“ I’ve dealt with Lionel Messi – promotion is more important, ” emphasizes Blackpool midfielder Kevin Stewart
‘I’ve dealt with Lionel Messi – but the stakes are much higher in promotional clash’: Blackpool midfielder Kevin Stewart looks ahead to League One play-off final against Lincoln City
- Stewart played against Messi in his previous match at Wembley, for Liverpool
- He was once described by boss Jurgen Klopp as the strongest tackler in the Reds
- And he insisted that Messi pales in comparison to promotion
Blackpool’s Kevin Stewart played against Lionel Messi in his only previous game at Wembley, but even that sensation can’t be compared to taking on Lincoln City on Sunday with championship promotion up for grabs.
This is more important. The stakes are much higher, ” confirms the midfielder, who was part of the Liverpool team that beat Barcelona 4-0 in front of 90,000 fans at the national stadium in a 2016 pre-season tournament.
That said, it has been great to compete against Messi, Luis Suarez, Andres Iniesta. I had studied Sergio Busquets more than anyone as a defensive midfielder and ended up grabbing the ball from him and passing someone.
Kevin Stewart will play for Blackpool on Sunday afternoon in the play-of-final of League One
Stewart played Lionel Messi while at Liverpool, but called promotion more important
‘Yes, it was a good day, but it was still a friendly and this game is about the future. We have a manager and players who I think would do well at a higher level. ‘
Blackpool has lost just one of the 15 games Stewart has played since signing as a free agent with the League One club in January.
Neil Critchley’s side made a great late run to reach the play-off final, giving the Seasiders their favorites to return to the second tier after a six-year hiatus.
Stewart’s experience has been invaluable. Released by his first club Spurs, he joined Liverpool, where he played 20 first-team games and was described by Jurgen Klopp as the toughest tackler at the club.
Injuries marred a £ 4 million move to Hull and he spent the first half of this season without a team until Critchley, who remembered Stewart from his own time as Liverpool coach, picked him up.
Reds boss Jurgen Klopp once called midfielder Stewart the strongest tackler in the entire club
‘Working alone for six months was tough, but I wanted to get back in good shape. I replicated what I would do in a club: training times, gym sessions. ‘ he said.
Liverpool also let me use the Kirkby facilities which was a huge help. I couldn’t go in because of Covid, but I could use the fields and footballs, I worked really hard. ‘
Every Blackpool trip to Wembley brings back memories of the legendary 1953 Matthews Cup final.
More recently, the Tangerine military has experienced the highs of reaching the Premier League under Ian Holloway and lows of relegations under the loathed Oyston property, before being forced to leave in 2019.
Stewart changed from a fullback to midfield during his time at Anfield on the advice of academy director Alex Inglethorpe. “I loved it right away and did it well,” he says.
Stewart and his Tangerines side will face Lincoln City in Wembley with the chance to move up
‘I am proud to make it difficult for the best players in the opposition. Tackles, clean sheets, that’s what drives me. ‘
After eliminating West Brom in this season’s FA Cup, Stewart thinks Blackpool has a football style to match the championship.
In Jerry Yates with 23 goals, they also have the third highest scorer in the regular League One season and will be backed by 4,000 fans with a sold-out Blackpool allocation.
Stewart, who said his interest in real estate helped keep him ‘healthy’ during his hiatus from the match, will be encouraged by his biggest fans at Wembley, two-year-old son Xai and baby Zak.
Xai came onto the field after the play-offs against Oxford and started kicking a ball. I think he has the football bug, ”said the 27-year-old. ‘My wife is coming, her parents, my father. I’ll have a few supporters there. ‘