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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 Southend United: Can We Play You Every Week?

The menu was also quite firm that you couldn’t ask for substitutions, as they would not vary from the menu. I mean, who would choose to have scrambled eggs with their breakfast (unless it was accompanied by smoked salmon, of course)?

Finally a home game on a Saturday! Much as I love the adventure of an awayday, it has been a gruelling few weeks – especially as we haven’t had a win to show for it. When we win, I float home in next to no time. At least that’s what I think happened when we used to win. How many points for a win these days? Is it still three?

I took advantage of the rare Saturday in Blackpool to book in at the beauty therapist for a wax.

‘Have you remembered to take your painkillers?’

‘Ooh no – thanks for the reminder!’

I forget it hurts until I’m in there. And it really hurts. Not that I’ve ever had children, but I imagine it’s a bit like childbirth. Bear with me here. I mean that we ladies are resilient creatures and put up with a lot of physical traumas but just grin and bear it. We don’t focus on the pain element, but on the result.

And this was the result today:

Looks sore, right?

As I exited the clinic a little concerned that I might cause a traffic accident with the glare from my forehead, I decided to treat myself to breakfast. I hunted down a nearby caff and promptly ordered a full English and a banana milkshake. You know I sometimes forget to eat prior to a home match and I wanted to make sure I was fully sustained for the day ahead.

For today saw the launch of a new issue of Now That’s What I Call Progress, the Blackpool FC fanzine that I edit. This means I’m standing on Bloomfield Road flogging fanzines – sans food – for two hours prior to kick-off.

The breakfast wasn’t the best. I opted for the upgrade from regular sausages to Cumberland, but I couldn’t tell the difference. And of course what I really wanted (having fallen in love with the place and its food) was Lincolnshire. Also the bacon was very fatty. I didn’t photograph it to spare you the trauma. Not liking sausage or bacon, I usually order a vegetarian breakfast, but in this particular cafe, for some reason you get scrambled egg with the veggie breakfast, but fried egg with the full English. The menu was also quite firm that you couldn’t ask for substitutions, as they would not vary from the menu. I mean, who would choose to have scrambled eggs with their breakfast (unless it was accompanied by smoked salmon, of course)? If I’m being completely honest, I prefer mine poached, but fried is the next best thing. Incidentally, if anyone has any tips for poaching an egg I’d be most grateful. I’ve mastered the art of frying them (in Fry Light, on a low light, sprinkled with a little black pepper), but poaching remains a mystery to me.

To distract myself from the breakfast, I took to my phone to promote the fanzine launch on social media and the Blackpool fans forums. You can follow the fanzine on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @progress1887.

Lee came to pick me up from the caff and we soon found ourselves at home with an hour to spare on the morning of a match. This never happens. I decided to try and put up our new curtains which ended terribly and an hour later the house was completely trashed, with curtains, rings, hooks, packaging and tools all over the house. As I decided to exit the scene as we were now running late, Lee announced that he was going to start getting ready. START getting ready. And thus we were rushing and late as usual and it was 1.15pm before I was in situ on Bloomfield Road.

Now Storm Ciara was set to wreak havoc today, but it was just a regular blustery day in Blackpool on Saturday afternoon. I wedged my hat on my head to (a) stop my hair blowing about everywhere; (b) keep me warm; and (c) cover up my radiant brow (which was calming down a lot now and I’d covered it up with make-up as well). It is always a bonus when it isn’t raining when I’m selling fanzines. Numerous people complained about the cold as they passed by but I was quite snug in my new jumper, thermal trousers, body warmer, big coat, thermal tights and thermal socks. If it got really cold, I’d put my scarf on and my hood up. Indeed both came out in the second half of the match.

So, who popped by to buy a fanzine today? Well there was the lovely Susan, who came by with a big hug to commiserate for all I had been through at the last few away games. That’s was so lovely and really made my day. And then a little later, a man presented me with these:

‘These are from my step dad. He loves reading your blogs. These are for you to enjoy at half time.’

I love my dear readers!

After a successful selling session, I headed towards the turnstile just before 3pm. The steward apologised to me for having to search my bag but I said it was really ok as I knew he was only doing his job. Plus I’d got the smoke bomb stuffed down my coat anyway (joke, obvs…).

I entered the ground and climbed up to my seat in the South Stand. My neighbours here are quite amusing. One man has nicknames for players which do tickle me. My favourite is ‘Tom’ (Bola).

I was pleased with the team selection today – especially with the start for new boy Taylor Moore, who had given a great first impression with his opening interview for the club:

Compare this with the first impression we got of Joe Nuttall, who looked less than delighted to have signed a three-year contract with the Mighty Tangerine Wizards:

So how was the match today? Well the first 15-20 minutes almost had me in tears again…but for different reasons than at recent away games. We were playing football. We were attacking. We were exciting. We actually looked like we had a plan and were passing the ball forwards and running at the Southend defence. Connor Ronan and Samlesbury Hall are making the world of difference in our midfield (we have a midfield!).

And as for Taylor Moore? Oh. My. God. What a player. The fans around me were comparing him to Ian Evatt (‘but better’) and Andy Morrison. His fearless tackles were tremendous. He likes to charge forward to get involved in attacking movements. He’s vocal. He’s classy. He wants to be playing football. He wants to be here, playing for Blackpool.

Yes I’m getting overexcited. But I WANT new players to impress and succeed. And god knows we have had precious little to get excited about on the pitch in recent weeks (months). But these loan players really do appear head and shoulders above the previous crop. Chris Maxwell in nets looks impressive, too: sharp, quick and agile.

I’m not sure anyone is sure about the two big men together up front. But Gnanduillet gets goals (two today) and Madine cuts an imposing figure up there and we need to keep him playing and happy as he will be the one leading the line next season when Gnands heads off to pastures new. So I get why we are pairing these two together. We do seem to be lacking mobility up top, though. A nippy little goal poacher would fit in there just perfectly: a Brett Ormerod, a Scott Taylor, an Andy Watson (Superstar). We know what works. We’ve seen the winning combination many times over the years. We’ve got the big man, we’ve got the wizard on the wing…now we’ve finally got that added dimension of creativity in midfield, we’re actually not that far off being a decent side.

Gnanduillet’s first goal was met with such a muted reaction that I thought it had been disallowed. It was like we had forgotten what scoring a goal (and going ahead) felt like. But, yes, it was really a goal and we were really winning. Even the North Stand was less bouncy and exuberant than usual today. I sit quite close to the away fans and all I could hear during the first half was the Southend fans singing and yes they had come a long way and it was great that they were having a nice time in Blackpool but could they be a bit quieter about it, please?

Our second was a penalty carved out by The Fonz, who had just come on as sub. Skipper Spearing and Big Gnands had a discussion over the ball and there was only ever going to be one outcome there. Determined to make amends for his Panenka against the bar at Reading, the big man made no mistake on this occasion, sending the keeper the wrong way and the ball hard into the bottom corner of the net.

Dear reader, we won! The final score was 2-1, Southend pulling one back with a wonderstrike from Stephen McLaughlin, making the last 20 minutes unnecessary tense. No, tense isn’t the right word. It’s more that we were strolling and comfortable for the first 70 minutes. It was a lovely feeling. But of course the team couldn’t have that because they’re Blackpool so they had to put us on edge for the last 20 minutes. Frankly I switched off at that point. Perhaps it’s a coping mechanism. But as soon as that goal went in, I found myself thinking about work and what to have for tea and when we were going to fit in the next episode of Picard and returning those curtains (which didn’t fit, by the way, after all that carnage) and oh god I’d got to tidy the house when we got home and where was I going to meet Lee after the game because we had season tickets in separate blocks and I wonder how far away from the ground he’d parked this time and it was going to be nice to be home by half past five instead of half past ten.

When the final whistle blew I almost didn’t know what to do. I can’t actually remember the last time I clapped the players off the pitch. They’ve been shit for weeks, months.

And I heard our fans complaining that Southend had been crap so that win was nothing to get excited about. But I strongly disagree with that for the following reasons:

1. We could only beat Southend because Southend were our opponents today. We couldn’t have beaten Rotherham or Wycombe because we weren’t playing them. We did enough. And we didn’t lose, like we would have done three weeks ago.

2. We have honestly been THAT BAD recently, that match was a blessed relief and a joy to watch. If you took that match in isolation, hey, maybe it wasn’t a classic, but believe me it was a hundred times better than Wycombe away.

3. We WERE good. Samlesbury Hall’s cheeky back heel and runs at and through players; Ronan’s dinks down the flank; Bola rampaging forward; Moore’s tackles; Maxwell’s Hollywood save. We haven’t had ANY of that. We have been starved of joy on the pitch for so long and these players are bringing it. And I love them for that.

4. We bloody WON for the first time in TWO MONTHS and 11 MATCHES and 2,220 MILES on the road SO I’M GOING TO BLOODY ENJOY IT THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

I found Lee on the concourse at the end of the game and we strolled out of the ground arm in arm and beaming as Lee filmed the post-match reaction. I confess it felt a little strange watching events unfolding without filming anything today but I was more than happy to hand the reins back to the boss today. Here’s his video of today’s proceedings:

Same again on Tuesday please, you Mighty Tangerine Wizards!

UTMP.

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