It’s been said many times – probably too many by now, but it helps to get the point across – that this time four years ago Blackpool were beating Liverpool 1-2 at Anfield. Four years is a long time in football, but for Blackpool fans, those memories of the premier league feel more like forty years ago.
A lot of journalists and pundits alike called Blackpool’s time in the premier league a “rollercoaster ride”. Let’s say the last four years have been like ‘Oblivion’ at Alton Towers – the premier league when it winches you up to the top, the Championship Play-off Final defeat in 2012 was the painful wait, while the drop back down is essentially still on-going.
The beginning of the end?
Blackpool have been in the news internationally over the last six months, especially after the tennis ball protest in late April during a game against Burnley, which was televised for all to witness. Blackpool chairman Karl Oyston promised things would get better.
The season came to an end and along came Jose Riga and the promised ‘Riga Revolution’, which acted as a slogan for this season’s Season Ticket campaign. It’s been a revolution alright. Of the wrong sorts, of course.
There have been constant disputes and stand-offs between Riga and Oyston, which are still continuing as I type this. In fact, today’s Blackpool Gazette headlines another war of words between the two, with Riga saying, “maybe the truth will get out one day.”
Riga has consistently spoken out against Oyston, which has made him a fan favourite, despite Blackpool recording only two points from a possible twenty one. There seems to be little sign of improvement, but a point away at Brighton at the weekend almost felt like a victory to some, which shows just how far the Seasiders have fallen of late. Tough fixtures against Norwich and Middlesbrough lined up for the rest of September don’t make for good reading.
I’ll get to the point, lots of articles have been written up by journalists far and wide. Only a handful, however, have really pointed the finger at Oyston. It was sad to see Mark Clemmit’s article about Blackpool, saying that Oyston was right to reject certain players from “every nation competing in the Eurovision Song Contest” that Riga had asked his boss to move for. He even went as far as to say that Blackpool fans “go the extra mile” when it comes to seeing the sun shining out of their team’s backside.
There’s only so many times people from the outside looking in can say “at least you’re not in debt” or “Oyston’s stance on agents is refreshing”. In the end, as long as Oyston fills his own pockets, it’s evident to see that he really could not care about the club, the team, the supporters and anything the club has represented over the past 125 years. He didn’t even turn up to a Blackpool Supporter’s Association meeting, which gave him the chance to take some of the weight off of his shoulders.
Perhaps he got cold feet.
Oyston said in his last weekly column in the Blackpool Gazette that he’s “going nowhere”, which can only make Blackpool fans put their heads in their hands and wonder if there’s any ray of light in a very long tunnel.
I don’t personally know the statistics, but with the amount of money that has gone in to the club over the last five years, Oyston surely has the resources to give Riga a team that can challenge for the play-offs. logically it would make sense, as they could make more income from success than they are from the current slow demise. The saying ‘spend money to make money’ comes to mind.
I guess what has happened at Blackpool over the past few years shows that football is losing. The beautiful game is a business now, no question, but when a club is run solely for financial purposes, without a thought in the world for the footballing side of things, or what the club means to the fans and community, it should and must be something the whole of football can unite against, especially the Football Association, who seem to be taking no notice of this what-so-ever.
I’m sure next month Blackpool will be in the headlines again when they take on Cardiff, which will be aired live on Sky Sports – I wouldn’t be surprised if the Blackpool support take advantage of the coverage, and part of me hopes they will, for their own and football’s sake.