Jane Stuart – Writer

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

Blackpool v Cardiff: How Does This Work Again?

First home league game of the season! I bounced out of bed, banged on Buckcherry and was ready and raring to go by 10am. I started pacing the house. What was I supposed to do now? I had forgotten what my routine was for Saturday home games. Dammit I wasn’t sure I even had one. I continued pacing.

Aha! I’d go to the No 10 Alehouse. I’d enjoyed it there before the last couple of home games. Right. What time does it open? Noon? But that’s two hours away! I continued pacing.

What did I do for food on a Saturday home game? It was way too early for me to be eating. But I didn’t think there was food on at the pub today. There was the Saddle Chippy next door but we were going to the chippy for tea, so I couldn’t have two chippies in one day. Could I? No, that was too much. And I was on a diet.

I force-fed myself a bowl of Honey Nut Shredded Wheat. A couple of mouthfuls in, I realised that I could have paced out of the front door and found a caff en route to the No 10. Must remember that trick for the next Saturday home game (which is four weeks away, so that’s unlikely; I’ve asked Alexa to remind me).

I settled back and immersed myself in Civilisation VI on my iPad for an hour or so. It stops me thinking (and pacing). For years I believed that playing games was a waste of time when I could be doing something more productive, such as writing or studying. But I’m mentally calmer now than I have been for 30 years, since the end of my latest OU module.

I received a message enquiring whether I would be reviving the fanzine for the new season. I replied in the negative, as I’m not comfortable handling cash at the moment. Lee helpfully pointed out that he had a card machine, but I didn’t have time to get one out for today’s match. Besides, it was nice to have my pre-match freedom back (ah that’s what I used to do on a home matchday!).

No 10 Alehouse

I arrived bang on opening time and was the first customer of the day. This pleased me greatly as I love having a pub to myself. I approached the bar and ordered half of each of these.

The Citra was on. Again I ignored it.

I took a seat on the beer patio, facing out onto Whitegate Drive, so I could keep an eye on incoming traffic. I like to be able to observe what is going on around me and who is approaching. Perhaps this is a hangover from my agoraphobic days.

I pulled out my phone and spent some time catching up on the latest blogs from Evo Boozy Scribbler, Retired Martin and BRAPA. As I chuckled my way through their respective pub crawls around the country, I began to yearn for the days of those epic pub crawls with friends. I can’t remember my last one. I began plotting crawls of my old haunts with old friends in Birmingham and the Black Country ahead of our awaydays at Blues and Baggies.

As if by magic, up popped my old friend from Birmingham (well Solihull), Chris and his cousin, Steve. Sure, I love sitting on my own in (or outside) a pub but it’s also lovely to be greeted by friends who come and join me for a catch up. You may recall from my Bristol blog that I had only the briefest of greetings with Chris before running off because I was scared of the busy concourse. In the course of our conversation today, I listened with interest as he told me that two sides of Birmingham City’s ground had been condemned, leading to a severely reduced capacity for their opening home matches.

The pub incrementally filled up and we were joined at our table by Wilf, Whitey and Steve. Wilf had followed my recommended pub crawl from the station, taking in Cask & Tap and Thirsty en route to the No 10. I was treated to a pint and a half of this, which was my favourite beer of the day. I must enquire what it is.

Chris and I departed before 2pm in a bid to avoid the queueing chaos outside the ground that ensued on Wednesday night. This was a successful mission.

Blackpool v Cardiff City

I joined the queue for refreshments in the South Stand concourse. The men behind me were grumbling that the queueing here was an ongoing problem. After all, it must only have been around 2.15pm. This did, however, give me the opportunity to peruse the food menu. The range of pies was more extensive than I remembered (including a vegan pepper pie) but I was still scarred from the dog food mushy effort the last time I was here, so I wasn’t tempted. Hotdogs? Not really a fan…although I did enjoy that one at Lincoln City Women the other week, with lashings of ketchup and mustard. What’s that? Wine in a can? Seriously? But it was pleasing to see the Farm Yard Ales Seasiders Way on sale. I didn’t have capacity after two and a half pints in the No 10, but I might well give this a go at a future match.

‘A bottle of water and a Snickers please.’

After a brief comfort break, I headed out into the South Stand and made my way up to my seat.

Gromph.

I felt perfectly relaxed as the stand filled up around me. Amen for beer. It was lovely to see our South Stand neighbours the Jacksons arrive bearing gifts.

Pre-match at Bloomfield Road is a completely different experience to what we had encountered at Ashton Gate last week (aside from the lengthy queues for a drink). At Bristol City, they are doing everything they can to make their ground somewhere you want to be two hours before kick-off and an hour after the game has finished, with bars, eateries and entertainment. This is a development area for Blackpool but I am hopeful that it will come with the development of the East Stand. I appreciate we can’t have everything all at once but it would be nice to think an improved all-round fan experience is in the thoughts of the board.

I loved the colour of Cardiff City’s shirts. It was blue with a very slight purple tinge. It looked beautiful in the Blackpool sun.

Lee sidled along the row to join me and we settled back to watch the first half unfold. Frankly, it would have been better left folded up. With no Bowler and Lavery, we lacked any form of creativity. With the lack of a proper pre-season thanks to COVID – and perhaps some players still suffering from its after-effects – five or six of our starting eleven looked far from their sharpest. There is no way we can get away with that at this level.

However, I am not unduly concerned, as I know these players will improve as the season progresses. Also, we had a terrible start last season and still got promoted. Yates didn’t score for yonks but once he popped he couldn’t stop. I am also hopeful that our transfer business is not yet concluded. There are still players to ship out. And we are still without a specialist right back. That said, Callum Connolly – currently playing there – is another of our stand-out players this season to date. I love how he fearlessly throws himself into challenges. I suppose you might call them Hollywood clearances.

We were crying out for changes at half time but that’s not what Critch does. And I appreciate that these boys need match minutes to improve. But, as a consequence. we lost 2-0 to two second-half goals that we could all see coming. Blackpool looked rejuvenated when Bowler and Lavery were introduced but, unlike at Bristol, this week it was too late to make an impact. And that was that.

Cottage Chippy

Last week, we had arranged a rendezvous with MG at the Cottage Chippy. I had never been here before, despite it being Blackpool’s most famous chippy. I hadn’t even seen it, such is it tucked away down a back street.

We took a seat and perused the menu. This was just out of interest to see what variety of dishes they had. I always have exactly the same thing on a visit to a chippy. I ordered the haddock, half portion of chips and gravy boat.

At first glance, I thought ‘they’ve scrimped on the chips a bit here’, but in fact this was a perfect sized meal for me. The fish was the best I have had anywhere, I think.

Instead of the traditional chippy drink of Dandelion and Burdock (which was available), I opted for a beer. The Boddingtons wasn’t available, so it was a can of John Smiths. Frankly, I had beer because I could. Plus we’d just lost.

A couple of friendly Cardiff fans came over for a chat at the end of our respective meals, which gave me the opportunity I had been waiting for to whip out one of my business cards, so we could direct them to my blog and Lee’s YouTube channel. Oh, speaking of which, here’s our video memory of the day:

Next up: Cov at home on Tuesday.

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