Jane Stuart – Writer

Writer on beer, football culture and Blackpool FC.

Blackpool v Blackburn Rovers – The Warm Up Derby

Still exhausted from our epic trip to Hull midweek, it was approaching 1100 when I woke up on Saturday morning to the clomping of footsteps in the loft. Ah – that would be the electrician, who was fixing the bathroom light switch. Which of course meant I couldn’t get out of bed and conduct my morning ablutions. So I stayed in bed and scrolled the socials because what else can you do?

At length it was safe to emerge but I now felt hurried because I’d arranged to meet Wilf (of Yorkshire Seasiders fame) in Cask & Tap, which opened at noon. This left me no time for breakfast (not that I can face food first thing anyway) and meant that I was pretty much getting up and going straight to the pub.

We did make a pit stop at the ticket office en route to collect around £350 worth of tickets for the next four away games at Forest, Reading, Sheff U and Swansea (there is a Swansea!). Clubs in general have been coy to release away tickets more than 7-10 days in advance this season so it was a bit of a shock (not least financially) to have all these tickets on sale – including one for a match at the end of November.

The service was a little slow, with some new staff members learning on the job, but we weren’t really time pressured. Some customers were becoming frustrated at being unable to collect tickets for matches that were on sale, having travelled quite a distance for today’s match. Working in the ticket office sounds difficult but they’re a friendly bunch and I always find them helpful.

Cask & Tap

Lee dropped me at the pub around 1210. I was pleased to see it was already filling up. This pub only opened last year so won’t be familiar to many. But real ale drinkers always find good real ale pubs. And I’m delighted that our sort are beginning to flock to the Cask & Tap.

Wilf waved from his seat at the table next to the bar, while I half expected landlord Gary to duck behind the bar after what he’d said about me in my absence last week.

I contemplated the pump clips.

I went for half of each of the Yorkshire Blonde and Hoof. I’ve gone past the ‘too early for dark beer’ stage now. I love my dark beers – and can never resist a milk stout – so take them where I can find them. After all, as one of my drinking buddies once said, if we stop drinking it, they’ll stop making it. And I don’t want to imagine a world without milk stout. That’s why I rejoined CAMRA.

I regaled Wilf with tales of my antics in Hull, including my shock at seeing these on the high street.

Now Wilf is never short of an interesting tale or two himself – as I was reminded before the Fulham match – and he told me about a dish called brawn made from pigs heads, which he enjoyed as a child.

On the subject of food – but now even less hungry than I had been earlier – I spotted the snackage on the bar.

Ooh sweets!

I am partial to the odd packet of Lancashire Crisps, too. They are packed with flavour.

As for scratchings? Bleurgh! You can keep those. That’s one thing I really don’t miss from the West Midlands. Yet, despite finding their aroma and flavour and texture disagreeable, I’ll always accept one when offered before gurning and exclaiming how vile they are and how they nearly break my teeth. It’s as if I want to enjoy them but it never happens. Perhaps it’s something you learn to tolerate like cider (which I haven’t mastered yet either; although I don’t mind the ones that don’t taste like cider).

Oh, speaking of cider, look at this tap.

Now Wilf opts for a controversial two-pub pre-match strategy which I’m struggling to adapt to. This involves flagging down a taxi at the halfway point – no mean feat in Blackpool these days. On this occasion we succeeded within a few minutes and were on our way to pub number two.

Wilf soon found some common ground with our driver – who was also from Yorkshire. They shared their respective memories of the big freeze in the winter of 1963. Apparently there was 14” of snow and the sea froze.

On hearing that our driver was from Stocksbridge, I excitedly told him my fun fact about Stocksbridge Park Steels. And, no, it wasn’t the one about Jamie Vardy having to leg it off the pitch to meet his curfew because he had an electronic tag on his leg. It was that their ground features in the fab new movie ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ (NB that’s not Jamie Vardy either).

‘Oh. Is that the one about the gay fella?’

‘Yes, that’s the one. It’s a great film.’

No 10 Alehouse

I am learning that there are certain people who I drink with who are bad to drink with. During the week, I drink with my friend Louise, who drinks wine from the bottle (not literally), which allows me to drink beer at my own pace. But when I’m one on one with a fellow beer drinker such as Wilf – especially on a multi-pub strategy – I find that I drink more (and quicker) than I would if I was drinking alone.

Here are today’s beer offerings at the No 10.

I had half of each of the EPA and the Seasiders Ale.

I still hadn’t eaten – bar the token cereal bar that I forced down my neck before leaving the house – and was beginning to feel the beer. This was not good. This strategy needs a rethink. Wilf had been for breakfast at a caff on Topping Street and I may need to factor this in on future home Saturdays. Either that or get up earlier and do myself my lockdown special breakfast of bacon, cabbage and leeks (hmm I might try this with sprouts…).

As the weather was inclement today, the pub was busy inside and we went to join friends at the table in the window. I love that there is always someone to chat with in this pub. It’s becoming a firm favourite and I would recommend it to ale drinkers for a home matchday.

I spent the short walk to the ground chatting with Wilf’s sister (the reason for the two-pub strategy) before darting off at Central Drive to grab my Lucky Orange Aero from the shop on the corner.

Blackpool v Blackburn Rovers

The queue for the South Stand was short but there seemed to be some sort of malfunction on the ticket reader at the turnstile I had chosen (isn’t it always the way?). As I waited patiently, the queue behind me grew steadily longer. Hmm. Switching queues didn’t seem to be an option now either.

Eventually the queue started moving and I entered the ground. But kick off was now rapidly approaching and I still needed my pre-match wee and bottle of water. Plus I was starving!

I joined the long queue for the refreshment kiosk. I have heard rumours of pre-order points for beers in the North Stand, which is all well and good, but what is being done to manage the queues in the South? By the time I reached the front of the queue, I had talked myself into trying a cheese and onion pie.

As I made my way up the steps to my seat towards the back of the stand (can we have a funicular installed please, Mr Sadler?), the crowd began to stir with excitement. I turned around just in time to catch Blackpool’s opening goal.

Now in my seat, Lee presented me with another Orange Aero.

‘A man gave me this to give to you.’

I love that buying me chocolate is becoming a thing! I forgot to mention that Ben brought me some at Middlesbrough too.

I was also relieved that the double Lucky Orange Aero action was clearly the reason for the early goal, as opposed to the cheese and onion pie I had in my hand at the moment the ball hit the back of the net. I didn’t want to face eating football ground fayre every week…

Hotshot Lavery went off injured but replacement Yates scored with his first touch to break his duck (if we’re not counting pens). At half time we were 2-0 up and the impressive travelling hoardes were mute.

I again contemplated the advertising boards (electronic and otherwise). Many of the old boards have font that is too small to read; or the branding makes no sense without further research or explanation (what is Blue CDM? It means nothing to me).

My favourite, though, remains this one.

I started imagining Martin Booker (Blackpool’s Commercial Manager) on the phone to potential sponsors.

‘Listen, we can get international coverage for your brand. We’re in the Championship now. Our matches are shown all over the world. In every country. Blackpool are huge in China.’

‘Hmm I’m not convinced, Martin. Your prices do seem a bit steep. Is there anything more you can do for us?’

‘Listen, we can go BEYOND international coverage. Our new electronic advertising panels are that prominent, they can be seen from SPACE.’

‘Wow, space! Really? That sounds great. You’ve got yourselves a deal.’

But back to the match.

We proceeded to lose centre half Richard ‘Marmite’ Keogh and our captain and keeper Chris Maxwell to injury but still came out 2-1 winners. We have a strong bench and a strong squad. Whilst Maxi was a massive player for us last season, I feel he might benefit from a bit of a lie down, as he’s been getting very animated with (admittedly ropey) officials in recent weeks. Stuart Moore has looked solid when he’s come in to cover (as he did today). And we’ve also got Grimmy as cover here too.

Here’s our match vlog:

Today’s win put us 12th in the Championship, which is pretty good considering the slow start we had. I remain confident that we can retain this sort of position. It won’t be easy but we’ve got some good, honest, hard-working lads in this squad – not to mention one of the top coaches in Europe. We do still need to strengthen (and clear out some dead wood) in January. But we’re improving constantly and there’s only one direction this team is going and we’re going to surprise a few people again this season. Not mentioning any names (Sky) but some see the name ‘Blackpool’ and assume we’re punching above our weight. We’ll show them, as we always do…

Next up: I revisit my former club, Chasetown, as they take on NPL rivals Halesowen Town in the FA Trophy.

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