David Reidy was back in Bloomfield Road for the first time in four years on Thursday. The Blackpool supporter of nearly six decades had brought with him a couple of buckets to do some cleaning. Over the previous three days, he had scrubbed more than 1,000 of the orange plastic seats, getting them ready for Saturday’s match.
“The ones in the corner were the worst,” he said. “The seagulls seemed drawn to them. They had four years of muck encrusted on them. On some, it was six inches deep. It was really disgusting.”
As visual metaphors go, it would be hard to beat what was going on in Blackpool’s home stadium this week, as years of accumulated filth was being washed away to ready the place for the League One fixture against Southend United.
Normally, this would be an encounter dismissed as the very definition of run-of-the-mill. But, after what happened in the High Court two weeks ago, it has become a match charged with emotion. Because, for the first time since May 2015, Bloomfield Road will be packed with Blackpool supporters.
After four seasons, the longest-running fans’ boycott in English football is over. Since it became clear that the unpopular ownership of the Oyston family is no more, the supporters have been excitedly preparing to return. Already, nearly 15,000 tickets have been sold, which suggests – given that in the club’s brief sojourn in the Premier League, 1,200 seats were given to visiting supporters – this could be the biggest gathering of Blackpool fans at the place in 40 years. No wonder locally they are calling it “The Homecoming”.