Talk to a septuagenarian Seasider and they’ll tell you all about the glory days of the 1953 FA Cup final, Stanley Matthews and Stan Mortensen. For most supporters of Blackpool, however, first-class football was a leaf from the history books until 2010, when the Tangerines made it to the top flight for the first time since 1971 thanks to a dramatic play-off victory.
It’s been quite an adventure climbing back to the top – in 1983 they finished 89th in the league – and Blackpool are loving every minute of it. So are most of those watching, thanks to the side's attacking approach under Ian Holloway, perhaps the most charismatic and entertaining manager in England.
Blackpool have easily the division's smallest budget and ground: bolstered by a temporary the 16,000-capacity Bloomfield Road has been thrust onto the stage halfway through a makeover like a blushing victim of Trinny and Susannah. Every home game here has the air of a major cup-tie – and the team have responded with a delight in winning many of them.
As if joining the party at the stadium wasn’t enough, you’ve also got one of the finest party towns in the country at your disposal both before and after the game. Take a trip up the 158m Tower, lose your lunch on the Big One rollercoaster, stroll along the Pleasure Beach in a Kiss Me Quick hat and – from late August to late November – enjoy the genuinely spectacular illuminations. And who knows: Ken Dodd or Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown may even be in town. Awesome.
When Blackpool started redeveloping ramshackle Bloomfield Road in 2000, they were in the bottom division. The huge but closed Spion Kop, at the north of the ground with the Tower as a backdrop, was demolished and replaced with a stand named after club (and England) No.9 Stan Mortensen, with the similar West Stand named after club (and England) wing wizard Stanley Matthews. The South Stand, named after club (and England) right-back Jimmy Armfield, duly came along in spring 2010.
The three stands are identical, neat single-tier cantilever affairs. The odd one out, the East Stand, is a temporary but sizeable (5,000-seat) affair half given over to away fans, although unlike the others it has view-obstructing pillars. Understandably given the club's recent promotion and small ground – there are more than 50 English football grounds with bigger capacities – tickets aren't easy to come by.
Blackpool South is the closest train station, approximately a 10-minute walk to the station. Irksomely, it's two miles to the town's bigger station Blackpool South, which is served by trains from Manchester. If you’re driving, simply drive on the M55 until you reach the end and follow signs; there's a large pay-and-display car park at the ground.
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