Watching Blackpool FC
“We don’t want to go home !” “We don’t want to go home!”
“This is the best trip we’ve ever been on!” “This is the best trip we’ve ever been on!”
So sang the tangerine-clad fans as Blackpool football club leapt up the Championship table in 2010.
It was a great trip too; I know that because I was there for some of it.
Blackpool FC were founded in 1887. They started playing at their Bloomfield Road ground in 1905 and adopted their distinctive tangerine kit after the First World War. Blackpool spent most of their first 80 years in the top two tiers of English football. For 20 years after the Second World War they stayed in the First Division and their most famous achievement was winning the FA Cup Final in 1953, the Queen’s coronation year.
They came back from behind to beat Bolton 4-3. The game was named the “Matthew’s Final” after Blackpool’s most famous player, the legendary Stanley Matthews, but it was actually another Stan, Stan Mortensen, who scored most of the goals.
From the late 1960’s onwards Blackpool began a long steady decline that was to take them almost to the bottom of the 4th tier in the mid-1980’s and with it the prospect of relegation from the whole football league. They managed to hold on, just, but were confined to the 3rd or 4th tiers for the next 20 years.
When I was growing up in Blackpool the decline had already begun. My father, who used to go to watch them with his own father in the glory days, showed no interest in taking me. He encouraged me to follow Manchester City instead. I did, albeit halfheartedly, but I would always keep an eye out for Blackpool too. Later when I was far away I would check their position in the league tables.
Since 2007 I have become a little bit more involved and I have managed to follow the roller coaster progress of Blackpool a little more closely.
Here are 13 memorable matches I watched in the first four years from 2007 to 2011.
2006-7 League One Playoff Final – Wembley, 27th May 2007.
Blackpool 2 Yeovil 0
By 2007 we were making more and more frequent weekend trips to the Blackpool area to care for my mother and father who were ailing fast. On one such trip in May 2007 we went to the local pub to watch the league one (3rd tier) playoff final live on the TV.
Managed by the energetic Simon Grayson Blackpool triumphed in the finals helped by goals from Robbie Williams and Keigan Parker. For the first time in my adult life Blackpool were in the 2nd tier (Championship)!
The next day we drove up to the ground and enjoyed the atmosphere with other fans who had gathered around the statue of Stan Mortensen to celebrate.
Championship 2007-8 Season, 12th January 2008.
Charlton 4 Blackpool 1
I had already been to watch Charlton Athletic play a few home games at the Valley with a friend who was a keen supporter of theirs. He got me tickets for this fixture and we sat together in the Charlton half. It was a pretty miserable feeling. Ben Burgess, the season’s top scorer, scored the one Blackpool goal. Blackpool were hopeless in defence and my friend told me he doubted they would stay up in the Championship.
It was quite a nice feeling to be able to confront him with the 5-3 score of the return fixture later in the season. Blackpool finished 19th in the table and stayed up.
Championship 2008-9 Season, 31st January 2009.
Crystal Palace 0 Blackpool 1
In December 2008 Grayson left Blackpool and went to Leeds. Tony Parkes took over as caretaker and he was in charge when my wife and I headed, for the first time clad in tangerine, to Crystal Palace.
The match didn’t start well and almost immediately Paul Rachubka, the American goal keeper, was red carded and sent off. Blackpool were suddenly down to 10 men.
The atmosphere changed when D J Campbell, that season’s top scorer, fired in a penalty in the 41st minute. The rest of the game was a real cliff hanger but Blackpool hung on. At the end the fans went wild. My wife loved the atmosphere that day. The Blackpool fans were just wonderful. The more they shouted insults at the Palace fans the more she loved it.
Championship 2008-9 Season, 18th April 2009.
Charlton 2 Blackpool 2
We went back to the Valley and this time sat in the Blackpool half. Charlton were demoted that day but Blackpool hung on to finish in 19th place.
Championship 2009-10 Season, 27th March 2010
Plymouth 0 Blackpool 2
By the time I turned up at Plymouth Argyle with my friend in March 2010, Ian Holloway had replaced Parkes and was starting to work wonders with the team. Gilks had replaced Rabchuka in goal and “wonder kid” Charlie Adam had been brought into the team. My friend, a Plymouth fan, was kind enough to agree to sit in the Blackpool section.
Blackpool were lacklustre in the first half and I feared the worst. Then Dobbie and Adam scored and the result became one of the 10 consecutive victories that powered Blackpool into the play off final at Wembley later that year.
2009-10 Championship Playoff Final – Wembley, 22nd May 2010.
Blackpool 3 Cardiff 2
I was away in USA when Blackpool beat Nottingham Forest (6-4 on aggregate) to reach the play off final, but I wasted no time when I got back in securing two tickets for the game.
We got up to Wembley quite early and we were greeted by a sea of tangerine (with a bit of blue for Cardiff too) stretching all the way from the tube station to the ground. We got into the impressive stadium and settled into our seats.
It was nail biting stuff. Cardiff scored first, then Adam equalised, Cardiff got ahead again and then Taylor Fletcher put Blackpool level once more. Finally Ormerod put Blackpool in front in the 45th minute.
That was all in the first half. We then had to sit through another 45 minutes in agony hoping that Blackpool would just hold on to the lead.
They did. As the final whistle blew we all just went totally wild. The atmosphere was something else. Grown men were crying openly and everyone was hugging each other. Nobody could quite believe that Blackpool were in the top flight of English football for the first time since 1971.
The tube train ride home was certainly one of the best trips I have ever been on!
Premier League – 2010-11 Season, 19th September 2010
Chelsea 4 Blackpool 0
When the new season opened Blackpool surprised everyone by beating Wigan 4-0 in the first game. Suddenly Blackpool, who had been widely expected to lose every game, were everyone’s second team and the enigmatic manager Ian Holloway became a favourite on the TV with his humorous post-match commentaries.
We missed the first two games as were out of the country. I was upset about missing the second one because it was at Arsenal and I had hoped to get to all of the London-area games. In the event Blackpool lost 6-0.
We expected a similar result when we turned up at Otford Station later in September for the Chelsea game. We were clad in our new tangerine Premier League kit. We got the train up to Victoria and then went for a couple of pints at the Prince of Wales pub nearby.
By strange coincidence the landlady was from Blackpool and she provided the only pub in south London that it was safe for us to drink in. The pub, both inside and out, was heaving with the Tangerine Army.
Eventually, we set off to Stamford Bridge and then took our seats to watch Blackpool get destroyed by the home side. Goals came in the 2nd 12th 30th and 41st minutes and included a Blackpool own goal too. The Blackpool fans didn’t care. Most of them just couldn’t believe they were actually at Chelsea in the first place. They happily sang “we are going to win 5-4” until the 89th minute.
Premier League – 2010-2011 Season, 25th September 2010
Blackpool 1 Blackburn 2
The next week I managed to fit in a trip to Blackpool ahead of a trip to Japan. I actually changed the flight to fly out of Manchester instead especially. We headed up to Bloomfield Road and took our seats in the new extension “pop up” stand. The new stand had been hastily erected to boost the stadium’s capacity. At 16,000 it was still the smallest ever to host Premier League games.
We watched Charlie Adam score, but unfortunately it was another own goal. Matt Phillips, who was hailed as the new wonder boy, got Pool’s only legitimate goal. It wasn’t a brilliant day to be honest.
Premier League – 2010-2011 Season, 13th November 2010
West Ham 0 Blackpool 0
On our way to the Boleyn Ground in east London we encountered the only real hostility of the whole season. As we reached one of the junctions near the stadium there was a large group of “hammers” shouting a torrent of abuse at us. We never got that anywhere else in London. We were happy with the draw though and actually it was Blackpool who looked likeliest to score in the second half.
Premier League -2010-2011 Season, 20th November 2010
Blackpool 2 Wolves 1
A week later a friend (another pool supporter) and I made the long day trip up to Blackpool and back. We took my car and shared the driving. It was well worth the 10-hour drive. We watched Varney score after 33 mins and then Harewood make it 2-0 after 44 mins. We were sitting quite comfortably then but Wolves managed to get one back just before the end. Prince William was at the game and Holloway was reported to have told him to keep his hands off Blackpool’s women.
Premier League – 2010-2011 Season, 11th December 2010
Stoke 0 Blackpool 1
For me, watching this game was second only to the playoff victory at Wembley. There was something magical about the atmosphere.
It was actually during quite a cold spell and Blackpool’s previous two home games had been cancelled due to the lack of under-pitch heating. I like watching games on cold, dark winter afternoons for some reason and this was one of those.
We arrived in Stoke early and toured the town. We had a few pints in a pub and got a delicious pie from Wrights. We made our way to the Britannia Stadium and then watched as both sets of fans stood in silence whilst a tribute to Stanley Matthews was played on the video screen. Matthews played for Stoke as well as Blackpool and is a hero to both clubs. The two teams had not met for many years, so it was quite an emotional re-union and it was a nice touch from the people at Stoke.
The match was a little slow. Blackpool were a little rusty after their long break, but they warmed up and DJ Campbell scored just after half time. The result was the 4th away win of the season and meant that Pool were at a respectable 10th position in the table.
Premier League – 2010-2011 Season, 3rd April 2011
Fulham 3 Blackpool 0
Over the next few months the early success that Blackpool had enjoyed at the start of the season evaporated. There were lots of excuses: the team were tired; Charlie Adam was unhappy: the home pitch was a mess. We turned up at Craven Cottage to watch them collapse against Fulham. The passing was terrible and they gave the worst performance out of all the games we saw that year.
Premier League -2010-2011 Season, 7th May 2011
Tottenham 1 Blackpool 1
When we headed up by train from Liverpool St to White Hart Lane a month later, Blackpool were 17th in the table. They really needed to win the game in order to stay up. Charlie Adam scored in the 76th Minute and our hopes were high. The Tottenham equaliser came in the 89th and the end result felt like a terrible defeat. The Tottenham fans were great though and tried to cheer us up on the way out telling us how much they hoped we could stay up.
We hoped so too.
It was not to be. Even though Blackpool won the next game, a fairy tale recreation of the 1953 FA Cup against Bolton with the same 4-3 score line, other results conspired against them. A loss away to Manchester United on the last day of the season meant that “the best trip we had ever been on had finally come to an end”.
We carried on going to the matches though and over the next few years we saw Blackpool win, lose and draw at Bloomfield Road, Charlton, Reading, Ipswich, Brighton, Crystal Palace and even Millwall.
The bitterest experience was another Wembley playoff final two years after the first one. Blackpool attempted to return to the Premier League after a year in the Championship but were defeated at Wembley by West Ham of all people. That tube ride home was the worst trip I’ve ever been on.
As of 2017, Blackpool are playing in League One; the third tier of English football.
If you are not from the UK the names of the various leagues of English Football can be confusing. They were changed in 1992 when the old first division teams set up the Premier League.
|1||First Division||Premier League|
|3||Third Division||League One|
|4||Fourth Division||League Two|