THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

John Secker talks about his club Blackpool – the best players he's seen play for them, their local rivals success and the struggle to get out of Division Two

How do Blackpool fans view the current revival of other Lancashire clubs? Is it seen as an encouraging sign or there a sense of frustration that Blackpool should be in there too?
Blackpool fans hate their local rivals, but the am­ount of venom varies. There is little apparent riv­alry with Blackburn, perhaps because it is so long since we were in the same division. It is very different with Burnley, and above all with Preston, who are definitely the team Blackpool supporters love to hate. The other thing is that Blackpool have had their own revival recently – in late 2000 we were next to bottom of the League, and now we are fairly comfortable in the Second Divi­sion.With a little luck we could be play­ing Preston or Burn­ley again before long.

All this means the potential resentment Blackpool fans might feel at the suc­cess of their local rivals is not in practice very strong. However that would certainly change if either Burnley or – heaven for­bid – Preston were to get into the Prem­ier. There is no doubt that most Blackpool supporters were very pleased when Pres­ton failed to make the grade against Bolton in the play-offs last season.

What’s the prevailing view of Steve McMahon? Is there a feeling that he’ll be poached soon if the club doesn’t get out of the Second?
At present McMahon is very popular. He has used his connections to bring in a number of good young players, he has the side playing attractive football and he is a good speaker in the media. He is highly visible, with his role on Sky, and there is certainly a feeling that he might leave if the club is not making more progress. There have been a couple of alarms over the past year, and no doubt there will be more.

What is the best Blackpool side you have seen? And the worst?
When I was very young I saw them playing in the First Division a couple of times, but I have no real memory of the standard of football. The best side I can remember was in the old Second Division dur­ing the mid-Seventies, with players like Mickey Walsh, Mickey Burns, Alan Suddick and Bob Hat­ton. The worst was surely the team of the 1982-83 season, which recorded Blackpool’s worst ever pos­ition near the bottom of the old Fourth Division.

Have Blackpool found a noticeable gulf in playing standards within the Second Division?
I would say not. Clearly there are good and bad teams, but you feel that anyone could beat anyone else on their day. It is as much a mat­ter of the clash of styles which will determine which team will prevail. In prev­­­ious seasons there have been teams which were completely dominant – Ful­ham spring to mind – but not this year.

With Brett Ormerod gone, which player would the team miss most if he were sold?
Undoubtedly Paul Simpson (left), though this is very unlikely to happen. Although his pace is going, his ball skills only in­crease. Of the players who might leave, Danny Coid would be a great loss. He can play in several pos­itions and is growing in confidence and skill.

Milestones & Millstones
1896 First League game, at Lincoln. Lose 3-1 in a Sincil Bank mudbath. Three years later move to Bloom­field Road after merger with South Shore.
1923 Eccentric autocrat Major Frank Buckley is manager, but fails to win promotion before moving to Wolves.
1930 Up to the First Division for the first time. And stay there in 1931, despite letting in 125 goals. Relegated 1933.
1938 Jimmy Hampson (247 goals in 360 games) is drowned, less than a year after Pool win promotion again.
1939 Win first three games, but Hitler prevents march to the title. Black­pool, an RAF centre, has a great war, and the Tangerines win 1943 War Cup with seven borrowed players.
1953 Come from 3-1 down to beat Bolton 4-3 in the game known as the “Matthews final”, unluckily for Stan Mortensen, who scores a hat-trick.
1966 Alan Ball wins World Cup as a Blackpool player – just.
1971 Last season in First Division. Only four wins, including just one at home. With youngster John Burridge in goal, defeat Bologna 2-1 away to win Anglo-Italian Cup.
1978 Relegated to the Third, a single point behind seven other clubs. Then it’s on down to the Fourth under Alan Ball. In 1983 apply for re-election for the first time since 1899.
1992 Win play-off final on penalties against Scunthorpe, having practised the previous year against Torquay.
2001 Recover from 23rd in the Fourth after two months to win promotion again through play-offs

Fondly remembered
Jimmy Armfield ~ The obvious name is Stanley Matthews, but he was a Stoke man at heart. Armfield played his whole career for Blackpool, made a record number of appearances (627), won 43 England caps and was probably the first overlapping full-back. He is long overdue a knighthood.

Best forgotten
Billy Cartmell ~ As chairman he sacked Allan Brown for persoanl reasons in February 1978, with Blackpool seventh in the second division. Morale plummeted, the team won only one more game and were relegated for the first time to the Third, from which they have never returned.

From WSC 180 February 2002. What was happening this month

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