Jane Stuart – Writer

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

Blackpool v Ipswich Town: The Tide Begins To Turn

As I waited on Platform 14 at Manchester Piccadilly for the train taking me home to Blackpool for the weekend, my vision began to fail. Things didn’t look quite right and I wasn’t able to read any of the words on the signage on the buildings or advertising boards around me. Uh oh. You know those physical signs of mental stress I mentioned last week? Well migraine with aura is one of the ways it physically manifests itself with me.

As soon as the train arrived, I took a seat and closed my eyes. The visual disturbance necessitated this. It is simply too disorienting to keep one’s eyes open during an attack – and I find it prolongs the symptoms and resulting ‘migraine hangover’. If you’ve never suffered migraine with aura, here is a good example of how your vision can be affected (I don’t recommend watching this if you are a sufferer):

Mercifully I fell asleep for a good half hour, during which time my vision returned to normal. But now I had pins and needles in my fingers and lips, another common symptom.

I wondered if I would be fit to appear on the Fylde Coast Radio sports show tonight. Sometimes a migraine leaves me unable to read or form words (for example when I go to say the word ‘migraine’ it comes out as ‘microwave’). Migraines really are peculiar things.

I can usually put an attack down to a trigger food, such as cheese, bacon, sausage or pretzels – or indeed caffeine, even in a cup of tea (coffee is an absolute no-no for me). But I couldn’t think of any triggers I had consumed this week. However there were two things that might have caused the attack:

1. The build-up and subsequent release of rage at Tuesday night’s match against Bolton.

2. Lack of sleep. I hadn’t had a good night’s sleep for a week, last Saturday’s lie-in having been foiled by an 0520 alarm for Wimbledon away. My nighttime restlessness may or may not have been related to Lee’s insistence that Terry – the pterodactyl that lived in a tree in my garden in Walsall, and who had come with me in the move simply because it felt wrong leaving him there to terrorise the new occupants of the house – was now ‘part of the family’ despite me wanting to list him on eBay. He’s now become an indoor pterodactyl and terrifies me every time I turn on the light.

Mercifully this was a mild migraine and, after a triptan, a couple of Anadin Extras and the promise of a chippy tea from Lee, I was ready to hit the studio. My prep for the show didn’t take too long, with the local non-league football wiped out by Storm Dennis last week and an excellent article by Henry Winter on fanzines to help me through a segment on that subject:

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/if-fanzines-die-part-of-the-game-dies-they-give-fans-a-voice-k2x73k0jr

We enjoyed the show as always. It’s great to sit back and chat sport with fellow Seasiders and I think we have a good dynamic in the studio now, especially considering we were practically strangers when we began the show at the start of the year. Martin Curran brings a wealth of experience in sports reporting and is our resident AFC Fylde expert; Ben Pearson amazes me every week with his knowledge of a wide range of sports and sporting connections; Tony Parr is an excellent host and pulls the show together very well; and then of course there’s me and Lee bringing our passion for Blackpool and honest reviews on what is happening at Blackpool FC.

We’re hoping to release the show as a podcast in the coming weeks but in the meantime you can tune in online from 6pm every Friday at the link below:

http://www.fyldecoastradio.org

Now you know these coping mechanisms that I often refer to? The stress reduction techniques? Well these are requirements to help me manage and reduce my mental health episodes. Tonight’s migraine was a warning and I was going to have to scrabble together all my resources to keep myself in reasonable health this weekend. Especially with another match to go to tomorrow!

First stop: Harrowside Chippy for comfort food. I know we should have tried a different chippy tonight to review for you, dear reader, but (a) we really liked this one when we went the other week; and (b) I didn’t think I could withstand the mental trauma of a disappointing chippy. So here we were again for the mini fish, chips and gravy – only this time I went for DOUBLE gravy, to ensure I had enough to cover my fish AND chips…as well as a spam fritter just for something different to try.

So, what did I take out of this meal?

1. This really was a mini fish. It didn’t even look like fish, more like a battered sausage. I must have been given a full sized fish last week by mistake.

2. Double gravy is the way forward.

3. Rio really is the undisputed King of Pop. It blows Fanta, Lilt, Dandelion & Burdock AND Cream Soda out of the water.

4. Spam fritters are a bit salty. They sound nice but in reality I won’t be having another one.

5. Everything was a bit chewy tonight: the fish, chips, Spam fritter and even the gravy a little bit. I had thought we had picked a good time to go – there being no queue – but perhaps it was the wrong time, with the food having sat there overcooking pending our arrival. It was still delicious though – but this experience has put us off just enough to try a different chippy next time, setting us back on the Blackpool chippy review trail, which does need completing.

After enjoying the latest episode of Star Trek: Picard it was time for an early night and a much-welcomed Good Night’s Sleep. Zzz…

***

The alarm went off at 9am and I woke determined to do everything humanly possible to have a mentally positive day today. This morning’s choice of shower music was crucial but, with my brain still being slightly frazzled from yesterday’s migraine, I couldn’t decide what was suitable to get me in the mood for this afternoon’s match. So I asked Siri to choose something for me:

‘I’m not going down on my knees, begging you to adore me

Can’t you see it’s misery and torture for me?

When I’m misunderstood

Try as hard as you can, I’ve tried as hard as I could

To make you see

How important it is for me.’

Thanks, Siri, but Kylie Christmas or some disco would have done just fine.

I was getting my hair cut this morning by way of some pre-match pampering. Boy was I looking forward to a relaxing head massage and coming out looking like a million dollars. I was trying out a new hairdressers today, my previous one being in Walsall, where I don’t live any more. Whereas once I might have been worried about trying out a new salon, I was far more relaxed about things these days. What could go wrong with a simple cut and blow anyway?

As I stepped into the salon, I was overcome by fumes and was high within a minute. Clearly they did nails here too. I wasn’t even ready for food at this early hour, so paint stripper fumes (or whatever they use) was a bit much. I couldn’t find any magazines so I pulled out my phone to begin my fanzine promotion on social media. Issue 4 was on sale today and I wanted to make sure as many Blackpool fans as possible knew to look out for it this afternoon:

Soon enough my coat was taken and I was led through to have my hair washed. This is the best bit of a trip to the hairdressers for me: sitting back, closing my eyes, having my hair gently washed and my head massaged.

Dear reader, I have never had my hair washed so viciously in my entire life.

First of all, the aroma in the back room switched from paint stripper to cat urine (perhaps something to do with ammonia in hair dye…I can only begin to speculate).

‘Remove yourself from the room,’ said my inner calm. ‘Focus on the physical side. What are you feeling?’

Cold water all over my head. No ‘is the temperature alright for you?’, just straight in there with an ice bath for my scalp. Great stuff.

The rinsing off of the shampoo involved some sharp hair-pulling. And as for the conditioner? It was combed through viciously with strong, forceful comb strokes – and several times I was stabbed in the ear by the dagger-like comb.

Dear reader, I feared for the haircut at this point. If the hair wash was this bad, what on earth was the haircut going to be like? Should I just walk out now? Believe me I was tempted. But my inner calm told me to sit back, relax and trust these people. It would all be fine.

And to be honest it really was. My hairdresser was lovely. We chatted away about Blackpool and Manchester and my hair was cut to my satisfaction in seemingly no time at all, for a fraction of the cost I was used to paying. Yay for being back Up North!

Of course as soon as I stepped out into the latest seaside storm, my hair was thoroughly tousled (I’d forgotten my hat) but the sun was shining and the sky was blue and I LOVED this weather. I whipped out my Maui Jims and ambled up the street looking cool as anything, looking for a caff where I could enjoy some breakfast.

Now I’d researched local caffs online and had identified one that looked pretty good, with toast that fair GLISTENED with butter. I located it, took a table, perused the menu, decided on the ‘Smaller Appetite Breakfast’ and banana milkshake (I can’t drink tea or coffee, remember) and waited for the serving staff to appear. And waited. And waited. Hang on, I’m not supposed to be the waiter here.

It was a good ten minutes before someone appeared to take orders. On another day I would have walked out by now but my inner calm told me to take a seat and find something to distract me from my wait, so I’d carried on promoting the fanzine on social media. Well it was either that or read a copy of Take A Break from 2003 (I kid you not).

Here’s what I (finally) had for breakfast:

I know, I know…I’m not supposed to have bacon and sausage either…but there wasn’t a vegetarian option here and surely one of each couldn’t hurt…?

The breakfast proved just the ticket and the toast was every bit as photogenic as that I had seen online. The sausage and tomato could have been better (if respectively Lincolnshire and tinned) but it was good enough overall.

I headed back out into the bright, if blustery, Blackpool morning and was home in good time to finalise our pre-match preparations.

Dear reader, we were heading out of the house ON TIME this afternoon until Lee once again couldn’t find his keys. Now you know we found a solution to this, Lee being gifted with Chipolo for Christmas, meaning that he could now always find his keys/wallet/phone through a magic device attached to his keys, wallet and phone. Thus, if he could find only one of these items, he had the facility to locate the other two. He opened the app on his phone and within seconds, we heard a tune playing right in front of us from his keys, which were already in the lock on the door…

Lee despatched me on Bloomfield Road with my fanzines. I was well-insulated today as it was cold despite the glorious sunshine. Foot traffic was slow early doors and I found myself talking to a particularly jolly local.

‘What’s that you’ve got there? Oh football. I used to go but it’s too expensive now. I’m going home now.’

‘Well have a lovely day, won’t you?’

‘Pah! In this place? You’ve got to be joking. Since Boxing Day I’ve had two burglaries and one attempted burglary. Whenever anyone asks for my postcode I spell it out for them:

Sierra

Hotel

One

Tango

Hotel

Oscar

Lima

Echo

Did you get that?’

Well what a ray of sunshine HE was. As he trudged off down the road I found a happy distraction in the form of a cat who kept crossing and re-crossing the road in front of me. What was he up to? Was he calling for his mate? Trying to get into his house for lunch? He did it over and over and I hoped he was going to be ok, what with all the matchday traffic imminent.

And I met the CUTEST little dog! Meet Bernie, who’s a German Shepherd/Corgi cross:

Soon the fans of both Blackpool and Ipswich began to arrive in their droves. The mood amongst both sets of fans seemed brighter than on Tuesday night against Bolton. After all, we’d had a win and Ipswich, despite being off form at the moment, were in Sunny Blackpool for the weekend and what’s not to love about that?

‘Ah here she is!’

I looked up to see a Blackpool fan and two Ipswich fans approaching me.

‘Now will you stop getting so upset at these away games?’

The Blackpool fan gave me a reassuring hug.

‘It’s going to get better, you know?’

Dear reader, he presented me with a Terry’s Chocolate Orange to cheer me up. Coupled with the hug and kind words, this worked a treat.

Ever since the homecoming last year I have come to realise what a special family the Blackpool fans are. There is such a special bond between us now, after having been starved of our club for so long. We appreciate what we have and we appreciate each other more than ever.

And yet there is somewhat of an unexpected gulf between the club and the fans now. We hear little from the board – although I appreciate they must have one hell of a mess to sort out behind the scenes, with the club having been in disrepair for so long. Larry, too, was far less the approachable and likeable manager than, for example, Ian Holloway, who is gatecrashing weddings and frequenting chippys in Grimsby as we speak (not that we could ever have HIM back now: I’m just using him for comparison purposes). And I wouldn’t recognise half our players in the street, save the four who were at the sole Meet the Players night at The Corner Flag earlier in the season.

I suppose this is the way that football is going in the upper echelons (where I have no doubt we are heading, despite recent form on the pitch), as clubs become more corporate-focussed, so this may be deliberate direction. Certainly that was the way the interim board were heading – and they were quite overt about it. But if that is the case, the gulf between the club and fans is only going to get wider – at a time when I would have thought they’d want the opposite, with gates dropping. Why not have open fans forums instead of these scripted structured dialogue meetings that aren’t accessible to the majority of fans? Why should choosing not to be a member of a supporters group mean one cannot have a voice?

And thus a consequence of this is we find our own voice. We will not be gagged again and we will find our own ways of ensuring our voices are heard. Hence the rise – not just at Blackpool but across football as a whole – of fan culture: vloggers, bloggers, podcasters, radio shows…and, yes, the humble fanzine, which certainly does have a place in modern day football – and is arguably more important than ever.

And all this time when we haven’t been bonding with the board and the manager and the players we HAVE been bonding with each other. And I don’t just mean with fellow Blackpool fans. But with the wider football family. Fans of different clubs are coming together like never before. Through writing these blogs I have made friends at Colne, Cleethorpes, Lincoln, Grimsby and many more clubs. Lee is finding the same with the videos – and we instantly recognise vloggers from other clubs now (whereas we probably wouldn’t recognise any of their players). The visiting Ipswich fans recognised us:

‘You’re the one who goes away, aren’t you?’

That’s yet another one for the t-shirt collection.

Now it was time to head into the ground. I made my way to my seat, settled down, wrapped myself up in my scarf and tucked into my lucky Snickers. Well I’d had one on Tuesday and we’d won…

The first half was pretty good. We went 1-0 up thanks to a neat little goal from Samlesbury Hall. It dawned on me today that we actually have a midfield now, whereas the need for one seemed to bypass Larry completely. Connor Ronan is a sprightly little thing who is winning all the plaudits; Matty Virtue was quite the tenacious terrier today; and Samlesbury Hall has no fear and can create a goal from nothing. In fact all three have goals in them. This is refreshing.

And I know I keep mentioning Chris Maxwell week after week but he’s simply the best keeper I have seen at Blackpool since Joe Hart in 2007. Some of the saves he makes are breathtaking and he is so quick, alert and agile: might I say ‘cat-like’.

Could it be that we are starting to like our own players at last? That has to be a good sign, right? The tide even appears to have turned concerning Joe Nuttall. I was screaming for him to come on in midweek and I wanted him on at half time again today. Where had THAT come from? We just seemed to need him all of a sudden. There seemed to be a Joe Nuttall shaped hole in the team. We actually seemed to look like we had some proper shape to the team. As fellow blogger Mitch Cook’s Left Foot aptly said: “we look sort of ‘coached’”.

The second half came – and we did what we always do and didn’t bother coming out. It was painful and my headache started to come back. Lee whipped out another Snickers and that helped a bit but honestly this was a carbon copy of Tuesday night’s match. Why did my eyesight never fail me when I actually wanted it to?

Ipswich equalised of course, as soon as the 54th minute. I slunk back in my seat and drifted off, fantasising about the Indian takeaway I was going to have later. I probably shouldn’t have a beer as well but boy did I want one (or several) right now.

Caretaker boss David Dunn doesn’t make as many subs as I’d like, having teased us with loads at Bristol Rovers after Beneghan was sent off. Today he puzzled us by taking off Connor Ronan to bring on Joe Nuttall, to a chorus of boos. I knew the negative reaction was for the withdrawal of fans favourite Ronan but it can’t have done Joe’s confidence any favours to come on to that cacophony. And I also knew that Dunn would have his reasons for making this change (whereas I couldn’t even attempt to decipher anything Larry did). Ronan had struggled a little today, his slight frame being muscled off the ball by the Ipswich midfielders. And, what’s this, he’s moving Fonz back to slot in behind the front two big men, Madine and Nuttall. We’re throwing some brute force at them up front. Hmm. Might this just work…?

Dear reader, Blackpool only went and got the winner in the 93rd minute! Woohoo! Who got it? Did anyone see? Please let it be Joe! IT WAS JOE!!! GET IN!!!

We were deliriously happy. This was two wins on the bounce now – and three unbeaten. Were we on a little run?

Here’s our video memory of the day:

In the car on the way home there was talk of the play-offs being attainable but I wasn’t having any of that. I couldn’t imagine us in the Championship next season; League One would be hard enough (League Two would be hard enough on this season’s form!). It wasn’t time for that yet – even if I thought we were capable of getting there.

But finally things might just be starting to pick up. I like David Dunn. He speaks very well and the players are clearly responding for him. In his interviews he praises the players and recognises the fans. He speaks of lessons learned and how to improve things going forward and that is so refreshing. He seems to be enjoying himself, too, with a huge proud smile on his face in his post-match interviews. Might he be warming to the idea of taking the job full time? Did he rule himself out at the outset because of a sense of loyalty to Larry? Would we be happy with his appointment? Would the board even consider him, with his lack of experience? Is it worth taking a risk on someone who already knows the players, who is already winning the fans over and is already having a tangible impact on this team? Could we have asked for anything more from him?

Fleetwood away next week. Doesn’t feel like a proper away game, let alone a derby. But it could just be the catalyst we need to get our season jump-started as we head into the final straight.

UTMP.

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