Football is officially taking over my life. Having recovered surprisingly well from the wacky midweeker at Gillingham (staying over was a masterstroke), it was soon Friday and time to set off for Rochdale. But why are you setting off on Friday, I hear you ask. Well I had some important football-related business to attend to en route…
The sun was shining brightly today, providing respite from my regular battle with the rain. I’d been to see a Depeche Mode tribute band, Remode, the previous night, so I whacked DM on the iTunes, put my shades on and headed up the motorway. I seem to have inadvertently switched off the traffic updates from my car (yay!) but did encounter congestion (boo) en route to my first port of call, which was…
…Brick Lane, the home of Lego team FC Brickstand. I have followed @fcbrickstand on Twitter for several months and the account makes me howl out loud on a regular basis.
When your mates tell you Blocka away is fancy dress but it’s actually not pic.twitter.com/UbKRTpZ7X1
— FC Brickstand (@fcbrickstand) April 28, 2019
The club was established in 2018 and won promotion to the Buldersliga Division Four in their debut season, largely thanks to star striker Conor Muldoon. The night they won promotion there were fans celebrating all over the world – including in this pub, where things got a bit messy…
— Dave The Cardboard Box (@dave_cardboard) May 9, 2019
Tonight I was meeting Chris, the man behind FC Brickstand, who had kindly invited me for a behind the scenes tour of Brick Lane. I love visiting new grounds at the best of times but this was extra special as it was a Lego ground where I had acquired a season ticket for the 2019/20 campaign. For a fiver you get a Lego replica of yourself to sit (or stand in the safe standing area) at each home game at Brick Lane. Who can resist that opportunity? This is lego me (with a pie, obvs):
Second half is underway! Come on you Builders! pic.twitter.com/zPHXtSO26m
— FC Brickstand (@fcbrickstand) August 7, 2019
Keep an eye on Lee Charles TV for the video of my visit to FC Brickstand but in the meantime do check them out at www.fcbrickstand.com, on Twitter @fcbrickstand or on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/FCbrickstand/.
Dear reader, I could have stayed here all night – but I had further football business to attend to. I had run out of fanzines and needed to take some to Rochdale to feed demand – necessitating a visit to Bloomfield Brewhouse before closing so I could raid their stock. This meant driving in the dark for the first time but I managed just fine, arriving in Blackpool just after 10pm.
I like Bloomfield Brewhouse more every time I visit. Unfortunately, as I was driving, I wasn’t able to sample their lovely beer on this occasion, but I did take some time to admire the BFC artwork adorning the walls, which I actually hadn’t noticed before (it’s usually rammed or I’m in another room). It’s lovely to see local pubs proudly packed with Blackpool memorabilia.
Business concluded – and now zonked – I retired to bed, plugging in my portable phone battery so we would both be recharged in time for the next day’s vlogging.
After a quick banana for breakfast I headed to the Saddle Inn to meet the Leyland & Chorley Seasiders coach to Rochdale. I used to travel with these guys to matches 20 years ago and decided it was high time I got supporting the branch again. I met up with another couple of Seasiders at the nearby bus stop (we were one of the last pick-up points) and we were soon on our merry way.
We stopped off in Ramsbottom for pre-match libation. We were despatched outside Irwell Works Brewery, who frankly I’d never heard of, so I was excited to visit and sample their wares. Imagine my delight when I saw they had a marshmallow milk stout AND a dark mild! My, this was a great start to the day. The view from the rooftop terrace was stunning. Lancashire is such a beautiful county.
I now needed food so we headed down the road to the Oaks, where I had rag pudding, chips and mushy peas.
I’m already being asked what rag pudding is – so here’s a link explaining this local delicacy:
For sure this was better than anything I would get in a football ground! I’m sorry but I simply can’t face a season of terrible pies in the name of research for these blogs. It’s already been very distressing and I do aim for maximum enjoyment from my matchdays.
I almost cleared my plate but left a few chips because I was stuffed. These were handed over to the next table for recycling. The kids here had been ravenously wolfing down Sharon’s chips but pulled a right face at mine because they had gravy on them. Education in this country really is going down the pan. Children need to learn from an early age the joys of gravy on chips.
Now it was time to head for Spotland. The driver took a somewhat circuitous route (he didn’t have a sat nav) much to the chagrin of the passengers. Now I remembered why I stopped travelling on coaches! I used to get frustrated at not being in control of the transport arrangements. However, after many years of stress management, I found myself completely relaxed about the situation. If we did miss kick off then que sera sera. However we did make it on time and were despatched right outside the away end at 2.45pm.
After a brief visit to check out the facilities, I made my way to the stand – and wow what sights and sounds awaited me out there! Over 2,000 Seasiders were in full voice and the atmosphere was like nothing we have experienced in years.
The Rochdale mascot, Desmond the Dragon, was dancing in the water jets on the pitch. I do like a good mascot – and this one is great value. He’s been given a change of image for the new season with a brand new outfit – and he is now green as opposed to grey. According to club Chief Executive David Bottomley, ‘there [was] often…confusion around what he actually is, with him being referred to as a donkey, a wolf and even a bat on occasions!’
Desmond hit the headlines back in 1999 when he had an altercation with Halifax Town’s Freddie the Fox, after the latter ‘urinated’ on the goalpost. Here’s Freddie’s take on events on Granada Reports with Lucy Meacock:
I struggled to find a seat in the packed away end but when I did finally stand still for a moment, I found my eyes welling up behind my sunglasses. Days like this are so special – and never again will I take this for granted.
So, how was the match? The Seasiders dominated throughout, with Dale keeper Robert Sanchez performing heroics to keep us at bay. The team is really starting to come together, functioning like a machine, with each man playing an integral part. The defence was strong yet again, with a deserved clean sheet. Jordan Thompson really impressed me today – what a player he is when he stays on his feet. It’s great to see individual players blossoming under Larry’s managership. Gnanduillet, too, is looking like a real threat – and possibly the only big striker to impress me since Dave Bamber. Ryan Hardie looked hungry for goals when he came off the bench and I can’t wait to see more of this prolific striker.
At the final whistle I encountered the challenge of finding where the coach was parked. What I always used to do was make sure I left the ground with someone else who was on the coach – but I had failed to take such a precaution today. Fortunately I soon spotted some coaches and felt confident that ours would be parked up with them. But no. I found club coaches and BSA coaches…then further down the road the Poulton Bus…but no sign of the Leyland & Chorley Seasiders bus. I put a call in to Steve…and ended up getting through to his wife at home. Whilst it was nice to speak with her, it wasn’t particularly helpful to my current predicament. I just carried on walking in the hope that the bus would appear and, as if by magic, appear it did – phew!
We headed directly back to Blackpool. Well I say directly but of course the driver took the odd wrong turning. John took pains to point out that ‘this isn’t our usual driver’ but frankly I think, if anything, the diversions enhanced the match day experience for me. Who doesn’t love taking the scenic route once in a while?
We were despatched right outside the No.10 Alehouse, so there really was nothing else for it. Dear reader, you should know by now that this is one of my top three pubs in Blackpool, so I simply had to pay it a visit, together with John, Brian and Ossie. We managed to secure an outdoor table and sat back and relaxed with some great beer, watching the world go by and simply enjoying Blackpool and each other’s company. We had planned to take in the Queen tribute band at the Marton Institute Beer & Music Festival, but we simply couldn’t bring ourselves to leave this idyll. I enjoyed three pints of the delightfully-quaffable Potbelly Beijing Black before tucking into a Chicken Panang Curry, with a couple of amarettos for dessert. I was recognised from my vlogs by a couple of Seasiders, who stopped at our table for a chat. Of course I took this opportunity to sell them fanzines – and was even asked to autograph one! What a great pub this is – and I look forward to frequenting it more often now I am back in Blackpool regularly.
Well fed and watered, I was soon overtaken by an urge to retire for the evening, so called a cab to take me away. My driver was a jovial Welshman, who chatted away with me in his sing-song voice. We were getting along famously until we got on to the subject of the 2010 play-off final (he was a Cardiff fan) so I made sure to tip him before making a hasty exit.
Phew! What a day! It truly is wonderful to be back amongst the Blackpool family. I honestly couldn’t be happier right now. Just to be able to do this again every week, savouring every moment (if not every pie), surrounded by smiling Seasiders. These are special times indeed. Enjoy them, fellow Seasiders. This really is the best trip. UTMP.
Here’s my video memory of the day. Watch to see the awesome away following for yourself. In this video you will also find details of the World Black Pudding Lobbing Championships, which takes place the same weekend as the Ramsbottom Jigsaw Festival, so I’d advise you get in quickly to book your transport and accommodation for that weekend, folks.