Ben Burgess column: On-field excitement and off-field anguish

Ben Burgess
Ben Burgess
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The ultimate dilemma! The club you love and have supported all your life or standing up for something you really believe in.

That is the choice that dawned on most Blackpool fans as the realisation of winning the play-off second leg became a reality.

For a number of Pool fans the last two games against Luton Town on Sky have been the first time they’ve been able to actually watch their team play this season.

Many of the supporters I have spoken to have commented on how great it was to be caught up in the enjoyment and excitement of watching their team produce two fantastic games of football.

Who couldn’t get carried away with that second leg last week?

The first game was exciting but the return at Kenilworth Road was something else.

Everything looked comfortable when Mark Cullen sped past the Luton defence to cross for Nathan Delfouneso to slot home.

In typical play-off fashion though, the game swung in favour of the home side and they were 3-1 up with just half an hour to go.

Now that was the time for Gary Bowyer’s men to give everything and show the character that they clearly have in the changing room.

Up stepped forgotten man Armand Gnanduillet to cause havoc and score one and play his part in the 95th minute equaliser that sparked joyous scenes amongst the travelling fans – and all those watching at home in Blackpool.

Whatever your feelings about the club, it’s still been a great achievement by the manager and his players to reach Wembley and be one game away from returning to League One.

The possibility of an empty Wembley for the final against Exeter City seems such a crazy thought. Whenever I think of Wembley, all I can picture is 90,000 fans and a sea of tangerine.

The singing, the flags, the smiling faces and the tangerine shirts completely took over Wembley in the last two visits.

Now there could be fewer than 10,000 Blackpool supporters there on Sunday and that will be the biggest and most public protest of all.

The fans are determined to show that their feelings run deeper than what happens on the pitch and their passion and determination is commendable.

Away from the troubles off the pitch, this is such an exciting time for the players.

For many this will be their first trip to the most famous old ground.

Every child dreams of playing at Wembley when they’re running around the playground or playing footy in the park with their mates.

Now it’s a reality for these players and as a result the intensity and quality in training would have shot up as they all try and catch the manager’s eye.

With the way Bowyer changes his side and formation, there will be many players believing that they have a chance to make the starting XI.

The players will also have the tough task of sourcing enough tickets for the big day.

Mums, dads, grandparents, children, sisters, brothers, uncles, cousins, friends will all want tickets and, unfortunately, the number of complimentary tickets each player receives is usually just two or three.

Their job in keeping everyone happy is probably tougher than Bowyer’s when he does finally name his team.

It’s usually standard practice that you visit Wembley the day before your game so you can get a few nerves out of the way, get the touristy bit done and concentrate fully on the game the next day.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure if Blackpool will have that opportunity with the FA Cup final the day before.

Either way it’s going to be a fantastic occasion for the players and manager and the game will come down to who can settle their nerves and play their normal game.

Big players rise to big occasions; let’s hope those are in tangerine.