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Ex-Blackpool defender Daniel Gretarsson gives insight into life under Neil Critchley

When Daniel Gretarsson arrived at Bloomfield Road on October 5 from Norwegian side Aalesunds FK, it brought to light a new dawn for Blackpool under new ownership.

Rarely, if ever, have the Seasiders signed an in-form player from outside the UK and Ireland after using their scouting network to do so.

Blackpool benefited from diversification as, despite being injured at the club, Gretarsson played an important role in the Ligue 1 promotion campaign last season – forming a partnership with Marvin Ekpiteta in the process.

READ MORE: Kevin Stewart on his relationship with Kenny Dougall, the importance of the clean sheet and expectations for the season

The Iceland international was well supported throughout his time at the Fylde Coast and some supporters were disappointed to see him go, while understanding his reasoning for more consistent playing time.

We had the opportunity to sit down with current centre-back Slask Wroclaw after his move to Poland in January to discuss all things Blackpool, his career ambitions and the inside track of Neil Critchley’s time in charge. .

How was the move to Blackpool?

“Of course I knew a lot about the club when they contacted me, they were in the Premier League and I was a fan of the way they played.

“Neil called me when Blackpool offered me the contract, a pre-contract at the start because I had six months left on my contract and he talked to me about how I was going to fit into their system.

“He said he’s seen a lot of my games and the way I play and English football is big in Iceland so it was a no-brainer for me to try something new.

“I would say I’m an adventurous person, so I knew at the time that this would be my next adventure.”

How did you settle in and how did the band welcome you into the team?

“At first I was a little scared because you hear a lot about the English environment in the locker room, it’s more about competition and integration into the team, but as soon as I got there , it was really friendly and everyone welcomed me much more than I thought.

“All the guys that were with me there during my time at Blackpool, I can’t thank you enough for helping me settle in.

“There’s a real teamwork culture there, you leave your ego at the door when you come to practice every morning.”

How has covid affected your time here, especially with not being able to live a normal life in England?

“It was frustrating at first. At that time, I had a child and my wife was also pregnant, so it was a bit difficult to be locked in a small apartment with nothing to do.

“We got by like everyone else, but it was a bit frustrating not to fully experience English life as we wanted, but that came a bit later.”

Have you traveled throughout your career, experiencing different cultures was part of your plan from the start?

“When I started playing football I wanted to try a lot of new things, to live in many countries and I think football helps me do that.

“I like playing football and I like the culture around it, but I also like to experience new things with my family and the children can have new experiences.

“My son was born in Norway, my daughter was born in England, so that’s how we are as a family.”

How is Neil Critchley as a coach?

“The first season we were in Ligue 1, I came in October and the team was close to the relegation zone.

“At that time I thought we were coming to a difficult time in Ligue 1, but as soon as I arrived I saw the amount of quality we had.

“We had a big team and all the players who were there expected to play, so I knew they deserved to be higher.

“When I arrived I felt like the gaffer had done a lot of things tactically, as you know he’s used to turning things around and the fans probably don’t understand sometimes, but in his head, he is two steps ahead of everyone.

“He didn’t get a lot wrong, a few changes and some tactical tweaks did everything for us.

“I think he’s a great man-to-man trainer and you can talk to him on your level, he doesn’t feel above you. A great manager.”

You have built a strong partnership with Marvin Ekpiteta, how is it to play alongside him?

” He is incredible. The things he does well, he does amazingly. He has improved a lot as a player over the past two years.

“Playing regularly means he’s getting better on the ball, I think that’s his biggest improvement, but it’s a force to be reckoned with in every part of his game.

“In duels he’s hard to get through so he’s a brick and I think he’ll do great things for Blackpool.

“He’s also a brilliant person and I think being a good person first is really important to blunder him.”

When did you start thinking that promotion from League One was a possibility?

“As soon as we realized how hard we had to play, keep doing our things, then the points would come.

“Just before Christmas we had a spell where we were winning a lot, climbing the table and the belief started there.

“Also when we beat West Brom in the cup I got injured, that’s when we realized we were there – that our standard was so high that we realized we had to aim for more. high after that.”

Despite the frustration of the injuries, how was the Wembley experience?

“It was mixed emotions for me, of course I’ve played in big stadiums, but Wembley is at the top level so being out and not playing with my team-mates was difficult.

“But I knew I had made the decision to go and operate on my injury, so that was fine with me, so it was a great day and it was great to experience the atmosphere.

“It’s not often you get these big moments, so I decided to leave the frustration at home and get involved in the celebrations, so it was really fun.”

How important is the Iceland national team to your professional ambitions?

“Really big, it was a bit difficult for me to get into it because of the Euros and everything when I was getting the players up at my age when the team was doing so well, so it was difficult to enter.

“But now when there is a generational renewal in Iceland, I have arrived now and the other new players have also arrived. They are 19, 20 and 21, so it is my duty to help them and I will probably only play not as many years old as they are now.

“My motivation is to keep playing for them and to do that I have to play regularly, which is why I left Blackpool.”

Was it a difficult decision to leave Blackpool?

“Of course, it’s your choice and you have to take it with yourself.

“Now of course seeing Marv was a bit off and Keogh was off for a while, it was a tough emotion to finally see if I was there I would have finally had my chance to play.

“It wasn’t enough for me to get a game every month or so, you have to play regularly to gain confidence and play your best game – you’re not able to do that if you play once a month .

“So to see that I would have had a few games in a row and to see Jordan Thorniley do really well, it’s a bit difficult but I made my choice and I’m happy to be here.”

There seems to be a real connection between the fans and the team, did you feel that yourself during your stay here?

“They are the 12th man on the field. Home and away it doesn’t matter as they are the loudest in the stadium anyway.

“The first season back in the Championship, they gave the team an extra boost to hear them singing the whole game and they are still there with their team.

“There have been a few games recently where they conceded late goals so it must be frustrating for the fans and the players, but they support them.

“The team is doing much better than anyone expected and all the fans are thinking positively about the playoffs – it’s important that they support the team throughout the game.”

The style of play on the pitch is intense, is it the same every day in training?

“I would say yes and when we have two games a week it’s hard to train when it’s Tuesday/Saturday, you just get by when you’re playing.

“But from Saturday to Saturday the training is intense and tactically there are a lot of little adjustments he makes every week of what he wants to be different depending on the teams we play so everyone knows what’s going on. are expected of them.

“The small details he touches on put him above anyone I’ve worked for and he’s always demanded more of us, regardless of the previous result. He’s never happy.

“It’s brilliant.”

Now that you play in another country, how do you settle in?

“It’s a new challenge for me. I went to Norway and learned Norwegian so I could talk to my teammates. I want to learn Polish, which will be a little harder because it’s ridiculously difficult, but you get different respect from teammates when you try to learn the language, so I want to do that.

Do you find it difficult to adapt to new environments?

“I think about it a lot and when I went to England to sign for Blackpool, I left with the idea that I had to develop things in my game that I needed to be better in certain aspects.

“Duels and physical contact before the ball arrived and stuff like that, so England were perfect to develop that.

“In Norway when the ball is in the air, if it’s physical the referee blows his whistle immediately whereas in England they let you struggle a bit and it took some getting used to – I did it at the end I think and it helped my game and gave me more experience.

“Coming here is more of a home and away game, there are more chances to take risks here. In England if you make a mistake you are immediately punished, you have to evaluate what you are doing, but here people try more things.

“Sometimes it’s a bit naive, but in the end it’s another style that I have to get used to and coming from England and not making too many mistakes will benefit me here.”

Would you like to return to England in the future?

“I don’t want to close any doors, I would love to go back to England one day because it’s a different feeling to play there. The fan engagement is on a different level there and of course with the new work permit rules, I’m still eligible.

“So I certainly wouldn’t close any doors and would love to come back to England one day.”

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