18/4/22 Blackpool V Blues, A Black Pool Of Poison.

The third of a three game weekend, and a day trip to the seaside. What a start to a weeks holiday from work. It was a fractious group of ale trailers that traveled to the North West. By that, I don’t mean we’d all fallen out with each other, it was that we’d chosen different timed trains, and were heading to the town from different directions. Jinksy had been in Glasgow the day before for the Weegie semifinal. The outcome was, that Hearts would be playing Rangers on the 21st of May. I have got plans to travel up for the final, but with West coast engineering works still disrupting train travel, I’ve got to look at travelling up to Leeds and then going up the East coast. Either that, or fly. I’ve got to admit, I’m thinking of staying in Embra Friday and Saturday night. The logistics and expense is something I’ve yet to work out properly. In all honesty, it all hinges on getting a ticket for the game, but I suspect even then, finances will play the biggest part. With a heavy dose of good luck everything will fall into place, and I would like to think I’m due a bit of decent luck. So back to Blackpool then. I was travelling up on the second through train of the day from Brum to Blackpool North. The Carling brigade wagon. I would be the only one of the ale trailers on it.

“The Peaky Blinders stayed back in Brum though. ‘Family business’ apparently. I didn’t ask any further”

As I waited on the station concourse, I scanned to see who else was going to be on the same train as me. There were some of the usuals of course, and I spotted one of the lads that sits behind me down St Andrews, but I also spotted Birdy, Bryn and Craig. I hadn’t seen any of them since well before Christmas. We caught up on what we’d all been doing, and went down to the platform to get the train. We’d all got reservations, so split up to find our seats. Nestled in my seat, it was earphones jammed in, and nose buried in the magazine I’d bought. Getting closer to Blackpool, I messaged the ale trail WhatsApp group to find out what was happening. Now armed with the Knowledge of where they’d be, as soon as we touched down, I was on the move and fast. I had a feeling it was going to be rather a messy day. I was to find them in the Layton Rakes. Unsurprisingly, there’s more than one Wetherspoons in Blackpool. It’s probably going to sound snobby, but Blackpool has an image of being cheap and some would say nasty. Mostly, it attracts a similar level of clientele. Wetherspoons is a brand that fits in with that image. Even within the Wetherspoons brand itself, there’s branches you should steer clear of, and after previous visits to the town, I knew that the branch on the promenade, was the one to avoid like it was a life threatening virus. (Mind you, I can’t see anything like that ever happening. Least not in our lifetime anyway.) The Layton Rakes was still packed when I got there. It’s probably why the rest of the ale trailers had parked themselves upstairs. Apparently, Albert and Lion, the Wetherspoons on the front, was so busy that they were operating a policy of one out one in. I wasn’t surprised. I knew it would’ve been a popular meeting place for the hoards of Blues that were descending on the Las Vegas of England. Even the Wetherspoons we were in was only ever a stop gap until all the decent real ale places opened. The real ale scene in Blackpool had got decidedly better since our last visit. Mind you, that wouldn’t have been difficult. ‘Stack it high, sell it cheap’ is a phrase that comes to mind. We drank up, and hit the trail. It was to take us first to a micro pub that had made its debut since our last visit. Cask and Tap is obviously run by real ale enthusiasts. Mind you, I don’t think I’ve been in a micro pub that isn’t run by real ale enthusiasts. It goes with the territory. It’s very much a philosophy of ‘If they can do it, shall we have a go?’ Plenty of people are stuck in mind numbing, soul destroying jobs. I’m not. I absolutely adore my job. I’m also lying.

“Score predictions lads?”

We found Andy of the Spotted Dog/White Swan crew in the Cask and Tap. He was stopping for the weekend in Blackpool. We moved on to the 1887 Brew Room. A former hotel, the place is the birthplace of Blackpool F.C. Obviously things have moved on somewhat from 1887, but they’ve made sure the momentous event is commemorated in the pub.

“See?”

The pub also had a great range of ales.

“Again, see?”

We decided to choose what to do, did we stick or twist? Time was moving on and although we had pubs to visit and beer to drink, the pubs weren’t exactly close to one another. We stuck to make use of the great range of ales, and then twisted. We went over the road to the taxi firm that operates from out of one of the shops in a parade opposite the pub. Our destination was the Number 10 Ale House. Another micro pub that had sprung up since last time, and also one closer to Bloomfield Road. We holed up in a back room. Surprisingly, they turned on the TVs and switched it to the football for us. We hadn’t even asked them to.

“Although you can’t tell from the rubbish photos I’ve taken, the artwork was brilliant”

Steve went for another pint. We heard a crash, he’d misjudged the step down to the bar. To his credit, he hadn’t spilled any of the rest of what he’d got left in the glass he was taking back up to the bar to drink whilst waiting. He also hadn’t damaged either himself or the floor either. His left hand is in plaster at the moment (No, not because he’s fallen before.) and I’d leapt up to make sure he was ok. Other than his wounded pride, he was fine. Now if you’re reading this and adding 2 and 2 together in regards to alcohol, you wouldn’t be left with 4. He wasn’t drunk, just clumsy. His ‘claims’ for a penalty were to be turned down after a VAR review. He was then booked for simulation and also the winter season at Madame Tussauds. Both seemed harsh to me. After this great little place, we walked towards the ground.

“Mr Blue Sky”

We have this tradition now amongst us ale trailers where we don’t like to see kickoff. I don’t know why, it’s just evolved. We ducked into the Bloomfield Brew House and Kitchen for one final beer, and wished we hadn’t.

“It’s not what it looks like. Yes, I’m still ugly. No, it’s not Stella…..honestly, it’s not”

I don’t know what it is about a lager glass, but it absolutely ruins real ale. Neither me or Spoons could finish ours, it tasted so bad.

So to the main event then. The reason for our visit. The reason why we’d dragged ourselves away from the deckchairs, candy floss and ‘kiss me quick’ hats.

“Beautiful sunny day, big away following, what could possibly go wrong?”

We were to discover, that not all the donkeys were giving rides on the beach. Just as in Nottingham, we were 1:0 down before we’d even got in the ground. Blackpool then went and doubled their lead only 14 minutes into the game. Watching on was painful. It was clear that the senior players were going through the motions. The younger players, instead of being guided, were being exposed. Badly exposed. I’ve got to say, I felt immensely sorry for them. They didn’t deserve to be hung out to dry in the firing line. You expect your senior players to show leadership, to work as a team, to support each other. There was none of that. They all looked like they really couldn’t be bothered, and didn’t want to be there. I’m not on the thousands a week they’re on, I’m only on minimum wage, and even I show more commitment at work than what they were showing. Halftime was a relief. We were only 3:0 down. It was like shooting fish in a barrel for Blackpool, and we were the fish. Well something definitely smelt fishy, and it wasn’t just because we were at the seaside either. It was like the players were working to rule. At halftime, Lee Bowyer stayed on his own in the dugout. Alone with his thoughts. Was it one thought? One of an imminent resignation? it seemed a strange thing to do. As is always with Blues fans, we have the ability to laugh at ourselves. If you didn’t, you’d be permanently on suicide watch. 3:0 became 4:0. It was just a training match for Blackpool. They were that far ahead, they could even afford to allow us to pull a goal back. We were in full sarcasm mode now. As the match started to draw to a close, the mood darkened. Our wrath was directed towards the people who had let us down. The people (I’m loathe to call them players.) who had the audacity to think of nothing but their wages. Wages for a weeks ‘work’. Football fans, any football fan, the supporters who go to games, will tell you the one thing they can’t abide, is seeing so called players not trying. We can forgive a bad game, we can forgive when you’re just not good enough, but you have to try your best, must try your best. It’s not an option. It’s mandatory. You’re not only being paid handsomely for what you do, but you’re doing something that not only would the people watching you swap body parts for the opportunity to do what you do, but affects lives in ways that you can not ever imagine. When we sing ‘You’re not fit to wear the shirt’, it’s not a knee jerk reaction. It’s not for a bit of fun. It’s not sarcasm. It’s meant. It’s unforgivable to give less than 100% on a professional football pitch. The dedication and commitment I see on the Non-League circuit, puts you to shame. I’m sure you won’t care as you drive off in a car that cost five times as much as what the average supporter takes home from work in a year. To your six bedroom detached house in the leafy suburbs. Moaning that you have to turn up to train at 10 o’clock in the morning twice a week. Feign interest at ‘club sponsored’ events. Get bored at having to sign autographs and pose for ‘selfies’, wherever and whenever. When I was a kid, I went through all the ‘hero worship’ phrase. Now, I don’t care. I have no more interest in you, than you have in me. So don’t look look so surprised and hurt when you’re dragging your feet and there’s vitriol directed at you. Troy Deeney came over at one point to plead his case. Sorry kid, but from what I’ve read about you, and it’s a lot, you’re no better. You’re not fit to give Robert Hopkins a piggy back everywhere as far as I’m concerned. You’ll never be a club legend like he is. You’re just another with his snout in the trough. The 5th was a penalty and my que to leave. The fourth had come so early in the second half, that I was determined to get my money’s worth. As I walked away from the ground, I heard the 6th go in.

I was split up from the rest of the ale trailers, but as my advanced train was later, I was free to do my own thing. Sometimes I like it that way. I went back to the 1887 Brew Room. A bit strange I know, seeing that it would remind me of what had just happened, but in all honesty, the range was so good and well kept, that I knew I was on safe ground. Before I went to get the train, I did the ‘holiday maker’ thing, got fish and chips and watched the sun set over the sea.

“Well…..I just had to”
“The donkeys were on their way back to their luxury houses”

I met back up with Birdy, Bryn and Craig at the station. They’d got food, but were crestfallen that they couldn’t find a Fish and Chip shop. I hadn’t the heart to tell them I had. We were to find out that our journey back was not going to be as straightforward as just getting the train we were all booked on back to Brum. Seeing Blues getting beaten was bad enough, to see players not trying, was worse, but this just sealed it. Least I was teaming up with people who were as despondent as I was. Apparently, due to ‘staff shortages’ the train was terminating at Preston. Were they practicing for ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’? At Preston, we then had to get the train to Crewe and change again for one that was going to Brum. For me and Craig, that wasn’t too much of a hassle. We could just walk or get the bus back to where we lived, but Birdy and Bryn were going to miss their last train to where they lived. Their trip would be finished off with a trip by taxi. Though Birdy would now have to go through explaining to his girlfriend. All this time, all these years of being a ‘lone wolf’, and he’s finally settling down. All I could think was, to snare and tame him, this Annabelle must be some woman. Either that or the world has definitely gone mad.

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