Jane Stuart – Writer

Writer on beer, football culture and Blackpool FC.

Blackpool v Plymouth Argyle & England World Cup Qualifiers

Here was me thinking I’d get a bit of a break with no midweek Blackpool match. Not bloody likely! We’re only covering England matches on our live watchalong series now.

After falling in love with England (nay football) during Italia 90, I watched them religiously for a number of years. It was one heartbreak after another and soon I had whittled down my (virtual) attendance to England’s appearances in the finals of the Euros and World Cups. I don’t remember the last time I watched a qualifier. Probably that Greece one in 2001 (blimey 20 years ago!).

Given that I have zero interest in the Premier League or Champions League or whatever they call it these days – and haven’t watched England since the 2018 World Cup – these early watchalongs were always going to prove somewhat challenging. That said, I didn’t know who any of the Blackpool players were after my five years boycotting, so I’m used to winging it a bit. It’s kind of nice watching players with fresh eyes and no pre-conceptions*. It takes me back to Italia 90, when I knew none of the players but loved them all because they played for my country, my England.

*apart from Harry Kane, who I still haven’t forgiven for being shit against Iceland in Euro 2016. As I mention in the Albania stream below, that’s something I’m unlikely to forgive him for, no matter how good he actually is now. Similarly I never forgave Richie Wellens for getting sent off at Oldham, leading to Blackpool’s relegation in 2000. Or John Murphy for not being Indrek Zelinski. I can be quite stubborn in this respect. I’ll confess it’s not my most redeeming feature, but once I’m done with someone, that’s it.

What I am particularly skilled at, having co-hosted dozens of live Blackpool watchalongs with Lee this season, is talking nonsense for two hours about anything from food to protactinium to household appliances. Thankfully this tends to go down well with our niche audience, who happily place their half time food orders with me and provide their own fun facts about stamps.

Deep breath…here goes.

England v San Marino

I didn’t know any of the players here, so spent the match researching them online and providing myself and our viewers with fun facts about the players. Amongst my favourites were:

The match was pretty dire, with San Marino offering zilch in the way of opposition. England’s finishing showed a lot to be desired but they (we?) still won 5-0. The goals came from James Ward-Prowse (who secretly trained at Havant & Waterloovile to ‘toughen’ himself), Dominic Calvert-Lewin (sounds like a posh department store), Raheem Sterling (oh I know him) and Ollie Watkins (off the bench on his international debut – love him already).

We were joined on the stream by Alejandro from San Marino, who chipped in with some fun facts of his own about San Marino. It’s fair to say I enjoyed the interactions on the stream more than the game itself. I’m going to miss our random online friends when we go back to actual matches.

Blackpool v Plymouth Argyle

Hurray! Back to players we know and love. And I do love them all, which is unusual, really. As I mentioned on my interview on Radio Lancashire the night before, our players are all good boys.

In the same interview, I pondered whether Neil Critchley might be part Vulcan and the more I think about this, the more I think there might actually be something in it. Win, lose or draw, he never gets emotional; he believes in the science; he’s logical – and telepathic skills could explain his in-depth knowledge of our opponents.

How was the match? I’m trying to avoid writing about that, but needs must, I suppose. The first half was bloody woeful, with Plymouth not allowing us a second on the ball. I honestly couldn’t see a way out of it but I try not to worry about these things too much because that’s someone else’s job (although ‘worrying’ is an emotion, so perhaps not). Of course it was Blackpool reject Ryan Hardie who put Plymouth ahead with a beautifully-taken goal.

And then something magic happened at half time and we came out fully able to cope with our opponents. Kaikai put us level almost immediately; then Yates miraculously put us ahead with a penalty. How had that happened? I was perplexed. So much so that it just didn’t feel right. It was as if the status quo had been disrupted and we weren’t supposed to be winning.

Dear reader, Plymouth equalised right at the death and it seemed fair somehow – although it was a devastating blow. Here are the ‘highlights’:

I retreated immediately to the kitchen to get tea on (coping mechanism #76) while Lee conducted a post-mortem with his team of fellow Pool fans at the end of the stream. I’m not one for wallowing in disappointing results and I’m always happy to switch off straight after a match; consequently I’m happy to leave Lee to this part.

Albania v England

Lee was armed with some fun facts about Albania for this livestream. Did you know that more Albanians live in other countries than in Albania itself?

We had some Albanians in, as well as some Argentinians. We do have a worldwide audience and even had our first viewer from DR Congo this weekend.

Was the match any better than the San Marino game? Er…not really. Albania didn’t offer much in the way of opposition, either – and there were far fewer goalscoring opportunities. England totally dominated the possession but seemed to spend most of the game passing sideways and backwards. It was really rather frustrating – and not at all exciting for the watching fans. I want to see players taking on their men, rampaging up the park. But there was little of that. Sterling was the most exciting player and I enjoyed watching his flashes of skill. Otherwise…meh.

The stream was fun, though, as we learned why shell-shaped pasta is best used in children’s art and not as food.

One of Lee’s fun Albania facts was that the natives call their country Shqiperia, not Albania. I posed the question to our stamp correspondent as to which name was on the nation’s stamps, but we didn’t get an answer. I can exclusively reveal it here, because I know you’re dying to know, dear reader.

The stamps don’t lie.

Image from https://www.megaministore.com/stamps/europe/albania-stamps

We are learning quickly that alternative entertainment is required whilst watching England at the moment. If you are of a like mind do come along and join us for our watchalongs. Here’s the link to the Albania one, so you can see what sort of nonsense we get up to during the match.

England v Poland

Come and join us live for this one on Lee Charles TV from 7.30pm.

Then after that it’s another virtual awayday to Swindon, home of The Magic Roundabout (ooh Kenny Dougall…). But what are the pubs like? I’m looking forward to finding out…


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