Who Are These Jobbers?
Everyone is going to this one, right? Literally everyone.
All of Sunderland is going to resemble that “Meanwhile in Sunderland…” documentary of the 1973 cup final, isn’t it? Before we turn Blackpool red and white, allow me to indulge my childhood and tell the tale of our opposition’s woe.
In my innocent youth, among my favourite days out - alongside Cadbury’s World and Martin Mere Wetland Centre - was the National Football Museum.
While many of you will know this beloved attraction from its lofty, prestigious perch at the Urbis building in city centre Manchester, there was a time it was housed in the humble surroundings of Preston North End’s Deepdale.
Among the many excellent exhibits, there was one where you could take a digital tour of every league stadium in both England and Scotland. Through the thousands of images within this database, there was one that caught this esteemed columnist’s young mind - the image staring back at me was a billboard attached to the back of Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road promoting a “Pirate Meal Deal”.
The decrepit sign, faded and sunbleached, wafting in the harsh Lancashire wind seems apt to mirror the plight of Blackpool’s football club. A club of past glories, left to rot and nothing ever seems to be done about it.
One shining light on the bleak Lancashire beaches is the fans’ continued objection to the cartoon villains the Oyston family have become. From launching eggs and lobbing smoke bombs to widescale boycott, the height of the Blackpool supporters’ protest was one fan invading the pitch against Huddersfield Town while riding a mobility scooter.
While there a number of clubs across the country whose disgruntlement can be perceived as a throwing-toys-out-of-the-pram situation, Blackpool is one of real concern. This could easily be your team after letting the wrong owner seize control and it could be easily left to rot, just like the Pirate Meal Deal advertisement that once hung nearby Bloomfield Road.
What’s The Ground Like?
Bloomfield Road perfectly encapsulates the neglect that the Oyston family extolled upon the football club since its fall from the Premier League.
The tumbleweed seems to be the only regular attendee as supporters continue their boycott until these owners are chased out of town.
The North, Jimmy Armfield and Stanley Matthews stands are a reminder of this club’s past glories. However, take a look to the left of the North Stand and there is the crushing nature of their current reality. The East Stand was originally installed as a temporary measure, yet remains to this day as the investment in Blackpool has slowly ebbed away.
Sunderland fans are housed in both the North and East stands with a ridiculous 7,759 tickets sold. Supporters are encouraged by our Blackpool counterparts to join their protest by refusing to buy any food or drink inside the ground.
How Do I Get There?
How many football matches can you watch on the same hangover? Well, we’re going for three in a row. Drag your bleary-eyed carcass on to the bus, car, train or flotilla and start your 2019 in the best way possible by setting a course for Blackpool.
Should you be kicking off the new year with a nice morning drive then take the A19 and A1 (M) to Scotch Corner before joining the A66 and head west. Exit for the A685 at Brough and take this bad boy all the way to Tebay before taking the M6 down the Fylde Coast. Leave at junction 32 just before Preston and take the M55 following the signs for Blackpool.
You can follow this all the way into the town along Yeadon Way, passing Blackpool South railway station and onto Seasiders Way when the ground will be in sight. Street parking is available nearby.
Plop FY1 6JJ into your sat nav if you happen to get lost.
While Blackpool South is the closest railway station to Bloomfield Road, you will most likely arrive at Blackpool North railway station which is around a 30-minute walk away.
A Love Supreme coaches leave the Stadium of Light at 8.30am with return fares priced at £30. Book your place here.
Where Can I Get The Sesh Started?
Upon the arson attack that left his Bolton-based Phoenix Club in tatters, Brian Potter travelled to Blackpool’s Golden Mile to visit old friend Frank Cartwright. Frank, sporting a resplendent haircut, spoke of the pleasures of the “sunshine indoors” emporium of Le Ponderosa. It has everything from bottled beer to live entertainment and even a “sarollium”.
Not only can you pop in for a drink at The Lydene Hotel (the setting of Le Ponderosa) on the Promenade but Bloomfield Road is just a 10-minute walk from its doors. You may even get a chance to sample its legendary counterfeit vodka.
If you haven’t come to Blackpool to tick off locations from Peter Kay’s finest work, then you may want an actual beer. Should you yearn for the atmosphere of the Wheatsheaf but in the north west, then Wee Phillie is on at Yates South Shore. If you want that atmosphere, minus Wee Phillie, then The Velvet Coaster is the place for you.
A couple of popular haunts close to Bloomfield Road include The Bridge on Lytham Road, which many of you will be familiar with after spending all of New Year’s Eve singing that ‘Shipyards’ song on the karaoke. A short walk from the ground is the Bloomfield Brewhouse on Ansdell Road which is a charming pub with homebrewed Ansdell 47 and a git big fire.
Should you arrive at Blackpool North station, you will be simply falling over pubs. Pop into Shenanigans on the Promenade for a lovely Guinness, Bavarian Bierkeller to question why its open 24 hours, The Pump and Truncheon on Bonny Street for its incredible name and The Litten Tree on Queen Street for git good value drinks.
Honestly, if you can’t find a pub in Blackpool, you’re doing it all wrong.
I’m Staying Owa, Is There Owt To Do?
One of the most endearing pieces of television is the late Fred Dibnah taking multiple rides on the famous ‘Big Dipper’ at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. The sheer joy painted across the old steeplejack’s face makes me wonder if I’ll know happiness like that. He wasn’t even concerned when his iconic flat cap blew off in the wind.
Anyway... there’s a massive theme park in Blackpool and loads of amusements along its Golden Mile. Both Blackpool Zoo and the SeaLife Centre are excellent days out if you want to see bemused animals questioning what mistakes they made in their lives to end up in Blackpool.
You could go on one of the Victorian trams, admire Blackpool Tower and see the town’s beautiful beach but no trip to the Las Vegas of the North is truly complete if you don’t go to see a show.
Check the listings here to see which of the latest washed up star has landed here. Sorry to disappoint many, but Roy Chubby Brown’s run at Viva Blackpool! ends on December 29th.