It was back to League One action for me on Tuesday night – and quite frankly I was more excited about the Orange Twirl that Lee had bought for me than I was about the match. I’d somehow forgotten, but League One football is like this. Going to every match (as I do) necessitates finding other areas of enjoyment aside from the football. Hence the weekends away, the pub crawls, hunting for food and trying my hardest to make the travelling an enjoyable part of the adventure.
The travelling got off to a stuttering start this evening. I work in Manchester now (a step closer to getting home to Blackpool) so the journey to Blackpool ought to have been straightforward. However this route is operated by Northern Rail and…need I say more? As part of my degree course a couple of years ago, I studied the history and growth of Blackpool as a purpose-built seaside resort for the working classes. The East Lancashire mill workers were already making their own way to the seaside – so keen were they to reach The Gold Coast, they would walk from Preston. The railway line into Blackpool was built somewhat reluctantly to herd the working classes and hasn’t seen a great deal of investment or love to this day. I sometimes catch a commuter train from Blackpool to Manchester in the mornings and it is rammed to the rafters by the time it approaches Manchester. It is simply not on to expect commuters to stand up for an hour when they pay good money for a seat on a train. I’m getting so cross about this I’ve issued a complaint. We put up with too much when we really ought to be taking action.
Sorry, I got lost in a rant there, didn’t I? My train to Blackpool this evening was slightly delayed. I’d already made my way down to Platform 14, where I never fail to be amazed by the efficiency of how quickly they turn over trains on that platform. There’s one every few minutes. It’s very impressive. My train was about ten minutes late in the end but I managed to secure a seat, which was the main thing. I’d also used the delay to buy some snackage for the journey, not knowing when I would next eat (there seemingly being nothing edible inside Bloomfield Road). I didn’t think I was that hungry, but I heartily scoffed a tuna and sweetcorn sandwich. Inevitably I had caught Lee’s cold from last week and was eating more than ever in a bid to feel better. With a combination of lots of food and Day & Night Nurse, I was feeling ok now.
Lee met me at Blackpool North – armed with fanzines and my (nee Lee’s) Blackpool scarf and soon despatched me on my fanzine-selling turf on Bloomfield Road. I occupied my position for in excess of an hour, chatting to passers-by, securing new sales and receiving positive feedback from people who had previously purchased the fanzine. Two people bought fanzines to take on holiday (one was going to Morocco) and one to take into hospital the following day. I had some Chasetown chat with a few folk who had seen my reports from there on Saturday. One man stopped to buy a fanzine because ‘I’ve seen you on TV.’ And I even sold to some friendly Wycombe fans. I enjoy my stints selling, albeit it was a little quieter tonight owing to it being a midweek fixture.
At 1940 I decided it was time to head into the ground, so I headed for the nearest turnstile. After I’d had my bag searched, the steward said:
‘Hang on. Aren’t you a home fan?’
At which point I realised I was at the away turnstiles.
‘You wouldn’t believe I’m a season ticket holder, would you…?’
Rushing and blushing, I made it into the ground just in time for kick-off (an advantage of lower gates = no queues), joining Lee in the stand.
‘Well, how was it?’
I met Lee with a blank look. We’re usually on the same wavelength, so I paused as I waited for the penny to drop, as I knew it inevitably would.
‘Oh the TWIRL!’
Dear reader, I get so engrossed in selling fanzines that it can take me some time to switch back to relaxed mode. Lee had presented me with the Twirl when I was in the middle of selling and it got me all afluster because I wanted to eat it so much right there and then but I was busy selling. Reluctantly I’d secured it somewhere safe – but where had I put it? Aha! I remember now. I dug it out of my bag and opened it immediately.
I can’t even BEGIN to tell you how excited I’d been about the Orange Twirl. I’d seen it advertised online some weeks ago and had been desperately hunting one down. I’d even despatched a convoy down to the Cadbury factory in Bournville (I’m not joking) but to no avail. Ahead of the Bolton match, a fellow Seasider said he might be able to obtain a box from a local dealer, but sadly nothing materialised from that. My anticipation reached its peak when Chris of Brickstand fame confirmed he’d found some:
Imagine my delight when, on the phone to Lee on Sunday night, he casually dropped into conversation that he’d just seen Orange Twirls in the shop.
‘Pleeeeeeease go back and get me one. I neeeed one!’
And bless that man, that’s exactly what he did. I honestly don’t know what I ever did without him.
So now the moment had finally arrived. I knew it deserved my full concentration – and the match had by now kicked off – but I simply couldn’t wait any longer. I’d read the Twirl was ‘better than a Chocolate Orange’ – high praise indeed!
Obvs it wasn’t in the wrapper long enough for a photo but here’s what’s left:
Sure it was nice enough, but I’d hyped it up so much that it was only ever going to disappoint. It simply wasn’t ORANGEY enough for me. I could barely taste the orange flavour in the second finger. I like food (and drinks) to dance on my palate and this just wasn’t enough for me. I will try another one, though – just to be sure.
I was NOT happy after this. And then Wycombe went and scored to compound my misery. Lee told me to give my head a wobble – ‘it’s only a chocolate bar’ – and I knew he was right. I focussed on the football, which actually improved in the second half and the Seasiders equalised, but still they didn’t do enough to win.
Here’s Lee’s video memory of the night. Me and my Twirl are in it.
So what’s wrong on the pitch? I recall being surprised when the interim board signed up these players on long-term contracts. It wasn’t as if they’d set League One alight last season; indeed the Gillingham home game on the last day was bloody awful. The appointment of a new manager AFTER the contracts were signed immediately put Larry in a difficult position, lumbered with players he might not necessarily have chosen himself. It does appear as if there is a fractious element in the dressing room at the moment. No way are these players willing to run through brick walls for the team or the manager. Is that something that Larry will be given the time and opportunity to manage? Certainly if there is no imminent improvement in performances, something needs to change. I’d love to see a busy transfer window in January. Larry has done this before, in 2007, making 15 signings to revamp the team from near-certs for relegation to finishing third and winning the play-offs. Of course I’m not expecting anything as drastic as that this year – it doesn’t need anything that drastic, as mercifully everyone else in this league is every bit as rubbish as we are. All it will take is a little dash of magic. And you know we’re never short of that in Blackpool. We can still do this. But not carrying on the way things are. That won’t work. Even I’m getting fed up with watching this team and I’m usually uber positive. I’m watching them every week and they aren’t an easy watch. The appointments of Tommy Johnson and Jonathan Gibson on the scouting and player recruitment side this week are encouraging. Our medium to long term future is looking bright. Meanwhile we – and Larry – have to weather this storm. We can but watch with interest to see who gets thrown overboard.
But for now…onwards to play The Brewers at Burton, the home of beer. This fixture couldn’t have come at a better time because I don’t half need a few beers after these last few matches! I did a comprehensive pub crawl around Burton a couple of years ago, which may be of interest to the ale drinkers amongst you. There’s a good chippy featured too. You can read it at the link below on pages 21-28.
I know there have been changes to some of these pubs since this article was written in 2016 but I hope it gives you a good flavour of what Burton has to offer. If you’re there on Saturday you know you’ll find me somewhere in that article, researching a new one. Saturday is going to be a Good Day, make no mistake. And you’ll be able to read all about it right here. UTMP.