Matt Scrafton takes a look back at one of Gary Taylor-Fletcher’s most memorable goals for Blackpool following this week’s news he is retiring from the game.
Wigan 0-4 Blackpool - August 14, 2010
“Amazing performance, amazing result, amazing story!” said Alan Hansen, as the the Match of the Day pundit drooled over Blackpool’s remarkable opening-day win at Wigan.
All right Al, calm down, there are still 37 games to go, son.
If only West Brom were a bit better at the back, Blackpool fans the world over could have spent the next five days dreamily staring at the Premier League table, their boys perched on top, staring down at all the other lesser clubs in England.
Alas Chelsea have that honour, for the time being at least…
This really is an astonishing story, that seems to get a little more unbelievable and far-fetched with every passing week.
OK, so Wigan aren’t perhaps an accurate measure of the tests the top division will provide over the next nine months. But what a start to life back in the top flight.
Pool were 100/1 with the bookies to win 4-0. Mind you, what do they know – they thought the club would be in League One this season.
The 4,200 visiting fans filling the North Stand at Wigan – at least 4,100 of them dressed in tangerine shirts – were a sight to behold.
This was their day, especially the older generation, who have followed this once-great club through thin and thin and suffered throughout the dismal 1980s and 90s as the Seasiders lurched from one ordinary result to the next, not to mention skirting with financial disaster on more than one occasion.
No-one enjoyed the proceedings more than Jimmy Armfield, doing his best to stay vaguely objective in the Radio 5Live commentary box but unable to hide his sheer joy at the sight of his beloved Tangerines returning to the big time with such a bang.
He was in the starting line-up the last time Pool stepped out at the highest level, back in 1971.
He probably never thought he’d see the day when they returned, and yet here he was, watching it unfold.
The afternoon would have been great no matter what the score. A 2-0 win for Wigan, so what? Pool were still members of the Premier League. So to actually win, and win at a canter no less … incredible.
At the end, with a 4-0 victory in the bag and news seeping through that Pool were top of the table, an air of disbelief hung inside the stadium.
Ian Holloway brought in new signings Marlon Harewood and Elliot Grandin up front and selected Craig Cathcart at the heart of the back four. The newcomers were great.
Even the new lads who came off the bench, Ludovic Sylvestre and Chris Basham, looked impressive.
Sylvestre made plenty of good contributions in his half hour, while Basham flung himself all over the pitch in a bid to impress.
But the most credit must go the lads who were already here. Eight of the 11 played at Wembley, and they remain the core of the club.
Gary Taylor-Fletcher, Ian Evatt, Alex Baptiste, Stephen Crainey, Brett Ormerod … all superb.
David Vaughan was as assured and as tidy as ever; Charlie Adam was involved in everything good. Matt Gilks made two good stops. It was just a shame that Keith Southern was stuck in the press box doing radio work.
If there was one person who deserved to start Pool’s first ever Premier League game it was Southern.
Alas, a knee injury put paid to that, but thankfully he’ll be back before too long.
As the game’s been on Match of the Day, Sky Sports, ESPN, the Fox Channel, probably even CBeebies, the action doesn’t need much explaining.
Taylor-Fletcher was the man who wrote himself into the history books as Pool’s first ever Premier League goalscorer.
He struck on 16 minutes, Adam freeing Harewood and the big man’s cross bundled in at the back post by Taylor-Fletcher.
The £90,000 handed to Huddersfield for GTF’s services there years ago was pretty tidy business.
Ormerod had miskicked in front of goal prior to that, and Taylor-Fletcher had a goal wrongly chalked off for offside on 20 minutes.
He was fuming, giving Mark Halsey – excellent on his return to the top flight after treatment for cancer – a, shall we say, warm welcome back.
Harewood was put through but dallied too long. No matter, Pool were soon two ahead.
It was that man Harewood who scored, jumping to his feet after being challenged, selling a defender a nice dummy and shooting from 20 yards.
Chris Kirkland, at one time rated as England’s next great goalkeeper, made a right hash of it, the ball squirming through his grasp. The shot moved a little in the air but it was still poor keeping.
Harewood followed up to score a third two minutes before the break – in the right place at the right time after Kirkland had, this time, done well to stop a shot from the lively Grandin.
Pool fans were in dreamland but they had chance to catch their breath during a calmer, less frantic second period. There was a bonus straight after the break when Wigan full-back Steve Gohouri had a header ruled out for offside. Like Taylor-Fletcher’s earlier effort, it should have stood.
It didn’t and that badly winded the home side. Any thoughts of a comeback evaporated. Instead Pool controlled the game, and played sensible and effective football.
Just to add insult to Wigan’s injury, the Seasiders knocked in a fourth – Alex Baptiste more than a little shocked to discover the pretty awful cross he sent into the box had ended up in the back of the net. Thanks once again to Mr Kirkland for that one – he really is a most generous keeper.
The sea of tangerine behind the goal went wild. They’ve been rather spoilt of late – the last three away games have been the seven-goal thriller at Nottingham Forest, Wembley and this.
Blimey, and to think we once got excited at a victory in the quarter-finals of the LDV Vans Trophy North section.
Holloway and his players were cheered from the pitch like kings.
It is 13 years since a promoted team won on the opening day and got relegated that season. In other words, this bodes well – the trick is now to keep it up.
That won’t be easy at Arsenal on Saturday but it’s not the games against the big boys that are important.
Enjoy those days, but it’s the matches against teams in the bottom half that will decide Pool’s fate. That’s why beating Wigan is such a big deal and gets them off to a flier.
Blackpool: Gilks, Baptiste, Cathcart, Evatt, Crainey, Adam, Vaughan, Grandin, Taylor-Fletcher (Euell), Ormerod (Sylvestre), Harewood (Basham)