Blackpool rocks in the Rockies thanks to Seasiders super-fan Jeff Hembury
Among the thousands of returning Blackpool supporters looking forward to the new era at the club is devoted, 43-year-old fan Jeff Hembury.
Yet his matchday routine is unlike most people’s. In the early hours of a Saturday morning, the father of three heads out for a run, then logs on to social media ready for an 8am kick-off, set to spend the next 90 minutes interacting with fellow Seasiders.Living in Colorado, with a seven-hour time difference, Hembury is the co-founder of the North American Tangerine Army (NATA)– an online community of Blackpool supporters from the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.He lived in Lytham as a boy, first visiting Bloomfield Road as a teenager with his best friend’s older brother in February 1990, as Pool drew with Queens Park Rangers in the fifth round of the FA Cup.After switching seashores to Cape Cod, near Boston, in the mid-1990s, Hembury relocated inland to his current home, the ski resort of Aspen, where he created NATA with fellow stateside Tangerine James Guy.Hembury explained: “In the Premier League season the fanbase really exploded. I don’t think anyone in the UK really knows the influence Blackpool had over here. Even casual football fans remember the club and its style of play.“There are more fans over here than I thought and the aim is to connect them. That’s how I got in contact with James and we kept chatting.“I still haven’t met James, even though we have been friends on social media for nearly a decade. He’s on the east coast and I’m in the Rockies. We are just getting things back up with NATA, having been dormant for a few years with the troubles at the club.”With over 4,500 miles between Aspen and Blackpool, joining fellow supporters in boycotting home matches wasn’t difficult for Jeff (left). “If everything was normal, I’d be coming back every 18 months to watch a match,” he said. “But for the last few years I’ve instead donated the equivalent of a matchday ticket, a pie and something from the club shop to the Blackpool Supporters’ Trust - what they do is super-important.“In terms of the ‘Not A Penny More’ campaign, I stopped contributing to Tangerine Player, I stopped following the club on Twitter and Facebook and I stopped shopping from the club store.“It’s been hard for me but it’s been 10 times harder for people who live around the Blackpool area, having to pass the ground every day, or rock up outside with BST and pack up at 3pm to go home. We wouldn’t be in this position without them.”Now Jeff has a family of Seasiders, with children aged five, nine and 12, and plans to take them all to their first Blackpool match next spring now Owen Oyston has departed.“It feels like a weight lifted off my shoulders,” Hembury said. “I was at work when I saw the news. That was the first time me and James had spoken for a couple of years.“The sponsorship deal with the council is going to be brilliant in getting the local area back involved because ultimately a football club is there to serve its community. And from what I’ve seen and heard from Simon Sadler, he seems like the dream owner.“I used to wear Tangerine every chance I’d get. Now I want to get that feeling back. I can’t wait to see if we get a few more signings and how we start the season.”