Jane Stuart – Writer

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

Blackpool v Middlesbrough: Tangerine Wizards

After a busy day, I decided it was time to head to the pub at 5pm ahead of the Middlesbrough match. Whilst thinking I hadn’t settled on a local, I had enjoyed the No 10 Alehouse on my visit ahead of the Burnley game, so it was there I headed again tonight.

No 10 Alehouse

It had been quiet in here last time and, given that I fancied a couple of hours of solitude – accompanied by only a couple of pints – I was hoping for more of the same tonight. I know we’re supposed to be wanting pubs to be busy but I have always preferred them quiet. As this was ‘only’ a Caramac Cup match, we weren’t expecting a big gate tonight.

On arrival, I was delighted to find the beer terrace all but empty. All the tables in the front of the pub were occupied by thirsty punters and that was fine by me. I ordered a couple of halves and headed back outside. And relax…

I didn’t have the Citra. It’s one of those words like ‘naga’ that serves as a warning.

I checked in my beers, caught up on social media and breathed deeply. Pubs are my meditation. This was just what I needed to wind down ahead of the match.

‘Hello Jane. Do you mind if we join you?’

I had forgotten it was impossible to drink alone in Blackpool. This was Whitey and Andy who had travelled over from Yorkshire for the game. It was lovely to see them.

We chatted awhile and then the rain began to come down a little heavier. I was fine outside in my hat and iconic tangerine Fritidsklader cagoule, but my companions weren’t dressed for the weather, so we relocated indoors.

I find it harder to breathe indoors these days – and also harder to hear. It was quite loud in the back room – and Whitey is softly spoken – so I had to strain to hear him. He bought me a pint, though, so I didn’t complain.

At 1830 it was time for me to depart. I had an important rendezvous at the ground…

Going Down to Bloomfield Road…

The walk to the ground is 15-20 minutes – in a straight line – from the No 10. The straight line bit is important. I have no sense of direction, which stems from a childhood (a) getting buses; and (b) walking in a straight line to the prom and a straight line down the prom.

En route I encountered a couple of moggies having a stand-off. As part of my Vulcan training, I am learning not to interfere with arguments between other species; also, I didn’t have time to waste. I quickly undertook my catmin (photographed them and reviewed them for The Cat Reviewer) and trotted on.

Dear reader, if you read my epic Bristol blog, you will recall that I had a nightmare as a consequence of watching The Horror of Frankenstein before I went to sleep. I had to curtail my viewing of the Hammer Horror halfway through in favour of being awake for a call from BBC Radio Five Live that never materialised (grr).

Ever since, I have been dying to know what happened at the end of the movie. On Saturday morning I was scrolling through the week’s schedule for Talking Pictures TV in the vain hope it would be on again soon. Back home, I scrolled back to Friday night on the Virgin TV box to see if it was available to watch on catch-up. It wasn’t. Ohh…

On Monday night I had a message from a Twitter friend (Ben of Crisp Sandwich fame).

Ben was asking for tips for his visit; he was a Middlesbrough fan travelling to Blackpool for the match. I replied with parking tips and advised him to eat before arriving at the ground.

And then I was struck with an idea.

I recalled that Ben co-hosts The House of Hammer Podcast. Was it worth a cheeky ask…?

And this was how it came to pass that I was meeting a man I had met on the internet at the ground before tonight’s match.

You know how giving someone your last Rolo is a token of love? Well I took Ben my last packet of Prawn Cocktail Quavers as a token of my gratitude. Here is my hero Ben outside Bloomfield Road with the DVD, which I have promised to return when we visit Middlesbrough on my birthday next month.

Blackpool v Middlesbrough

I skipped into the ground – taking care not to damage the precious DVD – and conducted my pre-match admin. I approached the refreshment kiosk.

‘Hello. Is that Fanta sugar free?’

‘Er…yes.’

‘A bottle of that then, please…and a packet of Haribo.’

Shit! It just came out again. I still have the packet of Haribo from Morecambe, the crisps from Lancaster and the crisps from Carlisle. Whilst not eating the snackage is a good thing, not buying it in the first place would be the next step on the road to recovery from unhealthy eating. It feels a bit like when I gave up smoking and carried a pack of Regal in my handbag for months afterwards.

I made use of the excellent facilities (hot water!) and made my way to my seat for the night. Tonight we were in the posh seats in M Block – right behind the dugouts on the halfway line. Dear reader, these seats are padded.

You will note the empty seat next to me. Where was Lee? Well I had had a call from him just as the teams were emerging from the tunnel, advising that there were huge queues outside and he was not going to make kick-off. I quickly terminated the call so I could take over filming duties until he arrived. It was just as well we had travelled independently tonight.

As expected, Blackpool’s line-up was not our first 11 – with seven changes from Saturday. But there were starts for supersubs Josh Bowler and Shayne Lavery, who had impressed so much already in pre-season and on their first team debuts on Saturday.

Oh. My. Word. How good are these players?

Pretty much every time Bowler got the ball, I found myself muttering ‘fucking hell…fucking hell…’. I simply couldn’t believe what I was watching. I honestly thought he and Lavery had robotic limbs, such were they twisting and turning to control the ball, which remained at their feet.

And it wasn’t just them, either. The passing, the confidence, the swagger was there for all to see throughout the team. These boys are excited to be playing football in front of a crowd and are dying to show the Championship what they can do. Underestimate them at your peril.

We took the lead through Callum Connolly – another newbie who is impressing greatly. By half time we had played that well I was wandering round the ground with a huge smile plastered across my face. I had forgotten just how good football can make you feel.

Lavery followed up with a piledriver from the edge of the area. And as for Keshi’s third…oh my word! A back-heel over his head and into the net. Damn we were so good tonight. I haven’t seen a Blackpool side play like that since Ian Holloway was here. What a precious gem we have in Critch, to be able to inspire these players to play like that. And what a recruitment policy we have to bring in players of such quality.

Never mind the players being robots, by the end of the match I felt like I had electricity running through my veins. This was sensational. It might have ‘only’ been the Caramac Cup but bloody hell! We might even win the thing if we carry on improving at this rate of knots.

The Vulcan part of me is saying ‘don’t get carried away’ but the human is screaming ‘THIS IS SO EXCITING!!! SQUEEEEE!!!’

Here’s our video memory of the night.

Next up: Cardiff City at home. Can’t bloody wait!

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