Jane Stuart – Writer

Writer on beer, football culture and Blackpool FC.

Southport v Blackpool

Football is back! Whilst I’ll confess I’ve really enjoyed the close season – and the break from travelling (and spending!) after a manic 21/22 season – I felt a buzz this morning with an awayday on the horizon.

I was awake early so bounced into the shower to the soundtrack of Aztec Camera. As I still like to do these things the wrong way round, I then hopped onto the static bike for a 30 minute workout – accompanied by Arnie.

I’ve been back on the SlimmingWorld plan with a vengeance this week. I’ve been maintaining my weight for several weeks but have decided it’s time to start consistently losing weight again now, as I still have the best part of a stone to lose to hit my target weight. This necessitated a special plan for matchday that I was determined to implement. I posted it on my SlimmingWorld Facebook group to help me go through with it.

Could I stick to this? Well all will be revealed. Happily, Lee was amenable to the walking, which was a big help. I felt confident as I tucked into my Marmite on toast whilst catching up on last night’s Corrie.

Note the tangerine nails.

In a twist for the 22/23 season, I’m planning a change for the blog. It became a bit of a monster last season, taking up a lot of my time – and all of my Sundays. Hence I’m writing this intro on Saturday morning BEFORE heading to the match. The plan is to write the rest when I’m back home tonight – thus freeing up my Sunday.

So, what am I going to do with my Sundays? Well, I’ll be writing, of course! I have a few other projects on the go at the moment in the beer and football writing world. My big project of the summer is the return of the Blackpool fanzine, Now That’s What I Call Progress. Issue 6 (and the 45th fanzine in total under my editorship) is currently being finalised, so I’ll be collating the content tomorrow and next weekend. This issue is going to be the best yet, with articles that will make readers laugh, cry and wrack their brains; featuring nostalgia and commentary on current events at Blackpool – and in the wider world of football.

If you enjoy these blogs and would like to support me in this venture, please do consider subscribing to the zine. I’ve been working hard on this all summer, collecting content and promoting the zine, and a lot of time and love is going into its production. It’s £15 for four issues delivered to your door and you can subscribe by clicking the button below.

You can also read back issues online here.

But back to today: matchday!

As I was waiting impatiently by the front door for Lee to get ready (as usual), he said he couldn’t remember what he was supposed to do on a matchday, this being our first in months.

‘I’ll tell you exactly what happens. We set off, then return home five minutes later because you’ve forgotten something.’

And, true to form, that’s exactly what happened! On this occasion it was his bank card, which he needed to fuel up on the way out.

Soon enough, though, we were on our merry way down the M55. It’s a weird one, Southport, because it’s only around nine miles away but we have to drive for an hour the long way round to get there.

Today’s soundtrack was The Lancashire Hotpots because their bass player, Bob, is from Southport. I’ve got loads of their stuff on my phone and I put it on shuffle. This generated a lot of Christmas songs, which was extra joyful. I’m happy to listen to Christmas songs all year round.

By the time we arrived in Southport I was bursting for a wee (the temporary traffic lights on the way into town hadn’t helped) so I was even happier than normal to be skipping into a pub.

The Imperial

As usual, I researched ‘pubs serving food’ in the town we were visiting on the Good Beer Guide app. I was pleased to spot a Joseph Holt pub on there, as we do enjoy the local Holts pubs (Halfway House and Water’s Edge) and know the food to be good there (and, most importantly, suitable for our respective wacky dietary requirements). I also knew this to be a good beer pub for my diet – i.e. I would have a low ABV non-dark beer and not be tempted by a dreamy stout. Indeed I researched the menu prior to visiting and already knew what I would be having: the item on the menu with the lowest calorific content which, happily, was also a curry.

I was suspicious of the pickle, so left most of that, and didn’t eat the poppadoms; nonetheless it was a decent enough portion to sustain me for the afternoon and keep me away from the dreaded refreshment kiosk and all its unhealthy options.

Two Hoots.

Oh I almost forgot the loo review! The cubicles in the Ladies here contained something I’d never seen in any cubicle before.

As well as having a coat hook towards the top of the door, there was also a hook lower down for my handbag. What a treat! This is a strong start to the new season of loo reviews.

Indeed this pub was full of conversation pieces. I’ll set out some of these for you below.

As we came to leave, I was chuffed that I’d only had the one pint with my lunch. The willpower is strong at the moment. I’m not sure how long this will last but it sure feels good.

Hesketh Park

Another good point about The Imperial is that it is situated next to a park. As it was a beautiful day – sunny but a bit cloudy – it would have been rude not to take a stroll around the park. After all, it’s good practice to complement my diet, as well as being a mindful exercise and free of charge.

Hesketh Park Observatory.
A free gym in the park!

It was a good half hour’s walk from the park to the ground but that was all part of the plan! I like to identify a landmark on the map to look out for, so I can keep my eyes on my surroundings and not on the map for the bulk of my walk. Today’s landmark was a pub. As we approached, Lee (who doesn’t drink, remember) was keen to go in. Dammit, I’d have to have that second pint after all…

Thatch & Thistle

I asked for a taster of the Dizzy Blonde because I was suspicious of the word ‘zesty’ on the pump clip and wondered if it might mean ‘citra-ey’. Happily, it didn’t, so I plumped for a pint before taking a seat in the beer garden at the front of the pub.

There was a good number of Blackpool fans in this pub, which was pleasing to see. I had been beginning to wonder if I’d got the right time and date for the match, it had been so quiet so far today.

As Lee was chatting with fellow Seasiders, I took a moment for myself and caught up on social media. Ooh time for the team news!

Whaaaaat?! Bez Lubala?! I didn’t know he was still at the club. And Rob Apter! The academy star who I’d been dying to see get an opportunity in the first team for yonks but always got shipped out on loan by Critch. And Olly Casey starting too! This was already evidence that our new manager, Michael Appleton, was looking on this squad with fresh and objective eyes. Where was Lee? I was bursting to share this team news with him!

Soon we were reunited and filming our intro to the match vlog before taking the short walk to Haig Avenue, only stopping to photograph this cat along the way.

Southport v Blackpool

I showed my print-at-home ticket to the woman on the gate, expecting it back, but she kept the whole thing. She also failed to offer me a match programme, despite offering one to the man in front of me in the queue. Perhaps that had been the last one.

I headed across the front of the terrace, quite fancying a position towards the far end, where I surmised it would be quieter. Donny Mick called me over for a chat about Eurovision (we are both huge fans). Apparently Glasgow is the favourite to host the competition in 2023. We’ve been talking about making a trip to the finals for years. The main thing that puts me off is that it usually clashes with the playoffs and I’m always hopeful that we might be in them. This year, for some reason I thought it clashed with the Peterborough game, otherwise I would have likely booked to go, my hopes of us reaching the playoffs being slim. Going to the Eurovision finals is on my bucket list (along with going to the finals of World’s Strongest Man) and I’d love this to happen next year.

I then went up to join MG at the back of the terrace for a catch up. I was keen to hear about his new electric van, which I understand is a damn sight cheaper than a petrol/diesel equivalent. It does sound like a bit of a faff with the charging but I suppose, like anything, it’s something you get used to. And the running costs certainly seem like a good incentive. Shame, then, that we only got our new (semi hybrid) car last year…

Now on to the match. Well, what can I say? We only went and bloody attacked! It was absolutely joyful to watch. We were passing the ball forward and shooting at goal and everything! What a transformation already from last season – and in complete contrast to that flat performance at Peterborough on the last day of last season. Sonny Carey was the standout player for me but it was generally a bloody enjoyable first half performance. Oh and we scored twice too! And one was from a corner!

But I suppose the main talking point of the match – which occurred 36 minutes in – was an odd incident involving the supporters. There was a group of Southport fans in a close bunch behind the opposite goal. Suddenly they decided to make their way round to the terrace on our left hand side. They congregated in a bunch behind a not-particularly-secure little barrier and proceeded to taunt the visiting fans from a position where we could now clearly hear them. I began to observe Blackpool fans passing in front of me, heading closer to the taunting bunch of young Southport fans (who were, arguably, inciting a riot). This was becoming distracting – and I could see very well what was coming – so I headed to find a new position on the terrace towards the right. This was nearer the loos, so would be handier for half time anyway. The next thing I knew, the young Southport fans were legging it (at quite some pace) back down the length of the terrace towards their own goal. Why? Well all I could see from my vantage point a little further away were no more than half a dozen Blackpool fans approaching the not-particularly-secure little barrier where the home fans had been congregated. But the pace at which the youths legged it – honestly it was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen at a football match.

The match was halted for ten minutes whilst order was restored (although in reality it was over as soon as it began). Blackpool’s CEO Ben Mansford strode across the pitch to settle down the visiting fans and captain Chris Maxwell joined him. It all seemed like a storm in a teacup really.

At half time I used the time waiting in line for the Ladies (one cubicle!) to photograph this stunning turnstile.

Oh and here’s the menu at the Lourdes Deli stall.

Honestly the lack of healthy eating options inside football grounds is a real problem. However, I will award bonus points here for the bacon barm and offering gravy with the chips.

As I strolled back to find a gap at the front, the PA was playing ‘I Predict A Riot’ by Kaiser Chiefs, which I didn’t think was a particularly great choice, given the circumstances, although you may disagree.

The second half saw the expected full change in personnel. This made me realise what a strong squad we already have, despite having made no additions so far this summer. Of course signings will come (we don’t tend to rush these things and I do understand that it’s important to get the right personnel as opposed to rushing into a decision). But we don’t have a bad bunch to pick from already, especially if we’re going to start actually utilising our academy players. And it is important for our new manager to run his eye over the existing squad before deciding who might or might not fit into his plans.

Blackpool were attacking the goal at the far end of the pitch in the second half, which meant there was less action at our end. And it was less exciting than the first half and I found myself clock watching. We’d done our job (there were no further goals) and I was satisfied enough with what I’d seen in the first half to be excited for the season ahead. It was really encouraging to see such attacking play, as opposed to all that sideways and backwards stuff we’d endured the last couple of seasons. Sure, we’d had a good couple of seasons on paper, but, in reality, it had been tiresome to watch for weeks at a time.

So the game ended 2-0 and we made the half-hour walk back to the car happy with what we’d seen. And certainly happier than with what we saw on the dashboard.

Too. Damn. Hot.

On the way home we called in at M&S to collect my new jimjams (which I’m wearing as I write this on Saturday night).

Back home, I was greeted with a letter informing me that my ‘out of time’ appeal against a fine for driving in a bus lane in Hull last October(!) had been refused. This despite (a) Hull CC writing to me at the wrong address and thus not notifying me in the required time; and (b) me not having been driving the car at the time. If anyone has any tips for winning at appeals against stupid fucking fines like this then I’d be delighted to hear from you. Apparently it will cost me more than the fine is to appeal this decision. The whole process seems quite ridiculous – already involving bailiffs, solicitors, a threat of jail and a court hearing – for what was an administration oversight at the outset. For driving in a fucking bus lane! And I didn’t even do that, as I haven’t driven in a long time (some of us are born to drive, some of us are born to be driven).

So that was a delightful end to the day. And then I sat down and wrote this blog to free up my Sunday to work on the fanzine. Please subscribe if you haven’t already.

You can find more information about the fanzine in this video:

Next up: A Football Tourist’s Guide to York & Leeds United v Blackpool.

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