Seasiders made their mark
It’s been a few days since we fell back into the Championship. As much as I can’t pretend to hide the lingering depression that Sunday’s result brought, there is a much more prominent feeling coming through, because as a Blackpool fan, I couldn’t be prouder of my team.
It’s become a bit of a cliché over the last few weeks but it still needs to be reiterated – because at the start of the season almost every pundit expected us to not even win 10 points and be relegated by February.
In fact, we managed to prove them all wrong and amass a more than respectable 39 points; a total that would have seen us finish in 14th place last year. It included two incredible victories, home and away, against Liverpool, sitting at the top of the table – albeit only for a few hours – after thumping Wigan on the opening day of the season, and many other glorious moments that will stick in our memories long after this crop of players have departed.
And their departures are almost inevitable. Charlie will leave for one of the big five – with rumours indicating either Liverpool or United – for a princely sum. Vaughan, Crainey and Gilks have all proved that they are more than capable of playing in the top flight and will probably end up in the division where they deserve to ply their trade every week.
As for some of the others I would deem it as an insult if we didn’t receive offers for them. It’s not that I want any of them to leave but after a season of such heroics they deserve to be recognised.
Take, for example, DJ Campbell – a bit part reserve player at Leicester when Tony Parkes first took a punt on him – has now been transformed to one of the best goal scorers in the country.
Gary Taylor Fletcher – generally thought of as a lower league journeyman three years ago – has now proved that he can consistently cut it with the big boys, scoring and assisting goals against some of the best defences in the world.
Alex Baptiste – a £3,000 bargain bought from Mansfield Town – has managed to hold his own whilst defending against multi-million pound, world renowned, forwards such as Nani and Arshavin.
And of course the rock at the centre of it all – Ian Evatt.
In some ways Evo epitomises the story of these last few years perfectly. Initially unfancied and unwanted, he arrived with a point to prove. With each year that passed, he continued to impress and surprise us to unprecedented ends. When the chips were down and the pressure on, he came up trumps. Even in the almighty test of the Premier League, he managed to defy the odds and make an impression.
Ultimately, fate was cruel to him and us and the final hurdle was just a fraction too high for our overstretched legs. His tears at the final whistle mirrored ours and, like us, he’ll be here next year to try and make it right. In fact, I’d be the first, and I’m sure not the last, to back him in becoming our next captain when Charlie leaves.
The last two years have been an incredible period in the history of this football club and I feel privileged to have witnessed them. When we drove down to Wembley last season, my granddad told us stories about his memories of the 1953 Cup Final. This newest, most glorious, chapter to our recent history has provided me with a good start to my grandparent narrative in the future.
For although this season is over, and the team we see next season will involve different personnel playing in very different stadiums; this is not the end of our story. The club is in a healthier financial state than ever; it has an ethos that will never end and a platform to move forward and get ready to take on the challenge again.
As Britain’s second most successful leader – after Holloway of course – said: “This is not the end. This is not even the beginning of the end. It’s the end of the beginning.”
Over-dramatic? Yes. But that’s just how we do things at Bloomfield Road. You should have learnt that by now.