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Hollow promotion for Blackpool Football Club

Tuesday 30th May 2017
Blackpool Football Club saw off a talented Exeter City side in Sunday's thrilling League Two play-off final. But, it was an unfulfilling feeling for the Blackpool faithful.

The Tangerines went ahead within three minutes when Mark Cullen deftly brought the ball down and flicked into the path of a driving Brad Potts; Potts would make no mistake of it, firing into the bottom corner and sending the Blackpool fans into delirium. Exeter levelled just before half-time, through David Wheeler, who bagged his 21st goal of the campaign. A floated ball over the top was smartly controlled, Wheeler then proceeding to delightfully lobbing it over the onrushing goalkeeper - it was a goal fit for the Premier League. Yet, it was Blackpool who would claim the final goal, Cullen this time on the receiving end of Potts's play: a shot at the City keeper falling into Cullen's feet - he would not miss from two yards and an empty net.

But, this was a hollow victory for most Blackpool supporters. Fewer than 6,000 Blackpool Football Club fans turned up for their trip to Wembley: in comparison, 37,00 attended their Championship play-off against Cardiff in 2010. Exeter City took with them over 17,000 fans to watch their team at Wembley. It was the culmination of this season's protest against their owners, the Oyston family; whilst this article will not be drawn into the politics of this particular fan-club dispute, it should be noted that this is a remarkable show of defiance.
The video above explains the Blackpool fans version of why the boycott took place. 

Thus, Blackpool's victory will be met with ambivalence; it can be used as justification for the staying of the current owners. A prospect many fans will not be happy with. But, it is still promotion; there are still those experiences of euphoria - victory.

And the players, manager and staff should be euphoric. They've battled adversity, resolved in the face of protest and gained promotion in the lottery of the play-offs. Gary Bowyer, the Tangerine manager, has done a remarkable job in bringing stability to a club that had experienced back-to-back relegation and should be lauded enormously.

It was his calmness, composure and confidence in his players that enabled them to sneak into the playoffs on the final day of the season. He would then inspire them to a 6-5 aggregate thriller against Luton Town in the semi-finals. Luton was the favourite for promotion, too. And, as Blackpool players headed for the tunnel in their play-off final, looking lethargic, it was his management that saw them release a new lease of energy. For Blackpool would surely have lost had the game continued as it did in the first half; Exeter was persistent in its attacks.

So, a win in the playoffs for many Blackpool fans feels hollow, wrong almost; how can they celebrate their club when it is no longer their club? Blackpool seems to be losing its identity, its character - oppressed under the pressure of chaos. That's why this particular final is unique. Unique not in a special way, but in a bad way, a very bad way.

Blackpool Football Club seems to be losing its identity, its character - oppressed under the pressure of chaos. That's why this particular final is unique. Unique not in a special way, but in a bad way, a very bad way.

No celebration of promotion should be marred by club controversy. Blackpool's special day has been tainted and that is why it feels hollow, empty and unfulfilling for many Blackpool fans.
Michael Jones

Football & political writer with a predictable love of everything retro. English Literature undergraduate at the University of Exeter, looking to pursue a career in sports journalism. For a collection of my work, visit. http://mikejonesmedia.wordpress.com

Follow me on twitter: @jonesmichael_97

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