Once upon a time I used all my annual leave on midweek matches and pre-season tours. It’s been quite a luxury this year being able to take weeks off to simply spend writing.
For midweekers, I used to finish work at midday, catch the train to wherever we were playing, grab a few pints and a chippy tea before heading to the ground. Once there, I’d inevitably be freezing and willing the match to finish so I could get home to bed. If it was a cup match, I’d often favour losing over having to endure extra time. If we won, I’d float home; if we lost, the journey would drag. Either way, it would be midnight or later by the time I got home. Sometimes I’d have to stop over because I had no way of getting home.
But this is 2020. Midweekers are markedly different.
I’m working from home now and my day is spent in the conservatory (or lounge if it’s cold) working until 5pm. I then make and eat tea (beef grill steaks, chips and peas tonight).
Often I’ll spend the next hour or so researching my book, but I’m tired tonight so chill on the sofa playing Frogger on my phone. I know games are the work of the devil and I really ought to be reading or writing, but hey it is Christmas (NB writing this has made me realise I need to delete the app, so it’s done now).
At 6.30pm we’re live on Lee Charles TV on YouTube for the big match against the league leaders, Hull City. We’ve been doing well against some of the top sides in League One so we’re not scared of them.
They’re good, though – and it’s obvious from the start they’re going to give us a game. Indeed they take the lead with a goal that defies gravity on 38 minutes: Mallik Wilks is falling horizontally but somehow controls the ball well in mid air and loops it over Chris Maxwell.
Now this is a test – and one that I was asking for only last week. I wanted to see us coming from behind to win a match – to demonstrate that we have that resilience that we were so woefully lacking in our last defeat against Donny. Could we do it?
Dear reader, we didn’t fall apart. On the contrary: we equalised before half time, courtesy of Jerry Yates.
At half time we had no idea how the game would play out. What happened next was entertainment and drama of the highest order.
It was so tense that I needed to crack open a beer to settle my nerves (another advantage of watching from home). There were a couple of contentious moments, including one where Hull whipped in a dangerous cross from a drop ball, which I was fuming about.
Keshi Anderson responded immediately to a moment of tension by hammering the ball home direct from a long ball from Maxwell. We were winning! After going behind! And yet I had a feeling this game wasn’t over yet…
Hull equalised in the 89th minute and I felt that would be a fair result, as we had by no means been at our best, with sloppy passing all night. Kenny Dougall looked sluggish and I’d expect to see him rested on Saturday. He is the mainstay of our midfield but two games a week every week is gruelling – especially after months not playing. I bet the lads are grateful for the postponement of the Sunderland game next Tuesday. I know I am. Even blogging twice a week every week is hard going!
Maxwell was once again outstanding tonight. He is so sharp and lightning quick to react. Without doubt he’s the best keeper I’ve seen at Blackpool in 30 years. We’ve got a special one here and we’d certainly miss him if he wasn’t in the team. I’m glad he’s finally getting the plaudits he deserves.
Marvin Ekpiteta continues to impress at the back, making exceptional tackles look matter of fact. He reminds me of Armand Gnanduillet with his level of coolness. It’s just his job, nest-ce pas?
I thought Luke Garbutt – one of our 4+ rotating full backs – was excellent tonight, making numerous rampaging runs forward. He set up Yates’s goal brilliantly with such a sweet delivery.
As for CJ Hamilton…. Well, to quote myself in the livestream, ‘you can’t leave Hamilton in space…you’ve got to learn, League One.’ Up he popped in the third minute of injury time to blast home an amazing late, late winner.
Check out how much it meant to me and Lee (and how I transformed from livid to overjoyed) 2h 23mins into the below video:
Well, dear reader, we only went and bloody did it. And do you know what? I believe again. Finally. After ten years of pain watching my club tear itself apart, seeing countless players and managers I didn’t care about in and out through the revolving doors with not a ‘sorry you’re leaving’ card in sight. Now I have a club, a team, a manager and players that I care about and am happy to fall in love with all over again.
We know how far love and belief can take us because we’ve seen it happen. It creates MAGIC. It births MIGHTY TANGERINE WIZARDS. And it brings us HOPE in a year when we need it more than ever.
Thank you Blackpool. I bloody love you.