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Jane Stuart – Writer

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

Blackpool v Rotherham United: Ambushed by the Board

Dear reader, as you know, I’m still relatively new to driving and face new challenges in my car most weeks.  This weekend this involved setting off for a match in the dark, in driving rain, via a city centre and some tight bay parking.  I can’t say I had been relishing the challenge – but I knew I would be pleased to get the experience under my belt.  When I finally arrived in Blackpool (mission accomplished!) I was exhilarated and looking forward to not doing any more driving for the rest of the weekend.  I happily delegate all driving duties to Lee when I arrive on the Fylde Coast.  Aah!  And relax!

But no!  Lee arrived home full of a cold and fever so I was left with the task of delivering the fanzines to the local pubs on my own.  This proved somewhat of a challenge, as I hadn’t previously driven around Blackpool unsupervised.  I ended up almost driving the wrong way down a one-way street – and being so flummoxed by a car park that the attendant had to direct me into a bay and drive my car out of it, before shouting after me that I’d forgotten to switch my lights on.  By the time I arrived home (with the fanzines all just about safely delivered to Brew Room, Bloomfield Brewhouse and No 10 Alehouse) I was more than a little distressed from the whole experience.  Lee said he would help by taking me out for parking practice when he was feeling better.  Having distracted him from being ill with my driving drama, he was persuaded to drive to the supermarket so I wouldn’t starve and we could get him some Day & Night Nurse, which I knew would relieve him of his symptoms (I wasn’t putting up with this all weekend).  That done, we settled back to watch the new Breaking Bad movie, El Camino, which we thoroughly enjoyed.

Now breakfast in Blackpool proves somewhat troublesome for me.  I don’t usually eat until I have been up and about for two hours.  It’s the way my body clock works.  But I don’t like getting up any earlier than I have to.  This means that I end up grabbing something on my way out of the house just for the sake of eating (as I know I’m going to be busy for the following few hours), even though I’m not hungry at the time.  Today’s snackage on the move was a Chocolate Orange and a Frijj Chocolate & Banana Milkshake (more chocolatey than bananaey – I wouldn’t have it again).

Our first stop was the Bloomfield Club.  I was dropping off some fanzines to be sold at the BST meeting and Lee was setting up his equipment to film the meeting.  I’d never been in here before but it was a lovely spacious area and a good venue for a meeting.  Sadly I couldn’t stay (despite being interested) as I needed to be in position selling fanzines outside the ground at the time of the meeting.  Lee dropped me off at the ground before returning to the club to film the meeting.  His fever had gone now as the tablets were working their magic.

I took my position outside the old No 1 Club / Sam Tai casino on Bloomfield Road around 1pm and held my fanzines aloft to attract unsuspecting passers-by. 

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I was very glad it wasn’t raining, as had been forecast earlier in the week, as there was no shelter here for me.  I love standing here selling fanzines.  I get to talk to so many interesting people.  

‘Ooh hello – I didn’t recognise you with your trousers on!’

Now Lee and I both went for a change of attire today, following Monday night’s shocking performance at Bolton, hoping this would prompt a change in fortunes for the Seasiders.  Hence I wasn’t wearing a dress as usual, instead giving my new Blackpool shirt its first airing, paired up with my jeans and jacket.  

I also got chatting to the exhibition manager from the National Football Museum, who was telling me all about the Blackpool items they have on display there, including Sir Stanley Matthews’ FA Cup winners medal – owned by one Simon Sadler, new owner of BFC.

After I had been selling for about half an hour, I spotted three men wearing suits heading in my direction up Bloomfield Road.  As they approached, I asked if I could tempt them with my wares.

‘What is it?’

‘It’s the Blackpool fanzine, Sir.’

‘Ooh yes, I’ll take one of those.’

At which point each of the suited men patted themselves down and made it clear that they didn’t have any money about their person.

‘We’ve got no cash on us at the moment. Can I take one anyway and I’ll pay you later?’

(Cue man trying to pull a fanzine from my hands).

I held firm and reacted in mock horror.

‘That’s outrageous behaviour, Sir!  I’m sorry but if you can’t pay, you can’t have one.’

At which point his companion stepped in.

‘Well we’ve set the tone there, haven’t we?  You’re Jane, aren’t you?  I’ve seen you on the videos.’

‘Yes that’s me – pleased to meet you.’ 

I figured I probably ought to know who these men were, so I took the opportunity to lead into an introduction, holding my hand out to shake his in the hope of him offering his name back to me.  He did.

‘I’m Brett – and that’s Linton.’

‘Ah hello – nice to meet you.’

And that, dear reader, was my first encounter with Brett Gerrity (Director of BFC and Simon Sadler’s right hand man) and Linton Brown (Acting Chief Executive and Chief Commercial Officer of BFC and would-be-fanzine-snatcher).  If only I had stayed for the BST meeting, I might have recognised them.  To be honest, I’m still having trouble recognising the players, let alone the new board!  I chuckled in realisation as they walked on their way (sans fanzine).  Linton, if you’re reading, I’ll send you a signed copy in the post…

Dear Reader, if you would like to read the fanzine (and have £2) you can find it online here:

As 3 o’clock approached, I made my way into the ground.  I’d already placed my food order with Lee (‘whatever Macro’s have got’) so headed straight up into the stand, where I was presented with a sausage roll.

‘Macro’s didn’t have any food apart from protein bars…and I know you don’t like the pies…and someone said the sausage rolls were good…’

‘No, that’s great – thank you.’

‘And I’ve got you a Mars Bar as well.’

I love this man.

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Looking at it, I could see why Lee had offered the sausage roll to me almost apologetically.  It wasn’t Greggs standard – or indeed particularly flavoursome – but it was edible, if a little greasy.  And it filled a gap.

Having been in sales mode for the previous two hours, I was still a little hyper for the first ten minutes or so of the match, but soon settled down and relaxed.  We were playing much better, creating plenty of good chances.  This was the same team as on Monday at Bolton but they had really upped their game and had fire in their bellies this afternoon.  We weren’t sure how it was still 0-0 at the break but we were very pleased with the performance and buzzing going into the second half.

Sadly Rotherham executed the better game-plan in the second half, forcing stoppages in play to break down our momentum.  They got an early goal, too, which we never really recovered from.  Nor were we best pleased with the referee, who had already failed to spot a handball in the penalty area – and now disallowed a Blackpool goal and seemed to give everything Rotherham’s way as well as stopping play himself when he might have waved it on.  All in all, a frustrating second half.  Rotherham went 2-0 up and the game was over, despite the Seasiders pulling back a late, late consolation with a Gnanduillet penalty in the 98th minute.

We left the ground dejected.  We ought to have won that match – dominating possession and creating more chances.  But unlike at Bolton, we weren’t frustrated at the team; this time it was the result that was painful.  Why is it painful watching Blackpool most weeks?  Was it always like this?  I know the answer to that.  Much as we can romanticise and look back fondly on the days of Billy Ayre and Larry the first time round (Swansea!), remember we also endured the torturous years under Every Other Manager in the interim.  Lower (and non) league football per se just isn’t enjoyable as a rule, is it?  That’s why I started spending so much time seeking enjoyment in other things on a matchday like food and beer and dogs.  That, dear reader, is how this blog was born. 

Now Lee had actually sought out some interesting stories and characters during his pre-match vlogging today.  I was particularly interested to learn of the mental health support on offer around the Fylde Coast, which I knew nothing about.  I know from experience it can be so hard to find mental health support at a time when you really need it.  Lee’s video memory of the day can be found here.  It’s well worth a watch:

Now the night was yet young – and we were in the home of entertainment, so we were sure as hell going to find some!  After dinner at Frankie & Benny’s (where I was served with the largest glass of Dr Pepper Zero, it was almost as though they had a job lot they were trying to get rid of), we headed to the Odeon to watch Joker.  And oh my – what a movie!  If you haven’t seen it, I cannot urge you strongly enough to do so. 

This film is disturbing, funny, strangely uplifting and incredibly relevant to the world we live in.  It’s quite possibly the greatest film I have ever seen – certainly no film has moved me anywhere near as much.  I’d go and watch it again tomorrow (and might just do exactly that).  I’ll make a different sweet selection next time, though.  Since when do Randoms not have Tooty Frooties in them?!

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Of course I’ve had to research this and I am devastated to have to report that Tooty Frooties were quietly discontinued earlier this year.  This has actually ruined my weekend and I’m afraid I’m going to have to stop writing now while I absorb this shocking and unexpected news.

Onwards and upwards to Carlisle for the next disappointment adventure.  UTMP.

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