Seasiders’ memory match

Alan Ainscow - leads a Blackpool training session
Alan Ainscow - leads a Blackpool training session
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Preston North End 0, Blackpool 3, 1972

It was the run-up to Christmas when these old adversaries met – and the Seasiders got more than their fair share of pre-festive cheer, courtesy of this emphatic win at Deepdale.

The man of the moment was a flame-haired teenager by the name of Alan Ainscow, who became an instant hero to those of the Tangerine persuasion by scoring all three goals.

It was a performance which earned rave reviews by the fans and was the start of a successful career for Ainscow, though it was to be his first – and last – hat-trick in league football.

All the goals came in the second half.

The first came when he latched on to an Alan Suddick corner and struck it perfectly to beat Alan Kelly in the North End goal.

Ainscow notched the second 10 minutes from time, after the North End defence was caught dreadfully square, making it three six minutes later – it could even have been four, but for the fact Graham Hawkins pulled him down when he looked to be clean through on goal.

Born in Bolton, where he followed the Wanderers, he soon found himself sharing the communal, post-match bath with two players he had avidly followed from the old Burnden Park terraces, Dave Hatton and Wyn Davies.

Indeed, it was an ex-Bolton player – that fearsome full-back Roy Hartle, scouting for the Seasiders at the time – who was instrumental in paving the way to a move to Blackpool.

Ainscow, who now lives in Aughton on Merseyside, said: “A friend of mine called Dave Crompton used to live next door to Roy – I kept pestering Dave to ask Roy to give me a trial.

“Eventually, Roy did come and watch me in a match and I scored four goals and was invited to Blackpool to play in one of two trial games at Squires Gate.

“I only brought my boots that day because I thought Blackpool would provide the kit, but I ended up having to borrow some, and I remember playing with one red sock on, and one blue!

“I made it to the final trial at Bloomfield Road and they signed me on.

“Once I had signed for Blackpool, one of the players, John Curtis, jokingly said it had been all been trick by me to wear different coloured socks so I stood out more!”

No sooner had Ainscow got settled in to life as a professional at Blackpool, he was in the team which famously lifted the Anglo-Italian Cup in 1971 against Bologna in Italy.

Ainscow recalled: “Here I was travelling on a plane to Italy to play a big match, and the furthest I had travelled before that was catching the train to Blackpool!”

He was soon to make his mark on the Blackpool scene, his hair-colour almost inevitably leading to comparisons with another famous copper-top in Alan Ball.

Indeed whenever Ainscow met Ball, the latter used to chide him over that hat-trick at Deepdale – saying it played a part getting his dad (Alan Ball Senior) the sack at Preston that season!

inscow could pick out the right pass and as the occasion demanded, like at Deepdale in ’72, he knew where the goal was, though way back then there was never any chance of keeping the match-ball, as would be the custom these days.

“If I had been able to get the match-ball, I would have got everybody to sign it for me, gone home with it and still have it with me today,” the popular former Seasider stated.

Ainscow said of his spell at Blackpool, which included more than 200 first team appearances: “It helped being alongside good players like Micky Walsh and Derek Spence.

“And Micky has a lot to thank me for, plonking the ball exactly on his head with my crosses from the wing!”

Indeed, Ainscow was effective on either flank, and one can only guess what his value would be these days on the transfer market.

The parting of the ways came in 1978, when Jim Smith signed him at Birmingham, who were in the top flight.

Things had turned sour and Ainscow became a regular visitor to a transfer tribunal, to get his asking price reduced in his bid to get away from Bloomfield Road.

Blackpool, who had been holding out over money, finally raised their terms to £180 a week, but it was a no-brainer for Ainscow.

The money the Blues were offering topped that (£200 a week, plus £50 appearance fee), but what really swung it for Ainscow was the chance to play in the top flight.

He later had spells at Everton and Blackburn, where he helped Rovers to their first major trophy in decades when they won the Full Members Cup against Charlton at Wembley.

For a time coached the Under-14s at Preston and Blackburn – at Rovers one of his young charges was Frank Fielding, now with Bristol City and formerly with England under-21s.

Ainscow is virtually retired now, but has had health issues with prostate cancer, for which he needs regular checks and his blood to be monitored.

He is not an infrequent visitor to Bloomfield Road.

and was at the abandoned final match of last season against Huddersfield, which he viewed with He said: “I can see where the fans are coming from, but they should also have thought about the 2,000 from Huddersfield who had spent good money, only to have the match abandoned.

“It’s sad, but Blackpool look like they are on the slippery slope.”

Blackpool: Burridge, Hatton, Bentley, Alcock, Suddaby, Hardcastle, Burns, Suddick, Rafferty, Lennard, Ainscow. Substitute: James.