Jane Stuart – Writer

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

Blackpool v Sunderland: The Embo Derby

  • 10:00

    My sleeping patterns have been weird recently, but especially since I went back out into the world (pub) on Monday, since when I haven’t had an undisturbed night’s sleep. Do people unsettle me? I crawl out of bed into the bathroom, where I blast out the latest Rochdale AFC playlist to get me going for the day.

    I step on the bathroom scales with trepidation. I have been to the pub twice this week and hence veered off the Slimming World plan. But I had a cunning plan to circumnavigate this. I minimised my syns for the rest of the week to accelerate my weight loss. The result? Those four pints of mild, chippy tea, dozens of Maltesters, three pints of John Smiths, rump steak and chips did not have a detrimental impact on my weight loss. My target was to maintain my weight and I managed to lose half a pound. Result!

  • 11:30

    By the time I’ve had my morning brew (Earl Grey Rooibos), loaded the washing machine and caught up on reading my favourite blogs, I realise we’re on air in half an hour and I haven’t had breakfast. It’s too early for me to eat anything substantial – and too late to prepare it anyway. This is what I should have been having.

    Smoked bacon medallions, potatoes, cabbage and leek, seasoned with black pepper.

    What I actually had was a summer fruit medley which, whilst enough for now, would likely not be enough to sustain me through the show. This early kick-off has completely thrown my Saturday routine.

  • 12:00

    We’re on air for our livestream watchalong of Blackpool v Sunderland. We kick off with an interview with Shaun, my favourite Sunderland blogger. He writes all sorts of nonsense (including recently introducing me to Frank Sidebottom). If you like this blog, you’ll probably like his, too. You can find it here.

    Shaun also co-founded Fritidskläder, an ‘independent terrace fashion brand’, which includes this magnificent tangerine jacket.

    I’m not getting run over in this

    After I’ve been chastised for my breakfast and sung through the teamsheet, it’s already time for the big match…

  • 12:30

    I am nervous about this match. It’s massive. Not because it’s Sunderland and they’re a massive club and we’re trying to make this a derby because they’re so massive and we’re only little old Blackpool. But because we’ve had our crampons on for weeks as we ascend League One – and Sunderland are in our way and are there to be picked off. If we beat them twice and win our game in hand then we’ll go above them. That is why it’s important. That is why I have butterflies. It’s not so much a derby as a cup tie. We play them again a week on Tuesday; and could face them again in the play-offs. These games against Sunderland are massive. It doesn’t matter that they’re Sunderland. It could be Lincoln, Donny – hell, even little old Fleetwood (remember them?) – in third place. Ultimately the team is irrelevant; the league table is important.

    The game is frenzied and frenetic from the start. Sunderland are a brutal, physical side – and yet they counter this with histrionics and dramatics, with one player producing an impressive horizontal pirouette at one point. This was a crucial difference between the sides today. When Sunderland were looking for a fight and a reaction – from our players or the referee – we countered by offering a hand to help them up or giving them a cuddle and patting them on the back. That is what is so special about these boys.

    The desperation for success was evident amongst the Sunderland players – even without the pressure of the crowd. Blackpool – under the calming influence of Vulcan Critch – are more zen. There is no pressure on us. We’re simply getting on with our job. Both teams will likely end up in the play-offs. Which is the more likely to implode?

    I thought the ref could have managed this game better by asserting his authority from the start. He allowed players to get away with too much – most notably McFadzean, who was taken off a minute after he really should have been sent off for a brutal challenge after he had already been booked. That was surely a confession from the Sunderland manager that, actually, yes, he should have been sent off there.

    This was a cracking game of football – but way too important to be able to enjoy as a non-neutral. Blackpool somehow – no-one knows how – took the lead from a diagonal shot from Luke Garbutt that their keeper fumbled and somehow has been credited to Ellis Simms. Sure, let him have it. No-one wants to be credited with an own goal (during my Chasetown days, I would never report an own goal unless there really was no other option) and it will make Simms’ tally look better and further increase his confidence. He’s not looking a bad player and is improving week on week.

    After the goal, it was like the Alamo. But somehow we held on. And we won. But boy it was hard. And not particularly enjoyable.

    For further detail on the match – and an exclusive extract from Critch’s diary, including shocking news about Embo – can I direct you to the magnificent Mitch Cook’s Left Foot blog. Guaranteed to make you laugh or your money back.

    Here are the highlights.

    I said earlier on in the game, if we survived this match with no red cards and no injuries (and no defeat, obvs), I would be happy. Whilst there were no red cards, we did lose Daniel Gretarsson to a dead leg and a dislocated shoulder, which came after I thought he should have been stretchered off as he was rubbing the back of his neck. But of course stretchers aren’t a thing in Blackpool matches any more. Maybe that’s part of our ‘nah I’m not hurt, I’ll just jump up and carry on’ mentality. But surely sometimes they are required. Just ask Matty Virtue, who hobbled off the pitch with a knackered ACL, which surely can’t have helped?

    If you would like a taster of just how tense it was watching this match – and would like to see the terrace wear sported on air by yours truly and meet the man behind Fritidskläder and hear his opinion on Sunderland – tune into our livestream.

    Frankly, I am going to need a right good pub crawl before I can face watching the return fixture next Tuesday. I’m already armed with some top tips from Shaun – and I know I love the beer in that part of the world – so will find a way to make the day something to look forward to, as I always do. It is never just about the football. I learned that as a coping mechanism many years ago.

  • 14:30

    I leave Lee to the post-match post-mortem with Phil of Yorkshire Seasiders fame. I am exhausted after that match. I was also feeling a little dizzy during the match, having had little to sustain me through the afternoon.

    I hung the washing out to dry, whilst listening to a few tunes that I have adapted for Blackpool chants, such as this one.

    Ooh Kenny Dougall

    Ooh Kenny Dougall

    Ooh Kenny Dougall

    Ooh Kenny Dougall

    I realise I need food, so set about reheating the Sweet & Sour Balti Chicken that I made for tea last night. I omitted the chilli oil for diet reasons on this occasion but it was just lacking that extra kick. I’ve been making curries from scratch every week and this is by far the best recipe.

    In short, make curry paste from tomato puree, fat-free Greek natural yoghurt, garam masala, chilli powder, garlic, Geeta’s premium mango chutney (the best chutney) and salt. Heat chilli oil and add curry paste. Add chicken until cooked. Chuck in chillies and coriander towards the end. And boom! Lush curry. And if you’re on Slimming World, the only synnable ingredients are the oil and chutney.

    There’s room for development in my food photography

    This dieting really ain’t so bad…

    Over lunch/dinner/tea/whatever this is, we play Pointless with Alexa. One of today’s questions is to name a monster from Monsters Inc. Lee can’t believe I’ve never seen it.

  • 15:30

    Time for our post-food walk. Physically getting up and moving about after a meal is a good tactic for avoiding dessert. This afternoon, Lee decided that, in order to calm himself down after the match, we were going for a much longer walk than usual. Typically we walk c5k steps a day. Dear reader, this afternoon we did over 10k steps. I did point out to Lee that, owing to my short legs, I was doing a lot more steps than him, and I confess I would have turned round a good ten minutes before we did. On a positive note, we did see a lot of interesting things on our walk, including lots of gnomes, a fairy door, a snowman, two Christmas trees (one discarded, one that looked recently decorated), revellers heading home from an afternoon in the pub and a lot of cats.

  • 18:30

    We watch Monsters Inc. on Amazon. It’s a bargain at £1.99. Such a beautiful and funny film. Recommended if you haven’t seen it, although I suspect you probably have.

    It was just as well the film was absorbing, because I couldn’t move for a good two hours after that walk!

  • 21:00

    I end the day by listening to my new favourite podcast. Dear reader, may I introduce you to The Middle Aisle Podcast. This is a group of Blackpool lads reviewing obscure items that they find in the middle aisle at Aldi and Lidl. It is complete nonsense and an absolute joy to listen to. The episodes are low maintenance at only 20-30 minutes long. If you like the nonsense Lee and I put out, you’ll probably like this too. Give it a listen and learn all about the joys of glitter glue and diamond tool sharpeners…

    And that, dear reader, was my matchday. How was yours?

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