Seasiders fans '˜Glad All Over'
They cheered, they chanted, they put their arms in the air and they sat ashen-faced with tension during a draining 96 minutes.
But it was all happening in Blackpool – 240 miles away from Wembley, where the Seasiders were bidding to make an immediate return to League One.
The fans’ beloved Blackpool FC had surprisingly made it to the League Two play-off final.
But with a massive anti-Oyston family boycott under way, only an estimated 6,000 fans made the trip down to support their team.
The Seasiders have been to three play-off finals at the new Wembley stadium in the last 10 years.
On each occasion they’ve taken between 27,000 and 37,000 supporters to the game.
It was a different story yesterday as the vast majority of fans reluctantly watched at home and in pubs and clubs around Blackpool because they did not want to put another penny in the club’s owners’ pockets.
The Blackpool Supporters Trust. which has led the anti-Oyston boycott, had planned to show the match on a big screen.
But those plans backfired and it was left to stay-away supporters to decide where – and if – to watch the game.
At the Boars Head pub in Marton, the premises was packed as drinkers, diners and die-hard football fans watched the game on eight TV screens.
Tangerine was in evidence – but maybe not as much as you might have expected. Many fans are happy to talk about the Oyston situation – others want to steer clear of it.
Landlord Andy Trotter said the pub was a regular haunt of many Seasiders fans and he wasn’t surprised at the massive turnout for the televised game.
He said the fact that so many had chosen to stay away from the final in protest at the Oyston family’s continued ownership of the club was telling. But he added cheekily: “One man’s loss is another man’s gain.”
The atmosphere was fairly subdued at the start.
Fans clearly had mixed emotions and were torn between supporting their club and not lining the pockets – as they see it – of the Oystons.
No doubt many secretly wished they were in Wembley – but needed to show solidarity with the Oyston Out campaign.
The low number of travelling Blackpool fans was a far cry from previous trips to the play-off finals when rows of fans cheered their team to promotion.
Wembley was noticeably quieter as Blackpool took on Exeter.
And so was the Boars Head.
All that changed when the Pool went 1-0 ahead.
Then they conceded an equaliser before half-time.
As the fans grabbed another drink, the pub’s music system was playing the anthemic “Glad All Over” in the background.
“I hope they haven’t put this on too soon,” said one fan.
They needn’t have worried – Pool went ahead again and held on during an agonising six minutes of extra time.
It was obvious this audience cared.
Fans jumped to their feet and beer was spilled as the final whistle came.
It was a mixture of joy, relief and not a little sadness that they had not witnessed their side’s success in person.
Anti-Oyston fans Neil Clark, Kay Allen, Leanne Benson, Connor Benson-Clark. Tyla Benson-Clark and Andrea McGill sat watching the game with Oyston Out scarves draped on their table.
Neil said after the final whistle he had agonised about going to Wembley, but wanted to keep up the boycott.
He said: “I love Blackpool FC but I don’t want to put any more money into the Oystons’ pockets.
“I’m delighted for the team now. It’s going to be struggle next season. To be honest I might consider going back for the odd match. I certainly won’t be buying a season ticket – I suspect they won’t sell that many.”
Kay said: “It makes you cry what is going on. We really wanted to go to Wembley but we decided not to. I’m crying tears of joy for the team now - it’s so emotional. It’s fantastic. – well done!”
Tyla was also delighted. But asked if she would return to watching Blackpool at Bloomfield Road next season, she said: “No – not while the Oystons are still there.”
Andrea said: “I’m so pleased for the team – we wish them all the best. We have never meant them any harm.”
Another fan who would not be named said: “I feel terrible not going to Wembley – so many of us do.
“I hope the atmosphere was okay with so few people there.”
Blackpool Supporters’ Trust feels the Oystons are clinging to the belief that success on the field will bring the supporters flooding back.
That may not happen – but for the moment the fans in the Boars Head were certainly feeling “Glad All Over.”