Tensions had been running high all week as the build up to the game was keeping most other sporting issues off the back pages. Monday saw the club captain had lashed out at a Mirror reporter after he found him going through his rubbish bins. On Tuesday, Gareth Gettings had been photographed coming out of a public toilet whilst walking his dogs on Stanley Park and the ensuing article made out he was cottaging. Pete Latimer had given an unofficial interview to the Guardian which had been misinterpreted by the reporter. He wrote that Latimer thought several players were not trying hard enough for the club and that some people were not good enough to play for a team with such a long history and tradition. Then on Thursday, Kieron Morrow and his young family were featured in Hello where his wife let slip how much his new club contract was worth. This lead to several players contacting the chairman on Thursday afternoon demanding mid term contract reviews.
To top it all off, Friday’s Sun carried the front page headline “Alan gets Chinese backhander!” The first four pages of the paper were devoted to a rumour that Blackpool’s umpire was involved in a Chinese betting scam and he had been receiving large amounts of cash to predict outcomes of certain games. He was pictured getting off his new £3.2 million pound yacht, which is currently moored in the Wyre estuary, refusing to comment on the allegations.
When Saturday morning came no one was actually talking about hockey. The club had imposed a ban on all player interviews, but as I do have several inside contacts I can report that all the players were talking about was the forthcoming Christmas party. Several of the players were planning to go to a members only club called “The Welcome” to avoid press intrusion before the official club function started. I have it on good authority that large sums of money were gambled by the players in the club over the outcome of several frames of snooker. When the club security men finally tracked the players down and escorted them to the club party all were showing the ill effects of drink.
The mid season party was the first in living memory where partners were invited and by all accounts certainly added a little civility to the evening. The strippers were called off at very short notice and the now legendary ‘How far can she fire the ping pong ball’ game cancelled. What happened after the club party dominated Sunday’s papers.
Paparazzi follow most members of the club for most of the time and they are used to this. But when drink, paparazzi and unruly door staff come together there will only be one outcome. When a large player entourage arrived at club sponsors Walkabout they were refused entry due to petty dress restrictions. When it was pointed out that the shirt sponsorship was worth £9 million over the next 5 years little was done and then after some heated argument the sponsorship deal was torn up on the street pavement. All players refused to enter the bar and are now refusing to play with the Walkabout logo on their chest. When all this was reported in Sunday’s papers several blue chip names were already being mentioned and Walkabout’s association with the club seems to be resigned to the rubbish bin.
As for the game? Glaxo played well and are a well drilled side. Blackpool played OK but never looked like setting the dome on fire. Pete Latimer won the MOM and immediately dedicated it to the players unfortunately mentioned in the Guardian article.
Squad – Blakemore, Woodman, Gettings, Latimer, Morrow, Abbott, Pascqualino, Boniface, Morrow, Whitley, Morgan, Wright, Mortimer.
© Kieron Morrow 14/12/05