Crunch time came last summer for Luke Garbutt: would the Toffees extend his contract, or would they let a player that joined the Academy many moons ago leave? The answer was the latter; after being let go, Garbutt signed terms with League One outfit Blackpool in September 2020, who would be promoted at the end of that fateful season.
The second tier is nothing new to Blackpool or to Garbutt, but can they avoid the dreaded drop? The Championship betting odds currently make them the 17/10 favourites to face relegation; however, they might just fancy their chances of upsetting the applecart and the full-back will be central to those hopes. The good news is that Blackpool's performances have warranted more than their paltry points return. The Expected Goals table reveals they would, based on the quality of chances created and yielded, be sitting outside of the relegation zone based on their endeavours so far. That's perhaps why the Championship predictions of their immediate return to the third-tier are premature.
With a number of quality defenders passing through the club in recent years, it's perhaps not a huge surprise that some fall by the wayside. After all, the signs were good for Garbutt as an Everton player when he broke into the first team — albeit the shuffled pack for the Europa League — in the 2014-15 season.
Impressive performances there earned the left-back a call up to the England Under-21 set-up, and the hope was that he might kick on from there and challenge for a starting berth in the first team. Sadly, that never materialised, and Garbutt found himself shipped out on loan to Fulham, Wigan, Oxford and Ipswich — hardly the best way to feel settled and at home.
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Garbutt has revelled after taking the step down in grade, and in 28 starts for the Seasiders during the 2020-21 season, he contributed to six goals and won four Man of the Match awards. Can he kick on and prove himself to be comfortable at Championship level?
Blackpool have signed Luke Garbutt on a 12-month deal, and they resurfaced this video to announce the transfer... 😂— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) 22 September 2020
Getting Up and Running
Of course, if you want to avoid relegation, you need to win some football matches: that's a given. At the time of writing, such a luxury has avoided the Seasiders, who have just 2 points to show for their opening five encounters. When another former Everton trainee, Shayne Lavery, scored a last-minute equaliser during the opening match at Bristol City, Blackpool fans were in raptures and why wouldn't they be?
Unfortunately, their next two games, both played on home soil at Bloomfield Road, resulted in defeats to Cardiff and Coventry City, without a single goal being netted by the Tangerines. With the lack of firepower noted by head coach, Neil Critchley, he changed things up for the trip south to Bournemouth, and he was rewarded with a battling 2-2 draw against a side with Premier League aspirations.
Blackpool went again the next time out, with Lavery again on the scoresheet against Millwall. Dolefully, a heart-breaking, injury-time goal for the Lions condemned the Seasiders to a defeat, which came after they had played the best part of the game with 10 men.
So frustrating to concede right at the end of the game! The boys showed proper character having to play for so long with 10 men. Results will turn for sure 👊 keep believing @BlackpoolFC 🧡🍊🙌— Luke Garbutt (@luke_garbutt) August 29, 2021
Especially with so long left in the season, and Blackpool, with Garbutt in the thick of things, can be positive for the months ahead.
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