Meet the opposition | Blackpool

12th August 2022
First team
Rhys Williams

As Swansea City prepare to travel to Bloomfield Road, we look at the history of Blackpool, how they are shaping up this season and the key figures for the club known as the Tangerines. 

What's their story? 

Established in 1887, Blackpool were founding members of the Lancashire League, before being invited to play in the Football League in 1896.

Blackpool’s finest hour came in 1953 when they won the FA Cup, triumphing against Bolton 4-3 at Wembley in what is known as the ‘Matthew's final’, after Sir Stanley Matthews inspired a fightback from 3-1 down.

Under the guidance of manger Joe Smith, the same generation of players secured their highest-ever league finish during the 1955-56 season, finishing runners-up to Manchester United's Busby Babes. That same season also saw Matthews become the inaugural winner of the Ballon d’Or. 

Blackpool’s most recent stint in the Premier League came under the charismatic leadership of Ian Holloway. After gaining promotion via the Championship play-offs against Cardiff City in 2010, the Tangerines only held top-flight status for a solitary season, finishing in 19th place and suffering relegation back to the Championship.

A few tough seasons followed on and off the pitch, and the Seasiders dropped as far as League Two. However, their fortunes were revived under Neil Critchley, who guided them back to the Championship before departing over the summer to join Aston Villa's coaching staff/

How's their form? 

Marvin Ekpiteta

Pre-season had been a mixed bag for the Seasiders, although that was to be expected given the change of manager over the summer. There were victories over lower and non-league sides AFC Fylde, Salford City and Southport, while there were defeats against higher calibre opposition in Leeds United, Everton and Rangers.

Blackpool have three points from their first two league games, beating Reading 1-0 before losing 2-0 at Stoke, while they were dumped out of the Carabao Cup by League Two Barrow after a penalty shootout in midweek.

Who’s the gaffer? 

Michael Appleton

Michael Appleton. The experienced coach is back at the helm for the Seasiders for a second spell, having spent just two months at the helm back in 2012. Appleton joined from League One Lincoln City, replacing Neil Critchley following his departure to take up the assistant manager's position at Aston Villa. 

As a player Appleton appeared more than 100 times for Preston North End, scoring 15 goals. The former Manchester United trainee - who also had spells at Grimsby and Lincoln - then moved on to West Brom only for injury to bring a premature end to his playing career in 2004.

Appleton started his coaching career at West Brom working with the club's youth system before taking caretaker charge at the club for one game in 2011.

Spells at Blackburn and Portsmouth followed, before Appleton’s most memorable managerial moment came in 2015-16 season as he guided Oxford United to League Two promotion in and back-to-back Football League Trophy finals, before his most recent spell at Lincoln City. 

Between his stints at Oxford and Lincoln, Appleton also had spells on the coaching staffs at Leicester City and West Brom.

Who's the captain? 

Chris Maxwell

Welsh goalkeeper Chris Maxwell has been club captain since 2020, after joining on a free transfer from Preston North End. He has made 76 appearances for the Seasiders since.

Under his leadership, the former Wrexham shot stopper helped the Tangerines to promotion to the Championship, whilst gaining the personal accolade of the Golden Glove award for his 21 league clean sheets that campaign. 

Injury disrupted his 2021-22 season, but he still made 21 appearances in all competitions. However, he has only featured in the Carabao Cup so far this term, with Daniel Grimshaw starting their two league games and Marvin Ekpiteta wearing the armband.

Who are the key men? 

Josh Bowler

Towering striker Gary Madine leads the line for the Tangerines and was last season's top scorer with nine goals. With more than 450 career appearances and 108 goals to his name, Madine adds experience and physicality to Blackpool's front line. 

A product of Carlisle’s youth academy, the Gateshead-born forward has represented the likes of Sheffield Wednesday, Bolton Wanderers and most recently Cardiff City, before moving to Bloomfield Road on a free transfer in January 2020.

Entertaining winger Josh Bowler has fast become a fans' favourite at Bloomfield Road for his flair and dribbling ability. He had seven goals and three assists to his name last term.

After showing promise at Queens Park Rangers as a youngster. Bowler was snapped up by then-Everton manager Ronaldo Koeman in a £4.25 million deal in 2017.

It didn’t quite work out at the Toffees for Bowler, with the youngster failing to register a first-team appearance in his four seasons at the club.

However, after showing glimpses of his talent on loan at Hull City during the 2020-21 campaign, where he appeared 28 times for the Championship outfit, manager Neil Critchley snapped up Bowler for the Tangerines in the summer of 2021 upon his release from Everton.

Last season Bowler’s dribbling abilities hit the headlines with him completing 105 successful dribbles, sitting fourth in the standings across the major European leagues and completing three more than Frenchman Kylian Mbappe. 

Last season's player of the season Marvin Ekpiteta is a dominant presence at the heart of the Seasiders' defense. The former Leyton Orient centre-back was an important part of the Blackpool team which gained promotion to the Championship. Ekpiteta also carries an attacking presence, scoring seven goals in his 67 games for the club. Last season's impressive 256 interceptions and 51 blocked shots saw him in the top 10 for both categories in the second tier.