Blackpool have reappointed former manager Neil Critchley as head coach following their relegation from the Championship.
The 44-year-old led the Seasiders to promotion to the second tier through League One in 2021 before leaving the club in June 2022 to join Steven Gerrard’s staff at Aston Villa.
He then spent 12 games at QPR this season, winning just once, and was sacked in February.
“It feels special to be back,” Critchley told the club’s website.
“When I look back when I left 12 months ago, I didn’t do what I should have done. I had a very good relationship with Simon. [Sadler – owner] in the past, and I thank him for the great opportunity to return to this special football club.
“I’m looking at this team now, and it’s had a lot of trouble on the road but there’s no reason why we can’t get back up. It’s up to us – and I include myself in this – to rebuild and be who we were as a team again.”
Stephen Dobbie will return to his role as head coach of technical development, after serving as first-team boss following Mick McCarthy’s departure in April.
Dobbie was unable to save Blackpool from relegation as they finished 23rd in the Championship.
Critchley’s first spell was quickly felt at Bloomfield Road, although it was his first stint as a manager working as a development coach at Liverpool.
He took over from Simon Grayson in March 2020 and guided the Tangerines to a top-of-the-table finish in League One, rebuilding the club and winning again the following season.
Jerry Yates scored 20 goals on his return from Rotherham, while Keshi Anderson and Marvin Ekpiteta both became first-team regulars, while a third-placed finish and a last-gasp win over Lincoln took Blackpool back to the Championship.
The signing of Everton winger Josh Bowler was another example of shrewd recruitment, as he played a key role in keeping them in the Championship, before joining Premier League side Nottingham Forest for £4m last summer.
“After an extensive recruitment process, which included interviews with various people over the last few weeks, I kept coming back to Neil as the right person to lead us,” said owner Simon Sadler.
“He was promoted with us, he kept us in the Championship in our first season back in the division and he has a great record when it comes to developing players.
“He was a great leader in the role and I hope everyone will get behind him and his team as we push to get back into the Championship.
“I would also like to thank Stephen Dobbie for his contribution in the last six games of the season. He did very well in a difficult situation, and I am sure he will have a great job in charge of the first team for years to come.”
‘Fan relations may need to be rebuilt’
Analysis – Andy Bayes, BBC Radio Lancashire sports
It’s less than a year since Critchley shocked Blackpool by quitting Steven Gerrard’s coaching staff at Aston Villa and his return will divide opinion.
Some fans were disappointed by his decision to leave a job he held in high esteem. His relationship with the fanbase was very good and would like to be rebuilt.
He will also be keen to rebuild his record after being sacked twice in four months, the last of which was a disastrous one at Queens Park Rangers.
His role will be the same as it was when he was last appointed in 2020, to take the Seasiders to the second division they achieved two years ago.