Meet The New Signings – Beer & Burger Night
Ahead of the home game against Norwich was a new event at Blackpool FC – an opportunity to meet the new signings over a ‘Beer and Burger.’ I wasn’t particularly fussed about having a beer or a burger – and thought the ticket price of £20 was a bit steep – but decided to go along anyway and see what it was like.
Come the night of the event – a Thursday – I’d been to the gym, had tea in the oven (air fryer pending) and was changing into my pyjamas before I remembered we were going out. Dammit – I’d been looking forward to finishing off Long Way Down. I changed into a dress, continued with tea and we headed out in time for a 1930 arrival.
I was pleased to see our table was right at the front – and MG was seated with us. He’s always good for some electric vehicle chat and tonight’s highlight was his ability to heat up the van remotely so it would be toasty by the time he got in it. MG’s present is our future.
On entry, we’d each been presented with a token, which we could exchange for a drink (beer or soft drink). My drink of choice in the Matthews Lounge is 7Up Zero (no chance of any ale, so why waste syns on booze I don’t want?). Initially I was advised that my token was for draught soft drinks only but this was overruled by another member of staff who permitted the bottled stuff before I had time to get angry about paying £20 for a beer and a burger, neither of which I wanted.
Table numbers were called out in the order in which we could go up to the counter for our burgers. We’d purposely already eaten so as not to be tempted but I took a photo of MG’s chicken burger.
It was around 2015 when the first speakers took to the stage. Ged Mills was our host and his first interviewee was Blackpool manager Michael Appleton.
Appleton is a breath of fresh air for me. He is such an open and honest speaker and I value that highly. He spoke about his career-ending injury at age 25. He went in for an operation on one injury and came out with four injuries. A lengthy legal battle ensued and Appleton retreated to the gym for 3-4 hour sessions as a way of managing his mental health during this difficult period. He spoke of a former teammate who passed away and, when he spoke of perspective, it was clear that a couple of defeats really aren’t hugely important in the scheme of things. He also tells his players to enjoy every game, every training session because they never know if it might be their last – as he didn’t go into that match aged 25 expecting it to be his last.
Next up were Assistant Head Coach David Kerslake and Goalkeeping Coach Steve Banks. The latter received a rapturous welcome as he’s fondly remembered from his playing days at Bloomfield Road. He admitted he didn’t know where the ‘Stevie Banks Disco Pants’ legend came from – however I have the answer. His predecessor Steve McIlhargey always wore tracky bottoms and the chant was originally ‘Stevie Mac’s Disco Pants’, which we adopted for Banks when he wore tracky bottoms once and we were pleased to see them so we could dig the chant out again.
Next up were loan signings Lewis Fiorini and Ian Poveda.
This was the highlight of the night for me. When I first saw a picture of Ian (pronounced Yan) Poveda, I instantly thought of Dani Rojas, who he very much resembled with his (then) flowing locks and beaming smile. For those who don’t know, Rojas plays for AFC Richmond in the excellent Apple TV series Ted Lasso. The character is full of joy and his catchphrase is ‘Football Is Life.’
Imagine, then, my delight when Poveda sat in his chair giggling throughout Fiorini’s interview (which was infectious and hilarious) – then not only spoke in a Latin American accent like Rojas (Poveda’s dad is Colombian) but ACTUALLY SAID something along the lines of ‘Football Is Life.’ He didn’t use those exact words but I swear this man is the real life Dani Rojas. And this brings me so much joy – especially following the recent departure of Josh Bowler. Here was another player I was already falling in love with. This character was worth the £20 entrance fee alone.
And finally we were introduced to permanent signings Callum Wright (Wright Wright) and Dom Thompson and loanee Rhys Williams.
Wright is incredibly Scouse. I liked him because, when he was released as a boy, he didn’t let it get him down and went to play Sunday League football for a couple of years just so he could enjoy playing because he loved football. He said he always knew he’d be a professional footballer. And lo and behold he was picked up by a pro club and here he is now playing for the Mighty Tangerine Wizards. But what a wonderful attitude to just keep playing for fun and work his way back. I want to watch players who enjoy playing and I’m not at all convinced that I’ve seen much of this since – well since Ian Holloway was here ten years ago.
In conclusion, this was a great night and well worth the £20 in entertainment value alone. It’s lovely getting to know the players and management team as human beings – something that seemed unattainable under the guarded Vulcan Critchley.
Fast forward to matchday. I spent the morning writing up my adventures in Halifax from the previous weekend.
My SlimmingWorld Accountability Bear Paddington prepared me a big plate of bolognese to set me up for the day.
James had been in touch the night before to invite me out on the lash post-match so it was important that I had a substantial lunch.
By 1330 I was in situ on Bloomfield Road ready to sell zines.
The forecast was for rain but the weather was kind to me this afternoon.
There were a lot of Norwich fans passing and my appeal to flog them some reading material for the long journey home did not fall on deaf ears. However one did retort that she’d ‘already got one’ which was impossible (unless she’d pillaged the printers earlier in the week).
The award for the toughest sale of the day went to groundhopper Luke who didn’t have any cash. Sod’s Law dictated that we’d decided against bringing the card reader today because there hadn’t been much call for it when selling the previous issue. I offered PayPal as an alternative and that proved agreeable. However the signal in this spot was not great (I confirmed it would be even worse in the ground). After what seemed like ten minutes – during which time we were nattering about non league football and groundhopping and his bad back and the Blackpool boycott – I offered Luke the use of my mobile hotspot, which finally secured the sale. Phew – that was a toughie!
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Blackpool v Norwich City
I was in my seat in time for kick-off. I’d experimented with a different turnstile today in a desperate attempt to turn our home form around. And I was determined not to sit next to Derek under any circumstances, as I knew that to be bad luck.
I was delighted to see Maxi back in goal for Blackpool. He’s my favourite keeper EVER and I even had my picture taken with him at the open day the other week – an honour only bestowed on my VERY favourite players.
I was not impressed with Norwich’s kit, which looked like it had become discoloured in the wash.
How was the match? Well Blackpool came out flying and, after around 15 minutes, Derek (next door but one) remarked that he knew what was coming: we’d not get a goal for all our huffing and puffing – and they’d go down the other end and score.
Which is exactly what happened on 21 minutes. Dom Thompson ballsed up and our visitors immediately pounced on his mistake.
That rocked us for the remainder of the first half, but we dominated again after the break…but again failed to score. The game ended 1-0 to Norwich. Thompson (whose head had been in the shed since his error) came over to the home fans with his hands in the air by way of apology. I don’t mind players making mistakes as long as they try their best and their heart is in the right place and I love this player and his combative style of play. It simply wasn’t his day. It happens.
Right – pub! Via a cat…
I simply HAD to visit Shickers tonight because they had a very exciting sounding beer on.
I ordered a half of each of the Northern Monkey beers. I also took this opportunity to despatch copies of the latest fanzine, which you can buy here to read with your beer.
I turned around to see Rick, the Chairman of Blackpool Fylde & Wyre CAMRA, who I immediately joined at his table. It’s pretty much impossible to visit this micropub and NOT talk to anyone. This is what a micropub should be: just like public houses were at the outset, when people would open up their living quarters for their neighbours to join them for an ale or several. I love this pub. And it’s so handy for the ground.
After Rick had departed, I called James to enquire after his whereabouts. I was advised that he was popping to the Armfield Club for one – and he and Michelle would join me in my next pub for some food. Belting. I resolved to get moving, as it was important that I ate soon – and the next place I’d selected because I could eat SlimmingWorld friendly food there. I headed down Waterloo Road.
Er and BEER magazine, courtesy of yours truly. I’d be having words with them about that next week…
When putting this evening together, I really struggled to find alternative healthy food options in the immediate vicinity of the ground. There was the Gurkha (buffet offers opportunity for overeating), Taj Mahal (where I could make good decisions – but, when it came down to it, would I really choose a tandoori chicken salad over a curry drowning in sauce which might be laced with ghee?), The Eating Inn (would we get in there on a Saturday night?) – and loads of chippys that were a definite no-no. So I opted for the default option – which just so happened to have great ales too…
Ooh new table toppers on the beer terrace. Get them going all fancy now they do SUNDAY DINNERS and everything.
Isn’t THAT exciting? I’ll head over to review their gravy for you before too long, don’t you worry.
Ooh you can hire the pub too.
But you want to see the beers, don’t you?
Obvs I had the chocolate stout.
I dropped off some zines for sale behind the bar and took my pint into the back room (my area of choice as the seats are lower and it’s usually quieter). The only available seat was squashed up against the far wall but it wasn’t long before a booth became available, so I pounced in there before Aimee had had chance to clear the table.
Now I’d claimed my territory, I marked it with my big coat before returning to the bar to order food. Paddington’s alarm had reminded me to order a diet pop with it.
All they had was Diet Pepsi, which wasn’t ideal as I’m not great with caffeine (and it did keep me awake); nonetheless I ordered one because that was what Paddington wanted and I didn’t want to let him down. He so wants me to get to my target weight and he’s doing a great job at keeping me on track.
Foodwise, I had my usual.
Manager Dave was disconcertingly perky tonight.
‘What’s that you’re drinking there?’
‘Er it’s Diet Pepsi. I’m trying to be good for my diet.’
‘Right. And what was that?’
He pointed to my empty glass.
‘Oh that was the stout. It was very nice. I’ll be having another one of those next.’
James and Michelle (yes I’d almost forgotten they were coming as well) eventually rocked up around 1930. They were great company as always. They were considerably more lashed than me, having had a few before the match, a couple during and a couple before coming to meet me. Surprising even myself, I came to a stop after my second pint of the evening and stuck with Diet Pepsi. I didn’t feel I needed any more beer. I suppose there is less of me these days and it doesn’t take as much beer to reach my happily merry point.
My 2200 reminder to go home wasn’t needed as we were already heading off to our respective beds ten minutes before that. I’d had a fine day out (even ‘the usual’ was enjoyable in spite of the result) – and I’d not veered wildly off plan at all. Who knew I could have a fun night out on the beer and stop at two pints? Get me upskilling!
Now to get planning for the wacky midweeker we’ve all been waiting for…
Next Up: A Football Tourist’s Guide To Sunderland.