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Multi-million pound Reading FC man did not live up to hype

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HIGHLIGHTS

  •  Blackman’s career was full of ups and downs, from promising youth to struggling for form at big clubs.
  •  Despite early success at Macclesfield and Motherwell, Blackman failed to make a lasting impact in England.
  •  A move to Maccabi Tel Aviv reignited his career briefly after Derby, leading to a Ligat ha’Al title before eventual decline.

 

With Derby County sitting in the top two of the Championship in January 2016, Nick Blackman’s transfer from Reading FC was meant to propel the side forwards to promotion. However, everything was not as it promised to be.

Born in Salford, Greater Manchester, Blackman spent five years at Manchester United’s academy from the age of eight. But, after moves to Bury and Preston North End in his youth failed to prosper, he was signed by the now dissolved Macclesfield Town – earning his first professional contract in 2007.

At just 17 years of age, he made his debut against Accrington Stanley in a 3-2 loss in the second to last game of the League Two season. Macclesfield finished the season 22nd, with Blackman hoping to play a bigger part in the next campaign.

A crushing injury to Blackman halted his plans for the start of 2007/08, failing to play a part until November when he scored his first senior goal against Northampton Town.

Despite making just 12 appearances for the Silkmen, Blackburn Rovers signed the highly-rated prospect on a two and a half year deal in January 2009, before loan moves to Blackpool, Oldham Athletic, Mothewell and Aberdeen.

His first season in Scotland with Motherwell proved to be a breakout year for the Barbadian international, scoring 10 goals in the Scottish Premier League in just 18 games during the 2010/11 campaign – including his first career hat-trick against St. Johnstone.

Blackman returns to England

Although Blackman had started to show his ability away from his parent club, he failed to transmit it back to Rovers. He made just one Premier League appearance, a six-minute cameo in an opening day home loss to Wolverhampton Wanderers in August 2011.

A year later, the six-foot-two striker was signed by Sheffield United in League One, after spending the majority of the previous season in the Premier League Reserve League.

For the Blades, he played a vital role until January 2013. Blackman was allowed the freedom of Sheffield United’s front-three, playing in a multitude of roles and netting 11 goals in 28 matches.

His goal-scoring form kept his team battling in the play-off positions throughout the start of the 2012-13 season, and he started to garner the attention of Premier League and Championship sides alike.

Premier League football and relegation at Reading FC

One Premier League side that sparked interest in Blackman was Reading. The Berkshire-based side had won promotion to the top flight the year prior, after finishing top of the Championship.

However, their first season back at the pinnacle of English football was not going well. The Royals had accrued just 19 points in the first 23 games of the season, leaving them languishing in 18th place.

On 30 January 2013, Reading signed the ex-Blackburn man for an undisclosed fee on a three-and-a-half year deal. Blackman had played against his new side for his former club just two days prior to the move, as the Blades were put to the sword in a 4-0 FA Cup Fourth Round defeat.

Nick Blackman Sheffield United vs Reading

Speaking to media at the time of his arrival, he said: “I’m really looking forward to it, and I’m very excited.

“I met the gaffer last night, he was fantastic with me and I couldn’t have asked any more from him and Nick Hammond. I can’t wait to play – hopefully I can try and get involved as soon as possible.”

Their new forward had to watch on from the stands in a 2-2 draw at home against Chelsea, before making his debut in the next fixture, a 2-1 victory over Sunderland. But, their form started to turn sour.

Despite starting for the first time for his new side against Stoke City, Blackman found himself out of the side against Wigan Athletic before returning for a short cameo in a 3-1 away loss at Everton. He struggled to make an impact on the team, playing from the start just twice more before the end of the season while failing to score and assisting just one goal.

Reading continued to find themselves in a rut, losing 10 of the remaining 13 matches after the draw against Chelsea. It was this run that ultimately saw the Royals drop back down to the Championship after finishing 19th, costing manager Brian McDermott his job in the process.

Final years in Berkshire and transfer to Derby

Reading had been hoping to bounce straight back to the Championship, but missed out on the play-offs by just one point. Blackman featured 30 times during the 2013/14 league campaign, but once again struggled on the goal-front, scoring just four times.

 

The following season saw the forward appear in 37 games, but for the now 25-year-old, goals were still hard to come by. He found the net just three times in the Championship in 2014/15, including two in two games. But this was as good as it got as Reading survived by nine points – finishing 19th in a very disappointing campaign.

Contrary to previous years, Blackman was given game-time from the opening fixture of the 2015/16 season by manager Steve Clarke. This new trust sparked goal-scoring form that had been hard to come by previously, and by matchday 13, the Barbadian international had nine goals to his name.

Two more strikes found the back of the net before a January transfer to Derby, with Rams boss Paul Clement looking to take the club back to the Premier League for the first time since 2008.

Struggling at Derby County

The East-Midlands side were second in the Championship when Blackman became a part of the club, joining the Rams on a three-and-a-half year deal, worth a reported £2.5 million – with his contract at Reading due to expire in the summer.

Clement had coached Blackman during the early days of his career at Blackburn when he was the assistant manager – and was keen to add the forward to his ranks: “We are delighted to bring one of the Championship’s leading goalscorers to the club.

“There has been a lot of interest in him, so we’re naturally happy that he has chosen to join us.”

Ironically, his first game in black and white was against his former employers, playing the full 90 minutes in a 1-1 draw at Pride Park Stadium.

Derby, after going top of the Championship on Boxing Day 2015, failed to win in their next nine, dropping them to sixth. By this time, Blackman had slowly started to be pushed out of the starting side, and in a 1-0 home loss against MK Dons he was left as an unused substitute.

Nick Blackman Derby County vs Preston North End

Clement was sacked during this run, with Derby’s Academy Director, Darren Wassall, taking over until the end of the seasonHarry Redknapp also joined the club as an advisor as the task changed from that of automatic promotion to making the play-offs.

During this time, Blackman started to find himself isolated, failing to be involved in nine of Derby’s final 12 games – not even making the bench in a 1-0 East Midlands derby win over Nottingham Forest.

Despite such a poor second half of the season, Derby made it to the play-offs. But, a 3-0 home loss against Hull City in the first leg proved too much to overcome in the return match. The Tigers ran out 3-2 winners on aggregate as the Rams came close, before beating Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 in the final.

 

The 2016/17 proved to be the beginning of a very quick end at Derby for Blackman. Nigel Pearson had sparingly used the forward in his nine league games in charge. However, after his sacking, the multi-million pound man finally broke his duck.

A 80th minute penalty to secure a 2-0 victory away at Cardiff City in September 2016, was the first and only goal of Blackman’s Derby career – and helped take the club out of the relegation zone.

A knee injury stopped him from adding to his Rams tally, and it took until the final game of the season of 2016/17 for new manager Gary Rowett to give Blackman a short cameo. However, after failing to impress in a 1-1 draw at Rotherham United, his time at Derby was all-but up.

 

Nick Blackman Club Stats (TransferMarkt) Apps Goals Assists
Macclesfield Town 12 1 0
Blackburn Rovers 1 0 0
Blackpool 5 1 0
Oldham Athletic 12 1 0
Motherwell 18 10 2
Aberdeen 15 2 0
Sheffield United 28 11 6
Reading 103 18 5
Derby County 24 1 0
Maccabi Tel Aviv 66 14 5
Sporting Gijon 14 1 0

The final steps for Blackman

Bizarrely, four months after the final whistle against Rotherham, Blackman found himself playing in the UEFA Europa League at Maccabi Tel Aviv, scoring the winning goal in a 1-0 victory against Villarreal.

His loan to the 2016/17 Ligat ha’Al runners-up reignited his career. 10 goals in 31 league games earned him a permanent move for the 2019/20 season after a less than impressive loan to Spanish side Sporting Gijon in-between.

A first major trophy followed after his transfer, as his side won the Ligat ha’Al in his first season, giving him the chance to play in the UEFA Champions League for the first time.

Three goals in the qualifying stages were not enough to help his side into the groups and, after an injury-hit season, his momentum started to fizzle out.

Now 34, Blackman has been a free agent since leaving Tel Aviv at the end of the 2020/21 season, and seems to be all-but retired for now. His career at Derby proved to be vital in giving him a chance abroad. However, it can be said that his career was a touch underwhelming, and he failed to live up to the hype that surrounded him in his youth career.

 

 

 

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