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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 Scunthorpe United & Players Q&A Night

I honestly don’t know what I did with my time before I had Blackpool back in my life! They appear to have taken over again… and it’s simply wonderful!

On Tuesday night Lee and I were invited to a Player Q&A at The Corner Flag (formerly Rowleys), the bar/bistro in the corner of the ground. On arrival at 6pm, we received a genuinely warm welcome from our hostess, Lakeisha. It was so lovely to be greeted with open arms and have our work appreciated by those we are seeking to help and promote. The interim board did a lot of damage in terms of (what) customer service but the difference is demonstrably different since Simon Sadler has brought in his own people and exerted more of an influence.  

Another example of this is the wording of the club announcement about flags in the stadium. This is very positively framed:

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Compare this to the announcement THE NIGHT BEFORE the first home game of the season, warning fans not to bring bags ‘larger than an A4 piece of paper’ and banning under-2s (amongst many other stringent orders) and it’s clear how the club is positively progressing.

I understand that club staff have been asked to provide service with a smile – and honestly it makes such a great deal of difference. I actually welled up tonight because I’m simply not used to actually feeling appreciated by the club. It’s a lovely feeling. 

As Lee prepared his kit to film the evening’s proceedings, I headed to the bar and resolved to sniff out any ale offerings (not expecting any). Imagine my delight when I spotted some bottles of beer in the fridge! 

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This wasn’t bad at all. Whilst it would be great to see a wider selection of bottled beers (perhaps from local breweries) – and perhaps a cask offering eventually – this was definitely a step in the right direction and I was happy. 

I thought this was a great venue for a Player Q&A event. The players were in familiar surroundings and it is a nice intimate room. A hot buffet was offered towards the back of the room, consisting of chicken skewers (very nice with sweet chilli sauce), samosas and the biggest spring rolls I’ve ever seen! 

The players – Jay Spearing, Ben Heneghan, Ryan Edwards and Matty Virtue – were seated on stools at the front of the room with the pitch behind them and host Tony Parr did an excellent job directing the questions and running the mic. There was an hour of questions from the floor and the conversation between fans, host and players flowed naturally all evening, with no lull in proceedings. 

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This interaction between the fans and players is so important. When we came back in March, we didn’t know who the players were – and it has taken quite some time for us to learn their names, their positions, what they look like and what sort of players they are. Also it was probably under Ollie ten years ago that we had players that we genuinely bonded with and cared about – and who we remember fondly (who else is looking out for Barrow’s results now just because Evo is manager there?). So tonight was a vital step in taking this bonding one step further. The players were tangible and approachable, we heard them speak, asked them questions and got to learn more about them as human beings. This is so important. It is all too easy to criticise players but if fans can see them as human beings this might make them think twice about doing so. 

It was a very relaxed informal evening – with around 60 fans in attendance – and I understand this was the first in a series of meet the players nights. I wouldn’t hesitate to go along to future events and can greatly recommend it to you, dear reader. At £10 for food and a relaxing night with fellow Seasiders and players in pleasant surroundings, I can safely say it is MUCH better value for money than a £92.55 train to Ipswich! Get down there and support the boys. And you get to see the exciting heat lamps on the pitch!

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It was back to Bloomfield Road on Wednesday night for some leasing.com trophy action against Scunthorpe United. Despite being based in Blackpool now, I still had to travel to get to this match (it wouldn’t be the same without the adventure) so my journey began in Manchester. 

I scampered across Manchester in the rain, skipping over puddles, weaving through the Christmas shoppers, gazing up at the pretty lights, dodging the Christmas market stalls (wondering if they have a singing moose like Birmingham), reluctantly passing the tempting pubs and finally arriving at Piccadilly Station. The Blackpool North train wasn’t as late as usual (it’s only ever a matter of minutes anyway) and I soon found myself settled down on the train to the Gold Coast. I was tired tonight after an exhausting weekend (an 18h day trip to Ipswich and a surprise leaving party in Birmingham involving a Tiny Rebel Stay Puft Imperial Irish Cream Marshmallow Porter at 9%). 

Despite surprising myself by not falling asleep after drinking that beer on Sunday (it was lush, by the way), I nodded off after just a couple of chapters of my book tonight, getting a good hour’s kip, which I obviously needed. I woke up around Preston and had to restrain myself from alighting at Layton, where I could hear the delightful new micropub, Cask, hailing me like a siren. I arrived at Blackpool North around 6pm and headed into town to sample its delights. 

My first stop was of course Yorkshire Fisheries for a chippy tea. This is the third highest ranked restaurant in Blackpool on Trip Advisor and is right up there in terms of Blackpool chippys. I skipped into the takeaway section (I do normally eat in the restaurant, but time was pressing tonight) and eagerly ordered a small chips and gravy (open).

 

 

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Now on my last couple of visits here, I’d found the chips a little dry; however they were back on form tonight – and the gravy was lush as ever. I tucked in as I tootled across town in the direction of Church Street. 

Brew Room is closer to town than I realised – and I had to loiter by a bin for a few minutes while I finished off my chips. I was pretty sure I’d managed to get gravy in my hair on the walk here but frankly I didn’t care. I’d had a great tea – name me a finer one than chips and gravy? – and now it was time for beer!

Now the beer range in Brew Room is unquestionably the finest in Blackpool. There are always more tempting beers than I have time to try. I really need to do this place justice and spend an entire evening in here. It is so important to support these treasures about our town. You can even pick up a copy of the fanzine in there to enjoy with your beer!

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They brew their own beer here too (hence the name) and they had a new one on tonight: a chocolate orange stout. Ooh this was nice! If only I had an Orange Twirl to dunk in it…  On my return visit to the bar I spotted ANOTHER chocolate orange stout: one of my favourites, Fernandes Black Voodoo. I can never understand why this pub isn’t busier than it is. I always find it so hard to leave. But leave I must – as I was on vlogging duties tonight and there was a match to get to!

Google Maps directed me to Bloomfield Road (just a 20-minute walk). As I walked round the ground I was surprised and delighted to see the Community Trust space in the corner of the ground previously occupied by the club shop now being used by youngsters having a kickabout. 

I didn’t need to visit the ticket office tonight, as I had taken advantage of the club’s online print at home ticketing. Gone are the days of hanging on the phone for hours to get match tickets and then frantically looking out for the postman for the next week. It was so simple to order tickets online – and print them off straight away from the resulting email. Bravo Blackpool for yet another small but important improvement to the customer service experience. We’ve never known anything quite like this before!

Simon Sadler really is a dream owner. He’s quietly making so many improvements throughout the club – the pitch, the dressing rooms, the training ground, the club shop to name just a handful – without shouting about it and expecting adulation. This is so refreshing. We are so lucky and appreciate it all. 

Imagine my delight when I not only found my seat easily (mainly due to the fact I’d selected it myself from the seating plan online and could visualise where it was) – but it was a padded seat! Who knew that was a thing at Bloomfield Road? This was a cracking seat directly behind the dugouts, right on the halfway line – and it was a bargain at a tenner tonight. 

And so to the match. Well Scunny were better than anticipated! I’ve been supporting Blackpool for nigh on 30 years and during that timeframe we have been their bogey side. We just always seem to beat them. Now on a seven-match unbeaten run, having won four on the bounce at home – and Scunny in a lower league – how could we fail to win?

Watch this video to find out:

So that’s our Trophy adventure over for this season. It’s probably not a bad thing if we are to focus fully on winning promotion. Plus it’s exhausting doing two matches a week! Next up we have Maidstone at home in the FA Cup. I’d like to see a full-strength side on Sunday so we can progress to a potential glamour tie in the third round – without the need for (and torture of) a replay in Kent in midweek. I think one midweeker in Kent during a season is quite enough…

Still on the road to Wembley. UTMP. 

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