This sad betrayal of Blackpool’s history
THE sad downfall of Blackpool with their hotchpotch of loan and youth players and without a win in their first eight games is a tragedy for those of their following with any sense of the club’s history. I well remember crowding round a new nine-inch television with the rest of my family (plus a few neighbours who didn’t own a TV) to watch the FA Cup final in 1953.
The black and white images are as vivid today as they were then, those battering ram centre-forwards Stan Mortensen of Blackpool and Nat Lofthouse of Bolton Wanderers, the diminutive schemers Ernie Taylor and Willie Moir, tall centre-halves Harry Johnston and Malcolm Barrass.
And then, of course, there was Stanley Matthews, whose dazzling performance helped the Tangerines defeat Bolton 4-3, the match forever remembered as the Matthews Final.
This is the same Fylde club proudly represented in 569 games by Jimmy Armfield, a one-club man, and which gave England 1966 World Cup winner Alan Ball and nurtured Emyln Hughes before Bill Shankly poached him for Liverpool.
A mere four seasons ago they were proudly promoted to the Premier League, albeit for just one season, and Ian Holloway was a hero on the Lancashire coast, their hopes as bright as the town’s illuminations.
So, as the hotel waiter said to George Best as he lay in bed sipping champagne with Miss World:“George, where did it all go wrong.” In this case you can start in the boardroom.
Karl Oyston, the businessman who owns the club, has much to answer for even though he appears to be a master of shifting the blame.What owner would send his team to a pre-season match with only eight contracted players and the rest named as trialists?
What manager, come to that, would go into his first game of the season with two 17-year-old youth players in his squad. That is what manager Jose Riga had to do, complaining the squad was not strong enough to sustain any challenge in the Championship.
And what must manager Riga be thinking about his chairman, who during the international break, while his manager took a holiday in his native Belgium, approached Burton’s Gary Rowett to take his job?
Wise man Rowett not only turned down Oyston but decided to make the approach public, hopefully to expose the hypocrisy of the poach, while another man was still in the job.
Meanwhile, Latvian Valeri Bolokon, who paid £2m for a 20 per cent share of the club (why?) asks what has happened to the parachute payments made to Blackpool following their relegation.
He suggests the Oyston family has paid itself £11.5m in salaries and £24m in interest free loans to their various businesses. They did not, it seems, seek permission from Mr Bolokon.
The Oystons claim they are breaking no rules since there is no stipulation on how parachute payments should be used. They, in turn, claim they have invested millions of their alleged £105m fortune in the club.
They claim, too, that Karl Oyston retains control over all investment and reinvestment, which is why, presumably, the manager’s choice of reinforcements are not playing in the famous colours.
The entire shambolic situation accounts for Blackpool being short of players and points. It is why the supporters hang their anti-owners banners. It is why the local paper says that the club should be the pride of Lancashire but is the laughing stock.
Poor Jimmy Armfield, sewn into the fabric of the club, continues to keep his counsel on the subject of his beloved Blackpool because there is little he can do to change the situation.
Inside, it must be eating at his heart and I wonder how Stan, The Wizard Of The Dribble would be feeling were he still alive. Probably as sad and confused as those defenders who tried to stop him as a player in the club’s colours.
HISTORY BOYS: The 1953 Cup final, Karl Oyston, Jimmy Armfield. Right: Ian Holloway celebrates promotion