My first memories of Blackpool as a football club relate to Stanley Matthews playing for them. His presence could be guaranteed to put a few thousand on the crowd, but he wasn't always able to play, leaving many people disappointed. For example, at the match at The Valley on 23rd February 1953, played on a Monday for some reason, Blackpool fielded six reserves and lost 2-0. The attendance was one of the lowest of the season at 15,913.
I am pretty sure I was at The Valley on 10 October 1953 as one of the 56,664. Matthews did play, but Blackpool lost 4-2. The next year it was known that Matthews would not be playing and just 16,354 saw the match played on Thursday afternoon (which was early closing day). I would have been at school.
When the Seasiders had their brief stay in the top flight, their attacking style of play won them many friends. I always felt that if they had spent on one or two good defenders, they might have survived. But, of course, they received substantial parachute payments which have helped them to maintain their challenge. Last season they finished 5th, followed by the bitter disappointment of a play off final defeat. Nevertheless, it was an impressive campaign under Ian Holloway.
The Times predicted that they will finish 4th this year, despite frugal transfer spending. The Football League Paper was much less generous, forecasting a finish in 16th place. Four Four Two was somewhere in between at 9th. So far The Times forecast is looking the best one, but it's early days. What one can say with confidence is that they are unlikely to be relegated, but are also unlikely to be outright champions - although it's not impossible. The fan forecast in Four Four Two was for a play off finish and that looks realistic to me.
Blackpool winger Tom Ince faces a late fitness test as he looks to return from a hip problem. Skipper Johnnie Jackson (hamstring) is a doubt for Charlton, and I would be surprised to see him start. Loan players Rob Hulse and Abdul Razak could both make their full debuts for the Addicks, but Ricardo Fuller should keep his place after scoring in midweek.
The Seasiders have dropped points in only four of their last 15 home league games against the Addicks, and are hoping for a third successive Bloomfield Road victory over Charlton. Our last win there was in the old Third Division in March 1981. The Seasiders came from behind to secure their fifth league win of the season, with a 3-2 victory at Hull on Tuesday, and avoided a third successive defeat. The 3-0 defeat at Cardiff was away from home against a strong side. The team in tangerine have won every league game in which they've netted more than one goal, and remain the top scorers in the division, with 19 in nine.
All this sets a tough challenge for a faltering Charlton already hit by long-term injuries to key players. If we win this game, I would be delighted but very surprised. A draw would be a good result. My fear is something like a 3-1 defeat which would probably see us fall into the relegation zone depending on results elsewhere. Millwall, the Massives and Ipswich all have home games tomorrow, although Millwall have to take on Bolton while the Tractors face Cardiff in the evening kick off. Regardless of what happens elsewhere, I do think that we will make a game of it.
Back in the 1950s newspapers used to have a 'golden guinea' man who would visit resorts like Blackpool in the summer. If you were carrying a copy of the paper concerned and spotted their man, you could answer a simple question and win a prize of £1.05p (which was worth a lot more then). If you see away reporter Paul May tomorrow and tell him which of Blackpool and Charlton finished higher up the table in 1953/4, he will buy you a pint.