For 2 weeks I’d been checking the weather forecast. It wasn’t a big ask; nothing like ‘a home win’ or ‘an early goal’ or Boyceeeees shirt or even an away win. All I wanted was a wind from the south east and no rain
just as my letter (with self addressed & stamped envelop enclosed) to Ben Watson for his autograph, did. (tight get)!!
Saturday morning came, and all in the name of a game of football and I was up before dawn cracked at 06.00 am. I woke the birds up, and the one next to me. It was raining in Warwick and belting it down in Brum.
I met my good mate 5 years ago on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Blackpool when the Zog scored in the first minute, Hugo slotted home and then Diame scored Wigan’s first and only goal under Roberto the Relegator from outside the box. It was a stunning day, in every sense.
Let’s just say he’s a good lad and has several good ideas, amongst which was a trip to Barnsley, several pints of beer and yet another suggestion. Usually we are both involved.
“What do you think about cycling to Blackpool for the game, it’s in aid of Joseph’s Goal”? He asked. Another stunning good idea. “Yup, that’s a cracker”. I was committed. Having now said I’d do it I figured I should think about what lay ahead. According to AA route finder it was only 73 kms and would take 48 minutes. Sounded easy, four and a half times further than I cycle to work (in 35 minutes) and with Blackpool being by the sea it was surely downhill all the way. As easy as winning the FA Cup .
As I wasn’t able to join the peloton on Friday Emma and Paul arranged for me to go with Wayne and Stef on Saturday. I was kinda anxious about that; they didn’t know if I was going to turn up on my old bike dredged up from the canal and I didn’t know if they were aspiring Jaques Anquetil and Eddie Merckx. In an attempt to give me some credibility before I met these guys I spent the day polishing my spokes, pumping up the tyres to 110 lbs/sq/inch and high pressure hosing the chain to get every bit of resistance offering grit off. It would have been like Perch’s boots being clagged up with mud. A slithering skid at every corner.
Wind and rain was forecast for Saturday. Friday was like a day on the beach in Nice, but maybe a tad colder. Blue sky, no wind, sun and the potential of scantily clad people (in my delusional mind). But it was OK on Saturday, I left the monsoon in Stafford and when I arrived in Wigan all there was was grey cloud, gentle breeze and NO rain and over clad people. Clearly Nice was a delusion.
Off we set, pedaling in a peloton of 3. The wind from the south pushed us north and before I knew it I was heading up the Lytham front into Blackpool. Bamber Bridge had flown by like Jean Beausajour running down the wing and Preston was a blurrr, it disappeared at the speed of Boyceeeee after a few weeks off.
My trusty and wonderful pacers decided to show me what they were made of and before they’d even had a chance to engage the next gear I was at the bottom of the table, forlorn and alone like Blackpool and they were away at the top with Bournemouth.
Eventually, like Wigan I caught up, ate some bananas and drank. Stef and Wayne needed to be back in Wigan; they turned around and no doubt were back home before I was on my bike. I headed off to Blackpool. My directions were clear. “Go down the road until you get to the sea, and then keep it on your left”. (Going the other way may have given me a premature trip to Southport, or renewed my acquaintances with Liverpool)
Lytham loomed and as I turned the corner, I knew I was starting to dehydrate. Visual impairment started, coming and going into and out of focus. Clearly my blood pressure was falling into my Shimano shoes; my blood sugar was nowhere near as sweet as it should have been. I looked up and the Eiffel Tower appeared on the horizon. I knew it was the Eiffel Tower, because I’d just pedalled past Charles De Gaulle airport, but as usual with the French air traffic controllers, they were on strike, so it was quiet.
I found a café et avec une tasse de chocolat chaud et beaucoup de sucre et je mange une grande pièce de gâteau. Suddenly things were looking up but less like Paris. The idea of watching PSG was sadly becoming less of a reality. Poor Blackpool is looking so degenerated, and Paris looks a bit different. But the delusion was sort of charming!
Or was I delusional. All that seemed to happen was Bloomfield Road came closer with asking 1 helpful person, and then suddenly it was “oh, at least 5 miles away; nearly there though” on asking another. I knew I wasn’t far away as the number of Wigan supporters was becoming exponentially greater. They were like mosquitoes in a nudist camp. Busy busy busy, with more and more excited noise.
Joseph, Emma and Paul welcomed me to the finishing line even though the black and white chequered flag had been put away ages before. I felt sort of important. It was a lovely welcome. Even Jimmy Armfield smiled at me.
It was clear that I was still dehydrated. I headed for the ‘Albert and Lion’ to join my mate who had texted me several times to ask ‘where are you’? He was settled in having kept toasty warm aboard a Northern Rail Rattler
Slowly all those miles were finally starting to seem worthwhile.
We entered the hallowed stadium of the famous Jimmy Armfield and jobless Ian Holloway. Or did we? Were we in the local park? In front of us lay an expanse of flat ground with no apparent turf, I assume it was to be euphemistically referred to as the ‘pitch’ and may have had the Blackpool beach donkeys on a few hours earlier. If Arsene thought the pitch at the DW was poor, then only the French could draw a simile for this – merde! Or was it all just an illusion? Talking of delusions from dehydration….. did anyone else see this t-shirt on a Wigan fan
At half time those 5 guys came on with their garden forks. There was a strong chance they’d start planting potatoes, thinking they’d arrived at the allotment. But no, they tapped the ground and I’m sure it made all the difference for what was to come in the next 45 minutes. (Just what is their purpose)?
The atmosphere was palpable and fun. It wasn’t until I got home that I realised why we were singing about Heskey being shitte, Paul Scharner used to be and Austrian, Roger Roger, Super Mario and That insignificant goal Ben Watson scored. Reliving good times 90 songs in 90 minutes. It was amongst the top 10 best Wigan days out for me. Thanks Folks!! Added to that not only did we score, we scored 3 times!!
As for the football, Bong was bong on and played a blinder. Kim is the new Maloney, he’s every where all the time and even scores. Pennant has had all forgiven and is here to set up and score goals. Kvist knows that the only way to score goals is to get it up front and even in the box, in any manner, kick or throw. McGuire is the defensive brick wall, tall at that. All I want now is for WAGs to be a regular starter, with MAF just behind him, constantly feeding him to get every one of those 19 attempts – IN the goal. Belief is the key, and I believe it’ll happen!! Ever the optimist.
And when all those goals go in Ella and Kath have nothing to worry about My exuberant and 59 year old youthful celebrations will be calm and controlled.
The sooner the FA get video replays the better. It’s outrageous that everyone at the DW is offside and that hand ball hasn’t yet been written into the rules book. Even WAGS goal against Bolton was offside, but just this once they let it happen. Sharpy can run a football club better than a chippy. I’m fed up of the nervy times I’m put through but I love the fairy tale endings. We will stay up which will be neither hallelujah hallucinations nor more delirious delusions.
The bike ride was fun, and thanks to Geoff, Carl, Mags, Dad, Ali for your very generous donations / sponsorship for Joseph’s Goal. Thanks Wayne and Stef for pulling me along in the slip stream.
Blackpool was a great day out and so was Paris. The Tour of France was exhilarating. PSG played well and so did WIGAN!