What A Year At Bloomers!
The Blackpool of November 2005 is a much changed Blackpool to the one in November 2006, for a number of reasons. The club has seen a huge upheaval at board room level, with Latvian businessman, Valeri Belokon reportedly buying 20% of the football club, with his millions being ploughed into the team. Mr Belokon became president of the club, and has the option of doubling his stake to 40% at a later date. The figure spouted around at the time of a proposed deal was a whopping £5million, which was confirmed in an exclusive interview with Belokon and his PA Blackpool conducted by myself back in April. Blackpool VitalFootball were in fact the first media source to break the news officially back in March that the well respected millionaire, Belokon, was to have a flutter at the seaside.
Read Toronto's exclusive interview with Belokon here...
The football team also saw Scotsman, Colin Hendry depart after a 4-1 defeat away at Doncaster in the first round of The FA Cup. The former Scotland captain publicly blamed the chairman`s defiance with regards to preparation for the game. Unfortunately Hendy wasn`t in any position to be criticising his boss, and he was sacked with immediate effect - the most productive day at Bloomfield Road for over a year. Simon 'Larry` Grayson was put in temporary charge of the struggling Seasiders. The former Aston Villa man had been the star of a rather dull show in the side, occupying the central midfield role, and playing arguably his best football for The Mighty. Grayson appointed old pal, Tony Parkes as his assistant, with many saying that the old Blackburn Rovers wise man was perfect for a relegation dogfight, as he had been caretaker of t`rovers several times.
Coincidently, Larry`s first game as gaffer was at home to Scunthorpe, a game scheduled to be shown live on Sky Sports. Not a bad debut as manager, as they go! A 5-2 mauling of The Iron had cobwebs that the previous manager had left being blown away, albeit one at a time. In this game, youth player, Matty Kay, became Blackpool`s youngest ever player, coming on as sub for the last couple of minutes. The Blackpool born midfielder was a measly 16 years and 32 days that day! The previous record was held by winger Trevor Sinclair, who obviously went on to receive honours with his country. The down side to the game was that several hundred fans protested against Karl Oyston and family, with verbal chants, and flags to voice and show their frustration at the lack of financial support the footballing side was getting. I have to ask, would the former manager have spent it wisely? And was it a wise move not wasting money on him? If so, why not sack him months before? To save money. The whole scenario swings in roundabouts!
That great victory was followed by just two wins in twelve matches, as the honeymoon period swept away rapidly for Larry, Parkes and new coach, Asa Hartford. It got to January time, and talk was rife that Valeri Belokon was to invest heavily. This promoted Oyston to dip into his pocket, with morale boosting signings such as Marc Joseph from Hull City; Marcus Bean from QPR and young prospect - David Fox from Manure. The side needed new faces, put I`m not sure players like Dean Gordon helped! His one and only game coming in a 2-0 defeat at Huddersfield.
An indifferent run followed with the new players needing time to settle, but 4-2 and a 3-0 wins against Donny and 'the monkey hangers` respectively boosted the side. I was there to witness both, and the away victory was a fantastic day, with captain fantastic Peter Clarke scoring twice, and Lee Jones saving a penalty. For me, that day changed the season. 'Pool fans seemed to have found the program 'Belief in your local side` and hit the install button, having to reinstall the program after two years of non usage. That win didn`t send us on any amazing unbeaten run, but gave us just enough to stave away relegation after brilliant wins against teams in and around our area - Walsall, Yeovil and Port Vale. The team also managed to beat Swansea City in a very entertaining spectacle at Bloomers in April.
So, come five o`clock on the 6th May, we were safe… just! The only objective of Grayson`s reign so far was achieved. Surely we can kick on next year with the new found investment and go for promotion many were saying.
In this time, this very website was growing rapidly, with word spreading and new members coming on board - reading regular updates on all things 'pool from Campbell and myself. The first Blackpool VitalFootball fanzine was produced on the 1st April at home to Walsall.
The next part in this series will be up within the next few days.