A rough guide to... Blackpool

Cod Almighty | Article

by Sam Metcalf

1 August 2016

Blackpool's football isn't pretty under Gary Bowyer, but it's still more attractive than their owners

How are you?

When I were a lad, Town spent most of the time at least one division higher than Blackpool. Back in the mid-1980s it was hard to believe that a few decades earlier they were one of the powerhouses of English football. At that point they were playing to crowds of less than 3,000. A dramatic rise and fall from the Premier League has proved, once again, that football is cyclical, and, one day, Town will be European champions.

What have you been up to?

Using Marx's method of dialectical materialism means that if you harbour a gripe against John Fenty you can park it now and thank everything around you that our club isn't owned by the Oyston family.

The Oystons built their wealth on the back of an estate agency empire – so that tells you pretty much all you need to know. Of course, Blackpool have seen good times under chairman Karl Oyston, being promoted to the top flight in 2010. But the fall was as swift as the rise and the last we heard Oyston was embroiled in a series of libel cases against fans. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Makes snapping a flag seem trivial, eh?

The Tangerines were relegated from the third division last year after a 5-1 walloping at Peterborough. Their manager is Gary Bowyer, who seems to have a kink for working for megalomaniac club owners after suffering at the hands of the Venkys at Blackburn.

What kind of season did you have?

Last season's relegation to the fourth division was made worse by nearby rivals Fleetwood surviving after a last-day win at already relegated Crewe. At least Blackpool made it to the last day – something that didn't look altogether certain after a disastrous February and March when the team took only nine points from ten matches. A soul-sapping last five games of the season saw just one point gained, and included mullerings away at Rochdale, at home to Wigan and the aforementioned hammering at London Road.

How are you feeling?

Things are looking a little better for Blackpool now. Bowyer, while not known for his free-flowing football, gets his team to 'keep us shape' – and that's clearly what's needed after a helter-skelter ride down the leagues with an 'eccentric' chairman mithering away at confidence.

Blackpool are one point outside the play-off spots and are scoring pretty regularly. As with a host of teams in the fourth division, consistency is lacking, but Blackpool seem to still have the financial clout to go out and buy players in January – a move which should, with a fair wind, see them in the top seven come May.

The Tangerines are also into the third round of the FA Cup and will play Barnsley on 7 January.

Where are you from?

Blackpool – the Cleethorpes of the north-west coast. A place as much known these days for its stag and hen parties as it is is the Pleasure Beach, the Tower and the illuminations. A place where you can get a bag of chips at any time of the day or night, and still have change for a bag of chips on the way home.

Around 142,000 people live in Blackpool full time, with hundreds of thousands more joining them every summer for a chance to get completely hammered in a chain pub. What a life.

The Tangerines play at the much-renovated Bloomfield Road, which has changed considerably since I last journeyed there some 25 years ago. Then, you could see waste swathes of empty terrace. Now you can see vast swathes of empty orange seats. Where have all the plastic Prem fans gone? Not all of them care about the Oystons, surely?

Of course one player in Blackpool's history stands out head and shoulders above all others. This man played to a ripe old age – something many of today's stars wouldn't dream of doing. He was celebrated at Wembley by driving his team towards an unlikely victory and is therefore forever immortalised in footballing folklore. That's right – in 1992, Alan Buckley bought Paul Groves from Blackpool and the rest is history.

You must be fed up with the Oystons

I touched on it earlier, but let's just run through a list of alleged or proven offences by Blackpool's owners:

  • Owen Oyston (Karl's father) was jailed for six years in 1996 for rape and indecent assault
  • After using financial backer Valeri Belokon's money to get promoted to the Premier League, the Oystons froze him out
  • Karl Oyston once labelled Blackpool fan a "massive retard" and an "intellectual cripple" in a text message exchange, which led to the FA banning him from all footballing activities for six weeks and a £40,000 fine
  • In 2012, Oyston was fined a further £40,000 for illegally dumping waste from the building of a new stand at Bloomfield Road at Whyndyke Farm
  • In January 2015, after rejecting a £200-a-week professional contracts, youth players Mark Waddington and Dom Telford were turned away from training by Oyston and told to play for the youth team until they accepted his offer

The list goes on and on. They make Honest John seem like an angel. But hang on in there, Blackpool fans – without you there is no club, and without the club the Oystons don't have their vanity project. You'll win eventually.

The image is by Padge480, available under this licence

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