We journalists spend a lot of time defending our professional colleagues. No, no, we inisist, journalists don’t spend all day sitting around in the metropolitan bars of central London, making up stories, dreaming up issues to ferment controversy and never getting their hands dirty to research a story. We’re meticulous professionals, we say. We’re God-fearing diggers in search of the truth who will stop at nothing to get the facts right and expose the dark and shady corners of society. Lazy, feckless fantasists? Never . . .
And then every once in a while, some prat (and in this case, it took all my powers of self-censorship to come up with a term so mild) comes along and makes you wonder why you bother.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Paul Wilson.
There’s no real need for a step-by-step Fisking of Wilson’s article as it has been more the covered in the comments section, with supporters of Blackpool and Preston showing an unprecedented common front in trashing his nonsense.
But, perhaps for therapeutic reasons, here goes;
I say supposed, because while Blackpool and Preston are geographically neighbours and technically rivals, the only person I have ever heard mention such a relationship is Jimmy Armfield
Perhaps Sir Jimmy is the only Blackpool supporter Wilson has ever spoken to? And he’s never met anyone who follows Preston? Perhaps by ‘people’ Wilson means only those he meets in the press boxes of the Premier League (and he’s never been to a Blackpool game)? The rivalry runs as deep through West Lancashire, if you’ll excuse the dreadfully overused cliche, as the words in a stick of Blackpool Rock. You need about 30 seconds on a message board dedicated to either club to understand this.
Preston have not spent the past half-century hating Blackpool or wishing they would climb back to the big time so that rivalry could be resumed
Well if Blackpool did climb back to the big time, as they did in May last year, they wouldn’t be facing Preston, who haven’t been there since the 60s. The two teams have played fiercely contested matches in each of the last three seasons, before which there was a seven year period when Preston were in a division above.And you have to go back to the late 70s and early 80s for such a long time without a derby game previously, and even then there was rarely more than a division between the teams. Whether it was Blackpool celebrating promotion with a Fred Pickering hat-trick at Deepdale in 1970, sending North End down, or a televised cup tie in 1994 in which third division Preston beat second division Blackpool while the Deepdale fans pilloried their former idol Tony Ellis for making the journey up the M55, those games have always been fiercely contested and drawn huge crowds, compared to what both clubs can normally bost. Even in the early noughties, Preston’s principal fanzine was called Who’s That Jumping off the Pier? – presumably not in reference to Burnley, or even Wigan.
Perhaps the most damning evidence comes from a 2003 survey of more than 2,800 football fans by Football Fans Census. Despite coming in the depths of the ‘great divide’, it makes clear that both clubs saw each other as their principle rivals. Finding it wouldn’t have been hard, if Wilson had bothered, it’s linked on the rivalry’s Wikipedia page.
Wilson then goes on to debate those Premier League teams he considers to be without a natural rival. He ponders pairing Blackpool with Bolton or Wigan.
Bolton are available but uninterested, mainly because there is no history between the teams.
This is cobblers, and quite possibly the most offensive thing Wilson has ever put to print. Putting aside the obvious matter of the most famous FA Cup final in history, Wilson chooses to disregard surely the most tragic day in the modern history of either club. The first murder inside a British football ground.
A plaque outside Bloomfield Road commemorates the short life of Kevin Olsson, stabbed to death in August 1974 at the age of 17. Older supporters still speak of being held in Bloomfield Road’s old Kop stand for hours, before being ushered out via a line of police officers taking name and address details. Doubtless those memories will flood back when the two sides play on Saturday.
While it’s true that the pair haven’t met for a while, there was certainly an intense atmosphere around the game at the Reebok Stadium – and, sadly, more than a little trouble outside as well.
No history? Perhaps Wilson thinks football was invented by Rupert Murdoch in 1992? He wouldn’t be the first.
“There is, however, and always has been, a natural affinity between Wigan and Blackpool, dating back to the Wakes Weeks and doubtless beyond. Many a Wigan hen party ends up in Blackpool, George Formby not only sang of a little stick of Blackpool rock but went to live there, and most of the donkeys from Blackpool beach spend their winter holidays in Wigan.”
This is where Wilson really loses it. A football rivalry based on the fact that people from Wigan used to go on holiday in Wigan? Spare us please. Presumably, on that basis, Blackpool should be nurturing rivalrys with the Potters of Stoke, Celtic and Rangers, Birmingham City and just about every other club in the north of England and Scotland. Perhaps Wilson is unaware that Blackpool is more than Wigan by the sea. Or perhaps he’s just a crap journalist who wouldn’t know a coherent argument if it smacked him in the face.