BST column: Blackpool’s bright future with young players and a reborn club

Supporters at the Emirates salute the Blackpool team's outstanding efforts in the FA Youth Cup
Supporters at the Emirates salute the Blackpool team's outstanding efforts in the FA Youth Cup

Perhaps the highlight of this season has been the extraordinary FA Cup run by Blackpool FC’s youth team. A semi-final triumph over Arsenal at the Emirates may have eluded them, but then it’s nearly 60 years since the senior side won away to the Gunners!

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A semi-final triumph over Arsenal at the Emirates may have eluded them, but then it’s nearly 60 years since the senior side won away to the Gunners!

The victories over West Ham, Southampton, Ipswich and Blackburn, three of them away, were surely in that fine Blackpool tradition of teamwork, togetherness and self-belief overcoming supposedly superior opposition.

John Murphy and his squad of young Seasiders deserve our sincere congratulations. Let’s hope many of these promising players continue to feature in tangerine at senior level, once Blackpool FC enters a new era under owners prepared to invest and build for future success by nurturing young talents as opposed to cashing in on them at the earliest opportunity.

The first team’s last-gasp victory against Fleetwood Town effectively secured League One football for next season when Sunderland – probably – and Accrington Stanley – definitely – will be visitors to Bloomfield Road.

Surprisingly the ground was nearly half-full as a result of the thousands of free tickets given out to schoolchildren and their parents, a gesture likely to be repeated for the final home game against Shrewsbury.

It has minimal effect on the ongoing impact of the ethical boycott, which remains firm until the Oystons sell a club losing in excess of £2m per season. Free tickets will never convert into season ticket sales in this environment.

The silver lining is that for a very young generation that has not really developed a loyalty to their hometown club, such days at Bloomfield Road might spark an affiliation that can be built on once we have owners we are happy with.

Fans of Accrington Stanley are very happy with their owner, Andy Holt. He appears to value the community aspect of football as well as having a good understanding of the game and the supporters. There were joyous scenes at Wham Stadium on Tuesday as Stanley won promotion to the third tier for the first time.

Holt has demonstrated that putting football first and accepting the responsibility that comes with owning a community asset can be a recipe for success. Promotion to League One is an incredible achievement, and for those weary of the cynicism and greed associated with modern football, Stanley are showing that grassroots, community- minded football clubs still exist and can be successful.

Accrington’s story cannot fail to resonate with Blackpool fans. Our success on the pitch in 2010/11 led to us being labelled ‘a breath of fresh air’ amid the financial giants of the Premier League.

Football fans around the country respond positively to the fairytale of a ‘little club’ doing well in spite of all obstacles and it is no wonder that Accrington, like Blackpool before them, are becoming something of a nation’s favourite second club.

When Blackpool Supporters’ Trust was developing its draft ‘manifesto’ for how fans would like their club to be run, the draft was sent out to a number of club chairmen and their feedback was invited. Andy Holt was one of the first – and one of the few – to reply with constructive comments.

Sadly for Blackpool fans, our fairytale turned out to be a horror story worthy of the Brothers Grimm. While on the surface it appeared Blackpool was well run and financially stable, it has been proven that the magnificent efforts of the manager, team and fans working together served only to benefit the Oystons and was the start of a dramatic decline unprecedented in English League football.

Accrington are fortunate to have an owner who truly understands what it means to put football first, to recognise that fans are the lifeblood of any club and that to be truly successful – not just financially – the club must be treated as a social enterprise with a responsibility to the community and not just as a business.

BST wishes Andy Holt and Accrington Stanley all the best next season – except when they play Blackpool of course.

April 28 sees the last home game of the season and, unlike the previous three years, there are no plans for another Judgment Day protest. Justice Marcus Smith delivered the best possible judgment on the Oystons in a London court last November. The majority of Blackpool fans simply will not return to Bloomfield Road until the Oystons have gone. Therefore the sooner Owen Oyston makes a realistic effort to sell the club the better.

We invite football fans and the people of the community to stand outside the West Stand a week tomorrow to reinforce the point we will not give up our campaign for new owners who will restore integrity, ambition and good times.