Blackpool back in business
13th August 2010
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If only Gipsy Leah Petulengro could have foreseen in 1970, when she first set up on the promenade, that the glory days were over - for the town and its football club.

Blackpool, famed worldwide for its illuminations, piers and sticks of rock, was on the brink of decline, unable to compete with cheap package deals on Spain's sunny costas.

At the same time, Blackpool FC were in crisis. Once the home of English football legends Stanley Matthews and Jimmy Armfield, and with Man United, Chelsea and Arsenal among its peers, the club could no longer compete with the higher wages paid by the big city clubs.

 After 30 years in football's top flight they had been relegated to the old second division in 1967.

They made it back into the old Division One in 1970, but were relegated again the following year - beginning decades in the wilderness.

As the club sank, slowly, to the bottom tier of the English league, so the resort's seafront attractions became tired and unloved. And there they languished, town and club together.

But now both are back in the big time.


Tomorrow, the new Premier League season kicks off with Blackpool in football's top flight for the first time in 40 years, bringing a £100MILLION boost to the seaside town.

While the townsfolk have quietly rebuilt the resort, Blackpool FC have won three promotions in ten years, each via end-of-season play-offs. And last season's promotion finally saw them back with the big boys.

The drawback of unexpected promotion is that neither club nor town seem quite ready for it.

A £185m revamp of the seaside promenade, to create widened walkways for open-air festivals and concerts, and an upgrade of the seafront tram lines, will not be completed until next year.

 The Grade I-listed Tower Ballroom is still being restored, but it offers further evidence that the town is once more getting ready to look at the stars.

 In May a sea of 100,000 tangerine-clad fans greeted the open-top bus parade by Seasiders' manager Ian Holloway and his heroes who won promotion to the Premier League. It was reminiscent of the promenade scene that greeted Blackpool's FA Cup winners of 1953

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