Blackpool Supporters’ Trust column: Shameful saga of training ground

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Back in 2009, Blackpool’s then manager Ian Holloway famously described the training facilities at Squires Gate as “a hellhole” and secured a pledge from chairman Karl Oyston for the team to train at Fylde’s rugby ground pending the construction of a new fit-for-purpose training facility elsewhere – Oyston land off Ballam Road in Lytham was the favoured location.

On securing promotion to the Premier League, Holloway and Blackpool fans alike fully expected the promises about a new training ground to be made good.

Instead, they found the team back at the dilapidated Squires Gate.

What has unfolded since can only be described as a farce of epic proportions.

The Premier League season came and went without any developments in what fans hoped would prove a real legacy for the top-flight sojourn.

In 2012, Oyston stressed that the club remained committed to delivering on its training ground promise, despite losing that year’s play-off final.

Despite the public furore over the conditions at Squires Gate and the embarrassing episode over that mis-spelled ‘School of Excellance’ signage, the saga rolled on, with the Oyston family continuing to promise much while delivering nothing.

In 2013, when quizzed as to why work hadn’t started, Karl Oyston stated that Paul Ince didn’t consider upgrading the training facility a priority, so it was on hold – and in really bad weather the team trained on the Bloomfield Road surface, reducing it to a quagmire.

By 2014, with criticism of the Oyston regime building, many fans had become acutely sceptical.

However, chairman Karl Oyston sought to reassure The Gazette that the development was a top priority, claiming: “It will absolutely happen. I will deliver a training ground for Blackpool FC as soon as I possibly can.”

However, despite the tens of millions that continued to flow into Blackpool FC coffers via the parachute payments, nothing materialised and Blackpool fans suffered the ignominy of having to watch near neighbours Fleetwood Town reveal ambitious plans to develop an £8m training facility of their own, then deliver what has proved to be a real community hub, with first-class facilities for all.

Most recently in 2015, Blackpool FC revealed plans for a much scaled back proposal at Squires Gate, which then manager Neil McDonald described as “massive”.

But even those plans now seems to have been mothballed, according to new Gazette reporter Matt Scrafton.

Last week The Gazette quoted Karl Oyston as claiming manager Gary Bowyer is “satisfied with the current arrangement,” which seemingly involves the team meeting and changing at the stadium before travelling the 2.2 miles to train.

Over the last seven years we’ve seen a pattern of promises followed by excuses and inactivity regarding the upgrading of training facilities.

This sorry saga seems to encapsulate all that is wrong at Blackpool FC; broken promises, lack of vision and a cynical approach to the footballing side of affairs, diverting capital into other projects.

In that same period, Blackpool FC apparently has had no issue sourcing funds to purchase a Travelodge from Owen Oyston and a supposed wedding venue at Quernmore, outlays that between them could easily have funded the development of a Blackpool FC training ground on the scale Fleetwood have delivered.

It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out what is going on here, just one of many reasons why fans don’t expect any significant improvement in the standing of the football club while the Oystons are still in charge – and why it’s time for them to go.