A Tangerine Amongst the Banana`s
My lifelong obsession started when I was around 5 or 6 (about 40 years ago). A cheery cheeked young man (with a fantastic mullet hair cut) came and sat next to me in infants school (a poster on this site, you know who you are SEX!). Tucked into his 'army` jumper was a tangerine and white scarf; "This is the team I support. They are called Blackpool and they are in Division 2". As an aside, I`m glad that SEX finally got to meet his hero Alan Suddick because in his youth, SEX lived and breathed Suddick. He WAS Suddick in the local park. I, unfortunately, never got to meet my hero (people did tell me however that Marina wasn`t real and in fact she was a puppet). Tut, what do they know...Marina, Aqua Marina, Why can`t you whisper those words that my heart is longing to hear?)
Ah, Blackpool, in Division 2. None of this Coca Cola, Carling or Rebecca`s of Southport rubbish. Just Blackpool, in Division 2. Plain tangerine shirts with scrolled letters on it spelling BFC. Fantastic days!
I first managed to get my dad to take me to a game around 1970. It must have been in Division 1 because I remember we played Everton (my Dad`s team). It was cold, wet and windy but I was transfixed. To me, the Bloomfield Road seemed like a colosseum and was the best day of my life (Two sugars and dead milky like!).
Throughout the 70`s and 80`s I tried to get to most games but in the 90`s, due to me being in different parts of the UK, this became increasingly difficult. The Tangerine dream never left me.
We emigrated 'down under` in the mid-90`s and lived for a few years in New Zealand before moving over to Australia in the 2000`s. I couldn`t wait to see where the footie was happening here and imagine my disappointment when in NZ; all I could find was Rugby Union! No professional football! What was going on?
We did have a 'local` team: Tauranga City United who played in the local Bay of Plenty league. Our local 'crowds` were anywhere between 50 and 150. Oh how I longed to see 'Pool again.
Then, the unthinkable happened. New Zealand decided to enter a football team into the Australian League (The NSL - National Soccer League). This was still a part-time league, but hey, it was better than nothing and......it was going to be televised on satellite.
The Auckland Kingz were absolutely rubbish and lost every game they played (they even played a pre-season game against my Tauranga City United and only drew 1-1. We got a crowd of 450 that day....)
When we moved to Australia I thought to myself; "At least there will be more football to watch here". How wrong I was....
We moved to Queensland which was a Rugby League stronghold, as was New South Wales. The southern states (Victoria and South Australia) were obsessed with Aussie Rules Football (AFL as it is called) and there were a few football teams in local leagues in Victoria and Western Australia.
By the way, Aussies call AFL, the 'footie`. I remember when I first came here and a friend asked me if we were going to watch the footie that night. I innocently asked;"Why, who`s playing?" He replied;"Hawthorn and Essendon you fool". Bloody Philistines!
Football really came of age in Australia in 2005 when the Hyundai A League was introduced. (Link: http://www.a-league.com.au/). This was to be a full time league with full time professionals. We were living in Adelaide at that time and as there are a lot of Europeans (Italians, Greeks, Eastern Bloc) there, the crowds were quite good, 15-16,000 each game. My wife came with me to early games but I was always in her bad books for being 'too animated` as the Australians are quite reserved when watching footie. My wife thought I`d be banned at some stage.....
During the World Cup of 2006, with Australia`s success, the profile of football here began to be raised and the 'soccer` name was officially dropped and changed to football (at last!). The SFA became the FFA but the national team`s nickname remained at 'The Socceroos`.
We moved back to Queensland in 2006 and the only state team at that time was The Queensland Roar. They do in fact play predominantly in orange (due to them having part Dutch owners) but they really are the Man Utd of Queensland. They are the capital city (Brisbane); they have all the money and all the players. Although it gave me a very large lump in my throat watching them play in orange, I couldn`t follow them and am going to be following North Queensland Fury in 2009-10 as they come from a city where I used to live (Townsville).
More good news came when Blackpool made it into the Championship because two years ago, Austar the satellite company, decided to televise one live game each weekend from the Championship (I saw my beloved 'Pool twice this season!) and I was in raptures. I still bemoaned being able to go to a game at Bloomfield (My wife used to say;"You`ll have to take a packed lunch!") but it was better than nothing.
I`ve met many Poms here in Australia and they support the usual teams like Man Utd, Liverpool, Arsenal etc but I`ve NEVER met another 'Pool fan. I have some friends here who both support Sheffield Wednesday and at least that`s closer to our level of football, but it`s not the same....
I once tried to start up an Australian Blackpool Supporters Club but I was the only one who turned up!
Blackpool once undertook a tour of Australia in 1958, how I wish they would do that again. Unfortunately, I don`t think I`ll ever see my team 'play in the flesh` ever again. All I have now is memories of Bloomers, the scratching shed and the stars I used to adore; Mickey Burns, Mickey Walsh, Bob Hatton, Billy Ronson. All faded away......
Don`t get me wrong, I`d never swap what I have here in Australia. Detached houses, swimming pools, sunshine, beaches, cheap beer etc but as I say, it`s a very hard life being an isolated Blackpool fan in the middle of Aussie Rules fans.
Ah well, maybe one day.....
"Two shrimps on the barbie, dead milky like!"
PS If anyone wants to club together and contribute a Blackpool shirt to a very lonely fan here in Australia, it would be gratefully accepted. Just PM me and I`ll give you an address!