'Pool's New Stand Drawing Parallels
The Seasiders moved out of the old South stand in February 2002. 97 months on and they're finally moving back with the opening of the (Sir) Jimmy Armfield Stand on the 23rd of this month.
There have been trials and tribulations along the way with the building of the structure - which will house home supporters. We won't dwell on those or the alleged broken promises and such. At least it's here and we can all enjoy it, with a new supporters bar downstairs and hotel, which are still awaiting completion.
On the 23rd Ian Holloway's men play Crystal Palace in a vital Championship clash - the real start of the run in, with 'Pool bidding for a play off spot, just as they were in 2001 - the South stand's final campaign whilst housing fans before being bulldozed (which eventually happened in 2003).
The parallels to this season and that could be striking by the time the final ball is kicked in anger in late May. Of course, as we all know, Steve McMahon's team gained promotion from Division 3 in his first full season in charge.
And there's one moment I, like many if not all of you, remember from those final few games in 2001 - a run of results which did eventually see Blackpool promoted, despite the best efforts of Phil Barnes! That moment is an unexplainable goal at the beginning of March which made everyone around the club believe we could go up. This after being perilously close to the bottom two at Christmas. A 20-yard bullet header from striker Richard Walker deep into stoppage time against promotion-chasing Plymouth, in front of the South, summed up what atmosphere could be created in that old wreck. Fans spilled onto the advertising hoardings, clambering over eachother to get to the front. Men diving on one-another or holding their sons aloft. And the noise! Well, we all know the noise 'Pool fans can muster.
I wasn't very old at the time and distinctly remember just standing there (on the tea bar area in the East, adjacent to the South - was a great view!) mesmerised by all the celebrations. The South was literally rocking. It turns out that my dad lost his keys in the ground because he celebrated a little too much and they jumped out of his pocket. I'm sure many keys were 'misplaced' that night.
There was one other game from that season which keeps coming back to me when I was thinking about this article: the playoff semi-final against Hartlepool. The Seasiders ran out comfortable 2-0 winners and obviously the place was bouncing. The goalscorers that day? Well, there was only one: Brett Ormerod. He also got two in the return leg, and scored in the final. No wonder Southampton paid so much for him.
Now he's back, and I must say, has come from zero to hero in under a year at Bloomfield Road in his second spell. Could it be that the striker is a 'Pool hero once again, just as he was in the final campaign for the South stand? It's certainly written for him.
But would we have got there without the significant goals of the relatively unsung Walker? Possibly not. He wasn't questioned by supporters as much as Jason Euell is now (that's probably down to the internet advances!), but it's hard not to draw comparisons between their respective goals in the month of March to secure big 1-0 wins.
That Hartlepool playoff match drew in a crowd of 5,720. Now, with the arrival of the Jimmy Armfield stand, 'Pool could quite easily double that attendance if they were to make the playoffs this time around. It goes to show the progress the club has made since the demolition of the old ground.
Newer stadiums lack that intensity and atmosphere older ones did, like Bloomers. But the new(ish!) ground has so far kept up with the pace, being quoted as giving the best support in the Championship constantly by visiting supporters.
With two and a half sides now open to home fans, the noise should increase and so should the intensity.
Is it written in the stars that the Armfield stand will provide another playoff chance? I'm not quite sure, but with unsung attackers like Brett Ormerod and Jason Euell who pop up with goals just as Richard Walker did, coupled with the natural finishing of DJ Campbell (a modern day Ormerod?) who is to say that full houses at Bloomfield Road won't inspire the team on a step further?
It's a bit weird how these things pan out, but I for one am much more confident we'll break that top six now. Fate plays a part in sport.
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