With Christmas approaching it’s time to consider where we are and anticipate a brighter future, some light in the darkness, a spirit of goodwill stirring.
Firstly, consider Christmas Past. There were football matches on Christmas Day and Boxing Day until the 1960s, when players began to have more of a say in the schedule.
Such fixtures were usually double-headers and often Lancashire derbies – home and away on consecutive days against Blackburn, Bolton, Burnley, Liverpool, Man United or Preston.
Thousands used to crowd into Bloomfield Road in festive mood to cheer on the mighty Pool. Crowds of over 20,000 were common and spirits were high. In 1935, tangerines and walnuts were thrown at the Burnley goalkeeper!
Those days were notable for great football, great passion, community and a sense of togetherness.
Now take a look at Christmas Present. Two or three thousand loyal fans huddle in an eerily empty stadium watching an under-equipped team struggling at the wrong end of the third division.
Sadly, it’s hardly great football that’s on offer. A few lively souls are humming the Defamation Squad’s Christmas single, Sue The World, but there’s not much passion or community spirit to be found, and certainly no festive cheer around Bloomfield Road in 2015.
Finally, because we have a very clear Tangerine dream, we offer you this vision of Christmas Future
Since the completion of the fantastic new ‘Suddick’ East Stand, capacity is up to 20,000 again and Blackpool FC is a place transformed.
With the arrival of new owners in syndication with the Supporters’ Trust, an industry-savvy chairman and a director of football have overseen fresh investment in the stadium, training facilities and playing staff.
The first-team is more than holding its own in the Championship and automatic promotion is a distinct possibility. There is a thriving youth set-up once again, providing good local talent with a route into the professional game.
The Supporters’ Trust, in conjunction with the local council and local businesses, has organised an extensive programme of grass-roots coaching in the area.
The BFC Football Museum at the stadium (part of the new Blackpool Museum) is open seven days a week. The club shop, bars, cafes and restaurants are doing a roaring trade as is the soup kitchen, which operates the year round helping the needy. The walk-in Well Man, Well Woman and Citizens Advice clinics are also busy all year round as are the fitness gyms (subsidised for Trust members and season ticket holders).
Because the Trust is twinned with fan-owned clubs in Germany, Italy, Latvia and Spain, there are overseas fans in town on a seasonal exchange and these are greeted by Blackpool’s volunteer football ambassadors, who extend the same seasonal goodwill to visiting Blackburn fans.
Disabled supporters of both clubs share the state-of-the-art all weather facilities pitch-side. The 50 supporters who have won the ballot to attend the post-match press conference have been advised.
The stadium is full, family-friendly and buzzing because the club is once more putting football and community first. The fans and the passion are back. We’re feeling glad all over.