It’s not unusual in the theatre of war to find that the deposed faction has adopted spoiling tactics during the period of its overthrow, designed to make it as difficult as possible for normal life to be resumed after its expulsion. One wouldn’t expect the equivalent scenario to play out behind the scenes at an English football club – but then Blackpool hasn’t known ‘normal’ for some considerable time.
Although thirty years of Oyston’s dysfunctional reign at Blackpool FC was formally ended on Monday with the announcement that both Owen Oyston and Natalie Christopher have been removed from the board of the football club, the liberating forces are not yet in complete control (even as this column goes to press) and the task of rebuilding towards a joyous mass ‘homecoming’ of the fan base on Saturday 9th March is proving an uphill one as the new board gets to grips with infrastructure that hasn’t functioned properly for a long time.
We all know that, in spite of tremendous achievements on the pitch, the behind-the-scenes set up has been creaking along for years under the Oystons’ miserly stranglehold, only continuing to function thanks to the dedication of a group of employees who love the club as much as any fan does. The true extent of the work to be done is only now becoming clear. The Receiver intends that we will be in a position to return to an Oyston-free Bloomfield Road a week on Saturday. However, the Trust has been advising fans to hold off buying tickets until we get the green light – specifically that the club’s accounts have been secured - even while we make plans for Homecoming Saturday.
A week ago it all looked straight-forward as 600 Blackpool fans crowded into BST’s first general meeting of the year at the Village Hotel and gave surprise guest Terry McPhillips a prolonged and vociferous standing ovation. He was clearly moved by the reception and excited by the prospect of the fan base returning in numbers to get behind the team. The buzz in the room was incredible as the prospect of Blackpool Being Back grows ever closer. There was a lengthy Q&A session about the process of receivership, what the next steps will be, and what fans would like to do to make our return to Bloomfield Road a momentous one – not just on the day itself but as the rebuilding gets under way.
One suggestion was that Blackpool Supporters’ Trust might sponsor the match-ball on Homecoming Saturday, a symbolic as well as a practical gesture of the fan base and the club working together again after years of disconnect. With our members’ approval, we will try and make this happen.
Another was that we should remember all of our number who have passed away during the years of exile and who won’t be there when we finally return. We will look to find a fitting way to do that.
The importance of unity and community were stressed. We have a golden opportunity to go back as a united fan base in celebration of getting our club back and here is our chance to set the pattern for a brighter future as a community club. To that end an organising committee comprising members of Blackpool’s various fans’ groups is working jointly on plans for our return, with proposals to be publicised early next week for activities outside and inside Bloomfield Road. The latter will be put to the new board of directors for discussion and approval.
The Trust has also compiled a Volunteers Register of individuals and groups who can come in to help get Bloomfield Road ready for the day when we return in force. The response to that call-to-arms has been overwhelming. Ever since the High Court announced that a Receiver was appointed, Blackpool fans have been keen to do whatever is required to get our club back on track and return in our droves to Bloomfield Road. As soon as the Receiver and his team can advise us of the work to be done and the sequence in which to do it, we will start engaging those volunteers. Thank you to everybody who has offered to help. The war is nearly over, the reparation can now begin.
As if anyone needed an excuse to practice for our return to Bloomfield Road, there is the re-arranged away game at Accrington Stanley coming up on Tuesday. We had planned, when still in exile, to make that a rousing show of loyalty to the team in tangerine and also a celebration of what Andy Holt has achieved at a great community club. There is no reason why we cannot still do so. Pay-on- the-gate is available at Accy on Tuesday night for anyone who didn’t already have a ticket. The trains will be running. Stanley are still planning to have a welcoming fan zone, live music and cheap beer for Blackpool fans. Let’s make it a party night and a dress-rehearsal for Homecoming Saturday. The buzz is building. Blackpool are Back.