Jane Stuart – Writer

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

Blackpool v Lincoln City: Friday Night Under The Lights

Dear reader, you know I am a champion of Blackpool and want the world to know how wonderful the town and its special football team are?  Well, thinking I had signed up for a straightforward interview with a world football magazine (https://mundialmag.com), last week I was somewhat surprised to learn that I had ACTUALLY signed up to a professional film production about life as a Blackpool fan, which would take up five hours of my time ahead of our Friday night game at home to Lincoln City.  Well that’s me setting off on Thursday then…

I jumped in my trusty little car, banged on some Buckcherry and headed off Up North.  Waze immediately took me in an unfamiliar direction.  Uh-oh!  The last time this happened, I didn’t see a motorway until Cheshire.  But I rolled with it and headed in the direction of Chasetown FC.  Hmm.  Of course I had my usual panic about having input the wrong destination.  I had been to Chase on Tuesday night to watch them play Leamington in the FA Cup Q2 replay.  It was lovely to be back at The Scholars Ground and catch up with that arm of the football family.  The boys played really well too – I was so impressed with how they outplayed opposition from two divisions higher.  A wondergoal from Will Whieldon (my favourite) had Chase in front until the 94th minute, when the National League North side equalised with the last kick of the game, before nicking it in extra time.  I was gutted for the boys, who still feel like my boys (as I signed half of them) in a way that the Blackpool players perhaps never will.

But I digress.  Waze was, in fact, taking me onto the M6 Toll.  Woah – hang on a minute.  I wasn’t happy about that!  But I decided to roll with it anyway, as I had never driven on the toll road before and it would be a new driving experience to tick off my list.  It was actually lovely to drive on a quiet motorway and I managed the toll booth without any trouble (contactless). I was looking forward to missing out the 50MPH zone of the M6 before I remembered the M6 Toll didn’t cover much north of Birmingham and before I knew it I found myself on the M6 in the 50MPH zone, having paid £6.70 for the privilege of driving what I think was one junction on the toll.  Hmm I wasn’t sure that was the wisest move, Waze, but nonetheless thank you for adding to my driving education.

As it was a Thursday night as opposed to my usual Friday drive north, the traffic was much lighter.  I arrived in Blackpool in excellent time, with no diversions on this occasion.  After a relaxed evening watching the Stan & Ollie movie (a beautiful love story) I retired for the night, at peace and completely relaxed.  Blackpool truly is my happy place and I can’t wait to be back full time.  

Friday morning was pretty busy and, before we knew it, Andy and Matt from Mundial Media rocked up to commence work on the film.  I had roped Lee into the project during the week; as I get roped into enough of his projects, I felt it was time to return the favour.  The film makers had never been to Blackpool before so it was our job to introduce them to our beloved town – and of course Blackpool Football Club.  When the cameraman was happy with the lighting and the arrangement of the room, we were seated in position for our interview. Because I was wearing a dress and had no pocket for the microphone kit to be tucked into, I found myself tied to the chair by the microphone lead.  I was perfectly ok with this (since reading ‘F*** It Therapy’ I am generally happy to go with the flow with whatever life throws at me).  But I really wasn’t thinking when I guzzled a pint of water and found myself unable to take a comfort break…

Finally untethered and relieved, we took Matt and Andy to see the ‘iconic sights of Blackpool’ as they had requested.  Mercifully the rain had stopped and it was actually a delightful bright afternoon now.  We headed down to the Comedy Carpet and posed for some shots underneath the Tower.  Next we were directed onto the beach and right out to sea (the tide was very out) and underneath Central Pier, where there appeared to be an open air swimming baths for the seagulls, as they bathed in pools left behind by the outgoing tide.

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I had tried explaining to our visitors about the wonderful wind in Blackpool and how it envelops you with a firm, reassuring hug as you get closer to the sea.  I am not sure they (or even Lee, for that matter) quite understood.  

‘Are you ok?  You look cold.’

On the contrary, I was in my element in the wind’s warm embrace.  I was home and it was exhilarating and quite beautiful.  As we strolled back to the Golden Mile, the sand danced on the wind all around us.  What a stunning evening – and perfect for showcasing our wonderful town at its very best.  I hope the finished film does it justice.

We headed back along the prom, stopping to buy some hot doughnuts along the way.  This was not for the benefit of the film, more that (a) I was starving and (b) we hadn’t managed to pick up any doughnuts at the Pleasure Beach when we went last week (all of theirs were pre-cooked and pre-sugared and we wanted them hot off the press).  Oh my these were delicious!  I can’t remember the last time I had hot doughnuts (apart from jam ones I’ve microwaved the morning after purchase to liven them up).  We continued back towards Coral Island (mercifully not too visibly scarred from this week’s fire) stuffing our faces – and I probably had sugar all over my face for the next hour but I didn’t care.  

By the time we reached Bloomfield Road I was exhausted and still famished despite the doughnuts.  I was looking forward to shaking off the camera crew and tucking into a Peri Peri Chicken Wrap from Macros in the South Stand.  I managed to shake everyone off as I darted into the ticket office to purchase our tickets for Bolton.  I was foiled in this mission, as I didn’t have all the required client codes to hand (not particularly helpful or personable – just let me spend my money with you please!).  Having established that the ticket office was not open after the match but would be tomorrow, I left empty-handed.  Now there was yet more filming to be done around the ground…and going into the ground.  I finally escaped through the turnstile and, with a sigh of relief, headed straight to the health food counter.

‘A chicken wrap and a bottle of water, please.’

‘I can help with the water but there’s no food tonight, I’m afraid.’

Dear reader, I don’t often get grumpy – but when I’m tired (check) and hungry (check) I can get somewhat short-tempered.  I huffed and skulked across the concourse to the main refreshment kiosk.  A fellow Seasider tried to engage me in conversation but I could barely summon up the energy to reply (NB if I’m queueing for a pie at a ground, I’m likely not to be in the best of spirits because I don’t even LIKE pies and only eat them when I’m desperate).  I was too angry to even order a pie tonight – I really don’t like the pies at Bloomfield Road and eating one now would have tipped me over the edge.  I opted for a bag of Quavers and a Snickers Duo. That would have to do. 

So how was the match?  Most enjoyable for the first 23 minutes.  We were 2-0 up and coasting, with excellent goals from Scannell and Thompson (who nutmegged their player before scoring a goal of the season contender).  We had Gnanduillet back in the side (although no Kaikai) and the change of formation seemed to be a work of genius.  And then Lincoln pulled one back and our heads seemed to drop.  We narrowly held onto the one-goal lead and came out winners, but it was a painful watch – and a stark contrast to the confident, swaggering side from the first quarter of the match.  Something is wrong with this team and we have been struggling to put our finger on exactly what.  The team appears to be too easily shaken.  Remember Southend when we were bossing the match until Husband was sent off, then the game turned on its head.  Remember Tilt’s wobbles following his individual errors leading to goals.  Remember Oxford at home, with their bullying tactics that we simply couldn’t handle.  And now today, where one goal conceded again turned the game around and the momentum was lost.  This Blackpool team is not yet a strong, confident, unstoppable machine.  And why not?  The players have the skills to play any team in League One off the park.  We have some incredibly talented players.  But the team as a whole is lacking something.  I would love to see them bond as a unit and start enjoying their football. We love to see that confident swagger – and these boys have every right to be confident because they are so talented.  Bring it on, boys – delight the crowd by showcasing what you can do.  We believe in you.

I left the ground tired and deflated but ought to have really been buzzing with the three points that had elevated us to fourth in the table.  Perhaps I ought to practice what I preach and start enjoying my football a bit more!  God knows it is wonderful to be back at Bloomfield Road.

The rain came back with a vengeance as we walked back to the car but it didn’t matter now.  I rather like walking in the rain (being from The North it is best to learn to love it, as we get enough of the stuff) – and it wasn’t as if I was being filmed any more, so I could look as bedraggled as I liked.

The rest of the night was spent with Lee editing the other video of the day, his matchday vlog, which includes footage of the film crew filming us filming them!  Here you can see just how beautiful Blackpool beach can be as the sun sets:

Dear reader, before I sign off, I MUST tell you about a new (well revamped) pub that we visited the following day.  You know how we have been frequenting the Water’s Edge at St Annes?  Well it now has a sister pub in Blackpool – The Half Way House.  Bravo to Joseph Holt Brewery for bringing such a wonderful chain of pubs to the Fylde Coast.  I never went in this pub previously but apparently it is unrecognisable compared to how it was before.  Here’s how it looks now:

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And here are some examples of the iconic artwork adorning the walls:

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There are four cask ales on here from Holts.  The food menu is very difficult to choose from (i want to try EVERYTHING) and the dishes are quite delicious.  Today I opted for the Malaysian Spiced Fish Pie, which I heartily recommend:

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It was so pleasing to see this pub busy less than a week after reopening.  It is obvious that much love has gone into it – from the Blackpool art adorning the walls, to the plants dotted around the pub, to the friendly service from the staff.  Please do pop down and visit this excellent new addition to the Blackpool pub scene, which really is thriving these days – a wonderful thing to be able to report.  I’ll certainly drink to that.  Cheers!  UTMP.

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