Ben Burgess column: New stadia give grounds for envy

Facilities at venues like the Etihad Stadium are light years away from some of the stadia lower down the pyramid
Facilities at venues like the Etihad Stadium are light years away from some of the stadia lower down the pyramid
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It’s been another significant week for Blackpool Football Club and their owners.

Another court case was found favourably for Valeri Belekon.

The judgement that all of the monies outstanding – £25m – must be paid by the end of May, could have a profound impact on the potential sale of the club.

Blackpool FC is a major asset and the necessity for the Oystons to find that vast amount of money by May will hopefully speed up the process of a new ownership team.

Sadly, it looks like Gary Bowyer will have to make do with the players he already has at his disposal for the foreseeable future though, as it’s unlikely that he will be given any sort of funds to boost his flagging squad.

The Seasiders will be seriously tested in the busy Christmas period and their paper-thin squad will need to avoid any more injuries if they are to arrest their recent decline.

Recently, I took my son, Seb, for a tour around Manchester City’s ground for his birthday – it may have been a bit of a present for me too.

He is now six and has visited Wembley, the Nou Camp, the San Siro and the Etihad – I didn’t even watch a match until I was seven!

Anyway Seb is quite blasé about all of these palatial grounds with their comfort and luxury, like each space in the changing room having a double plug and an individual safe built into the wall, the home dugout having heated seats and even a heated floor, while there is a floor to ceiling projector on the wall for pre-match and half-time analysis and a warm up area better equipped than your local gym.

He hasn’t experienced the places his dad regularly played at, like Boston United or Accrington Stanley and their cold, portable buildings.

As a player, there was nothing worse than arriving at a ground, to then be escorted into a changing ‘facility’ that even the most imaginative estate agent could only describe as ‘basic’.

The worst are the rooms that have the toilet right within the changing area so the whole place stinks from the minute a nervous – and well-fed – player goes in until the end of the game.

Although, in many places in League One and Two there wasn’t a working toilet and the showers were freezing.

It was like being in ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’ with some of the challenges we faced.

After a while, the more experienced players learned the tricks needed to survive; get in the shower within five minutes of the final whistle or you’d be facing a four-hour coach journey home caked in mud!

During my time at Blackpool, we played Macclesfield Town away in the FA Cup.

Their changing rooms were definitely designed for the days when there were only two substitutes, instead of the seven we had!

We had to take it in turns to sit down and get changed, and our shirts, that usually hung neatly in their individual spaces, were overlapping more than a Barcelona full-back.

Anyway, the game began and we won our first corner after about 10 minutes.

Their players were shouting and trying to talk to me and arguing with each other.

I thought it was strange until one of them laughed and whispered in my direction, “Looking good Zesh.”

Slightly confused, I asked what he was talking about.

It’s then that I realised I had put on Zesh Rehman’s shirt and all my team-mates thought it would be funny not to tell me!