Blackpool great Ormerod’s fan-tastic farewell

Brett Ormerod emerges on to the pitch on his big day
Brett Ormerod emerges on to the pitch on his big day
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There are popular footballers and then there are club legends.

And there is little doubt which category Brett Ormerod fits into as far as Blackpool FC fans are concerned.

So there was little surprise when Ormerod’s testimonial match at AFC Fylde yesterday drew a massive crowd.

The new Mill Farm stadium was packed with 3,615 roaring Seasiders fans.

They were determined to salute their hero, who wore the famous tangerine in two tremendous stints spanning 15 years (1997-2012), scoring 61 goals in 215 league appearances.

Those league appearances famously spanned all four divisions in the English game and Ormerod became the only Blackpool player to score in all four.

Ormerod’s sheer commitment is one of the reasons he inspired such fan devotion, battling back from a serious leg-break and contributing to Pool’s glorious Premier League adventure under Ian Holloway..

By that time Ormerod had already graced the top-flight with Southampton, for whom he also appeared in an FA Cup final.

He gave his wholehearted service to a dozen clubs in a playing career which ended only last year at Bamber Bridge, at the age of 39.

The most special of Ormerod’s countless footballing memories concern Blackpool.

But with Bloomfield Road considered an inappropriate venue for yesterday’s match in view of the ongoing unrest between club and supporters, AFC Fylde turned tangerine for the day as Ormerod’s team of All Stars took on an AFC Fylde Select chosen by Coasters boss Dave Challinor.

How Blackpool fans must have wished they could still field a side of such pedigree today. Among those lining up alongside Ormerod were Matt Gilks, Gary Taylor-Fletcher, David Vaughan, Phil Clarkson, Stephen Crainey, Ian Evatt, Johns Hills and Keith Southern.

It was certainly apt that Ormerod, the hero of the day, scored a hat-trick in a 5-5 thriller – one a glorious gem of a header from Hills’ cross, the other two textbook penalties.

And his two young sons, Riley and Dylan, even got in on the act, joining their dad on the pitch.

Ormerod left the field with just a couple of minutes remaining to a deserved standing ovation, but returned after the final whistle for more applause.

And he thanked those who had played their part in a day to remember, including host club AFC Fylde, his fellow players and the fans.

Ormerod said: “I appreciate everyone coming out, I really do. I’d like to Dave Challinor – he’s got a great team here – and David Haythornthwaite (Fylde owner/chairman) for giving me the opportunity to say goodbye.

“I can’t thank all the players enough – they are like family. They’ve even put up with my mood swings!

“And I’d like to thank the fans. You took me to your hearts and without you I wouldn’t be here.”

Some of the proceeds from the match, organised by Blackpool Supporters’ Trust, will go towards a fund set up to help former Seasiders player and coach Gary Parkinson, who has been seriously incapacitated by locked-in syndrome following a stroke.

Fans at the match couldn’t speak highly enough about Pool hero Ormerod.

Gary Armer, 31, from Whinn Lane , Out Rawcliffe, said: “We had to be here today.

“Brett Ormerod’s work rate was always amazing. He proved it time and again.

“He broke his leg but he came back better than ever. He is a club legend.”

Gary’s pal Simon Fielding, 31, from Argyle Road, Poulton, agreed.

He said: “Brett’s commitment rubbed off on other players and he’s done that throughout his career.

“It’s not just that he played in all four divisions, it’s the way he did it.”

Veteran Pool fan Kay Eaves, 72, of South Shore, said: “Brett Ormerod always gave 100 per cent.”

And Mark Cavney, 49, of Red Bank Road, Bispham, said: “I really enjoyed the game. It was a brilliant occasion.

“Brett Ormerod is a great ambassador for the game, not just Blackpool.

“He’s a down to earth lad, the sort you’d like to go for a drink with.”

Ormerod’s final game in a tangerine shirt certainly left his loyal fans feeling glad all over.