Jane Stuart – Writer

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

Blackpool v Maidstone United & FC Brickstand v Brickpool Seasiders

On Friday I was asked: ‘What are you doing this weekend?’. Upon answering, I realised just how much Blackpool Football Club really has taken over my life in recent months:

‘Well, tonight I’m at a Blackpool fans Christmas party. Tomorrow I’m going to spend all day editing the Blackpool fanzine. And on Sunday I’m going to watch Blackpool play in the FA Cup…’

It’s not a bad life, is it, really…?

On Friday night Lee and I headed off to the No. 10 Alehouse on Whitegate Drive for the AVFTT Christmas party. For those of you who don’t know, AVFTT (Another View From The Tower) is a Blackpool fans website and forum.  Having only returned to the forum earlier this year after an absence of several years, this gathering presented a good opportunity to meet up with fellow Seasiders – some of whom I knew, some I knew only by their forum username and some I didn’t know from Adam. 

The beer at the No. 10 was far too quaffable as always (a stout tonight) and the company was excellent too. As Lee engrossed himself in filming proceedings, I engaged in conversation with fellow Seasiders about non-league football administration, duck burgers (available from the butchers in Layton, just down from Cask), Christmas plans, postage, cheese on sausage sandwiches, astrology (I stopped short of one of my party pieces of singing the theme tune to The Zodiac Game)…basically anything but Blackpool FC. Despite not knowing who most of the people in the pub were, we all had that one thing in common and the conversation flowed naturally all evening. Despite only planning to stop for an hour, we found we couldn’t leave and stayed for a few. 

Hence I wasn’t feeling my best on Saturday morning. Lee was up and out early doors so I took full advantage of having the house to myself and set about completing Issue 3 of Now That’s What I Call Progress. But I’ll just watch an episode of Corrie first, as I ease myself into the day… That done, I set to work formatting the pages. Once again I was delighted at the quality and variety of submissions for the fanzine. There’s a great story in this issue about the FA Cup descending into disarray during the big freeze in the winter of 1962/63, when so many ties were postponed that the draws became a farce and ended up being postponed themselves. There really are some great stories around football. If you have any to share, I’d love to include them in a future issue. Just drop me an email at jane@janestuart.co.uk

Having only moved from the sofa to prepare a sausage and marmalade sandwich, top up my glass of pop and utilise the excellent facilities – and working flat out editing – after five hours I found myself becoming very tired.  I closed my MacBook and rested my head on the sofa, not expecting to fall asleep (I’m really not one for snoozing during the day). I fell straight to sleep, waking only briefly to take myself off to bed. I knew Lee would be home soon, so I wasn’t worried about losing too much of the day. 

I roused when Lee returned, although never fully woke up for the rest of the evening.  I managed a little more work on the fanzine, scanning in some great nostalgic photos of Bloomfield Road before it was redeveloped. This just left my editorial to write, a couple more tweaks and then exporting the individual pages into PDFs. I was too tired to finish this tonight as planned, so instead retired to bed. It would have to do tomorrow. 

Now I never usually get anything productive done on the morning of a match because I’m way too excited about the match! But this morning we had a bit of work to do on a couple of videos before we set out. It didn’t take long but we were late leaving the house as usual, once we had got all our bits together for the match (camera & associated accessories, winter warming clothes and, of course, my new companion/old friend, Dany Bear). 

As we had tickets for the hospitality suite today, Lee headed for the club car park to assume a space there. I wasn’t convinced a car park space formed part of the package (there was no detail on the ticket, which I printed at home) but I let him get on with it as it was bloody freezing today and he usually parks about a mile away from the ground and I didn’t fancy that. At the entrance to the car park, the steward looked down her list for our names but couldn’t see us there. Instead of turning us away, she said that sometimes not all of the names showed on the list and let us in anyway. What another fine example of the great customer service at the club right now. This was a delightful start to what was to be a wonderful – and quite surreal – day. 

I’d brought Dany Bear today for his first taste of hospitality. He didn’t get the memo about the dress code and came in his new Christmas jumper.

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He brought a smile to the face of the lady searching my bag as I entered the club at the main entrance. He later got to meet his hero, Bloomfield Bear, so he was very happy today. 

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We were made to feel very welcome all day. We had doors opened for us and were offered at-seat service for drinks. I was joined at the table by BFC Chief Commercial Officer Linton Brown, who you may recall I had a little tussle with a few weeks ago when, oblivious to who he was, I held firm when he wanted to take a fanzine from me without paying, as he had no cash on him. Lee had explained to him that I was mortified and we had a laugh about it and no harm was done. He said he’d actually admired the way I’d stood my ground. At least I made a lasting first impression! 

Next up came the club’s new CEO, Ben Mansford, who was very well-received. As we are coming to expect from the new regime (which includes not only the new board but Larry too), he spoke very positively and we were left encouraged that we were in good (Northern) hands. 

In hospitality today were a group of Norwegians, who were having a whale of a time, singing at their table – and later dancing around the Christmas tree. This was almost a ‘you had to be there’ moment – but Lee captured it all on camera, so you can see their antics for yourself here:

After enjoying a hot dinner of roast chicken, roast veg and the biggest Yorkshire pudding I’ve ever seen, it was time to head out onto the balcony to take in some FA Cup Second Round action. 

Dear reader, this is where the enjoyment dipped a little, with Maidstone United – three leagues below Blackpool – going 1-0 up with a worldie, much to the delight of the 400-strong travelling support (annoyingly once again situated in ‘our’ South Stand.)  Grr. 

At half-time I rather fancied something stronger than the hot drinks on offer but I enjoyed a couple of orange (tangerine) chocolates with my tea. I really didn’t want this match to end in a draw today. I was already exhausted and could really do without a midweek replay in Kent. 

Well it’s a good job we returned to our seats promptly for the second half because it was explosive from the whistle! Maidstone were unfortunate to concede an own-goal, which was immediately followed up by a brace from the lively Nathan Delfouneso (whose name is still spelled incorrectly on the scoreboard). The scoreline remained at 3-1 and that would do very nicely thank you very much. 

We stayed to watch The Fonz being presented with his Man of the Match award before making the short walk back to the car and heading home happy. 

And relax…

…as if! As Lee set to work on putting the video together from the clips recorded throughout the day (including us being set upon by the lively Norwegians on our exit from the ground – again see the video above), I settled back on the sofa, opened up my laptop and continued work on the fanzine, which needed to be sent to the printers tonight. 

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Three hours later my head was hurting and I was getting hungry so I set about making tea, in between putting the finishing touches to the fanzine. Soon I was done (and done in) and we tucked into some pasta. Lee still had a little work to do on the video and I grabbed a bottle of Titanic Plum Porter and joined him in the editing suite, collapsing into the chair beside him. 

Now this was a two-match day for us today, with our Lego team, FC Brickstand (where we each have a season ticket) at home to Brickpool Seasiders in the cup. This proved a very confusing concept for us. We hadn’t realised that Brickpool Seasiders existed in brick football. We turned up at the match in tangerine as opposed to our usual Brickstand colours. 

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I chuckled heartily when I saw that Dany Bear had joined us at Brick Lane! If you haven’t looked up FC Brickstand yet I urge you to do so. Their Twitter account brings joy through football on a daily basis and regularly has me howling with laughter. 

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Sadly on this occasion, the Seasiders were on the losing side thanks to two goals from Brickstand’s star striker Conor Muldoon. We were only saying earlier today that if Blackpool only had a prolific goal-hanger to connect with Liam Feeney’s plethora of balls sweeping across the box, we’d be scoring goals for fun. Perhaps Conor Muldoon could be the answer? 

After the busiest weekend on football business, I was absolutely exhausted – and I hadn’t even travelled anywhere! I’m thankful for a week free of football now so I can build up my energy ahead of the Fylde Coast derby against Fleetwood on Saturday. If you’re there please look out for me selling fanzines on Bloomfield Road, come and say hello and buy one! UTMP. 

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