Yesterday, it was announced that Gary Bowyer would be departing Blackpool having guided them back to League 1 and kept them there, all against the odds.
This summer, Bowyer initially had to pay out of his own pocket for Blackpool to rent training facilities in Preston as the club’s own were not up to scratch. The club later reimbursed him.
I wouldn’t have thought the training ground issues would come as a surprise to anyone who has seen the state of Blackpool’s pitch in recent years.
We have had our own turmoil in recent years at Bolton Wanderers. However, it pales into insignificance when we compare it to what Blackpool fans have had to go through.
I think we are lucky, in many ways that the Andersons are football people. Say what you want about them, but they do understand and care about the game.
Blackpool is a great club with proud history. Think of the likes of Stanley Matthews and Jimmy Armfield who have adorned the famous tangerine shirt. Even in recent years, remember their season in the Premier League under Ian Holloway.
People often criticise footballers for being prima donnas and wanting everything done for them. And while I believe that, yes, footballers should generally be more down to earth especially when fans work so hard to be able to attend games, in order for them to be able to focus on doing their jobs properly they need the correct facilities. Especially when they are competing against people who have them.
Here’s a great quote from Bolton Wanderers legend, Alex Baptieste, recalling his time at Blackpool:
“Washing your own kit in the Premier League. In the play-off semi-final, having to walk to the ground because the bus broke down. No balls in training, having to run on the beach because the pitch had been frozen for two weeks, no food after training, leaks in the portacabins, having to buy our own weights – just random stuff like that! It was definitely an experience!”
Just so you know, Baptiste said this in an interview on Blackburn Rovers’ website when asked about his ‘most bizarre life experience’.
While it’s all good feeling bad for the players and managers like Bowyer, it’s the fans who suffer the most. The fact that fans had to boycott games at Wembley is truly tragic. What did Blackpool fans ever do?
So, to the title of this article. My warning to football club owners is this. While you may own the club, the fans have been there much longer. There have been owners before you and there will be owners after you. However, the fans will always be there. They work hard every day – Biesla’s calculations showed that an average Leeds fan works three hours just to be able to see their team play once.
Owners can be good; they can help improve clubs, and take them forward, and fans can be eternally grateful for that. However, just because owners are footing the bill does not mean that they can strip a club down and try away from it. The supporters will always be there and remain the soul of the club.
Don’t mess with our clubs.