Sweet Revenge ? AFC Blackpool 0 AFC Liverpool 2 (FA Vase Second Round)

Posted: November 17, 2010 in Assorted Match Reports, Fan Culture

13th November 2010

Last Saturday morning we were visiting Claire’s granny in Fleetwood, and then we were off once again to the big match: AFC Liverpool at AFC Blackpool in the glamorous FA Vase. We drove past the factory where they make Fleetwood’s most famous export, Fisherman’s Friends, but that only made me shudder and want to load up on sweets and chocolate for the match. So we took the opportunity to visit a proper old-fashioned corner sweet shop, the locally-famous Rimmers. No papers, no tobacco, no groceries, just rows and rows of jars of lovely sweets. The friendly septuagenarian owners carefully weigh such delicacies as vimto lollies and parched peas into quarter pound bags (if weights and measures officials are reading this, I asked for “120 grammes”, honest). If you ask really nicely, you might even get a two ounce bag (“60 grammes”, if the Metric Stasi are reading). Parched peas for the visit to gran, sherbert lemons for Claire and chocolate limes for me. My confection of choice when I can’t make up my mind whether I want chocolate or a sweet.

Grounds in leagues like the Northwest Counties (Vodkat) Division One are similarly reminiscent of a bygone age, and like Rimmers sweet shop, I reckon we should treasure them and make the effort to visit them more often. That’s what I believe, but of course what I actually do is another matter. When AFC Liverpool was first being set up, I told my mates I was thinking of getting a season ticket. That was when I thought the best part of a thousand fanatics were going to turn up at Valerie Park every week in search of real honest football and a real atmosphere, rather than just a couple of hundred. So despite all my best intentions I never even made it to a single AFC Liverpool match until this, their third season. Living across the Pennines in Leeds is a decent enough excuse, and anyway Prescot turns out to be a bugger to get to on public transport from there. Meanwhile I’ve been to more AFC Wimbledon matches than AFC Liverpool. In fact I have to confess I’ve seen FC United more than I’ve seen AFC Liverpool ! Whatever my infidelity, all of these fan-founded, fan-run teams are an inspiration and long may they prosper.

The first time FC United of Manchester came to AFC Blackpool, the year after their foundation, the seaside away day was treated as a kind of “Euro away” by the new protest club, and they brought some 4,500 fans, with the tie switched to Bloomfield Road and both clubs making plenty of useful cash out of the whole day. Today’s away cup tie has attracted 45 AFC Liverpool supporters out of a total crowd of about 135.

Personally I have mixed feelings about whether AFC Liverpool should also have been set up as the protest club that their bold and Bolshie badge design suggests. It could have been, but it wasn’t, for good reasons that have been debated and put to bed by now. Because their raisons d’être are so different the comparison between AFC Liverpool and FC United has become spurious, not to say irritating,  to all who are involved with the fledgling Merseyside club.  “Is It Against Liverpool FC?” is a FAQ on their website “No. Quite the opposite,” surfers are told. “It draws its support base from Liverpool fans. AFC Liverpool fans still support Liverpool and those who can afford to will still go to Anfield to support the Reds. The club is meant as a grassroots addition to Liverpool FC, not to be a replacement for it…..thousands of Reds can’t get to games anymore, either because it is difficult to get tickets or because they can’t afford them. The average age of a Premiership fan is 43, so we need a way to get kids hooked into experiencing football at an actual match, surrounded by a passionate LFC community.”

But the inevitable result of it not being a protest club, particularly with AFC’s home ground being well outside Liverpool itself in Prescot, is that average crowds are less than a tenth of FC United’s, averaging around 140 at the moment, and I’m told that just a couple of dozen kids do regularly attend the games.

Of course for some AFC fans it’s also at least partly about being able to stand. For their £5 (£3 kids), today’s crowd can choose whether they stand or sit, leeward or windward, sing or stay silent, bring their own flasks, sup their own fine ales or avail themselves of the clubhouse facilities. The away contingent  are free to stand and sing, and to change ends at half time like so many of us used to do in the good old days. I’m reminded of many happy childhood days at the lower league grounds, but there’s certainly no innocence in the chants of the away fans. These old-school supporters aren’t too bothered about making friends, whether it was “You can stick your raffle up your arse” or “Tangerine, tangerine,  Your tower’s shit, And so’s your team.” And there was me naively thinking there would be plenty of mutual solidarity amongst the supporters at this sort of level.

Surely not as proud and honourable as ... a seagull !??

Liverpool were the better team from the outset, and the disparity in passing ability was such that it was actually hard to believe that these two clubs  stand in adjacent league positions, second and third respectively. Despite all their superiority, though, AFCL did not force many saves and were lucky not to go in at half-time a goal down, the referee not seeing the clear case for an AFC Blackpool penalty.

Blackpool rallied second half, especially after AFCL took their deserved lead with a penalty of their own, but as the home side tired AFCL had several chances to settle the match. My own vote for man-of-the-match, Karl Gornell on the left, broke powerfully out of defence and floated an inch-perfect crossfield pass to Steven Jones, who turned a defender inside out and calmly rounded the keeper to make it 2-0 with virtually the last kick of the match. Check it out at the very end of the match highlights video, around 8 minutes into this clip:


“A goal fit to settle any cup tie” is my featured cliché-of-the-day.

By then those away supporters were already looking forward to a trip to “Wemberley, Wemberley….we’re the greatest club in non-league and we’re going to Wemberley,” and combining both the predictable and the extremely unlikely in their promise that “We’ll be drinking in the bars, When we win the FA vase, AFC, AFC”

If they do progress beyond the next round, AFC Liverpool will indeed have to be seen as real contenders, because  the draw has presented the Liverpudlian faithful with a longer and far tougher trip to the seaside in the next round. The holders themselves, Whitley Bay, await on December 4th. Hopefully this FA Vase run can continue and attract a wee bit more glam and publicity to swell the AFC Liverpool crowds, the same way that this season’s FA cup exploits have helped further accelerate the causes of AFC Wimbledon and FC United. Onwards and upwards.

I wish I could say that a Liverpool victory over a Blackpool side was sweet revenge for Claire’s lads’ nightmare victory (or glorious triumph, depending which side of the relationship you’re on) at Anfield a few weeks ago, but she didn’t seem all that bothered. Meanwhile for me the sweet taste of victory didn’t even last as long as the chocolate limes and sherbert lemons, which we were still sucking as we watched on telly in the pub while the other Liverpool, all too predictably stumbled and then crumbled at Stoke.

  1. Alright mate – a belated thanks for the kind words on my Half Man Half Biscuit report on the HMHB Lyrics project! Been struck down with a fluey chest infection this week (hence the late reply) which, although inconvenient, seems to have coincided nicely with postponement of the Whitley Bay v. AFC Liverpool game. I wouldn’t have made it to the game if it was going ahead as I’m still feeling pretty ill.

    I like your reports on the gig and the AFCL game here – looking forward to going through more of your posts when I’m feeling better!

    Are you likely to be making it to the re-arrangement in Whitley on Dec 11th? 2pm kick off. Interestingly, the Premier League Liverpool are playing at St James’ Park at 5:30 on the same day!

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