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'All good things come to those that wait'. When Gary Bowyer left the helm at Bloomfield Road after just one game in August 2018, Owen Oyston was showing no signs of being pushed off his throne and defeat to Portsmouth left the Seasiders in the bottom four, it looked as if we would be in for another season of frustration and turmoil. Like a limpet sticking to the pier, Oyston seemed to have a tight grip of the fortunes of Blackpool FC even with mounting debts and dwindling crowds. Whilst other fans revelled in the start of another football season, Seasiders fans made the weary walk down to the garden centre and supermarket rather than going down to Bloomfield Road. NAPM had become the norm, passion had been replaced by pessimism and the sands of time to Oyston's demise seem to pass ever slower. So who could have predicted the tumultuous events of the next 9 months which ended with the fans, and not Owen, watching the team they loved (although in Owen's case that was always highly debatable).
It's hard to know exactly what pushed Gary Bowyer's button on that day in August, which was enough for him to give up one of just ninety two managerial jobs in the Football League and join the unemployment figures. Having worked in conditions and under restrraints a pub team manager would be frustrated at, Bowyer had not only won his side promotion and finished a creditable 12th but he'd built a squad over the summer which put Blackpool in a better place than they had been for a number of seasons. It had always felt like Bowyer was the last piece of sticking plaster keeping Owen's crumbling club together. The fact Terry McPhillips almost immediately ruled himself out of the job spoke volumes about the state of affairs behind the increasingly farcical facade and dealing with Morticia Oyston was clearly no better than working with Uncle Fester. However, August was kind to McPhillips as his team gelled quickly and 3 wins and 2 defeats, including getting over the notoriously tricky first two hurdles of the League Cup, saw him accept the poisoned challice by the end of the month. 'Pool's win against QPR in the third round of the competition made for an unlikely scalp and set up the first of two cup games against Arsenal. Sadly, Seasiders fans missed them both due to the on-going boycott but the fact they came close to an upset on both occasions was testament to how far McPhillips had brought a side who only the previous season had taken an early bath against Boreham Wood.
With news that Blackpool were employing an undertaker to work on the pitch at Bloomfield Road, many felt the long, slow, painful, death of the club could only be reversed in the court room. The fans had done their bit, Belokon had done his bit, the lawyers had done their bit but until Justice Marcus Smith stuck the final nail in Owen's coffin, the impasse would have continued. There havel been many memorable dates in Blackpool FC's history 02.03.53, 13.04.70, 12.06.71, 22.05.10 and you can now add to that 23.02.19 - the day that Justice Smith paved the way for an end to the Oyston era. Whilst on the pitch, the Seasiders comtinued to make a fist of another season that past most fans by, this was the moment which prompted an attendance of 15,871 at the big return against Southend. Chances are not even a new owner could inspire such numbers to walk through the Bloomfield Road turnstiles, but the departure of the Oystons brought fans out in their thousands. With a new board in place, it felt as if a new broom had swept away the cobwebs of four years (and the pigeon shit) and given a gentle poke to the sleeping Giant which had been put in to an induced coma. Whilst there were a few rumblings of a Play Off push, it was arguably the one season where mid-table mediocrity along with a seismic shift in the club's position was welcomed by all. Being Blackpool, nothing is clear-cut and many questions remain about how we'll start next season but it feels as if we've removed a rotten to the core obstacle to the Seasiders future and now have a clear path ahead of us to build on.
In some ways it was reassuring to hear moans about season ticket prices, the manager's capabilities and even the club running dry of half-time refreshments because 12 months ago those would have been complaints we'd have been desperate to moan about. As the curtain comes down on a season few will forget, even if it was just for one day in March, McPhillips side defeat against Peterborough on Saturday is a reminder that, even with new owners at the helm, football is rarely a bed of roses. Whoever takes over the club this summer has an expectant fanbase ready to greet them. What Blackpool fans need to remember is, no matter who gets the keys, they can't be as rotten as the last lot.
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