Blackpool - Bloomfield Road
20/11/10 Blackpool vs Wolves 2-1 (Premiership)
Back in May, watching the Championship Play Off final I have to admit that I was rooting for Cardiff to win. Not only because I had an affinity for the club through my mate Taffy, but also because I knew that if Blackpool made it, tickets for Premiership matches at Bloomfield Road would be rarer than gold dust!Of course Blackpool did win – all credit to them – but as Blackpool were in my final ten of the 92, and I wanted to complete the 92 by the end of the 2010-11 season, how on earth was I to get a ticket? My first and obvious solution was to go when Liverpool played them, provided outlying supporters’ branches could get an allocation. When the fixture lists were announced in June, Blackpool's fixture against Liverpool was Boxing Day! Not that best of days to go on a 500 mile round trip to a new ground, but not impossible, though family commitments might have to take precedence.
So as an alternative to the above, I contacted my cousin Ian, who lives not far from Blackpool, (but who is a Preston supporter!), to see if he could help. Sometime in October, he rang me to say he could get me a couple of tickets for the game against Wolves on 20th November. So naturally I jumped at the chance, taking my Scottish friend, Mark, (a Celtic fan), along with me. As he had to be up early on Sunday morning at his north Essex home, we went up on the Friday and came back straight after the match. But what a weekend! They say that Blackpool is one of the best weekends away and although we didn't the do the young single football male fan's typical Blackpool thing, we still had a good time and interesting experience!I met Mark at Euston station on the Friday afternoon and as he is a frequent traveller with Virgin, we were able to go up to Preston and back first class. As someone who hardly ever goes first class this was a bit of an eye opener. We had complementary drinks and a hot meal of Beef Bourguignon, followed by cheese and biscuits on the way up.
When we got to Preston we had a short wait, before we got a much more battered Northern train to Blackpool North, where we arrived just after 8.00pm. We then got a taxi to our hotel, or should I say b and b, which was about a mile north of the town centre. Well on the map it looked like it was just outside the town centre. Mark made the fatal mistake of asking the taxi driver to recommend any suitable pubs nearby and he showed us one just before he dropped us off. I noticed that there were road works all over the place and then I realised that there were no trams. The taxi driver told us that there were no trams in fact until next July, as they were completely upgrading the tram system which was going to take over six months. This put us off going out for a night on the town.So we checked into our hotel/b and b and then made tracks for the pub which was called the Gynn. Not the best move. Maybe we should have gone back into the town centre after all? The first thing was that when Mark paid for the round, he was given a fake £10 note in his change, which he noticed straight away and managed not to get conned.
Then just a few minutes after we sat down a lone male started up a conversation with us It turned out he was a Wolves fan, up for the game. But as he had been here before he proceeded to give us a lecture on the night life in Blackpool and what to do if we get in a fight and which pubs to avoid! Luckily I think he got the vibes that we were getting fed up with him, so he left us and made his way into Blackpool.We then made our way to the pool table for a game. No sooner had we started than a voice from a nearby table shouted across to us, “Where you from?” and “What are you doing up here in Blackpool?” and “Are you Wolves fans?” The guy was very similar to the Steve Coogan character, Paul Calf, and had a very whinny irritating Blackpool accent. It turned out that he worked as a tram driver in Blackpool and was obviously very bored not being able to do his job! I tried to explain about going the 92 and that seemed to impress him, but it was difficult to concentrate on the pool with him next to you. After a couple of games we gave up and walked up the street and found a chippy. I noticed in virtually every shop we passed was a poster of last week's X Factor reject, Aiden Grimshaw doing a local gig somewhere in his hometown. What a comedown! The chips were nice though and as it had been a long day, we decided to call it a day after such a “fun filled” evening.
Next morning we went down to breakfast at 8.45 sharp, where we met an older couple from Morecambe having a weekend away in Blackpool! It turned out he was a security guard at Morecambe's new stadium and as we were shoveling down mouthful’s of Weetabix, he was showing us film of the new stadium on his mobile! We then got his life story over the bacon and eggs of how he was a fisherman working out of Lowestoft, although he was from Coventry, over a hundred miles from the sea! I shall look out for him when I go up to the Globe Arena next March.After breakfast, my cousin Ian arrived at the b and b with our tickets and then took us to Blackpool North station, where we bought our train tickets to Preston to save time after the match.
As we had a few hours to kill before the match and couldn’t go on the trams, we strolled down to the seafront. On the way we passed a large crowd waiting outside the Tower Ballroom waiting to get into Strictly Come Dancing, taking place later that day. Then we walked along the Golden Mile and got sucked into one of those amusement arcades where they have machines full of 2 pence pieces, waiting to drop over the edge, but they never do. Mark even considered doing the Blackpool thing and having his fortune told by one of the many Fortune Tellers you get in Blackpool. But they were either busy or closed so we went for a walk up the central pier. Even in the depths of winter there are guys calling out to you to have a go on their stalls. Of course we kept bumping into groups of Wolves fans all doing the same thing as us.
As Mark is a keen white knuckle rider, our next stop was The Pleasure Beach, which cost £15 to get in, yet in reality only about half of it was open. Still he had a good time going on the scary rides, whilst I watched, preferring the more sedate carousel! However, whilst he survived the white knuckle rides, the aforementioned sedateness of the carousel proved to be a risk too far. As he dismounted his trusty steed, he somehow managed to lose his footing and in an ungainly way fell to the floor tearing an oblique external abdominal muscle in the process. It will take weeks to heal. It should be noted that alcohol was not involved!!!
We then walked to the ground which took about 15 minutes to walk. There were at least 10 Wolves coaches parked up by the ground. I then did my usual pre-match ritual of walking right round the ground and taking some photos, as well as paying a visit to the club shop, where I bought a Bloomfield Bear mascot for a tenner for Wendy. There is a statue of Stan Mortensen outside the ground and the Blackpool fans are trying to raise funds for one of Jimmy Armfield. Like Preston’s ground there is a large section used as a National Health Service centre, as well as a children’s nursery in the ground.Once inside we queued for a pie and a pint, having a pint of Thwaites and a meat and potato pie, all for less then a fiver. It was quite crowded by the bar areas and Mark was actually queuing behind and guy wearing a Hearts shirt, with a Blackpool scarf round his neck! I did like the photos they had all along the walls of the different Blackpool players over the years, so it wasn’t all concrete and breeze blocks!
Going inside the ground there is three quarters of the ground with a continuous new stand, all on one level, with executive boxes at the back. Blackpool NHS even has four of these in one corner! Opposite the main stand is a temporary stand, which has had a new roof added for this season, though this has meant some pillars in the way to hold it up. If they ever complete the ground, it would mean knocking down some houses and a builder’s yard at the back of it. The Wolves fans took up the right half of this stand. I did notice one or two spare seats around the ground, but the atmosphere was pretty good for the premier league’s smallest ground at just over 16,000 capacity.We took our seats just before kick off, which were right in the corner of the main and west stands, but quite high up so the view wasn’t too bad. The bad thing about them was that although they were numbered, someone at Blackpool had stuck pieces of paper with new numbers on top of these, which were coming off and the ink had run on some of them, adding to a lot of confusion as to which seats were which. The teams come out to the Dave Clark Five’s, “Glad All Over”, which should be a Tottenham song I think.
Blackpool got off to an excellent start though, with a fantastic goal by Luke Varney, after just three minutes. It was a tremendous volley from outside the box on the left, catching Wolves goalie, Marcus Hahnemann, off his line and going into the top right hand corner. Surely a strong contender for goal of the season? From then on the whole of the home crowd seemed to be singing. It was probably one of the best atmospheres at a premiership ground that I’ve heard for several years. Chants like “Sea….siders”, “Come on the Pool”, “Holloway’s tangerine army” and the best of all, “Don’t wanna go home (x2), this is the best trip I’ve ever been on”, ( to the tune of the Beach Boys’ ‘Sloop John B’), echoed round the ground. Although Wolves kept trying to get an equalizer, Blackpool’s defence held strong. Then just before half time, Blackpool got a second, courtesy of Harewood, who stabbed it over the line, amid some confusion as to whether it went over or not.
At half time I tried to go to the toilet, but such was the crush under the stands that I had to wait a good five minutes before I could get into the toilets. As a neutral it seems that the designers of the ground didn’t put much thought into the amount of fans who would be down there. So to say it was rather cramped was putting it mildly. For the second half, Wolves continued to attack and dominate the play, with Nenad Milijas hitting the post and then Wolves did get a goal, thanks to a header from Doyle. But Blackpool held on to get all three points and move back up the table. As we left we noticed all these paparazzi out side, not knowing who it was who was inside. Mark said they were there as Mick McCarthy might be resigning! It was only when we got back to Preston that my cousin, Ian informed us that Prince William was there with a load of his mates on a stag weekend. Now I know why the woman next to me kept getting her binoculars out!
We caught the slow train from Blackpool South to Preston, deciding it was much easier to get to than Blackpool North. So we had time for a drink with Ian in the buffet at Preston station before getting our Virgin Train as far as Crewe. This time there wasn’t a hot meal, but we were given tea, coffee, crisps and biscuits. Then at Crewe we had half an hour to wait, so we ventured out of the station and into the town, where mark got himself a Chinese and me a pizza to keep us going. Quite handy to know if you’re ever returning from a match in the North West and need a bit to eat.Our train arrived back at Euston at quarter past nine and I was able to get the 10 o’clock train back to Southend, getting home just before 11 o’clock. A great weekend and we are thinking of repeating again next year when Southend play Morecambe.
Referee: M. Clattenburg
Typical Blackpool "smut" Prince William at Blackpool - who would've believed it??!!
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