Blackpool v SAFC: Beer crates, pigs and Mr Punch

As the hoo hah dies down after the derby game and Darren Bent’s move to the Midlands, we have a very important game at Blackpool on Saturday. Our current form is not brilliant; since two hard fought consecutive wins, we have crashed out of the cup and almost allowed the Mags to claim undisputable bragging rights for the rest of the season So, let’s wallow in a little bit of nostalgia as Pete Sixsmith reminisces about three visits to the seaside town that is noted for fresh air and fun, one in the 60s, one in the 70s and – to follow later in the week – one in the 80s.

My first visit to Bloomfield Road was in September 1964 in a proper First Division game. I was 13, Colin was 15 and he played a major part in persuading my reluctant father that I be allowed to go to the game on Billy Reilly’s bus. Colin convinced him that we would be ok and that no drinking would take place on the Central Coaches flyer and that after the game we would go to Woolworths for a meal before taking a tram (probably in the shape of a Mississippi river boat) see the illuminations.

Well, the first part was wrong with a capital W. The bus was full of Shildon’s finest drinkers, including Michael Jones and his somewhat overweight brother who rejoiced in the nickname of Jasper. He was a drinking legend in the town and he took up two seats on the coach because of his mighty girth.

We were picked up at The King William and the bus meandered down to Close House, where the adults got off and shot into the Royal Hotel for a couple of pints while Billy Reilly and Kenny Snowdon loaded the bus up with crate upon crate of Newcastle Brown Ale.

Off we set again, through Barnard Castle and over the A66, which was not the super sleek highway it is now. We crawled along to Kirby Stephen and then through to Sedbergh and Kirkby Lonsdale before hitting the newly opened M6.

By this time the beer had gone and the famous funnel had been used copious times by the assembled drinkers; no toilets on coaches in those days!! We rattled into Blackpool in time for the Working Mens Clubs near the ground to be descended on by the red and white hordes. We went for a walk along the sea front.

The game was played out in front of a crowd of 37,000, which must have included at least 10,000 Sunderland fans. We had no manager at the time; Alan Brown had left in the summer and the Directors hadn’t quite got round to choosing a new one. So, they picked the team and signed players. Sandy McClaughlin, Harry Hood and John Parke had arrived by this time and McClaughlin played in goal that day.

Blackpool had a decent side. Jimmy Armfield and Ray Charnley had played for England, while a young Alan Ball would play for England and they had players who had been regular First Divison players for many years. If memory serves me correctly, Charnley scored twice and King Charlie headed a goal for us in front of a packed Kop.

After the game, I have distinct memories of vomit in the streets and loads of very drunk Sunderland fans full of mysterious beers like Threlfalls, Matthew Brown and Magees Ales lurching around. We may even have tried to get into the club near the ground that may well have been owned by Johnny Kidd of Johnny Kidd and The Pirates fame. If we did try, we didn’t get in!!

Fast forward to February 1975 to what was probably our best known visit to the land of the Tower and lions that devoured little boys with sticks with horses heads handles on.

It was a Second Division game in a league that featured big boys Manchester United, wannabee big boys in Aston Villa and small fry like York City. We were going well and looked bang on for promotion until we started a February wobble at Bloomfield Road.

The game is best known for the stupendous goal scored by Micky Walsh which won Goal of the Season on Match of the Day. The game had been selected by the Beeb as most other games were off and the salt in the air kept the frost out of the ground at Blackpool.

We travelled to that one on Corny O’Donnells special train, which he ran to a number of away games in the 70’s. It was by no means a dry train and the consumption of beer was actively encouraged. Cans of Double Maxim were my favoured tipple and I quaffed a few on the slow drag through York, Bradford, Accrington and Poulton-le-Fylde.

On reaching the Lancashire Riviera, we sought out a joke shop in order to purchase the mythical “Shitting pig”. This creature had been described by Bob Miller (Teacher, not leader of the Millermen) on many occasions. It was a tiny replica porker that, if you inserted a pellet up its anus, would then proceed to crap all over the table.

The story had been told around campfires and gas fires and this latter day band of Argonauts, led by yours truly, were determined to find it. We asked at several joke shops, were nearly arrested in one and eventually found ourselves in a seedy back street emporium, run by an elderly man who confirmed that the legendary squeaker had indeed existed but that he had not seen one for many years because “people want something a bit classier”. At that he pointed to the Saucy Sal cruet set, where a voluptuous pottery female had removable breasts in the shape of a salt and pepper set.

We gave up and went in search of some Boddingtons Bitter before lurching into our seats in the wooden main stand and watching Blackpool take a 2 goal lead before Vic Halom and Billy Hughes leveled. We then got a penalty which Hughesy missed due to some wizened old Lancastrian git in a white coat waving his arms around and distracting him. Cue Walsh for spectacular winner, and we departed sans points, sans pig, sans everything.

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3 thoughts on “Blackpool v SAFC: Beer crates, pigs and Mr Punch”

  1. Wonderful, wonderful stuff Alan.

    I too loathe Blackpool even if the complete pointlessness of my weekend there was not served half as effectively with the Marmite pie as your mate’s Vauxhall car.

    I’ve developed a strange affection for the Tangerines this season, which is in stark contrast to my feelings about the seafront and town which I really have no interest in.

    What was it about 1975 eh?

  2. There was something fated about 1975 as my wife, her best friend, her husband, the proud owner of a clapped out old Vauxhall and I set off from Blackburn, where we were staying, to try to get to the game. No great distance you might think but the car had other ideas, with a puncture and a persistent misfire which finally limped into Blackpool long after the kick off.

    Nowt for it but cut our losses and head for the seafront a buy a consoling four portions of fish and chips followed by more than enough beers to take us well over any limit on today’s scale of drink that would result in a forfeit licence. The ladies hit our pockets by drinking port and bitter lemon.

    With nightfall upon us and the pubs closing Pete got us into the car and started up the engine revving it with gusto to prevent it stalling and then nothing, just a tickover. The throttle was lifeless,flat on the floor. Now there were no garages that we knew of that might be open but Peter was training as a mechanic and had a tool box with him and so under the bonnet he went. The problem was quickly identified as a broken linkage and to my amazement he jury rigged, with bits of pipe and mole grips, a throttle system that relied on a long and fairly scrotty length of string fed through the dashboard to form a mechanical hand throttle.

    It was now I learned of the true scale of the problem which faced us, the car had to be double de-clutched due to a noisy lack of any synchromesh which required the engine to be revved at just the right point as he used both hands one to steer the other to change gear. There was no way he could operate a string throttle as well, nor, we discovered, could he travel at faster than about 32 miles per hour, as the vibration caused the mole grips to slip and back under the bonnet he would go.

    There I lay upside down in the passenger seat with my head and arm between his legs caught between a desire to vomit or sleep, due to the exhaust fumes, pulling on a length of string to maintain a constant speed and some times to give a yank ,when instructed to, to rev the engine, to enable the gear change to take place.

    As the journey continued the string broke a few times and finally I had about two inches left to hang onto. Finally we hit a bump and it broke once more and through gritted teeth with cramp in my hand and one leg I said “that’s it Pete there is no more string.”

    He replied it is a bloody good job we have just pulled into the drive then.

    I feel no love whatsoever for Vauxhall cars or for that matter for Blackpool and just for once I would like us to run in half a dozen into the oppositions net this weekend just to show we don’t need bloody Bent either.

  3. And there are some who think that it’s better today!

    The 1975 trip reminds me of my ill fated trip tp Blackpool “for that match.” My Dad’s work used to arrrange weekends away for the families (always to coincide with SAFC fixtures). That game must have been all ticket (for away fans at least) as we never got to the match. 37,000 would explain the need for tickets too.

    Some 36 years on, my main recollection was being served in the B&B with what was described as meat pie, mash and peas, with the pie filling which bordered on the indescribable. The pie consisted of two slices of pastry which had a spread of Marmite in the middle. It was a meat pie that vegetarians could have consumed with a free conscience.

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