Jane Stuart – Writer

Writer on beer, football culture and Blackpool FC.

Blackpool v Rangers

It was back to Bloomfield Road for the first time in three months (which seems like the blink of an eye considering how long we’ve been away for in recent years, what with the boycott and COVID). Again it’s a short run ahead of the winter break (which I’d like every year please to recharge my batteries) but here we are again, full of hopes and dreams for the season ahead. How long until we’d be disappointed? Well even before the game kicked off, as it turned out…

Pre Match

My brain has well and truly flipped to ‘on diet’ mode this last couple of weeks. So this morning (after my shower) I hopped straight on the static bike whilst listening to the latest SlimmingWorld podcast. I learned some cool new snacking tips whilst burning off 400 calories.

I popped the kettle on to make my first brew of the day (Vanilla Rooibos) then settled down to write my To Do list.

I managed to shave £40 off the week’s grocery bill by only ordering food we’d actually eat next week. I spent half of that saving on a cool bag so we can take healthy snacks on our travels during the season ahead.

Next it was time to catch up on my emails. I’ve been a bit behind on these, mainly because I had a minor breakdown last weekend. The pressure of reintroducing the fanzine whilst remaining committed to this blog hit sooner than I expected. I worked 13h without a break last Friday so I could get the Football Tourist’s Guide To York completed ahead of the weekend. The plan was to free up last weekend to finish off Issue 6 of the fanzine and edit a lengthy piece I’m writing for a beer publication. However, the blog drained me so much – mentally and physically – that I was unable to do any further work last weekend.

Within my emails was correspondence from fanzine contributors and subscribers. I set to work replying to emails and updating my subscriber list. If you haven’t subscribed yet please do so I’m not wearing myself out for nothing…

I’ve been finishing off the zine this week and can confirm that it’s ace! Every article – from a variety of football fans – brings me a lot of joy to read and to bring to you. There’s a piece by a gay Blackpool fan about what Jake Daniels coming out meant to him; thoughts on the managerial situation at Blackpool; stories of creative football content that came out of lockdown; updates from Blackpool youth/development squad/academy/whatevs and the local non-league scene; memories and memorabilia; laughter and tears. Get subbing!

Now you know I get complaints when I don’t include pubs in this blog. I even got complaints that I didn’t include enough pubs in in my York one. I had no intention of going to the pub today, mainly because my diet plan for the week included a Chicken Biryani at the match. Anything is allowed on the SlimmingWorld plan but certain (most) things are only allowed in moderation. I figured the biryani would use up all my syns for the day so I’d skip the beer for today and hope for a better weight loss on Monday than the half pound losses I’ve banked the last couple of weeks.

That said, of course I’m taking you to the pub! But this is from my night out on Wednesday, when my plan was to check out a bar in town that I’d not visited before…

Common Bar & Kitchen

I’d heard of this place anecdotally and it sounded intriguing. It’s a South American Street Food ‘bar and kitchen’. Well there’s nothing else quite like that in Blackpool, is there? It’s situated on Edward Street (the road where the old club shop used to be – remember that?).

On arrival, my friend Louise and I were offered a choice of table and selected one towards the front of the restaurant? bar? kitchen? room. The music was a little loud for my comfort but Louise was carrying an injury and didn’t fancy investigating the upstairs and I don’t like high chairs and tables, which seemed to be the only other option. I almost immediately headed in the direction of the unisex facilities because I’d been dancing all the way here after a pint of the very lush Black Edge Black Rich Stout in Cask & Tap.

Loo Review: Smelled lovely. Loved the stickers on the hand drier but it was shit at drying my hands.

Drinks! I didn’t really have my drinking head on, thinking two drinks tonight would be sufficient – and I was already one down. Louise, however, had other ideas…so cocktails it was!

Isn’t this a lovely picture? That’s my Dark & Stormy.

I studied the short menu quite extensively as I decided what to have that wouldn’t impact my diet too much. I decided on this:

That’s a Burrito with Shredded Chicken Tinga served with Seasoned Rice, Black Bean, Pico de Gallo & Salsa, served with Seasoned Tortilla Chips & Common Spicy Tomato Sauce. It was also supposed to come with Cheese and Guac (sic) but I asked for it without these to minimise my syns. Plus: ‘guac’…?!

The service in here was excellent, with a group of friendly, smiley young men.

This is an interesting addition to the Blackpool town centre scene and I was pleased to have visited. I’m sure that there’s plenty out there beyond my usual trio of Cask & Tap, Alberts Ale Microbar and Brew Room and I should probably get out there and review them for you…

Now back to matchday…

Blackpool v Rangers

I decided to be controversial today and test the stewards by wearing a non-Blackpool football shirt, which I don’t believe is allowed. It was a rare warm and sunny football day today so I donned my FC Brickstand shirt, which you can view (and buy) via this link. FC Brickstand are my Lego team and they never fail to raise my spirits and make me laugh on Twitter. I was feeling a little less brave when I came to leave the house (what if they turned me away? would I have to go home and change?) so I put a cardigan on to hide it a little bit. There wasn’t a flicker of interest from the steward on the entrance to the West Stand, though, and I got in no problem.

Now down to exciting pre-match business. I had been looking forward to my Chicken Biryani (brand new for 22/23) for weeks. I had really enjoyed the one I had at Ewood Park earlier this year and it would be amazing to finally get some lush food at my home ground of Bloomfield Road. I didn’t have the patience to follow the mazy queueing system so ducked under the barriers and headed straight to the counter (it was only 1400 so it was pretty quiet).

‘A biryani and two bottles of water please.’

‘We haven’t got any biryani.’

‘Oh. But I’ve had nothing to eat this morning especially. I’ve been really looking forward to my biryani.’

‘We’ve got hot dogs?’

‘Just two bottles of water please.’

This was a disaster! I’d literally just had a satsuma and a few cubes of cheese and pineapple before heading out to the match. How could I survive the afternoon on that? I was not at all happy and headed directly to my seat, a lidless bottle of water in each hand. I soon found my row but there was a steward blocking my access.

‘Excuse me please.’

‘You can’t sit in this row.’

‘Well my seat’s for that row.’

‘You should have had an email reallocating you to another seat.’

‘Well I did have an email but…’

‘So you’ll need to go to the reallocated seat.’

‘If you’ll let me finish…the other two seats WERE reallocated, but this one wasn’t.’

‘Well…can I see your ticket?’

‘But I’ve got no hands. Here, hold these.’ I handed him my lidless bottles of water.

I soon figured out for myself that I was on the right row, but my seat was on the opposite side of the tunnel. I took my bottles of water back and was given directions for the quickest way round, for which I was thankful. It was then that I made an observation of one of the stewards.

‘You’ve got a lid on your bottle of water.’

‘But I work here so I can be trusted.’

I turned to walk away before turning back.

‘Well so can I… That wasn’t a great response, was it?’

This lid thing REALLY pisses me off. Indeed I had intended to question the refreshment kiosk staff about the WHY but my annoyance had been superseded by shock at the lack of biryani. I could feel my hanger bubbling to the surface so turned heel and resolved to sit in my seat quietly while I came up with a plan to get through the next three hours without ripping anyone’s head off.

I was soon cheered up on hearing the latest single from Måneskin (who I’ve been listening to all week) over the tannoy (yes I could hear it from the West). Big up Tony Parr the PA man. They won Eurovision last year and I’m very tempted to go and see them next year.

To distract myself from my hanger, I took to writing the above part of this blog. I get so immersed in writing that I don’t give a fleeting thought to food – and only remember to drink when I’m practically dehydrated. Little wonder, then, that my 13h marathon at the screen made me so ill last week…

I’d booked us plum (padded) seats on the halfway line on the front row of M Block today but we had been moved. Lee and his son were in the reallocated seats on the third row, whereas I was on the inside of the second row. The reason the seats had been reallocated was because of the extended benches for today, with lots of substitutes. Indeed, on the front row in front of me this afternoon were injured Blackpool players Luke Garbutt, Jake Beesley and Jim Husband.

This seat offered an interesting view. I’d happily sit here every week and I’m not sure why I don’t. I observed Garbutt (who had already annoyed me by having a bottle of water with a lid on it) discarding his gum on the floor (dirty boy); Jerry Yates eating a banana at half time; and brand new signing Lewis Fiorini (on loan from Man City) with hair that I just wanted to touch (in a non-weird way, it just looked like it would feel lovely, the way that number one haircuts do). It seemed odd to see new manager Michael Appleton in the dugout.

I’d seen lots of Appleton on my Twitter feed from Lincoln fans in recent years but barely remembered him from his (very brief) time here ten years ago. Indeed I’m not sure how many matches I was getting to back then, as my attendance was beginning to be intermittent.

Anyway the first half whizzed by – and it has been months since I could say that about a Blackpool match. Clearly the training camp in Scotland had transformed and revitalised the squad. It was bloody delightful to watch Joshy taking on players again. And Sonny Carey again looked inspired.

The Rangers fans were amazing. They had the whole of the East and South Stands and did not stop singing throughout the match. They gave me goosebumps they were so impressive. They were waving huge flags and treated us to a display of flares.

It was fascinating to experience this different culture inside the ground, as they sang unfamiliar songs to tunes we’d never heard before. One was to the tune of Karma Chameleon!

At half time, as I battled my way to the Ladies and suddenly remembered why I preferred the South Stand and its huge concourse after all, I was bemused to see Rangers shirts and scarves (and half and half Blackpool/Rangers scarves) all over the home end. So I needn’t have worried about my FC Brickstand shirt after all. But this was a friendly and I didn’t notice any trouble at all. And if we hadn’t underestimated the number of tickets Rangers were going to sell then it might not have been an issue. This match was a real moneyspinner for Blackpool so why turn down the extra gate receipts?

Loo Review: Screw and washer(?) at the bottom of the loo.

The second half was a bit less of a spectacle, with lots of chopping and changing across both sides. Fiorini came on for us and was soon involved in a nice attacking move. It was also nice to see Grant Ward feature; I’d been surprised and disappointed when he’d been released at the end of last season. Rangers scored a couple and we got a consolation through Lubala. And I left the ground happy with what I’d seen.

Tangerine flowers outside the club shop.

On my way out of the ground I was asked where I’d been for a drink before the match and where I was heading afterwards (by two separate people). I replied that the pub was not on the agenda today because I was being good. So there.

Post Match

I had intended to walk home (with Lee DJing at the Armfield) but that was before I realised I would be almost collapsing from starvation by this point. I resolved to get the bus home. On my walk home from the bus stop, I got to thinking about what I was going to have for tea, now food was a tangible option for me again. I didn’t have anything planned for tea, as I was expecting to be too full after my (non existent) biryani. Aha! I’d pop to the shop and buy stuff to make a curry! I quickly researched my favourite recipe, scouring for ingredients we didn’t have in, and headed into the shop for chicken, tomato puree and yoghurt. Et voila:

Sweet & Sour Balti Chicken.

And relax… Now it was time to settle back and watch a movie while I relaxed into Saturday evening before finishing off this blog.

That’s all, folks. Finishing off the fanzine tomorrow (subscribe!) then it’s off into the heatwave…

Next Up: Manchester GBG Mission #6 & Salford City v Blackpool.

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