The Coca-Cola Championship Playoff Final is called the richest match in football as the winner will be promoted to the so called glory land of the EPL – and with it all the riches … estimated at 90 million pounds sterling.
SO who are Blackpool, the team I support… because next season you could see a team you have hardly heard of and an invasion of tangerine on your TV. Our team colors are tangerine and white .. its not orange, its tangerine.. and you will be corrected so you might as well get it right from the start.
Formed in 1892, we have had our best days post WWII. In fact we have a little known fact that we were top of the First Division for the longest time. We were top of Div 1 come Sept 3rd 1939 and stayed there for years thanks to Mr. A Hitler of Germany.
But silly stats aside, Blackpool FC are most famous for the 1953 Matthews FA Cup Final, where wing wizard Sir Stanley Matthews finally won an FA Cup medal after a dramatic 4-3 win after being 3-1 down to arch enemy Bolton Wanderers. In those days top teams, as we both were, were filled with internationals and didn’t play reserves in FA Cup matches. The FA Cup was a HUGE competition and not the sad state of affairs it is today.
Sir Stanley though was one of 11 players that day – and since he had the final unofficially named after him, you would think he scored a hat trick or something extraordinary. Well, the truth is that a hat trick was scored by Blackpool’s Stan Mortensen that day.. but its always known as the Matthews Final for the country’s most beloved football player finally getting his hands on the trophy he most wanted. By all accounts, you would think that Matthews must have been Pele/Maradona/Beckham or Messi of his era – and from the stories told he was all of them rolled into one.
But times moved on at Bloomfield Road. In the 1960s Alan Ball – the midfield red head engine of the 1966 World Cup winning team – was a Blackpool player, as was squad player Jimmy Armfield – who is a Blackpool legend with over 600 games for the Seasiders and captained England many times too. But Blackpool hovered between First and Second divisions.
In the 1969/70 season we were promoted to the First Divison, winning 3-0 at Preston North End. Means nothing to most people but winning 3-0 against your closest rival (we are a mere 15 miles apart) was incredible. We got promoted and in addition sent PNE down to Division Three. Fred Pickering was the hat trick hero that day.
But the 70/71 season was the last time The Seasiders graced the top tier in English football. We won the Anglo Italian Cup a couple of times. Then the decline really started. The abolishment of the maximum wage meant the bigger teams got the better players, and in true style The Seasiders managed to get relegated to Divison Three for the first time after a freak set of results. The chairman of the day is widely blamed for sacking Allan Brown when were challenging again for promotion, and led us to relegation. How one man can destroy thousands of dreams…
We meandered in the lower leagues for 30 odd years. There were some really bad days when we had to apply for re-election (before non league teams were promoted). We almost went bust too. Our ground was still something that looked like it was built in 1892 in 1992. There were some glory days though: The promotion from the Fourth Division in 1984, but we were relegated a few years later. Then in 1991 we lost the playoff final versus Torquay in the dreaded penalty shoot out. “King” Billy Ayre said it wasn’t the worst day in his football life – it was the worst day of his life.
Each team has a manager like Billy Ayre. Liverpool had Shankley. United had Busby. We had King Billy Ayre. He was a man’s man and a great man. And he got his reward the following season. Again in the playoffs with a penalty shoot out win versus Scunthorpe.
But the meandering continued. The Oyston family who now own Blackpool FC have appointed several good managers by luck and several good men who weren’t good managers. We have had Steve McMahon (Liverpool, Man City and England) – who woke up the latest Oyston chairman – son Karl, who looks like Harry Potter, with his over the top demands… like we need a washing machine! And McMahon got us promoted via the playoffs and won a couple of LDV Cups.
But on the flip side Karl Oyston appointed Colin Hendry (Man City, Blackburn, Scotland, and known as Braveheart). He was truly the worst manager of a Blackpool team I have seen play – and I have seen some rubbish.
The next messiah was Simon “Larry” Grayson – who took us to the Championship – via the play offs v Yeovil after winning 10 games straight. Karl Oyston has his faults (only Dave Whelan probably doesn’t in the world of chairmen) – but Karl and father Owen Oystons brought in Latvian Banker “Uncle Valerei Belekon” who bought into the team – not the land – just the team. He speaks like Borat, but we don’t care. He has fallen in love with Blackpool and said at that great day at Wembley that he wanted us to challenge for the Premiership in five years. He lied. We are doing it in three.
Larry Grayson left to go manage his boyhood heroes Leeds United. His number two, Tony Parkes, kept us in the division by some wheeling and dealing and bringing in a player called Charlie Adam on loan from Rangers (as well as a lot of other loans).
We stayed up and actually ended up in 15th position. Parkes didn’t not stay as manager due to a rumored joke of an offer from Karl. But then we need a new manager.
ENTER IAN HOLLOWAY… Media darling aside from his quips and one liners, he is also a football man.
In his first year in charge we were favorites to be relegated. But he has guided us to the sixth place and into the playoffs, playing probably the best tangerine football in forty years.
Key man is Charlie Adam, signed permanently from Rangers for a steal at 500 thousand pounds. Because we are a smaller club, getting 8000 fans week in week out, we aren’t seen in the media a lot and when we are its pun filled lines about our local tourism trade. Many journalists don’t seem to respect us. Some points they make are true but its what’s on the pitch that counts. We played Newcastle Utd off the park in September, and have beaten Notts Forest, who came third in the Championship, four times in one season says we are a good side. We won the playoff semi final 6-4 on aggregate with a 4-3 win away.
And now Little Blackpool could be little no more. We are 90 minutes from playing the big boys. We are in form, winning 9 of last 11 and have received plaudits for our good football. Whereever we go with our tangerine colors proudly displayed, its been a wild ride. Some poor journalist with no imagination would say its been a rollercoaster ride. It’s been an amazing season for any Blackpool fan around in the world.
One final game…May 22nd Cardiff City await…