Bolton Wanderers defender Alex Baptiste aims to put one over on old Blackpool pals
WHEN Blackpool last came to town, Alex Baptiste watched from the stands as the club he would eventually sign for choked on the big occasion and missed out on the play-offs.
Paul Ince’s side had battled hard to preserve their Championship status and came to the Reebok with nothing at stake, presumably a postscript to the big occasion.
History now tells us that Wanderers’ failure to win that game after coming back from two goals down cost them a top-six place and, just perhaps, a return to the bright lights and big money of the Premier League at the first time of asking.
The true cost of that result was mirrored in this week’s financial losses.
Baptiste probably did not know at that point the club shedding tears at the final whistle would be the one he signed for in the summer.
“We didn’t have anything to play for so I suppose you play with a lot more freedom when the result doesn’t really matter,” he recalled.
“Bolton were going for the play-offs and you can tense up. You don’t mean to, but you can start thinking about the other results and what they might mean to you.
“It was easier to play with no fear and that’s exactly how we felt at the time.”
Baptiste clearly still has a great affinity for the club for whom he made close to 200 appearances in five seasons, including helping them into the Premier League.
He went back to Bloomfield Road in October and received a hero’s welcome from the home fans. Now the defender is hoping it will be the Bolton supporters with smiles on their faces after today’s local derby.
“My time at Blackpool will never, ever be bettered as long as I play,” he said.
“It’ll be great to see the lads but when the whistle goes you don’t have friends on the pitch.
“They’ll be trying to get one over on me and I’ll be doing the same to them. I play for Bolton now and I’m happy here, so I want a cup run.
“We played really well when we went there earlier in the season and that night we had a few chances to win.
“Blackpool were flying high in the league but it kick-started us. Hopefully that can happen again because we’ve got two more home games after that and we need to start winning them, the sooner the better.”
With little to cheer of late, the sense of frustration on the terraces has been difficult to miss.
Zat Knight bore the brunt of the fans’ ire in Wednesday’s 2-2 draw with Middlesbrough after two early mistakes but Baptiste draws encouragement from the team and Knight’s response.
“I think after the two goals went in against Boro, you could see the reaction. It wasn’t nice out there at times,” he said.
“But you have got to scrap in this league and I think the spirit of the boys was different class.
“You never know where we might end up if we keep going and maybe manage to turn some of these draws into wins.
“I think Zat was man of the match after his two mistakes, he was unbelievable.
“He is a big part of the dressing room and a massive character. Everyone makes mistakes but he came back and showed the type of person he is. Not a lot of people would have been able to take what he was getting.”
Baptiste admits he is happier now that he has been switched from left-back to a more natural position on the right.
“I hadn’t been scoring many over there,” he smiled – fresh from a fourth goal of the season against Boro.
But while that may have spared him a marking job on Blackpool’s star man Tom Ince this afternoon, the 27-year-old is still expecting a difficult task progressing to the fourth round.
“They are not having a good time at the minute but they are still not far away,” he said of a Tangerines side who have taken just one point from their last seven games.
“I don’t know what has happened there. The gaffer (Paul Ince) is unbelievable and a born winner. “People always look at the negatives but I know whatever side he brings here will be a good one.”