“Where will we be in five years time?” It’s a question that people like to ask as they look ahead to the future. If Blackpool fans had asked that question back in January 2011, not too many will have said that they would be watching an unrecognisable Seasiders team defeated at home to Port Vale as they remain stuck in the League One relegation zone.
Five years ago this Tuesday, a packed Bloomfield Road watched their side earn a famous 2-1 win over Liverpool in the Premier League. The decline at Bloomfield Road since then has been staggering, to the point where the stadium, that was rocking during that campaign, is now only a quarter full at best.
Owned by the ever-unpopular Oyston family, against whom the fans continue to protest, the club has slid down the Football League ladder since their debut Premier League season ended in relegation on the final day of the season at Old Trafford. Now on their sixth manager since the enigmatic Ian Holloway departed, the club has seen a vast turnover of players and even nearly began last season without enough players to fill a squad.
It’s a desperate situation that shows no signs of improvement. Manager Neil McDonald remains upbeat, at least in public, but there is every chance the club could suffer back-to-back relegations and start next season in League Two. Opposition to the Oystons will say that they would not care a jot if that happens but the club are at least backing McDonald in this window, with the arrivals of Danny Philliskirk and Mark Yeates from Oldham this week likely to be backed up by more acquisitions before the end of the window.
The issue is that it’s a constantly revolving door at Bloomfield Road, and the toxic atmosphere that resulted in the abandonment of the final game of last season due to a pitch invasion has given way to pure apathy as the majority of fans keep away from the stadium on matchdays. It’s not an environment that breeds success and the corner that is often threatening to be turned, seems to get further and further out of reach.
The joys of the Premier League campaign, including that famous win against Liverpool are still very fresh in the memory of the fans and all those connected with the club. It was the impossible story – the dream that was realised – but that dream has given way to a nightmare. They are below local rivals Fleetwood in the League One table, are the lowest scorers in the division and are staring relegation to the lowest tier of the Football League squarely in the face.
But there is little sign of the gloom lifting. The fans are desperate to remove the Oyston family from the club, but don’t have the finances to do it themselves and Blackpool simply aren’t an attractive proposition for those who do have the financial clout.
Staying in League One has the be the sole aim of the club this season, and if you had told Blackpool fans following the victory over Liverpool that would be the reality five years down the line, they would have refused to believe you. The famous old club, built on the history of Stan Mortensen and Sir Stanley Matthews, are fading fast and the bright lights of the Premier League seem like a distant memory.