There is a generation of men for whom sport is set in stone. Certain teams are good, some are bad and some are indifferent and will always remain so. In the USA, this would be the Brooklyn Dodgers generation. No matter that they moved more than 4000 miles away, to these guys they will always be in the fifth borough no matter how much time passes. In England, certain teams represent the golden era so no matter how many ill-gotten pots Chelsea and Man City rack up between them in the next austere decade, neither will have the lustre of a Wolves, a Preston North End or a Blackpool.
It is the latter which will unleash a tidal wave of Tangerine nostalgia over England until the World Cup starts as this most traditional northern footballing outpost returns to the top flight for the first time since 1971.
In the 50s, a still rationed and war-ravaged Britain sought to raise its collective spirits with the package holiday – an all-inclusive two week break for the family at a seaside resort with the attendant amusements for all the family contained within the price. Affordable air travel was a pipe dream for the masses so for every Scottish, Welsh or Northern family the only destination was Blackpool. Home of Pleasure Beach – British Six Flags – the Tower, a world class ballroom and the Golden Mile, named after the various amusement arcades and bingos dotted along its length. During winter months, it’s home to the illuminations, a low-wattage British Vegas in every sense. During its heyday when millions of tourists flocked through the town, the team was a powerhouse. Their finest moment being the 1953 FA Cup final when aging England legend Stanley Matthews tormented the Bolton Wanderers defense to win his first medal. The game became known as the Matthews Final, which always struck me as slightly unfair as his England colleague Stan Mortensen scored a hat trick in the match!
Like the town, the team faded into complacency and when the good times ended they both had nothing to show and hold onto but faded memories. The team spiraled down the divisions to the basement before beginning to crawl back to respectability, the town is still spiraling, being the stag and hen center for the underclass, nightclubs open 24/7, and obscene t-shirts and candy their main currency today.
My stag do (that’s British for bachelor party) was a three day event in Manchester. For the middle day I suggested a night out in Blackpool, we arrived at lunchtime and five hours later were back in Manchester, shocked and chastened by what we saw in those manic four hours.
Every Premier League fan will be delighted that the Tangerines are back and it will be the most anticipated away trip of the season, but be careful what you wish for. The stadium has a 13,000 capacity and the night out is a cross between episodes of “Hee Haw,” “Life On Mars,” and “Cheaters” with a spot of “Girls Gone Wild” and UFC thrown in for free.
Britain’s Las Vegas is about to have the brightest lights in sport shone on it and if you’ve ever been in a nightclub in the daytime, you know that certain pursuits operate best under cover of darkness. Even if they are a dream, especially a Tangerine one.
Guy Bailey is a senior writer for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.