst for something of note to happen during the off-season weeks but with the pre-season schedule ramping up, there is plenty more to keep an eye on.

READ MORE: Why Michael Appleton believes Blackpool's transfer business is worth waiting for

Appleton's vision for what he wants to do with this Blackpool side is clear and well explained by the Head Coach, which makes it all the more easier for him to win over the section of support who were perhaps unconvinced by his arrival. A fluid 4-3-3 system has been a staple of Appleton's time at both Oxford United and Lincoln City and he makes no bones about it being the same here.

Neil Critchley was known for his adaptability and that brought with it success but longer-term it always felt like the Seasiders needed to stick to a fundamental approach which would allow for the club to recruit specialists for specific positions in order to take that next step in quality. Appleton is a risk-taker in his approach, with an aggressive, attacking style that was showcased well in the first half against Southport.

What stood out was the constant interchanges between the advanced central midfielders and wingers, opening up space in the final third with movement that wouldn't allow for runs to be tracked. At times Sonny Carey would be spotted wide on the right-hand side in order to find space, with CJ Hamilton cutting into a more central position and vice-versa, that fluidity is important in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 system and something that perhaps was missing under Critchley when he used that system himself.

Sonny Carey's ability to find space in that system stood out from the rest on the field against Southport and the 21-year-old will likely be an important figure next season.

Rob Apter impressed in an unfamiliar right back role but it is clear that Appleton sees a lot of potential in the young winger who has an important season ahead of him. Judging by his comments post-match, Appleton will give Apter a first-team chance if the level he has shown in training and in the opening pre-season fixture continues.

Appleton is keen to bed in younger players and close the gap between the youth team and first-team at the club, while also looking to his contacts to bring in young players and afford them consistent game time at Championship level. He is assured in his approach, he knows what he wants and he knows how to achieve it.

His evaluation of his time at Lincoln where he felt the recruitment at times was rushed, rather than waiting for quality shows a self-awareness of his own mistakes and an ability to learn and improve from them. Albeit it was just a friendly against a non-league side, you can see elements of Appleton's philosophy coming through on the field in the first half, before tailing off in the second in a 4-4-2 that by his own admission, isn't something he will be playing this season in the majority of games. It was purely used to ensure all players got on the field to be at an even-level heading into the latter stages of pre-season.

Appleton is unapologetic about what he is as a Head Coach and his approach because he has success and experience to give himself full faith in what he wants to do. It's difficult to disagree with his mantra of waiting for the right quality and right player to fit a specific role in his system and ultimately Blackpool will be better for that approach come the end of the transfer window.

The Leeds and Rangers friendlies will be an intriguing watch as the side will no doubt play the 4-3-3 system that Appleton is wanting to implement with a holding midfielder, currently Callum Connolly, with two advanced central players. When a manager has such confidence in his system working, that no doubt trickles down to the players on the field so these early weeks will be a good insight into the players confidence to take risks and to trust in the process.

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