Critchley had been at Liverpool since 2013 in the Under-18 setup until 2017 and then moved to his Under-23 coaching positions. But the 41-year-old found himself in the spotlight earlier this season when he was twice tasked with managing a Reds team in first-team cup games.
Fixture congestion in December saw Liverpool forced to split resources between the Carabao Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup, with Critchley leading a largely teenage side in the former while Jurgen Klopp and the first team simultaneously headed to Qatar for the latter.
On that occasion, Critchley’s kids were thrashed 5-0 by Villa, but he was again in charge for an FA Cup replay against Shrewsbury in early February that the Reds won.
The second time it happened was more controversial as Klopp had become embroiled in a battle with the FA over the replay intruding on the Premier League winter break, refusing to use any first-team players or himself even attend the game against the lower league side.
Liverpool academy director Alex Inglethorpe described Critchley’s departure as ‘bittersweet’, with disappointment that he is moving on, yet delight that his skills have been recognised.
Blackpool Football Club is delighted to announce that @LFC Under-23s coach Neil Critchley has agreed to become Head Coach on a contract that runs until the end of the 2022/23 season.— Blackpool FC (@BlackpoolFC) March 2, 2020
#UTMP https://t.co/nGw3FdNlkx pic.twitter.com/pIUevB0HTR
“Blackpool want Neil because of the work he’s done at Liverpool and it shows to everyone within our system that if you work hard and work smart then rewards are there,” Inglethorpe said to LiverpoolFC.com.
“Neil epitomises the best qualities of a modern coach: leadership skills, intelligence, compassion and a hunger for individual and collective improvement. Blackpool are very fortunate to have him and we wish him well.”
On joining his new club, Critchley told Blackpool’s official website, ”I can’t wait to get started, I’m really looking forward to the weeks and months ahead, meeting the players, working on the grass, developing the team and meeting some of the supporters.
“The time I’ve had at Liverpool has been truly special. I’ve been incredibly well supported there from Alex Inglethorpe, the academy manager, and all the staff. It’s a truly special football club and it’s the people that make the football club the place that it is. It would have had to have taken something equally as special, if not more, for me to even think about leaving.”