Jane Stuart – Writer

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

Blackpool v Birmingham City

After a heavy couple of days exploring the Black Country and Birmingham, I spent 48 hours holed up at home. We’d had a brilliant time but I was grateful for the extra long Easter weekend gifting me a couple of days off.

I had to be up early this morning because Monday is SlimmingWorld weighday. I usually go to an evening weigh but it didn’t seem right going to be weighed after a match, so I decided a morning weigh was more practical on this occasion. It was also the only chance I had of recording a weight loss, after my battered chips and Orange Smarties Mini Eggs in the Black Country earlier this weekend. Dear reader, the cunning plan worked, with the scales recording a one pound loss. They wouldn’t be so kind next week at my evening weigh, of course, but this false reading set me up nicely for the day.

I returned home, settled back on the sofa with a bacon and egg bagel, supervised by George The Stourbridge Station Cat, and spent the rest of the morning (and early afternoon) writing about my Maundy Thursday night out round the pubs of Birmingham.

It was gone 1400 by the time I peeled myself off the sofa and headed down to Bloomfield Road.

Blackpool v Birmingham City

I don’t usually write much about the match itself but this is an exceptional case, so I will.

Jake Beesley was given his first start for Blackpool. We’d signed him in the January transfer window from Rochdale, where he’d scored 12 goals this season. I do think it’s a bit odd that we sign players and then don’t play them but obvs I trust that Critch knows what he’s doing and it’s all part of the long-term plan and all that. Anyway Jake (son of former Blackpool player Paul Beesley) scored within minutes of kick off and we were in raptures. An early goal! From a striker! What was this?

And then, on 14 minutes, CJ Hamilton drove one home at the near post and we were 2-0 up. This was the CJ we remembered from the TV last season. What was going on here? We don’t go 2-0 up ever, let alone this early. It seemed we had our swagger back. Where had that been?

On 15 minutes we had a minute’s applause and ovation in memory of our much beloved former manager Billy Ayre, who we lost 20 years ago. As ‘Billy Ayre’s Tangerine Army’ rang out around the stadium, I couldn’t join in because I was crying with emotion. Billy was manager when I first started watching Blackpool back in 1991 and I had a little picture of him in a frame that I won in a Christmas cracker. He’d watch over me as I played football manager games on the Commodore 64. We went a year unbeaten at home under his management and it seemed like we won 3-0 at home every week. It felt like Billy was watching over us because there were surely other forces at play on the pitch today.

Our opponents were certainly not a force on the pitch today. And we gathered from the reaction of their fans that this was not an isolated incident.

Blackpool fans: ‘You’re fucking shit.’

Blues fans: ‘We’re fucking shit.’

Blues fans: ‘How shit must you be – it’s only 2-0.’

Kenny Dougall scored (for the first time since Wembley) just before half time to continue with the bizarro theme of the afternoon.

Blackpool fans: ‘3-0 on your big day out.’

Someone told me over the weekend that seaside resorts weren’t allowed to host matches on bank holidays once upon a time, which I never knew/noticed. I did know that we weren’t allowed to host Birmingham on a Saturday for many years after their fans smashed up the town in 1989 (just before my time) so I did think it was odd that we were playing them on Easter Monday. Not that I was complaining right now, as it seemed to be going rather well. I did feel like I was in some sort of parallel universe though.

In the second half, our new hero Jake Beesley doubled his tally on 56 minutes. At this point, Tony Parr (our PA announcer) made me howl with laughter as he announced that ‘Birmingham City fans are advised that they should exit the the ground to their right.’

In another bizarre twist – especially following our horrific time at St Andrews back in December – the Blues fans turned out to be my favourite visiting fans of the season (sorry, Cov). They dealt with their drubbing with such good humour. I also had a lot of sympathy for them, having been in their shoes more times than I care to remember (7-0 at Barnet and 5-0 in the pissing rain at Brentford being particular lowlights).

As their team were failing to entertain them, the Blues fans began amusing themselves, hurling smoke bomb after smoke bomb on the pitch. They even had a couple of pitch invaders. And they continued singing.

‘Sign him up.’

‘You’re not fit to wear the shirt.’

‘We’re gonna win 5-4.’

I actually began to feel a bit meanbaggy by this point but Blackpool were ruthless like I haven’t seen them in a long, long time. Even Jerry Yates got on the scoresheet with a penalty and he has been less than prolific this season. I hope he’s ok. I believe he can be a force at this level but I know striker is a confidence position and he needs goals. And then the final nail in the coffin – goal number six (SIX!) – right at the end was a direct free kick from Callum Connolly. Dear reader, we haven’t scored directly from a free kick for at least two years. I genuinely couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

The Blues fans were completely flat by the end of the match – which finished 6-1. Their spirit had carried them through to around the 70th minute but I guess it’s impossible to endure such a result against ‘teams like Blackpool’ for the full 90. I really did feel for them. At least our 7-0 defeat at Barnet culminated in us winning promotion and Barnet being relegated that season so it was an anomaly. It seemed this result was just the icing on the cake for Blues after a terrible run.

I exited the ground in a daze. What had just happened? We’d been struggling to score all season. Where the hell had six (SIX!) goals come from? It was ridiculous. I hadn’t been this confused since we won promotion to the Premier League, won our first game up there (away at Wigan) 4-0 to go top of the Premier League and followed it up with a win at Anfield. I still don’t believe any of this really happened because it is so ridiculous.

In case you don’t believe this either, here’s Lee’s match vlog as evidence that it did really happen.

To contribute to the mashing of my head, I’d spent much of the second half with one eye on Twitter and the Northern Premier League Midlands table. My old club Chasetown had an excellent chance to go level on points with the team top of the league today, with Ilkeston losing (they never lose). There’s only one automatic promotion spot in this league and there’s only one more match to go.

I was gutted that they hadn’t taken this opportunity today, only managing to draw at home to Sporting Khalsa. Thus, despite Blackpool winning 6-1, I left the ground gutted because of the Chase result. Looking back on this now, I supposed the Chase result felt more real, which I guess is why it affected me more strongly.

The Corner Flag

Still in a daze, I headed up to The Corner Flag, the bar in the Blackpool FC Hotel in the South East corner of the ground. It’s a nice little bar that is accessible via a secure door that I always struggle with (but there’s usually a man there to assist with this) and a lift. There’s usually Blackpool players in here after the game, which is kind of cool. And they serve food in here too. It’s all pretty civilised.

‘Why don’t you drink here more often, then?’

Well there’s no ale. Plus you know I prefer a proper pub. It was John Smiths in here for me tonight.

I was here this evening to meet up with Brummie and fellow beer blogger Britainbeermat, after he’d failed to make a rendezvous when I was in Birmingham a few days earlier, despite me giving him several weeks (possibly even months) notice of my visit. Would he turn up after he’d just watched his team drubbed 6-1? While I waited, I chatted with Donny Mick and was then invited over to join Michelle and James at their table. I’m afraid I probably wasn’t great company as I remained completely puzzled by this afternoon’s match and angry at the Chase result, at the same time keeping an eye out for a blogging friend I had yet to meet and wasn’t sure I’d recognise. I did, however, manage to make an exciting curry date with Michelle for the last home game of the season, so that was a positive. But Britainbeermat failed to turn up (some flimsy excuse about forgetting his phone – a likely story), which now has him firmly in the ‘unreliable’ category (along with Maltmeister, although that one was partially my fault for not agreeing a time). Thank heaven for reliable pub bloggers like Martin, Si and Evo, who will each be awarded bonus points in the Pub Blogging Awards.

No 10 Alehouse Blackpool & Thai Kitchen

I had been excited to spot a particularly alluring beer on at the No 10 earlier this weekend. Gaffer George had promised me a pint of it, so I strode up Bloomfield Road to take him up on this kind offer. Ooh I hoped that beer was still on!

Ooh yes – there it is! Squee!

I began salivating as my pint of tiramisu milk stout was pulled. This was going to be amazing! I love a milk stout at the best of times but tiramisu!

‘Oh – it’s just gone, I’m afraid.’

‘Noooooooooooo!’

I fought back the tears and tried to compose myself with a deep breath.

‘What can I get you instead?’

‘Er…I don’t know. I really wanted that one. Will you be putting another dark beer on to replace that one?’

‘I’ll have to check with Dave.’

Manager Dave arrived at the bar and the question was posed. I looked up at him with puppy dog eyes, my hands clasped together in pleading mode.

‘Oh go on then – as it’s you.’

Yay! I clapped my hands in excitement and got back to pub business, placing an order for my new favourite Jungle Curry (an actually curry, not a quirky beer), hanging up my coat and bodywarmer on the coat hooks (it was a bright bright sunshiney day today) before joining George, Mick and Shaun (the latter two I’d met in Shickers on free bacon barm day) at their table.

Shortly afterwards, I was delivered a pint of this.

Have they changed the design of this pump clip?

I knew I liked this beer as I remembered finishing off a barrel of it on a visit to Wigan a few years back. But I was still gutted at missing out on that tiramisu stout. George confirmed it had been lush and set off determined to find one for me to try.

‘He’s got a pint of it over there. Let me fetch it for you.’

‘He hasn’t got COVID, has he?’

I hadn’t shared anyone’s drink (apart from Lee’s) since the pandemic started.

George returned with a partially drunk pint of Dexter Tiramisu Milk Stout with a straw in it (nice touch!). I couldn’t not try it after he’d gone to all that trouble for me. And oh my word, dear reader – that stout was sensational! It was quite reminiscent of Vocation’s Naughty and Nice range, with the delicious complexity of its flavours. Quite an incredible flavour from a cask ale. This is definitely one to keep an eye out for.

My Jungle Curry soon arrived and was polished off within minutes.

I think this is SlimmingWorld friendly (no coconut milk) and it’s also just the perfect level of spicy for me.

I don’t actively listen out for pub background music but occasionally a pub soundtrack will grab my attention. For example, on a pre-season trip to Scotland back in the 2000s, my ear was caught by KT Tunstall’s ‘Eye To The Telescope’ album, which was playing in a pub in the Kyle of Lochalsh or Plockton and I promptly bought the CD on my return to Birmingham. In a Latvian restaurant in Riga, I first heard ‘Losing My Religion’ by Gregorian and subsequently bought all their CDs. This evening, here in No 10 Alehouse, I heard something I had never heard before. What was it? It sounded a bit like Weird Al Jankovic but it wasn’t Weird Al. I consulted Soundhound and was amused by my findings.

How on earth does Spongebob Squarepants end up being played in a pub? I was chuckling my head off at this.

We got to chatting about the five-year boycott of Blackpool matches and George mentioned someone who had started watching Fylde during that time.

‘AFC Fylde? I’d rather go to the bingo than watch that lot play.’

This made me howl with laughter.

What an absolute joy it is to talk with people in pubs. This has revolutionised my pubgoing experience this weekend. However it has also led to me drinking more than I would if I was drinking alone (my crawls usually involve a half in each pub and lots of walking, so I don’t actually drink much). Again tonight I drank to the bell, which confused me when it rang at 2030, but frankly I had had more than enough beer by that point, so it was for the best.

Thank you, No 10 Alehouse, for making a lone female drinker feel welcome. I really am beginning to feel quite at home in a lot of Blackpool’s wonderful pubs now. Thank you to George for sparking this surprising but very special trend of new micropubs across the Fylde Coast. It is important that we drinkers get out there and support the good pubs and, as you can read here, I’m doing my bit.

Next Up: A Football Tourist’s Guide To Luton.

If you’ve enjoyed this article there are many more to read on this website. You can navigate using the menus above. All of my content is FREE but you do have the option to buy me a beer on a forthcoming trip by clicking on the link below:

Thanks to George for the beers tonight.

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