Blackpool

Blackpool vs Shrewsbury Town, Skybet Football League One, 13/02/16, Bloomfield Road, Match 28

It’s always guaranteed to be a good day, when your first beer of the day comes at 9:55am. In my defense, it was a bottle of Estrella Damm, which had cost me £2.49, and accompanied my breakfast wrap (no egg), in the Sir Henry Tate Wetherspoons in Chorley very well. Whilst a second bottle was tempting, I instead decided to have a wander around Chorley market before heading to catch the train to Blackpool.

I haven’t caught a train in a while, and my eyes watered at the price of a return between Chorley and Blackpool North, £12.80. I miss my student rail card. Once I picked my jaw up off the floor, I bought my ticket and made my way to the platform to wait for the 11:21am train to Blackpool North. When the train pulled into the station I made my way to the front carriage as it looked to be the quietest. It was the quietest until Preston, when some more Shrewsbury fans got on, they were obviously having a good day, as the crates of various beers and cider showed, and to be fair they kept me amused until we got to Blackpool North.

My parents had travelled up from London, the day before, and had stopped the night in a hotel in Blackpool, and they met me from the station. From the station we headed down to the sea front, where I did all the touristy things, such as taking photos of the Blackpool Tower, and narrowly dodging trams, this being my first time in Blackpool I’m sure I can be forgiven for being a bit excited. From the tower we walked down the front, to the Dutton Arms, where we stopped for a pint, and to watch the Sunderland vs Manchester United game. With my dad being a United fan as well as a Shrewsbury fan, he’s been having a hard time of deciding who to support in the upcoming FA cup match, but I’m sure his Salopian blood will sway him in the direction of the Town.

We’d been told by someone in the pub that it was a short twelve minute walk to Bloomfield Road, and I regret not timing our journey, as we had been given a very precise time. I’m sure it took us around twelve minutes to reach Bloomfield Road, but it only took me around two minutes to find the Blackpool Supporter’s Trust (BST) protest outside the main reception. I’m a football fan first, and I do feel a lot of sympathy for the BST who are trying to wrestle control of their club away from the Oystons. Football belongs to the fans, and I feel it is a matter of when the BST gain control not if. Although the Oystons have just announced they have no intention to sell, but as they say “money talks”.

After a chat with the people at the BST protest, we headed around to the turnstiles, before we went we purchased a programme, and took our place in the queue for the turnstiles. The turnstiles are the barcode scanning ones, in which you insert your ticket into a machine and it beeps and allows you through the turnstile. Whilst I’m sure that these help the club save on money, I couldn’t help but miss the presence of an actual turnstile operator.

The first thing you notice about Bloomfield Road, when you get pitch side, is the state of the pitch. It’s terrible. I’m pretty sure that there was more sand on the pitch than there was on the beach. I’m sure it can’t be easy to maintain a football pitch, but for a former Premier League side, it was a shock to see the pitch in the state it was in. Bloomfield Road has almost been completely renovated, with the club being given permission to start the renovations in May 2000. The first stand to be demolished was the Spion Kop, which was levelled in 2000, the West Stand made way in 2001. The West Stand, now known as the Sir Stanley Matthews West Stand, was completed in 2002, and now houses the changing rooms, executive boxes, club offices and the main reception. Following the completion of the West Stand the South and East stands were demolished in June 2003. The next stand to be completed was the Stan Mortensen North Stand, which replaced the Spion Kop. This stand is connected to the West Stand by the North-West Corner stand, and houses the away fans in blocks A & B. Behind this stand there is a statue of Stan Mortensen, which was unveiled in August 2005. The North-West stand, connects the West and North stands, and houses the club shop. The Jimmy Armfield South Stand took a while to be constructed, considering it was demolished in 2003. This stand became a frustration for many Blackpool supporters and it took until 2010 for the South and South-West Corner to be completed, behind this stand is a nine foot tall statue of Jimmy Armfield. There is also a Travelodge hotel behind this stand, which I’m sure must be useful for away teams. The only stand left to be completed is the East Stand, which at this moment in time is a temporary stand, with a capacity of 5,120, this stand is normally given to larger away followings, but was to be shut for today’s match.

Blackpool Football Club were formed in 1887, and in their first season they won two pieces of silverware, the Fylde Cup and the Lancashire Junior Cup. At the end of the 1888 to 1889 season Blackpool became founder members of the Lancashire League, in their first season they finished fifth, before finishing as runners-up for three consecutive seasons, with the club winning the league in the 1893 to 1894 season. The club then applied for entry to the Football League in May 1896, and they were successful in their application, their first season in the Football League saw them join the Second Division. The club were not re-elected at the end of the 1898-1899 season and they spent the following season back in the Lancashire League, but were allowed back into the Football League in 1900, it was around this time that the club amalgamated with local rivals South Shore and they moved to Bloomfield Road. During the next ten seasons the club finished no higher than twelfth place, at the end of the 1910 to 1911 season the club managed to break past twelfth place as they finished in seventh place. Up until the First World War the club finished fourteenth, twentieth, sixteenth and tenth, the outbreak of war forced the cancellation of League Football, and when normalcy resumed in the 1919 to 1920 season the club appointed Bill Norman as their first full time manager. Norman guided them to fourth placed finishes in his first two league seasons in charge. In the 1929 to 1930 season Harry Evans guided Blackpool to the Division Two championship, as they finished three points ahead of Chelsea, however the club were to only last three seasons in the First Division, as two third-bottom finishes were followed by a last-placed finish. The club returned to the First Division in 1937 as they finished runners up in the Second Division to Leicester City.

Following the war two players, who were to become legends for the club, joined. Stan Mortensen, who joined in 1946, and Stanley Matthews, who joined in 1947. The 1950s were to become the most successful decade in the club’s history, as they reached the FA Cup Final on three occasions, losing to Manchester United in 1948, Newcastle in 1951 before they won it in 1953, in a final known as the Stanley Matthews’ Final, the club beat Bolton Wanderers 4-3. In the 1955 to 1956 season Blackpool attained their highest ever league finish as they finished runners up to Manchester United. Blackpool were to lose their place in the First Division in the 1966 to 1967 season, as they finished bottom of the league. Stan Mortensen was appointed as manager for the 1967 to 1968 season, and the club were pipped to promotion by QPR who were promoted by virtue of a better goal-average: 1.86 to Blackpool’s 1.65. Mortensen was sacked at the end of the 1968 to 1969 season, and his replacement Les Shannon guided the club to promotion in the 1969 to 1970 season, as they finished runners up to Huddersfield, however Blackpool soon returned to Division Two as they were relegated in the next season. In the 1977 to 1978 season Blackpool were relegated to Division Three, Blackpool then dropped to the basement division, Division Four, in the 1980 to 1981 season. Sam Ellis was appointed manager in June 1982 and in his third season in charge he led the team back to Division Three, but Ellis soon departed, and in the 1989 to 1990 season the club dropped back into Division Four. The 1991 to 1992 season bought promotion through the play-offs, as they beat Scunthorpe to secure promotion to the new Division Two (Old Division Three).

The club stayed in Division Two, until the 1999 to 2000 season, as they were relegated to the Third Division (Old Division Four), after finishing 22nd. They bounced back straight away, as they won the play-offs. Following two Football League Trophy wins, in 2002 and 2004, the club were promoted, once again through the play offs, to the Championship in 2007. Following a period of consolidation the club appointed the popular Ian Holloway in 2009, and Holloway guided the club to the 2010 playoff final, where they beat Cardiff City to clinch promotion to the Premier League. However Blackpool were to only spend one season in the Premier League, in a season which saw them pick up 39 points, and included wins over Liverpool, Stoke, Sunderland and Tottenham. Ian Holloway left in November 2012 for Crystal Palace, and was replaced by Michael Appleton, who then left two months later for Blackburn Rovers, Paul Ince then took the reins, but he was sacked eleven months later, following a poor run of results. Prior to the 2014-2015 season the club suffered a major crisis as 27 players left the club, and Jose Riga had to scramble to assemble a squad. Although he managed to get a team together, he was sacked in October 2014 and was replaced by Lee Clark, but despite Clark’s best efforts the club were relegated from the Championship on April 2015. On the 2nd of May 2015, the club’s final match of the season was abandoned in the 48th minute following an on-pitch protest by hundreds of Blackpool supporters, who were protesting against the actions and management style of the directors and owners.

I’ve covered the history of Shrewsbury Town before, in my blog for the Wigan Athletic vs Shrewsbury Town game which can be found here: https://davidsadventuresingroundhopping.wordpress.com/2015/11/22/wigan-athletic/.

My parents and I took our seats at the back of the Stan Mortensen North Stand, and had barely sat down by the time Shrewsbury Town netted their opening goal. Salop had gone straight at Blackpool from the start, and had won a couple of corners. In the 5th minute Whalley whipped the ball into the box, and the ball fell to Nathaniel Knight-Percival (NKP) who met the ball with an acrobatic overhead kick which looped over the keeper and into the net.

We’d barely sat back down before Whalley netted the second, in the 7th minute. The Blackpool defence failed to clear the ball, and Whalley struck a powerful shot, which hit the keeper and made its way into the back of the net.

Town made it 3-0 in the 29th minute, as Whalley broke into the box, he laid the ball of for Mangan who fired home from near the edge of the area. At this point it was clear to see a few Blackpool fans leaving, and I did wonder if they were being rash as there was still an hour of football to be played.

Blackpool were forced into a substitution in the 31st minute, as Mark Yeates came off to be replaced by Jim McAlister.

Five minutes later, Blackpool pulled a goal back, as Town cleared a Blackpool free kick, the ball fell on the edge of the area, and Tom Aldred fired a beautiful shot into the top corner.

Half Time: Blackpool 1-3 Shrewsbury Town (Aldred 36 – NKP 5, Whalley 7, Mangan 29)

Normally at half time I would head down to the concourse to buy some food and a drink, but before the game, there had been a number of posts from Blackpool fans asking us not to put more money into the club, and to avoid buying food and drink inside the ground, which is what I did, we had also been asked by the protestors outside the ground. (However it has also come to my attention that we were asked not to buy programmes, so I’m going to donate £3 to the BST).

I spent the break checking scores on my phone, as the tannoy was terrible, as it cut off spontaneously, and at other times it sounded like the announcer was shouting at the microphone whilst stood in a separate room.

At half time Shrewsbury made a change, with Dominic Smith coming on to replace Jack Grimmer.

Shrewsbury Town never like to do things the easy way, and in the 54th minute Blackpool grabbed a second goal. Philliskirk managed to get the better of Whitbread, and he fired a low shot past Leutwiler to make it 2-3.

It was evident that Blackpool were the better of the two sides in the opening stages of the second half, and it was clear that Salop needed to make a change to counter the threat that Blackpool posed. In the 62nd minute, goal scorer Shaun Whalley was replaced by Richie Whellens, and Town moved into a more defensive formation with 5 in the middle of the park.

The referee and the linesman, running the line in front of the East Stand, weren’t making themselves popular with the away support, as the linesman failed to spot the ball going out of play for a Salop throw on a few occasions. The referee was also becoming more and more irritating, and he earned himself a chant of “You don’t know what you’re doing” from the Salop faithful.

It wasn’t only the away support the referee was annoying, as he managed to infuriate Blackpool manager, Neil McDonald. Blackpool were obviously chasing a goal, and Blackpool wanted to make a sub, but the referee decided to take his time having a word with a player from each side, after they clashed on the touchline. By the time the ref noticed the substitution, McDonald was going ballistic, and was lucky not to be sent from the touchline, I’m sure that a ref with a backbone wouldn’t have taken the abuse. The change finally came in the 71st minute with Uche Ikpeazu coming on to replace Mark Cullen.

The linesman managed to spot a throw in for Shrewsbury, in the 77th minute, and received some sarcastic applause and cheering for his efforts.

Blackpool made their final change in the 81st minute with Jack Redshaw being replaced by Martin Paterson. Town made their final sub two minutes later as Andy Mangan was replaced with Kyle Vassell, who seemed to be tasked with getting the ball into the Blackpool half and keeping it there.

The final minutes of normal time were nail-biting, but then the fourth official displayed that there would be four minutes of added time, and it got even tenser. Blackpool pushed forward for an equalizer, and I began to think that the fans that left early would come to regret their decision. However the Shrewsbury backline held firm, and the sound of the ref’s whilst sent the 790 Town fans into celebration.

Final Score: Blackpool 2-3 Shrewsbury Town (Aldred 36, Philliskirk 54 – NKP 5, Whalley 7, Mangan 29)

The three points from this game could prove to be massive for Shrewsbury Town, as the win moves them three points clear of 21st placed Chesterfield, but Chesterfield have a game in hand. Defeat for Blackpool sees them in 18th place, and tied on 33 points with Shrewsbury who sit in 19th. Blackpool also have a game in hand, but that isn’t a guaranteed three points. Relegation for Blackpool would be a huge blow to a club that were playing Premier League football in 2011, however Portsmouth have also dropped through the leagues, and their drop into the basement division meant that the fans seized control of the club, something that the BST want.

Salop now have a visit from Manchester United in the Fifth Round of the FA Cup, a massive game for the club. Personally I’ve decided not to attempt to get a ticket, as I haven’t been to any of the previous rounds, and I’ve only attended two away games this season. I would feel like a hypocrite if I attempted to get a ticket, and I wouldn’t want to take one from someone who has been to every round, and has followed the Town up and down the country, like my parents and hundreds of committed Town fans. Whilst others will say that they can’t make regular games, I have my own view, and I’ll stick to it. However if I was offered a ticket, on the basis that I hadn’t taken it from someone more deserving, I would be there.

I hope that the Blackpool Supporter’s Trust get the outcome that they want, as I’ve already said football belongs to the fans. I know for a fact that if it were Shrewsbury Town going through the same as Blackpool I would want the support of the football fans’ community.

From the ground my parents and I headed back towards the train station, as I had decided to get the 18:40 to Manchester Airport, to get me back to Chorley. We had some time to kill and we took a walk through the Winter Gardens before heading for a pint in Churchill’s where we were “treated” to some karaoke. Pints drunk, and ears assaulted we walked to the train station, where I said a quick goodbye to my parents, before getting on my train.

Attendance: 6873

Hat-tricks seen so far: 3

Next game: Chalfont St Peter vs Fleet Town, 20/02/16, Evo-Stik League Southern Division One Central

Thanks for reading!

Shrewsbury Town twitter: https://twitter.com/shrewsweb

Blackpool Supporter’s Trust twitter: https://twitter.com/BlackpoolST

Blackpool Supporter’s Trust website: https://www.blackpoolsupporterstrust.org/

All of the photo’s from today: Flickr

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