FOURTY FOUR !!! Blackpool FC is the 44th club in the history of the Barclay's Premier League, and what a day it was for Olly's men at the DW Stadium in Wigan.
The bookies quoted Blackpool at 10,000-1 to win the EPL this season, the same odds as the chance of 'the Second Coming'. I am sure that that has now changed with a stunning 4-0 demolition of The Latics on the opening match of the new season. It was supposed to be played at Bloomfield Road, but there is such frantic work adding a new 5,000 capacity stand with a new media centre, that the match was switched 24 miles away. My friend Morten Lihus in Oslo bet 100NOK on Blackpool and won NOK375. The local newspaper claims that 53 fans have bet on them winning the EPL.
The Seasiders fans took up their 4,200 allocation and filled one end of the stadium to contribute over 25% of the attendance of 16,000 and stay and chant and sing right until the end. In contrast, after the fourth goal from Alex Baptiste, the home fans streamed out in a mass exodus and total stunned belief. Next week, which should have been their first home match, they have to 'entertain' Chelsea, the Champions. Good Luck! They lost 8-0 to The Blues at the end of last season!
The Pool have been wearing tangerine since a club official watched Holland play in the early 1930's, but this is TANGERINE, NOT orange, Please do not confuse them with the three time World Cup losers! There is also another club, called Mighty Blackpool, that play in Sierre Leone.
I chatted before and sat in the stands with Keith Hackett, and the family of referee Mark Halsey and his doctor Prof. Tim Illidge of Christie Hospital, and an Everton fan born in The Wirral. As you may know, Mark refereed Arsenal v Liverpool a year ago and was then found to have cancer. He has battled back and this was his triumphant return to the EPL.
Blackpool manager Ian Holloway's wife also had the disease and the manager spoke at length of his admiration for the referee. As he led the two teams out onto the green pitch Mark Halsey wore a black armband for the Exeter City player Adam Stansfield who died this week of the dreaded disease at age 31.
Across the Pennines in Yorkshire, Harrogate Town are playing in a pink away 'strip' this season, to mark the 10 year struggle with breast cancer of Jean Williams,the wife of the Town Executive Director Alan. On the back of their jerseys is 'Breast Cancer Support', for the Harrogate and District Breast Cancer Service. Football is important to many of us, but not as important as life itself.
The Seasiders have had growing pains after 39 years away from the top league, and since Wednesday have added six new players, three of whom started the match. What a sensational start it was. Brett Ormerod, who scored the winner in the 3-2 play-off final over Cardiff City at Wembley in May had two chance to score within 90 seconds. Ian Taylor-Fletcher opened the scoring after 16 minutes and new boy Marlon Harwood scored a brace on the 38th and 43rd minute, within 48 hours of signing for his new club.
IT COULD HAVE been 6-0 at the half. Wigan were pathetic, with no passion on the pitch or in the stands from their supporters. Their goalkeeper Chris Kirkland was wearing a hat to keep the sun out of his eyes. He should have been wearing a dunce's hat instead. He was responsible for 2 of the four goals.
At half-time I chatted with a couple of lifelong Blackpool fans over a cup of tomato soup. One first watched Blackppol play in in 1938 and later became club secretary, and the other, born in 1953 when Blackpool won the F.A. Cup in 'The Matthews Final' 4-3 over Bolton Wanderers, had match winner Bill Perry's medal hung around his neck when he was two days old. After the match I met up with my old friend and former next door neighbour John Wilson, his brother in law, son Roger and grandson Liam.
By 5.00pm Blackpool were top of the league and Ollie said that he was going take a photo of the league table and retire at the top. Chelsea, who played the late game and beat West Bromwich Albion 6-0 at Stamford Bridge were on top by 7.00pm. Next up for mighty Blackpool is Arsenal on Saturday at The Emirates. Win or lose Blackpool and their travelling army of fans are up for it.