Lost in…Blackpool

Blackpool v Scunthorpe United

Bloomfield Road / League One / 16th January 2015

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A clue to where Lost Boyos was heading today…

At the time of writing, Jonjo Shelvey is not the most popular man in Swansea having just left them for Newcastle. His form had dropped dramatically, his attitude was slowly beginning to slide back towards ‘default Jonjo’ and he certainly didn’t help himself by having a verbal spat with our own fans after the Swans slumped to a 3-2 loss to Oxford last weekend. It’s certainly never dull with our Jonjo. More than most Swansea fans, I have a soft spot for our enigmatic midfielder, mainly because I seemed to have followed his career on my football travels.

On moving from South Wales to Liverpool for a year back in 2010, I just happened to find myself on the Anfield Kop (I had a free ticket given to me) for Shelvey’s Liverpool debut in a League Cup loss to Northampton tie. I also happened to be back in Swansea for his Swans debut in a Europa League qualifier against Malmo, as well as having witnessed him as a precocious 17-year-old for Charlton. Fair to say, the youngster had always impressed me, but it was on another day when fate seemed to make me and Jonjo’s passes cross again that made me really stand up and take notice of him.

I’d just past the 12 month mark of living in the north-west, switching Liverpool for Manchester, when for no reason other than I had never visited Blackpool in my life, I headed to the seaside resort on an oddly sunny October afternoon to watch Blackpool v Bristol City. The day before, Blackpool had signed Shelvey on a short loan deal from Liverpool and so I would be treated to another Shelvey debut. I was blown away. Shelvey was untouchable that day as Blackpool tore Bristol apart 5-0 with Shelvey easily Man of the Match. However, the highlight was undoubtedly Shelvey’s debut goal. I was right behind the goal he shot at and I honestly thought the ball was going to come through the net and take my face off. Amazingly, Shelvey scored a 40-yard freekick that soared into the bottom corner for one of my all-time favourite goals I’ve seen live.

This game was about 3 months before Lost Boyos was born and so I’ve never really had the opportunity to lavish praise on Shelvey’s showing on that day in blog form -I’ve done that now. But what of the rest of Blackpool FC? Well, when Lost Boyos regular  Craig stated he’d never been to Bloomfield Road, I figured that I’d join him for his first experience of the Tangerines’ home and finally give Blackpool FC a place to call their own on this humble blog. It would mean not performing my usual trick of seeing Jonjo’s debut for his new club though.

The night before in Manchester had involved exploding cocktails in the furtive surroundings of The Wash House, visiting the self-proclaimed smallest bar in Europe and butchering the likes of James and Ronan Keating to the amusement of my German and French housemates – so it was fair to say that we were not exactly full of life the next day; more so Craig though, who was in an old Blackpool shirt he had acquired on his pursuit of collecting Football League shirts, as he looked at me sickeningly as I put two cans of Fosters in my bag for the train to Blackpool. However, Craig did have the honour of wearing ‘the Topman jacket’ today; weirdly, we’d both bought the exact same Topman jacket 24 hours apart from each other (I claimed first purchase), so we realised that for future football excursions we’ll have to pre-consult each other as to who, if either of us, is wearing ‘the Topman jacket’. Anyway, enough of Lost Boyos fashion issues – onwards to sunny Blackpool (note: it definitely was not sunny today).

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Craig was struggling a bit (so you can probably guess who’s drink is who’s). At least he’s wearing a nice jacket though…

From Manchester Victoria we set off and after an hour or so (which involved just the one toilet visit due to sickness from Craig) the sight of Blackpool Tower was ahead of us. I think I’ve said this in both my AFC Blackpool and Squires Gate blog, but I bloody love Blackpool. You know what you are getting with Blackpool – the garish tackiness of it all seems to be the main reason why people slate the place, but all I see when I get to Blackpool is fun – fun blanketed in garish tackiness of course.

I was disappointed that the North Pier was closed and so I couldn’t perform my usual tradition of walking up it at the start of the day, but I didn’t have time dwell on this, before Craig was darting down to the beach. It was absolutely freezing, so I was sure he wasn’t going down there to sunbathe or to build any sandcastles. It turned out he wanted to head down there to write a ‘Oyston Out’ message in the sand. For those who live under rocks, Karl Oyston is Blackpool’s chairman doused in infamy, who fans have been protesting against for years due to his lack of investment into the infrastructure of Blackpool FC. Many fans now refuse to go to the games and one such fan even tweeted me to inform me of their disgust that I was going to Bloomfield Road and that I was funding Oyston. Me and Craig both confessed it probably was a bit shitty of us to be going there today, but Craig was determined to ‘tick off’ the ground so we had to deal with our consciences.

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No walk along the North Pier for me today.

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Craig launches his own protest against the Blackpool ownership #OystonOut

Once Craig had made his sandy protest (“Hopefully he’ll see this from his helicopter!”) we headed back up to seafront, where Craig spotted a Blackpool landmark that he wanted to visit. Craig had spoke on the train of a shop on the seafront selling sticks of rock in the colours of every one of the 92 league clubs in the country with the club named brandished along it. On spotting said shop, we excitedly perused the rock on offer and I was delighted to find a Swansea City stick of rock, while Craig was left disappointed by the lack of Crawley Town rock (he also noted that weirdly there was no Blackpool FC rock either – I speculated whether Oyston had abolished them too). My Swansea rock is still in my bag actually and it has occurred to me that I don’t even like rock that much, so who knows when or who is going to eat it; perhaps I should make it the first ever Lost Boyos competition prize.

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Football club sticks of rock.

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Swansea! You Jack Bastards! You Jack Bastards!

Obviously, as always these days it seems, we began our drinking in Wetherspoons…well, I began my drinking as Craig had his car parked outside my Salford abode and would be driving back to Huddersfield that evening. The Layton Rakes is not your most thrilling Wetherspoons, something I was aware of having visited here before going to Squire’s Gate FC, and so after one beer, we headed around the corner to the more colourful and traditional Mitre Hotel.

As we walked in I began explaining to Craig that last time I was in here I had a local declaring his disdain for the British education system; on walking in, I spotted the very same guy at the bar again, this time moaning about life to some chirpy Scotsmen. As tends to happen to me, we were soon chatting with the Scots – Celtic fans too which is always to my liking. Beer and good company was enjoyed, but we wanted to get ourselves nearer Bloomfield Road, so we continued our wander down the seafront.

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Me and Craig make some Scottish friends in the Mitre and I bump into the native who lectured me on the education system (the guy hiding at the back).

After walking past the usual array of fish and chips and arcades that are ubiquitous on the Blackpool seafront, we eventually veered left away from the front and into the streets that surround Bloomfield Road. We still had plenty of time until kick-off though, so I predictably suggested visiting another pub.

The Ardwick. Just wow. Okay, it’s the most interesting interior of a pub you’ll ever visit, but I thought I’d conned the barmaid when she charged me £1.50 for a pint. Amazingly, this was the actually price. “We’re staying here for at least two Craig,” was my instant reaction. It was in the Ardwick I also unveiled my own Blackpool tribute to the public. I mentioned Jonjo a lot at the start, but underneath my jumper I was wearing my orange Swansea away shirt from our first year in the Premier League. Not only that, I had the name of a Blackpool legend on the back: Stephen Dobbie. Dobbie will always go down as one of my favourite Swans players, even though our managers didn’t quite know what to do with him. One such manager, Paulo Sousa, thought it’d be clever to send him on loan to Championship promotion rivals Blackpool, where he instantly had an impact and helped the club reach the Premier League at the expense of the Swans (fortunately, the next season Brendan Rodgers worked out how best to harness the powers of mercurial  ‘Scottish Messi’ and he helped propel Swansea to the Premier League too). Sadly, Dobbie is now languishing at Bolton Wanderers.

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My orange Swansea away shirt from 11/12 with ‘DOBBIE 14’ on the back – a Blackpool legend as much as a Swans hero.

I left the Ardwick a happy boy after enjoying two pints for £3 (still amazed me) and watching Swansea’s relegation rivals Sunderland lose to Spurs, but it was now time to navigate our way to Bloomfield Road, a task that didn’t prove too difficult. This is one of the chief positives of Bloomfield Road: it’s location just short distance away from the hub of Blackpool.

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The snow comes down as Craig hunts down the ground.

Soon we were outside the fairly generic-looking ground and at the ticket office buying our tickets (£22 for League One football action today). I was unsurprised to find myself still on the club’s database from my first visit, as I still receive letters from them in the summer months asking me do I want to buy a season ticket. No, thanks.

Our next stop was the club shop where I did get excited about last season’s shirts being on sale for £5, but sadly they were for children and there was no sign of any cheap adult ones. Nor was there anything too quirky in the shop, so off we headed around to the arse end of he stadium, after Craig had chatted away to some Scunthorpe fans he knows from his Crawley adventures and who wanted us to join them in the away end (probably for the best that we didn’t when you see the events that are about to unfold). We directed ourselves towards the South Stand , renamed the Armfield Stand in tribute to the legendary Jimmy Armfield, as this was where we would be frequenting on this wintry Saturday afternoon.

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Arriving at Bloomfield Road.

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Bloomfield Road.

As we had predicted, the concourse was rather devoid of fans as we headed through and we didn’t exactly expect it to fill out either with Blackpool not exactly getting bumper crowds anymore (thanks to the Oyston-orientated issues alluded to earlier). With it being freezing, I figured I better top up my ‘beer jacket’ by having a prematch pint, whilst Craig worked on his whatever the opposite of a ‘beer jacket’ is by purchasing Vimto (who buys Vimto at football?) Craig redeemed himself by continuing his descent into northern-ness with a pie purchase, as I tried to get a photo of the lad with ‘HARRISON 26’ on the back of his Blackpool shirt; good name choice that.

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Not a busy day at Blackpool FC.

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Good name choice mate. Evidently a Lost Boyos fan…

Soon we were in our place in the South Stand with Bloomfield Road spanning out ahead of us. The ground itself is fine, but not exactly one to get the pulse racing with 3 of the stands being the typical single-tiered, rather bland looking structures you find at new-builds up and down the country. Of course, Bloomfield Road is far from a new-build and has been the home of Blackpool FC since 1901 (the club mainly played at Raikes Hall Gardens for the previous 14 years of their existence). Unsurprisingly, the ground has seen extensive redevelopment over the years with the stand alone East Stand being the newest addition to the ground, as it replaced the former East Paddock (or the “Scratching Sheds”) ready for the club’s 2010 Premier League adventure.

Now sufficiently protected from the snowy winter wind coming in from the nearby Irish Sea and with the teams lining up out on the pitch, we were ready for today’s League One action. With Blackpool being the lowest scorers in League One and struggling around the relegation zone, plus today’s opponents Scunny not exactly soaring too much further up the league either, I wasn’t expecting to see anything like the 5-0 demolition I witnessed on my first visit here…

BANG! What was I thinking? Two minutes gone and it was 1-0 to the Seasiders. A nicely floated freekick from Jim McAllister saw Tom Aldred rise above everyone to header home to put the home team ahead.

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Calm before the storm…

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Match action.

Blackpool started the game excellently and Scunthorpe looked dumbfounded as the Tangerines forcefully surged forward constantly. Their 2nd goal was an absolute delight and one of the passing moves I’ve seen all season. Former Salford and Morecambe (two Lost Boyos favourites) striker Jack Redshaw played 3 one-twos, before cleverly playing in Brad Potts who finished from close range to make it 2-0. There was still only 12 minutes on the clock.

The final goal of a fine first half performance by Blackpool came in the 28th minute as Potts’ grabbed himself a 2nd goal of the game with a composed finish after bursting through on goal with no defenders around him. It really was kamikaze defending at times from Scunthorpe.

We were enjoying the attacking football on offer from Blackpool, but there was one player on the pitch that Craig felt a bit sorry for. For some reason (well, he did give me some long-winded explanation, which I’ve since forgotten) Craig loves Scunthorpe United attacker Paddy Madden; a love to the extent that Craig actually named his Fiat ‘Paddy’. Yes, he actually did that. To be honest, Scunthorpe were attacking so little that I don’t think it’d have made a difference today if Craig’s Fiat Paddy was up front instead of Paddy Madden.

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Match action.

Half-time: Blackpool 3 – 0 Scunthorpe United.

A half-time steak pie was purchased (standard Holland’s pie – alright, but nothing to write home about it) and then it was time for the second half. My heart was now set on a repeat 5-0 score; no more than that either, as I liked the idea of both my visits being the same score.

Scunthorpe had started the half a bit better, but our attentions were more preoccupied by the rather raucous lady in front of us, who took it upon herself to launch a quite spectacular diatribe towards the Blackpool stewards (I don’t think her comments should be placed on here). However, if the stewards were getting slaughtered in the stands, it was nothing compared to poor Scunthorpe out on the pitch.

It wasn’t too long until Blackpool made it 4-0. Some nice play down the left wing saw an almighty scramble in the box and it looked like Scunthorpe had got away without conceding, before David Norris came surging in to shoot past the keeper and the several defenders in the goalmouth to make it 4-0.

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Match action.

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Match action.

Scunthorpe had lost their heads now and Blackpool just began to relentlessly attack them and it was only a surprise that it took so long for Blackpool to score the 5th goal that I so desperately wanted them to.

It would in the 82nd minute that Blackpool would claim their 5th of the game. A quick burst forward from Redshaw saw him play in Potts, who then unselfishly didn’t try to score his hatrick goal and instead played in Danny Philliskirk to fire home past the keeper. 5-0. Absolute rout. It was probably for the best that we didn’t take up that offer from the Scunthorpe fans earlier to join them in the away end.

Full-time: Blackpool 5 – 0 Scunthorpe United.

It had been a weird afternoon of football. Of course, as a neutral, it was great to see so many goals and such a good footballing show from the home team. However, as the empty seats professed, there is just a really strange vibe around Blackpool at the moment and I have to confess to feeling a little bit dirty putting money towards Oyston. In two visits to Bloomfield Road now, I’ve witnessed Blackpool win 5-0 both, but fair to say that my first visit was far superior with the place still having an air of buoyancy and optimism about it with Blackpool having only just exited the Premier League the season before and with another promotion chase on the cards that season (they would eventually lose in the play-off final to West Ham).

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Standard double thumbs up photo.

We headed back through the chilly streets of Blackpool with light snow still falling and melting on the seafront pavement. Craig wanted to get back to mine and to Huddersfield in case the snow picked up, but I just wanted to drink in Blackpool. So, we reached a compromise of two pub visits and then home. In the least imaginative of pub choices, we ended up in Yates on the seafront watching Villa v Leicester (with me once again cheering for the team against another fellow relegation contender with Swansea, Villa).

We did have a very quick pint in Molloy’s, just down the road from Blackpool station, but we soon opted to hurry on and catch an earlier train (as long as I could go into the huge Sainsbury’s next to the station to get some of my beloved Punk IPA for the train journey back).

And thus brought to a close another adventure on the Fylde coast. AFC Blackpool, Squires Gate, Fleetwood and now Blackpool (twice) have all been visited. Soon, I’m going to be running out of excuses to visit the glitz and glamour of Blackpool – but I still have Blackpool Wren Rovers, Lytham Town and even AFC Fylde nearby, so I’m sure I’ll be back walking along the North Pier again some time in the near future.

Highlights: always love a trip to Blackpool, Swansea stick of rock, £1.50 beer, Blackpool scoring 5 and playing well.

Low Points: the vibe around Blackpool FC at the moment.

See all my photos from our day in Blackpool here.

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