Two nights in a seaside hotel on the Blackpool Promenade after three trips in 8 days to Manchester made for a busy week after the winter gloom. I met up with former Pool player and coach Derek Armstrong and wife Mary who have run the first class La Jolla Nomads Soccer Club in San Diego for decades. Jimmy Armfield my former school prefect and one only club player with Blackpool, about 650 matche, s and 43 caps for England, 15 as captain. had his funeral at St Peters Church on Lytham Road, round the corner from Bloomfield Road stadium on Thursday.
Derek and I were guests of his former Blackpool team mate Terry Alcock for the League One match with Walsall from the West Midlands. We stopped to pay our respects at the statue of Jimmy at the corner of Bloomfield Rd and close to the South (ARMFIELD) Stand. Lots of scarves, jerseys, flags, banners, flowers, and wreathes from many clubs. I noticed Bolton Wanderers and Leeds United where he managed with distinction, Man City, Charlton Athletic, Liverpool and many more. Three white floral signs as well DAD. GRAMPS and NHS. We enjoyed a pre match lunch in the restaurant overlooking the pitch and the Stanley Matthews Stand with some pleasant company at the Ian Holloway table.
Very sad times at the club. The Oyston family has been in charge for almost 30 years and took the club from the 4th Division to the Promised Land of the Premier League for one season 2010-11, and rapidly down again. The fans have deserted the club until OYSTONS OUT becomes a reality. Only 3,500 in attendance including about 650 Sadlers fans in the North stand which used to be full of chntting, cheering, singing Seasiders. The stand opposite the main one was COMPLETELY empty apart from about 15 reporters at the half way line. The big screen didn't work, there was no stadium clock and sponsors don't want to know in the present conditions.
About 10 years ago Valeri Belokon' a wealthy Latvian based businessman, put in substantial funds to build the South Stand and bring in Charlie Adam who helped the Seasiders into the EPL. He was later pushed aside and despite EPL money for one season and later parachute payment totaling £106 million the Oystons ASSET STRIPPED the club into their own pockets and their many companies. The Latvian took them to court. His QC Andrew Green in the five week hearing late last year described what happened. Justice Marcus Smith totally agreed and ordered the Oystons to pay Belokon £35 million. He said that they had used the club as a PERSONAL CASH MACHINE. They appealed but that was thrown out.
Four days later the club was put up for sale. £10 million was paid in November but the next £10 million, due January 31st never materialised. Justice Smith then ordered that the £10 million plus two later payments of £7.5 million, due in March and May were now due IMMEDIATELY. Owen Oysten the elderly owner fired his son Karl Oyston who had been runnning the club and there was a big family split. They cannot sell many of their assets including the on site Blackpool FC hotel and are in serious financial trouble.
HOWEVER, we were here for a match, and it was a lot more exciting than it might of been on a lousy pitch, which matches the lousy training ground at nearby Squires Gate. Blackpool twice came from behind to tie the match 2-2 in the 89th minute after some woeful defending. Manager Gary Bowyer had no money available during the recent transfer window.
Joe Edwards put the Sadlers ahead against the run of play. Pool equalized through Nathan Delfouneso. Their second goal on 75 minutes was a botched clearance from Ollie Turton and Jon Guthrie tapped it in 2-1. Armand Gnanduillet came of the bench and the Seasiders escaped with 1 point, but are still only a couple of places off safety, and face high flying Wigan Athletic away Tuesday night. They have only won one match in the last twelve.
It's a short 10 minute walk to Blackpool South station for the trip to Preston and beyond. I was joined by three young teenage Sadlers fans who go to every match, home and away and their next outing will be on the supporters bus to Gillingham in Kent on Saturday.
Jimmy's two sons Duncan (named after Duncan Edwards) and John a one time goalie with Accrington Stanley put it well. "Our dad wore No 2 on the back of his jersey every match..but to us he was ALWAYS NO. 1."