Blackpool - The Good, The Bad And The Downright Hilarious
I’m kidding, there’s no good at Blackpool at the moment.
I’ll level with you here, until about two years ago, I had no idea how much we all can take watching our favourite team with few cares in the world for granted. However, I haven’t attended a Blackpool home game in those two years and I’m surprised myself at how much I miss it. Away games are certainly appealing as it means visiting new grounds, but I haven’t watched Blackpool win a game of football since a 1-0 home win against Wigan back in September 2013. I had very little anticipation of the chaos that was to ensue.
Since then, Blackpool has been nothing short of the biggest laughing stock in British football. We’re fortunate if nothing cringe-worthy occurs in a seven-day period and are bottom of the list of fans wishing the football season’s imminent return next month.
Chairman Karl Oyston has been quoted on countless occasions, for sheer irony, saying, “we are the envy of the football league.” This was October 2013 and the timing almost strikes a coincidental chord to the quick descent of a football club, that is still on-going, that was once called “a breath of fresh air” when making its Premier League debut in 2010. It’s almost as if he knew.
It’s summer, it’s pre-season. Surely, surely nothing chaotic will occur? Even at Blackpool? Oh, you couldn’t be more wrong. The last week alone would have put most other clubs to shame. Imagine how the last year, let-alone a week, has been. Let’s get this misery over with and jump right in.
The top story that became more of a national topic than a regional one, was the abandonment of a pre-season fixture at Lancaster City the Saturday before last. It was the first game played since the wide-spread topic of hundreds of Blackpool fans running on the pitch at Bloomfield Road in their final home game versus Huddersfield in May. Overall, it gained plenty of the proverbial ‘thumbs up’ and the Blackpool faithful supplied themselves with lots of neutral backing. I can’t speak for Huddersfield fans of course. However, despite this incident wasn’t met with much negativity, there was more skepticism than most would have liked, from myself included. Thinking about it though, it was twenty or so fans who were just incredibly fed up yet passionate about, what was, their club.
Among some, Blackpool isn’t even known as Blackpool these days, more ‘Oyston FC’. I have to agree. The life, soul and common decency has been drawn out of both the club and the town like an inoculation. Fans feel alienated and unable to relate to a club that had once provided them with so much joy not long back. Those days seem long gone as before a ball has even been kicked, serious talk of relegation to League Two is on the tip of some tongues.
Simply put, that built-up sense of frustration has just been too much to bear and although many Blackpool fans will disagree on how to go about venting out that annoyance, all would agree that one course of action must be taken and that’s for the Oystons to go. Karl Oyston himself said he would step-down from his role as chairman if he felt the way he handled business at Blackpool was not to the expectation of the supporters. If he had been genuine enough to keep to his word, he would have stepped down a long time ago. Now, there is this undeniable sense that he loves the cynicism and negative attention.
Speaking of loving the cynicism, Blackpool released an official statement on the club’s website concerning the verdict on the Oyston’s court case with Blackpool fan, David Ragozzino. Now, the initial aspect of the statement that baffles me is the fact it’s on the club website in the first place. Surely the statement has nothing to do with the football element of the club and should be kept on the sidelines instead? Although I may be wrong, the whole farce strikes as a scare tactic to plant a seed of doubt in to any other fan or neutral alike who dares say a bad word about the owners. Truth is, if they took every critic to court, they might as well camp outside the courthouses for the next decade. On top of endless paragraphs of the club trying to inflict their bias views on the on-going matter, there was also irony littered every where.
One paragraph explains how a legal representative of the Oystons told the court that they had never sought to “stifle” criticism from fans of how they run the club and have in fact “defended the right of the fans to express their views”. Suing not only Mr Ragozzino but also numerous fans beforehand is a peculiar way of showing you welcome the liberty of Blackpool fans expressing their views of how their beloved club is run. The one element of the statement, withheld in this part in particular, that was picked up on frequently reads as follows:
“The Oystons have always admired the passion of the Blackpool fans and it was through their massive support and the substantial investment of the Oystons that achieved the ultimate dream of reaching the Premier League.”
It seems okay from a neutral perspective, right?
One Blackpool fan dug-up a video not long after of the South Stand at Bloomfield Road being unveiled in the name of club legend Sir Jimmy Armfield in 2010. Owen Oyston, along with Karl, were there to offer their appreciation to Sir Jimmy. Also in attendance, was Latvian share-holder Valeri Belekon, who since has entered numerous feuds with the Oystons that have been made public. Owen Oyston himself praised Belekon for his financial input, saying the South Stand “wouldn’t have happened” without Belekon and also that Charlie Adam, one of the most fondly remembered players to don a Tangerine shirt in recent years, would also not have joined had it not been for Belekon. Alright, word-for-word, Owen didn’t claim the Premier League achievement was outright down to the Latvian, but if you ask any Blackpool fan which player pushed the Seasiders over the line in the season of 2009/10, they’d all say Charlie Adam.
As well as the statement claiming an achievement which, when you break it down, didn’t really fall on the shoulders of the Oystons per-say, it also felt like a proverbial ‘middle-finger’ to all Blackpool fans in general. There really is no other way to put it. The statement was poorly-timed, unnecessary, off-topic to football and purely in bad taste.
To cap off a hectic yet fairly normal week on the Fylde Coast, Morecambe cancelled their pre-season with Blackpool in anticipation that an abandonment could re-occur. It’s not a course of action I disagree with from Morecambe’s perspective, why should they have to pay for the policing of a friendly match? They shouldn’t. Blackpool should foot the bill, given their actions have provoked such behaviour from fans.
Blackpool are due to go ahead in their final, scheduled pre-season friendly at Accrington on Friday. Any infringements from fans on to the pitch aren’t expected and to honest, forcing league games to be abandoned is far more influential, effective and could lead to a whole series of affairs than calling off friendlies, but that’s a topic for a later date.
Tuesday is also the deadline that BST (Blackpool Supporters Trust) have given the Oystons to at the very least acknowledge their bid for the club, its assets and its outstanding loans. Life for both parties would be ridiculously easy if the Oystons accept the bid, the figure being £16M. If they had any shred of common sense left, they’d have bitten BST’s hand off days ago. No more relentless stress on the owners and happy fans who can take the club in the right direction once again. Sounds too good to be true. One part is true, the fans would certainly take the club forwards, even if that meant taking one step back first, but the Oystons? Either they still believe they’re suitable for the club or they simply enjoy the spotlight.
Speaking as a football fan in general, neither scenario is healthy for Blackpool and its local community.
There’s so much water under the bridge that the bridge has been carried off down-river. We can only hope things can be resolved soon.
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