Almost 15 years after starting his managerial career, Simon Grayson has returned to Blackpool as manager for his second spell at Bloomfield Road.
After recent spells at Sunderland and Bradford City, Grayson decided to take a year out of management, admitting that despite offers, it needed to be the right one to tempt him to return to the dugout .
“This time last year was the first time in 32 years that I hadn’t started at a club for pre-season, but I have enjoyed the last year out of management,” he said.
“I felt it was important for me to re-charge and try a few different things but I always knew when the right offer came to me I’d want to get back to management. And that’s what I felt when Blackpool came calling; I thought it was the right fit at the right time for me.
“Blackpool had a good season last season and League One is a tough division, but I think it’s a division we can really do well in. The prospect of going back to Blackpool to take this club forward was something that excited me.”
Blackpool finished last season in 10th place in Sky Bet League One, and whilst it is early days, Grayson’s promotion record with his previous Clubs – including Blackpool - speaks for itself. As well as Blackpool, the experienced coach also guided Leeds United, Huddersfield Town and Preston North End to promotion.
“As a manager, when you start the season you always want to have a successful season, and of course the aim from the off is to always push for promotion. I’m excited to try to do that with Blackpool.
“I haven’t got a magic wand that suddenly makes it happen, there’s a lot of hard work needed by myself, my team and the players if you want to earn promotion, but I wouldn’t have come back to the club if I didn’t think I would be given a fair opportunity to be successful.
“There are a lot of things in place here to make it successful which is a good starting point heading into the new season.”
Blackpool is, of course, where Grayson started his managerial career, being appointed caretaker manager in the 2005/06 season, before being permanently appointed in the following campaign. Whilst his reign at the club was successful, by his own admission he is a different person and a manager today.
“I was forever grateful for this club for giving me my first opportunity in management,” he recalled. “Fifteen years and about 650 games later here I am back again."
"This is a special club to me. I’ve experienced a lot of highs and lows as a manager over the years but this new challenge excites me. The football club is completely different to when I first came here all that time ago and I’m a different person as a manager too.
“I’ve got the same enthusiasm, desire and love for the game that I’ve always had but I definitely feel like a different person; through the good times and the promotions, but also through the hard times I’ve faced as a manager.
“The bad times allowed me to learn a lot about myself and how I might do things differently next time around but that’s all part and parcel of being a manager. When things go against you, you need to work hard to come out the other side stronger and that’s what I’ve done.”
When asked about his first stint at the club 15 years ago, Grayson recalled fond memories of leading the club to promotion through the Play-Offs.
“In my first full season I remember only winning one or two games from 10, which wasn’t the best start but I got the time to rectify it and be successful.
“From then we just always had a positive feel around the place. I ended my first full season with seven wins on the trot, then the two Play-Off Semi-Finals to finishing with winning the Play-Off Final and ultimately promotion.
“Then to be favourites for relegation the following season and finishing in one of the highest positions that the club had finished in a long time was a real platform for us to build on going forward, which is what Ian Holloway did when he came in and took them to the Premier League.”
Grayson has only been in the job a short while but, with the new season getting under way this weekend, the buzz is back for both Grayson and the fans.
“I’ve still got a few more players to get in and sign up having only been in the job a couple of weeks, but it feels like I’ve been here a lot longer than that!
“Excitement tends to build through pre-season as new players come in and you tick games off as the season approaches. Things feel positive, people feel positive and I’ve definitely got the buzz but there’ll be an even bigger buzz come the opening weekend, I’m sure.”