Heroes march to Wembley

D-Day veteran Jim Baker flies the flag for Blackpool.
D-Day veteran Jim Baker flies the flag for Blackpool.
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BLACKPOOL FC will be cheered on by a true Army of local heroes as they bid for Premier League glory.

Club chairman Karl Oyston has generously handed over 30 tickets to Fylde coast servicemen – as a way to say “thank you” for the job they have done.

Serving soldiers from the 2nd Battalion the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment – now on home soil after returning from the longest-ever tour of Afghanistan – will join Territorial Army soldiers from their regiment’s 4th Battalion and Second World War veterans in the stands at Wembley on Saturday.

The Seasiders take on West Ham United in Saturday’s Championship play-off final with a place in next season’s Premier League up for grabs.

Oyston said: “These people put their lives on the line to defend us and look after us, and they do a job very few of us would be willing or able to.

“Giving them some tickets is the least we can do.

“We wanted to support local causes that are dear to Blackpool FC Community Trust.

“We have given tickets to Trinity Hospice in Bispham to auction off and we thought we would give some to the Armed Forces.

“It is a bit of a thank you for them.”

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And Oyston’s generous donation means one of Blackpool’s oldest fans will be in the stands for the big game.

War veteran Jim Baker, 90, was invited on Pool’s victory parade by Seasiders boss Ian Holloway back in 2010 – but until now he has never made it to a Wembley final.

The former Royal Marine, who served in the Second World War, said: “I used to go and watch Stanley Matthews play at Bloomfield Road and he was a God, but this will be my first time at Wembley and I’m excited.

“I think Blackpool will win 3-1 on Saturday, there will be no messing.

“I’m always up for sticking the bling on and supporting Blackpool and on Saturday I’m going to stitch tangerine ribbons onto the sleeves of my uniform.

“I think Ian Holloway is a lovely guy, he said he wanted me to come on the bus last time and he would not move the bus without me.”

The tickets have been distributed by Blackpool-based Armed Forces charity Supporting Our Brave, and project manager Julian Mineur had praised the club.

He said: “This is a wonderful, generous gesture by Karl and all involved at Blackpool Football Club.

“I would like to thank the club for what will be a wonderful trip for our brave soldiers and veterans.

“I think it is a lovely gesture to support our soldiers and veterans who defend democracy, particularly for those soldiers from 2nd Battalion the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, who have returned from the longest ever tour of Afghanistan and will be going back shortly.”

The 2nd Battalion recruits from across the North West and is currently based locally at Weeton Barracks.

The battalion spent more than a year in Afghanistan as the Theatre Reserve Battalion and was stationed in Cyprus before moving to Weeton last year.

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