Blackpool Who are You?: ‘Roker misery, Stadium of Light joy’

The Yorkshire Seasiders on a trip to Portugal. Click the photo for all the Who are You? interviews this season

Monsieur Salut writes: Phil Corbett* is one of Blackpool’s seriously disgruntled supporters, left frustrated and worn-out by the ‘calamitous’ ownership of Owen Oyston. But it doesn’t stop him being a fan. As he explains ahead of Sunderland’s home game against his side on Tuesday night, this means avoiding home games so as not to spend money on the club. Away games are considered OK provided fans can pay on the gate and not have to purchase tickets via Blackpool FC.

It is a wretched state off affairs that makes Newcastle fans’ loathing for Mike Ashley seem more like a passionate if occasionally turbulent romance. Let Phil, chairman of the wrong-side-of-the-Pennines Blackpool supporters’ group known and the Yorkshire Seasiders, take up the story, recall an unpleasant encounter with Roker Park (and the much later compensation of a winning day out at the SoL) and offer an unwelcome scoreline prediction …

Salut! Sunderland: just outside the top six as I write, but with a playoff place attainable. As English football’s playoff specialist, could you be forgiven for getting excited.

Phil Corbett: Blackpool are 8th in the table as I write, with a couple of games in hand of the teams above us, but what most fans are considering is the prospect of a 12 point deduction should we end up in administration as a consequence of administration, a real possibility under the calamitous ownership of Owen Oyston.

In the next couple of weeks, it’s rumoured that the court might well appoint a receiver to recover the £32 million plus costs still owed to Valeri Belokon, well over a year since the judge highlighted the ‘illegitimate stripping’ of assets’ by the Oystons. Even then, we’d be only a point or so off safety and we’re more than good enough to pull clear. As such, we’d take staying up this season as the target,

Can Blackpool FC ever be a truly happy club with the Oystons in charge?

The vast majority of fans have adopted the “Not A Penny More” stance whereby we literally won’t give any funding to the current regime.

Away games don’t fall into this as long as we can pay on the gate. There are still around a thousand or so attending and that has caused deep divisions in the fan base. But for me, they are not the primary cause of why this situation has dragged on. It all comes down to the intransigence of one man allied to the ineffectiveness of the EFL in acting to resolve the situation. I’m sure that once there’s a change of ownership, the vast majority of fans will unite in getting back to supporting the team.

Is Terry McPhillips proving to be a good find as manager?

When Terry was appointed there was the suspicion that he was the cheap option, being already there as assistant to Gary Bowyer.

However, he’s put his own stamp on things, playing a more attractive brand of football and getting the most out of his squad and the situation at the club. Part of that has been to recognise the dilemma the fans face in wanting to support the team but not the regime.

Previous managers have caused some animosity to the boycotting fans by questioning their loyalty and supporting the regime. So far, he’s managed to negotiate that tightrope to good effect. He’s also used his connections well in bringing in youth from Premier League sides.

You have players on loan from Premier League and Championship clubs. Who is doing well for you and who will be important for the remaining part of the season?

We’ve taken a few loanees in this season but the best players we have are home grown, with Curtis Tilt in particular, more than good enough to play in a higher division.

I’m sure Sunderland fans will be happy we’ve taken Elias Sorensen recently on loan from Newcastle – as a forward, he’s maybe what we’ve been lacking in front of goal. Armand Gnanduillet can get great on his day, but too often the game passes him by. Our key player though, is Jay Spearing who makes the team tick.

Any standout memories from Blackpool’s remarkable record as, I think, England’s most successful club in playoff finals?

I think we’re the only team to go from League Two to the Premier League via the playoffs, and usually from the sixth place position.

It’s been the case that we’ve usually got into the playoffs late, with a good run of form, and as such, we’ve taken that momentum through and been successful.

The outstanding memory has to be the 3 2 win over Cardiff on 22 May 2010 in 100 degrees plus weather. The sight of 37,000 fans in tangerine watching the best side we’ve had in 40 years playing magnificently in the sunshine is unforgettable. The feeling at the final whistle to know we’d be playing Premier League football is indescribable. The following Monday open top parade down Blackpool Prom is another highlight.

No apologies for mentioning Jimmy Armfield again. What his his legacy and will football ever see the likes of him again?

Jimmy Armfield is a link back to our heyday, starting his career playing behind Stanley Matthews and still playing when I first went to Bloomfield Rd watching top flight football in the mid 60s.

It’s worthwhile mentioning that Blackpool had two players in the 66 World Cup winning squad, with Alan Ball being the last Blackpool player to pull on an England shirt and that game being the World Cup final. It will be a long time before that happens again.

Jimmy played well over 600 games as a one-club man then went on to reach the European Cup Final as a manager before taking up a distinguished career as a journalist and broadcaster.

Throughout and right up to the end, he wore his love for Blackpool, both town and team, on his sleeve. How he didn’t get a knighthood I’ll never know. For so many reasons, we won’t see his like again.

What have been your highlights as a Blackpool supporter?

The resurrection of the club under Ian Holloway from strugglers to the Premier League while playing fantastic football is undoubtedly the highlight of the 50 years I’ve been watching the Pool. Those three years were fantastic, whether we won or lost, with great entertainment and pride restored to the town and team.

And the lowest points?

I know fans who have spent more time observing days in court than going to games over the past few years. When you reach the point of not going to home games as a point of principle, then relegation seems a trifling matter. Owen Oyston has crippled the club but hopefully there is an end in sight and we can all get back to doing what we all desperately want to, supporting the team.

The best players you’ve seen in tangerine – and the worst?

It ranges from Jimmy Armfield, Tony Green and Alan Suddick through to Charlie Adam and David Vaughan in recent times all the way down to Ted McDougall {clearly in for one final payday) to Tony Diamond. The latter won’t ring many bells, but Blackpool fans of a certain vintage will shudder at his memory. He signed from Blackburn and immediately made it clear he didn’t want to be there, putting in no effort and not caring who knew it. Fans will always forgive a lack of ability if it’s made up for in workrate. He didn’t do that.

What did you make of Sunderland’s sharp decline?

Looking on from afar, it seems to me that Sunderland settled for survival in the Premier League as the limit of their ambition, so when the relegation eventually came, players who weren’t good enough for the Premier didn’t want to play in the Championship and failed to adapt, leading to another relegation. The ship seems to have steadied with the appointment of a decent manager who hasn’t gone for big names, but players to do a job at this level. That has meant the fans have a team to get behind and you’ve reached a point where things are finally moving in the right decision with harmony on and off the pitch. Hopefully we’ll be making the same transition ourselves soon.

Other thoughts on Sunderland: the club, fans, city and region, Jack Ross?

Sunderland have always been, and always will be, a big club, based on the history and more pertinently, the support.

At all clubs, it’s the fans who are the heart and soul and Sunderland are one of the best supported teams in football, never mind League One.

Having said that, one of my worst days as a fan was at Roker Park back in 1974. With seven minutes to go, Blackpool were winning and heading back to the top flight. Five minutes later we’d conceded twice and the gates had been opened, allowing an influx of locals into our section.

Let’s say it wasn’t pleasant…plenty of our fans can relate tales of being chased into the sea after the game. By contrast, my previous visit to the Stadium of Light was a far more pleasant experience. A win there in the Premier League season was great for being a complete smash and grab job. We don’t often do that.

Tell us about the Yorkshire Seasiders

The Yorkshire Seasiders initially met back in 2003, as a collective of exiled Blackpool fans living in Yorkshire, plus a sizeable contingent in South Yorkshire who either had family from the Blackpool area or simply liked the kit!!

We meet regularly to talk football in various locations around Yorkshire plus arrange transport to most away games, whether in cars or coaches.

Our next trip is to Bristol in early March when we’re taking a full 33 seater down to the game. I’m the current chairman and proud of it.

Hand of heart, where will our clubs finish this season?

Blackpool will be content to stay in the division, subject to a points deduction, but otherwise could just about reach the playoffs. By contrast, I’d expect Sunderland to be challenging for the automatic places, with the playoffs a minimum requirement. I think this will be a one season deal in League One for the Black Cats.

Name one step that could be taken to improve the lot of the ordinary supporter?

Given all that’s happened off the field with both clubs, its time that the authorities got their house in order and did more to protect clubs from unscrupulous owners.

The appointment of an independent regulator would be a good start and prevent the current perception of the League being a cosy owners club run for their benefit and not the game itself.

Will diving ever be eliminated or must we accept cheating as part of the modern game?

There’s no reason why it should be condoned. The referees already have the power to do something about it, especially with the volume of TV coverage enabling retrospective action. It seems to me that every year they threaten a clampdown but then don’t see it through.

You are going to the match. What will be the score?

I’m looking forward to the game and have sneaking feeling we’ll nick it. We’ve won at the likes of Portsmouth by keeping it tight and scoring on the break. Same again at the Stadium of Light with a 1-0 scoreline, with Sorensen scoring the goal.

* Phil Corbett on himself: I moved to Blackpool as a child in 1965 when my parents took on a guesthouse. My dad was, and is, a keen sports fan so started going to the local team to get his football fix. The first game I can recall is a draw with Manchester City in the Cup in January 1966, with Alan Ball’s red hair being a stand out memory.

Once I got to 12 or so, I started going regularly with my mates and haven’t stopped since. In a way, moving to Leeds in 1998 cemented my love of the club – as an exile, the team become part of your identity with everyone knowing exactly who I support and where I’m from. Possibly absence making the heart grow fonder.

The Yorkshire Seasiders have helped in creating a whole new circle of good friends, all of whom have a common identity around the club. The struggles over the last few years have strengthened those bonds in adversity.

Interview: Colin Randall

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2 thoughts on “Blackpool Who are You?: ‘Roker misery, Stadium of Light joy’”

  1. Thoroughly enjoyable read until the final paragraph. Sorenson was frightened of Bali Mumba in the EFL Trophy game. so I can’t imagine him standing up to the likes of Leadbitter or Dunne.

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