Jane Stuart – Writer

Writing about real life Up North: football, ale, food and mental health – with a good dash of humour.

Blackpool v Morecambe: The Long & Winding Road to Wembley

When I bought my car, little did I know what adventures I would have making the regular drive up to Blackpool. This afternoon I was assured of no traffic updates (thank you SO much to those of you who told me all I needed to do to shut these up was to press the ‘TA’ button on my dash) so I was looking forward to a nice tootle up the M6 singing my head off. But no. It’s never going to be that straightforward, is it? 

As soon as I set off, my sat nav Waze told me to go in the opposite direction to usual. Hmm. Had I input the right destination? I ignored the first turning but Waze was most insistent, so I altered my route accordingly. Waze is a good app with up to date traffic knowledge (reported by users, known as Wazers) and I trust it. Maybe it would put me on the M6 at Penkridge again – that wasn’t so bad. 

But no. It sent me down A roads and B roads and country lanes (I didn’t have much experience of those) and I was thinking what good driving experience this all was for me as a relatively new driver. Waze is like my ongoing driving instructor, taking me down mystery new roads. And they were a mystery! After an hour and fifteen minutes of driving round quiet country roads I had no idea whatsoever where I was (the only signs I saw were for villages I had never heard of, as well as one I thought was in Shropshire) and I began to panic slightly. Had I accidentally amended my Waze settings to avoid motorways altogether? Surely not. My estimated time of arrival in Blackpool was unchanged at 4pm so I must be heading in the right direction, surely?

‘Welcome to Cheshire.’

Woohoo! Now please can we get on the motorway? Please!!!

Mercifully after 90 minutes’ driving I finally got onto the M6. But I was so tired now after all that time concentrating on challenging roads – and I still had a 90-minute drive ahead of me! At least now I could turn my tunes up and enjoy them, as I’d been so focused on the roads thus far I barely registered what was playing (only enough to realise I’d forgotten to press ‘shuffle’ and was stuck on Del Amitri and Depeche Mode). 

When I arrived on the Gold Coast I was absolutely drained. I parked up and headed out for a walk to clear my head, which was now buzzing. Having skipped lunch, I was ravenous and headed straight for the Saddle Chippy for a chippy tea. Mmm I was going to enjoy this! Now my usual meal here is battered haggis and chips with gravy. It’s SO delicious – but the servings are massive and of course I’m on a diet. 

‘Can I have mini fish and chips with gravy, please?’

‘Mini fish and chips…? (pause) Do you mean an OAP special?’

‘Er…yes? Please. And a can of Dandelion and Burdock.’

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I took a seat while I waited for my food (after all, I am an OAP, apparently). There was a crash behind me and I turned round to see what was going on. A little girl had crashed her bike into the bench outside, but she was beaming from ear to ear as she skipped into the chippy and tried in vain to see over the counter. Her mum asked her what she wanted with her chips. 

‘Chicken nuggets!’

‘Do you want them with sauce or gravy?’

I held my breath as I waited for the little girl’s answer. Her mum seemed lovely and she appeared to be well brought up. 

‘Gravy!’

I almost jumped out of my seat and punched the air! Good girl! If I’d had a gold star I’d have presented it to her right there and then. They bring them up right round here. Proof if proof be needed that Blackpool is – and always will be – my home. 

My food was soon served and I sat on the bench outside and tucked in. I hadn’t tried the fish here before but I had no complaints. Saddle Chippy is the current number one chippy in Blackpool for me. Happily, it’s also very conveniently situated by the No.10 Alehouse…

Hunger now satisfied, it was time to sit back and relax for an hour or so. I was feeling pretty full but that didn’t stop me ordering a pint of Tiny Rebel Summer Crush. 

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I pulled out my phone to check social media and saw that a fellow Seasider had posted from the very pub I was in. 

I’ve just had the Mixed Combination at @No10Alehouse on Whitegate Drive. Considering Churros for pudding #UTMP.

It wasn’t rammed in here like it had been on Saturday so it didn’t take me long to find him located at the table right next to mine. 

‘Ooh I hadn’t realised they had a dessert menu in here.’

‘Yes. I’m tempted by the churros but I’m not interested in the chocolate sauce.’

‘Ok I tell you what – how about you order them and I’ll take the chocolate sauce off your hands…’

Cunning plan, right? I waited to see if it would come off. Meanwhile I ordered another pint and asked for a closer look at a bottle of gin that had caught my eye. 

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Alas I couldn’t try this for you, dear reader, as gin has the unfortunate side-effect of making me catastrophise. It’s a tipple I avoid at all costs. I know where I am with beer – and I love it – so I stick with that. 

Whilst scrolling through Twitter, I happened across a club I’d never heard of before, but who I immediately needed to know more about: Mansfield Hosiery Mills. I’m sorry, Cray Valley Paper Mills, but this is different level! I looked them up and discovered via their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pg/mhmssc/about/?ref=page_internal) that, yes, the club was formed by hosiery knitters.

The cricket club was founded in 1947 and comprised of hosiery knitters from within the factory.  The club played friendly cricket until 1953 when it joined the Mansfield and District League. In 2001 Mansfield Hosiery Mills moved from Kings Mill to its multi-function location at the Fieldings near junction 28 of the M1 ideal access for all.  The facilities include a high standard function suite, along with rooms for meetings, a members bar, a cricket and football field plus indoor and outdoor coaching areas. 

The churros arrived at the next table and I was offered the chocolate dipping sauce. Now this presented a problem. How was I to get it from the dish into my mouth? Using my fingers was actually tempting but would have been too messy. Should I ask for a spoon? I contemplated my dilemma for several minutes. Mercifully my neighbour saved me two churros and I mopped up the sauce with those. Oh they were yummy! The churros were sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, which was an extra treat. And there was me thinking I was full after my chippy tea! No siree!

Well my day was improving dramatically since arriving in Blackpool (isn’t it ever thus?). I made a quick check of my match ticket to make sure it was a 1945 KO tonight (it wasn’t, it was a 1930 KO). I promptly polished off my pint and scurried down Bloomfield Road to take my place in the West Stand (all that was open tonight). Our seats were on the back row (V) of Block L – and the view was excellent from the halfway line – but my goodness there was so little legroom! And that really is something coming from me, whose legs are so short I have to get special short leg trousers and jeans (I wear dresses now, it’s easier!). Fortunately there was an empty seat next to me, so I sat side-saddle and managed to get comfortable – but I knew this would be more of a problem for Lee, who has normal-length legs. 

At half-time we relocated to the North West corner, where the leg room was normal, albeit the view not so great. Still we enjoyed the match very much from this corner, with most of the play down our end of the pitch. The Mighty Tangerine Wizards came out 5-1 victors, with Morecambe unable to cope with the outstanding Liam Feeney and Sullay Kaikai. Did the scoreline flatter us? Certainly Morecambe had their chances and might have scored a few themselves, but we really were superior and our opponents collapsed as the game wore on. The pitch continues to look magnificent and is the perfect platform for good football, which we saw plenty of tonight. 

I know there are three first round group matches in this leasing.com trophy, with matches to follow away at Carlisle United and at home to Wolves, but I don’t really understand how it all works.  So I’ve now looked this up on the EFL website  (https://www.efl.com/clubs-and-competitions/leasing-com-trophy/the-competition/rules/), which confirms the following:

Group Matches will be of ninety minutes duration, with no extra time.

Three points are awarded for a win and none for a defeat.

If the scores are level at the end of the group Match then each Club is awarded one point. In addition the Match will be followed immediately by the taking of kicks from the penalty mark in accordance with procedures as approved by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) and the Club that wins the penalty shootout will be awarded an additional one point.

The eight winners and eight runners up of the north and south group stages qualify for the round of 32.  All other Clubs are eliminated from the Competition.

So now we know. I’m not really fussed about the EPL academy sides being involved in the competition. I’m familiar with this sort of thing from my last few years at Chasetown, with Stoke City and Port Vale U23s participating in the county cups. Indeed Chase played Stoke City U23s at Vale Park in the Staffs Senior Cup Final in 2017. I have fond memories of the EFL Trophy, having been to all the matches on Blackpool’s two winning runs in 2001/02 and 2003/04. I’ll never forget how livid I was with Blackpool at Huddersfield in 2002, when they’d coasted to the Northern Area Final then made such a pig’s ear of that match. When Bully’s golden goal went in, I raced down to the front of the stand and gave the players an earful for putting us through that match. I certainly don’t remember the golden goal as a celebratory moment – I was bloody fuming! Loved Bully though – he was such a favourite of mine.  And the trips to the Millennium Stadium were simply brilliant. I fell in love with Cardiff back then.  I’ll never forget that banana split soaked in Malibu that I had at the Thai restaurant at Cardiff Bay.  Mmm…

So next up in this competition will be Carlisle United away. What a treat for a midweek! I’ll be there of course, because it’s what I do. Meanwhile let’s concentrate on getting back to the top of the league. UTMP. 

The video memory of the night can be found here:

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