Jane Stuart – Writer

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

Blackpool v West Bromwich Albion

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this match tonight. My Baggie friend Luke had advised me that they had no strikers and weren’t doing well. Whilst I found this encouraging, this was a midweek match at Bloomfield Road – and we had lost all of those since the opening week against Middlesbrough. Would the curse of the Blackpool floodlights strike again tonight?

I spent pre-match on the sofa watching Bonus Family on Netflix, scoffing my new favourite yoghurt.

These are amazing and really taste like cherry bakewell (with a fraction of the calories).

And, seeing as some of you are only here for the food, here’s what I had for tea as well.

That’s Sticky Tuna. The sauce is equal measures of honey, balsamic vinegar and soy sauce and it caramelises around the tuna steak (or chicken, if you prefer) as it cooks. It’s quite delicious.

You see I am eating well and losing weight at the same time (11lb down and counting).

Here’s a pic of my recent beer delivery from Fierce for those of you who are here for the beer.

I’m off to St Annes later this week so will have some local pub news for you shortly, don’t worry. Oh and don’t forget it’s Take Your Dog To Meet Santa day at Shovels next week.

An hour before kick-off, Lee surprised me by being ready at the agreed departure time, so I changed into my winter match attire. I was already wearing my thermal vest, new Hotpots hoodie and Santa socks. Now I changed into my thermal trousers and pulled on my BFC bodywarmer (I still find the word gilet a little pretentious), scarf, big coat, fleece-lined boots and Fritidsklader hat (link here – buy one, they’re so warm and comfy).

I was not going to be cold tonight.

On arrival at the ground I headed straight to my seat. I’d managed to sneak in a bottle of Cherry Diet Coke so I could avoid the refreshment kiosk and save myself two pounds into the bargain. And going to the toilet seemed like too much of a faff bearing in mind all the clothes I was wearing.

I pulled up the team news on Twitter and was excited by what I saw. Shayne Lavery was back in the starting line-up after a spell out injured. My fave Josh Bowler was starting – as was Gary Madine Goal Machine. This was a strong side.

The bench was looking pretty healthy too – and included CJ Hamilton following his return from injury. CJ was a standout player for us in the first half of last season before suffering a bad injury. He attempted a comeback earlier this season but something was clearly wrong, as he had lost his pace. But now he was back following an op. Would we see the old CJ tonight? Ooh I hoped so…

I was quite taken with the training tops of the West Brom players. I’d be putting one of those on my Christmas list if I supported them.

Gradually my new South Stand family gathered around me. I brought Steve up to date with the team news; David wordlessly (and quite viciously tonight) handed me a mint; and Derek proudly informed me that he was going to see the Hotpots in Blackpool in July. He implied his wife had talked him into it but he knew their new song and that they were playing a gig with Black Lace and The Wurzels next week, so he’s definitely a convert.

Lee took his seat just on kick-off as is the norm. Now let’s see what The Mighty Tangerine Wizards had in store for us tonight. There was no way this was going to be as boring as Saturday’s match.

Indeed for the first half hour, Blackpool looked lively and threatening and were on top. Lavery reminded us how strong and single-minded he was, driving straight through towards goal. He’s such an explosive and exciting centre forward. I love watching him. Who knows but he might be a rival for Dave Bamber as my Favourite Striker Ever. He’ll need 40 goals in a season for that, mind.

But the end of the first half was all West Brom and it was a very stressful watch. I was relieved when the half time whistle blew. Not least because it gave me respite from the lad behind me, who was incessantly slagging off (my favourite player) Josh Bowler every time he went anywhere near the ball. Grr.

I remained in my seat at half time. As Lee was getting the camera and mics ready for our half time summary video, we were approached by JJ. He wanted to thank us for keeping him going when he was out working in Qatar. A few people have said the same thing about lockdown and it’s lovely to hear that we are bringing joy with the content we are creating. The lockdown livestreams kept us going too, as we needed the routine of getting ready for football once or twice a week.

Of course we roped JJ in to appear on the video and you can hear his thoughts and his inside Qatar knowledge ahead of next year’s World Cup in the video below.

The second half continued where the first half left off and it was stressful and exhausting. This was definitely not one of those games that whizzed by because I was enjoying it so much. But Grimmy was looking solid in the Blackpool goal – and we had chances down the other end too. And, at 0-0, the game could still go either way. After all, we magicked a goal out of nowhere at Swansea, didn’t we?

On 66 minutes we brought on Hamilton and Dale. Almost immediately we observed that, yes, CJ had his pace back! He might have scored towards the end, too, but the match sharpness will take a little more time, with 11 months since he was regularly in the team.

Indeed it was almost as if there was a forcefield in front of the West Brom goal tonight, with Madine played in in a great position. I’m still not sure how he didn’t score.

And so the game ended 0-0. It was a blessed relief that the game had ended. We won’t have a harder game than that this season. West Brom were quick on the tackle and gave us no time on the ball. And yet we still came away with a point. That is the sign of a great team.

Here’s the match vlog:

We arrived home to a very warm house and I immediately began preparing for bed, while Lee set to work on the above video.

Next up: A Football Tourist’s Guide to Birmingham. Is a chocolate factory a good idea when I’m dieting…?

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