When Blackpool lost at Brighton on the final day of the 1977-78 season to confirm relegation from the top two flights of English football, The Gazette match report ended: “But don’t worry – the club will bounce back”.
Blackpool 2-0 Yeovil Town - May 28, 2007
Almost 30 years is a heck of a long time to wait for that bounce. But bounce the Seasiders finally have – Pool are in the Championship and back in the upper echelons of football.
Preston North End and Burnley will be among the clubs Simon Grayson’s men face next season after comfortably beating Yeovil in the League One Play-off final in front of 30,000 soaking wet but deliriously happy Tangerine fans.
Sure there has been the odd success in the last 30 years – promotion from the basement division under Steve McMahon, a couple of LDV Trophy wins, victory in the Division Four Play-off final at the old Wembley 15 years ago – but nothing like this.
This is different, for finally, after all these miserable years of underachievement and, at times, dreadfully average football, Blackpool are back in the big time.
This was Pool’s tenth successive win – no other Blackpool side has ever done that, not Stanley Matthews, not Stan Mortensen, not Jimmy Armfield or Alan Ball or Jimmy Hampson.
Thirteen managers have tried to take the Seasiders back into the top two divisions. Thirteen have failed. Simon Grayson succeeded at pretty much the first attempt.
It was win or bust. Victory and you’re in seventh heaven; defeat and 30,000 fans are in despair for the umpteenth time.
Grayson stuck with the same 11 players who had beaten Oldham in the semi-finals.
The Seasiders made a terrific start, Wes Hoolahan, Robbie Williams and Keigan Parker linking to win the first corner with 46 seconds on the clock.
Claus Jorgensen almost put Pool in front in the fourth minute, charging forward from midfield and beating two men but his shot from the edge of the area was deflected wide.
On a huge Wembley pitch, there were spaces everywhere and the pace was frantic.
Andy Morrell blasted wildly over and moments later Adrian Forbes wasted a great chance, slicing horribly wide after being put clear by Hoolahan.
Robbie Williams used that sledgehammer of a left foot to flash a 25-yarder a fraction wide and then Morrell was a whisker away from connecting with Parker’s curling cross inside the six-yard box. Any sort of touch and it was a goal.
After this rip-roaring start, the pace predictably slackened slightly. But Pool were easily the better team – five corners in the opening 24 minutes proved that.
Parker should have done much better on 26 minutes, racing clear of Terrell Forbes but then hesitating before trying an ambitious chip that barely made it off the ground.
Hoolahan skidded a left-footer past the post after a lovely one-two with Morrell on 33 minutes.
And if you’re wondering why we haven’t mentioned Yeovil much yet, it’s because up to this point they’d hardly had a kick.
Grayson’s men were completely in charge. Hoolahan, a bundle of energy and clearly revelling in the space he was being given on a big pitch, broke forward and fired wide on 38 minutes. Pool were doing everything right aside from their finishing.
Aware there was so much at stake, they snatched at chances instead of finishing clinically as they have done so often throughout the campaign.
Hoolahan’s 39th-minute cross was controlled by Forbes but his goalbound shot hit a defender and looped over.
On 42 minutes Parker, who had worked tirelessly down the channels, won a free-kick on the edge of the box. Up stepped Robbie Williams, the man on loan from Barnsley, to curl a left-footer low and accurately around the wall.
Yeovil keeper Steve Mildenhall dived but couldn’t get there and Pool’s 30,000 followers went berserk.
The Glovers, at last stung into an attack, almost grabbed an equaliser before the break but Paul Rachubka dived backwards to tip Arron Davies’ 22- yard free-kick over the bar.
A one-goal lead at the break was the least the Seasiders deserved.
“Need another one, though, don’t they?” was the general consensus … and the masses didn’t have long to wait.
Five minutes after the restart, and with Pool still the superior side, Parker produced the magic he is capable of, cutting in from the right and curling a peach of a shot over Mildenhall and into the net.
A dream start, and it settled a lot of nerves – not the players’ necessarily, more those of the supporters in the stand.
Jorgensen fired too high and then Parker almost grabbed a second.
Latching on to Barker’s ball over the top, he angled in on goal but had his low drive was tipped past the post by Mildenhall.
The keeper did it again on 61 minutes, stopping, just about, Morrell’s low shot after Jorgensen had supplied the pass. It was one-way traffic.
It wasn’t until the 78th minute that a real opening came the Glovers’ way. Marcus Stewart missed a sitter from six yards.
David Fox and Scott Vernon came on. Quite right too. Both have played huge parts this season (Vernon with 14 goals, Fox with sublime football all year) and deserved to taste the Wembley atmosphere.
Keigan Parker came off, a deliberate ploy by the manager to allow the man of the match a deserved standing ovation. And that was it. It was all over and that long, long wait for top-class football was all over too.
TEAM: Rachubka, Barker, Jackson, Evatt, Williams, Forbes (Fox), Jorgensen, Southern, Hoolahan (Vernon), Parker (Gillett), Morrel