IN the absence of any offer of finance from our sainted editor to allow your correspondent to follow Leeds Rhinos to Florida and gross out on room service and champagne, for reasons too boring to go into I found myself in Featherstone (Florida, Featherstone – well they both begin with an "F") watching a pre-season friendly between the Rovers and Blackpool Panthers.
In the unlikely event of anyone being interested, it was not an exciting afternoon. Featherstone tore an inept Blackpool defence apart in the first 40 minutes to lead 50-4 at half-time, at which point everybody seemed to lose interest and the final score was 62-8.
However, it is nice to see a Blackpool club back in the rugby league. Blackpool Panthers does sound rather more trendy than the rather more prosaic Blackpool Borough name under which the seaside capital outfit operated for many years until its demise in the 1980s.
Until the introduction of two divisions in the early 1970s we could only see Blackpool Borough on this side of the Pennines when the vagaries of the Challenge Cup draw sent them in this direction. Blackpool disappeared from the rugby league at the time when a plethora of new clubs was formed – Chorley, Springfield Borough, Trafford Borough.
At least I think it was a plethora, the recurrence of the “Borough” title suggests it might have been one club that kept reappearing in different guises.
Whatever; Blackpool’s record was not much to shout about.
The pinnacle of achievement came in the 1976-77 season when, much to everyone’s surprise, they reached the final of the John Player Trophy (another competition that has gone by the wayside) where they met Castleford (no Tigers then) who were led by player/coach Malcolm Reilly. Again much to everyone’s surprise, this was not the one-way traffic expected and Castleford had to work very hard to win 25-15.
Two seasons later Blackpool won promotion to the first division for the 1979-80 season when to no-one’s surprise they finished bottom with 10 points. (I’ve looked up these dates and figures, I’m not so sad that I remember things like that off the top of my head.)
The highlight of their season (and this I do remember) was that two of those 10 points were won at Headingley. Leeds expected an easy victory, put out a weakened team, leaving John Holmes and David Ward on the bench, and proceeded to give an inept display as Blackpool took a healthy lead.
By the time Holmes and Ward were brought on it was too late and Blackpool, inspired by a blond stand-off whose name I cannot for the life of me recall, recorded a deserved victory.
Apologies for this trip down memory lane about a club that has no connection to Morley. Don’t blame me, blame our sainted editor – I was quite prepared to go to Florida.