This morning I went to vote in the 2017 general election. It's the chance for the people to vote who runs the country for the next number of years. It's not the only significant vote that's happened in recent times. The Labour Party voted to choose their new leader. The public voted on whether the UK should stay in the EU. Some folk even vote on who wins X Factor, Britain's Got Talent and Eurovision. The one thing we can't vote on is who runs our beloved football clubs.
As a Blackpool fan (and almost all of you who read this probably are too) I'd love to be afforded such a luxury. Unlike with all those other votes, I'm pretty sure there would be a landslide winner and it would be for whoever had a name on the ballot paper that wasn't 'Oyston'!
See, I've come to a point now where I don't actually care who it is that owns our club anymore, as long as it's not them. I used to long for the days we were owned by a little chap from the 'Latvian Party' by the name of 'Belokon'. I also lived in the hope that there would be a box with the name 'Pilley' that I could put my cross in. The 'Local Investor Party' often has rumours of interest in running but never really comes to fruition and the 'Foreign Consortium Party' were once mentioned on a statement but then their existence was forgotten about and swiftly ignored. Finally there is the 'BST Party' who have offered hope in dark times and given a credible opposition to those in power but are thwarted at every turn by those who seek to discredit them.
Much like this morning when I walked in to my local polling station, I've no idea what to do next. I know my own views and morals and have followed them and stood by them steadfastly but will the forthcoming result be to my liking? What do I do if it isn't? I'm not going to sacrifice my principles. I'm just going to hope that the one person who could possibly bring about a change in leadership (Mr Justice Marcus Smith, I do believe) gives us that chance.
The saying goes "Large streams from little fountains flow, Tall oaks from little acorns grow." and I'd like to feel that 12 months ago a little acorn was planted amongst the rubble of Blackpool Football Club.
On 7th November 2014 we decided that we would try to offer an alternative to the official company shop. We set out with five simple designs on t-shirts and mugs. Little acorns.
Today, we offer around fifty different individual items from car stickers to the 'alternative shirt'. We've sent items as far afield as Australia and New Zealand.
You go to a game and you will see more shirts with the three stripes of Adidas than the pinstripes of Errea. Tall(ish) oaks.
I look around at protests and can say "we did that!". Not me. You and I. We said no to the company and made a change. We wear our badge of honour with pride and passion. We stand in our alternative shirts like a fearless clan going in to a battle. I can't remember the last time I wore an official shirt and said the same. We stand for something bigger than ourselves. We stand together for a better Blackpool FC; a club that we can be proud of once again. Make no mistake, we WILL get our club back.
WHATS LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT.....?
The other day I found myself sat nursing a brew in a children's play barn. My six year old son was off causing all kinds of mayhem and I finally had a few moments of peace and quiet to just let my brain wander off wherever it wanted to go.
Naturally it started thinking about the current plight of my (our?) beloved Blackpool Football Club; a club that I've supported since I was around 5 years old. Somehow, I got on to the idea of actually being a supporter of a football team, why we do it and what it mean to be a supporter.
I know exactly HOW I became a Blackpool supporter; my dad and grandad were Blackpool supporters and I used to pester them to let me go with them in the late 80s. I just couldn't quite put my finger on WHY I was a Blackpool fan. I say that and know it makes no sense, but supporting a football team doesn't make any sense. The more I thought about it, the more illogical it all seemed. I wanted to support Blackpool. I don't recall ever being forced to watch them. Then I started going to games. And I wanted to go every week. And I had favourite players. And we had season tickets. But we weren't any good. And we got relegated. But I didn't ever want to support anyone else. And so it continued. Forever. Until 2012.
When Ian Holloway decided his future lay away from Bloomfield Road and started applying for all manner of jobs, I was a broken hearted 30 year old man, all because another man had left me (my club). I took my son (then still 3 years old) to the home game against Brighton in the knowledge that it would probably be Ollie's last game. I wouldn't allow myself to miss it. I wanted to make sure he was there so that in the future we could say we were there. I expected that it would be the beginning of a decline. I decided that day that I could no longer put my money in to the club until the owners were willing to proportionally do the same. A lot of a fans disposable income goes on supporting their club, doesn't it. I mean, a season ticket was still over £300 for an adult. Then there were programmes each game, new shirts for my son and other bits of merchandise that all added up. I've never tried to work out how much it was or what percent of my income I was ploughing in year after year, but I know that the owners weren't even putting a fraction of the same proportion in. So from that day I became 'not a penny more'.
In the two years that have passed I've been to the odd home game on free tickets and a few away games. People might say I'm not a proper fan, but I think this says that I am. I stood up for what I believed in. Maybe it didn't make a difference but in my mind, I stuck to my principles and that was good enough. Believe me when I say, it hurt more to not go to games than you could imagine. Until it didn't. I'd listen to every game via Radio Lancashire or Radio Wave. If there was a dodgy stream online, you can bet your boots that I'd find it.
And then it happened. There was a weekend where I had a family engagement and I couldn't listen to the game. And I only realised after the game that I didn't actually miss listening. I checked the result. We lost. I was disappointed but not upset. I couldn't process this lack of feeling. When did I stop caring? Why did I stop caring? And I thought about it. It's a lot like any relationship. If you have a partner; you devote a lot of time to them. You fall in love. You don't want anyone else. And then maybe one day you realise you aren't the same people you were. You still love them, but it's not the same. So you split up and it hurts. Other people, your family and friends understand and accept it; even if they developed a love for the other person too. But eventually you move on and find someone else. The process often happens a few times until you find 'the one' and you stick with them for life. So why is choosing a football team not like this? Why can I not fall out of love with one and fall in love with another? If you tell someone you now support another club you would be given a look somewhere between pity and disdain.
I was born in Blackpool but raised close to Fleetwood so I've often been to watch them, even in the early 90 as a child. So it has been with great interest that I've followed them climb the football league ladder and in to the football league. I've watched a number of their games at each stage of the climb. But despite all of this, I don't actually care. Sure, I want them to win, but I don't feel sad when they lose. Not like I do when Blackpool lose. Even now, after our 'separation'. I couldn't possible support any other club, even if I wanted to.
So when I asked myself WHY I supported Blackpool, I came to the conclusion that in the truest sense of the word, I genuinely love the club. Whats love got to do with it? Everything.