A little under 2 season’s ago now, Blackpool Football Club achieved what was the damn-near impossible. Promotion.
Under the guidance of former Manager, Simon Grayson – despite his acrimonious departure over the Christmas Period (that’s the nice way of putting it!) he will go down in history as one of our more successful managers and we will all be truly grateful for what he did for us – Blackpool went from a 1-0 defeat away at Bournemouth on the opening day of the season, to a 2-0 victory in front of 30,000 fans at Wembley. Nothing short of a remarkable achievement.
The scenes at the opening game of the 2007/2008 season were phenomenal. Plastered all over YouTube are videos of Tangerine fans basking in the glorious sunshine that shone over the Midlands that afternoon in August and all that can be heard inside the Walker’s Stadium is;
“Blackpool are back! Blackpool are back!” Because they made it back.
29 years absent from the top two tiers of English football and it was finally a reality. Those younger fans – myself included – had only known Blackpool Football Club as an unfashionable, small club in the lower reaches of the footballing ladder with a crumbling, decrepit stadium – I was first being educated in all matters Tangerine when they were in the ‘old’ Division 3. Older generations will remember the club as a proud club, a club that once boasted 20,000+ attendances on a regular basis at Bloomfield Road, hosting teams like Manchester United, coupled with the bonus of having players of such high quality that they were in the England team (back when it, seemingly, actually meant something to players, but that’s another rant for another time!).
So after all this time away, it was hard to fathom that Blackpool Football Club were indeed, back. It’s easy as football fans to place much emphasis on the material things – the ground being in shoddy (and unfinished!) condition, small cups of coffee (sorry, Frank!), the training ground etc etc – but the important thing is that the players and management had a chance to perform in The Championship which is probably, I believe anyway, the best league in Europe. Maybe not for quality of players, or the exciting performances, but for the unpredictability of, for example, Blackpool going to St. Andrews’ and beating Birmingham City on their own turf (and then replicating the winning formula for the return fixture in the 2nd half of the season!).
Of course we found ourselves in a relegation battle last season – none of us expected anything more, surely? – but we battled away and we won through for another season and another chance at consolidation so that future generations will be left with the lasting impression of Blackpool being an established Championship club while the teams that are promoted from Coca Cola League One are the ones with the pressure on them to stay in the division and make a name for themselves – Bristol City last season, if you will.
This season, inevitably we are feeling a little despondent at the moment that, once again, the threat of relegation hangs over Bloomfield Road like a storm cloud ready to unload a torrential downpour of ‘Doom & Gloom’ upon us all. But again, being realistic, we are the smallest club in the division. Certainly Nottingham Forest, Swansea and Doncaster are the newly-promoted sides, but they have a much bigger infrastructure than ourselves; it has been said in the past, for example, that we are a Championship club on the pitch and a League One club off it. Yes, we can play the blame game, but we’re never going to get anywhere with that – it’s been done time and time again (yours truly has played enough that he has unlocked some special bonus achievements for it for his Xbox Gamertag – a pun for the youngsters amongst us!). We can’t expect miracles overnight, we can only ensure our position for another season and take the next one as it comes along.
We’re going into the final 5 games of this season, each just as important as the next one in terms of ensuring survival. As fans, there’s only one thing we can do… turn Bloomfield Road back into the fortress that it was back in the 2006/2007 season when we clinched promotion against all the odds.
Walking into the ground for those games during the ‘Perfect Ten’ as it has now become known, there was an air of confident expectation… that the result would go the way of the home side and everyone seemed to treat it almost like a carnival experience – singing and dancing, bringing their own banners emblazoned with the words ‘BELIEVE!’ and attaching them to the back of the Kop – and everyone was happy. You couldn’t help but smile as you took to your seat as The Nolan’s infamous Blackpool song was belting out of the PA system.
These days and over the last 2 seasons, that jovial spirit seems to have deteriorated somewhat. Disappointment over the South Stand coupled with the odd poor performance on the field has left quite a few fans dejected – I was myself, around January/February – and the debacle over the management position (is it Thommo? Is it Parkes?) doesn’t help to bring back that feeling of excitement and fun that is sometimes needed to help the fans kick up the sound levels that extra notch to cheer the team onto victory.
But here we are, this Saturday, it’s the Lancashire derby. This is what, arguably, the fans of our great club were waiting for when promotion was assured back in May 2007. The cries of ‘are you watching, PNE?!’ still ring in my ears to this day and, lest we not forget, the last time the sides met at Deepdale… the overwhelming emotion felt as THAT penalty hit the back of the net was indescribable by myself, or any other writer – though the numerous videos of the sodden Tangerine Army in enemy territory are a beautiful reminder of what that goal meant to so many of the band of brothers that follow our great club.
Yes, last time out we failed in our mission to take 3 points away from a real relegation rival in the Pilgrims, but surely that gives us even more incentive to pack out the visitor’s end of Deepdale and deck it full of Tangerine and white shirts showing our pride, commitment and more importantly, our passion for the players that need to do all they can to keep us in the division.
If you are indeed, lacking in inspiration before this weekend’s game, I emplore you to get out your ‘Perfect Ten’ DVD’s, the Preston vs Blackpool DVD from last season’s game and watch them with no interruptions from the missus, the kids, the dog, or the phone. Watch them, re-live the feeling overwhelming pride that you had when the little team that couldn’t…did back in May 2007.
More importantly, save your voices this week… you’re going to need them – and more – on Saturday, at 1pm. Scream your hearts out, show the team what it means to be associated with Blackpool Football Club and, possibly more importantly, show the poor PKE ‘fans’ what REAL support is all about!
As that banner at the back of the Mortensen Kop read towards the end of the 2006/2007 season…