Putting a dampener on Blackpool’s wonderful weekend..

24 05 2010

Blackpool manager Ian Holloway

After a dream weekend for Blackpool fans it didn’t take long for the bookmakers to make them odds on for relegation. Talk about putting a dampener on things. We here at Ghostgoal are excited at prospect of seeing the tangerines in the top flight.. but we thought it might be an idea to speak to a fan well-schooled in life spent yo-yo-ing between the Championship and the Premiership. So we emailed a friend of ours, Andrew Benbow, a West Bromwich Albion fan, to discuss it.. I say discuss.. what we got was an essay, but we loved it:

On promotion to the Premiership the mind turns to Only Fools And Horses – ‘we are millionaires!! What now?’
 
For many fans of newly promoted teams it’s a question that predictably turns into ‘what’s the point?’ Fans are repeatedly told that the Premiership is the Best League in the World, the Only Place to Be, the Promised Land. Yet without a generous billionaire promotion offers little more than an often fleeting possibility to see how the other half live.
 
Blackpool fans will currently be experiencing the unbridled optimism that a long-awaited promotion brings, yet deep down they will know that the best that they can hope for is to finish 15th. In their heart of hearts, they will know that what they have currently achieved is the potential, and the money, to try be able to push for promotion back into the Premiership following their inevitable relegation.
 
Five of the last seven play off winners have been relegated the year after, with Hull surviving one more year and West Ham bucking the trend. So the relegation may not be next year, it may even not be the year after (I’m looking at you Stoke) but it will certainly come before they get into the Champions League, it will even come before they get a chance to get into the Europa League.
 
When the hangover kicks in (I suspect this will be in November, when the optimism is crushed by a pitiful 2-0 home defeat to Bolton) the realisation dawns – being in the Premiership’s only benefits are the chance to be on Match of the Day and more games to be on TV. Whilst there you will be roundly patronised by pundits who don’t know that your best player is left footed and have no idea who your first XI are, yet will freely criticise when they are dropped ahead of an inevitable slaughtering by one of the big four.
 
Being in the Premiership is a chance to see some of the best players in the world, and see them beat you week in week out. You will soon be wondering if another fruitless trip to a sparkling away ground is really better than a hard-fought win at Deepdale. You will see that looking to get promoted is a true goal, and that praying that a team goes bust and two others are just awful so you can scrape 17th is not really anything to celebrate as what follows? Another desperate attempt to get 17th.
 
For Blackpool, the Premiership has been the goal of their clubs, but what is the goal now? Being a yo-yo club at the start of the decade was to hear the refrain, ‘we could be the next Charlton!’ At the best of times, this always seemed a hollow refrain offering the chance to finish 12th again, and again, until the fans get restless and the club panics. Look at Stoke fans now, angry at Pulis for the way they play, at Bolton fans wanting to see better football and it is easy to see that survival in the Premiership is not true success.
 
We are in a unique period in the history of football, one in which even the fans of teams such as Everton have given up on ever being close to winning the title. One in which the team tenth in the Premiership beating the team in second is a huge upset. Even when the team in tenth is at home. One in which the FA Cup has become less important that being fourth in a competition. One in which success is self-perpetuating and every other team is left hoping for an Arab Sheik.
 
How long can fans follow teams with the realisation that they are there to make up the numbers? This is shown in the utter domination of the media by the big four, arguably plus Spurs and Man City, and is one of the oddities of the current environment – it ignores the fact that more people support the other 86 teams.
 
Yet attendances remain high, fans buy shirts, and football is more popular than ever. Some things never change, and there’s always next year…
 
* The writer is a bitter West Bromwich Albion fan, expecting to get relegated next year. He has just renewed his season ticket.
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3 responses

24 05 2010
FOWB

How negative, the sense of romance really is dead in English sport. Surely football, more than anything is about moments – FA Cup Finals/Semi Finals, beating Man Utd at home, witnessing Rory Delaps long throw live at a game. “It’s better to live one day as a lion, than a thousand years as a worm” – Blackpool’s reaction to getting promoted proved that this weekend and I for one would not bet against ‘Olly’ roaring at least a few times next season

24 05 2010
theghostgoal

I agree, Blackpool’s win was a true highlight of the season.
I think its interesting that an Albion supporter holds this view though – they are often held up as the example of how a club of their size should be run. If even Albion supporters aren’t buying into that particular ‘dream’ it has to be a concern.

25 05 2010
Andrew Benbow

I agree FOWB – very negative, but a reflection of the lack of enthusiasm our promotion has left me with. Football is about moments for sure, I have had some great ones, but now that seems to be all there is. If I had been born at any time pre 1980 I would have lived in an age where with a fair wind, a great manager and some local talent West Brom could have won the Cup, even the League. This is now stone cold impossible. For teams in the Championship the dream, the moment, is that promotion to the Premiership. When you have had it four times, with the corresponding relegations (with one impending), then that dream is rather hollow. Especially when the ‘dream’ is then said to be finishing 12th and ‘well run’.

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