By Rob Johnson
Back in the dark days of the late 90’s Rovers ‘benefactor’ Ken Richardson drove the club to its knees and to the brink of extinction. Some of Richardson’s actions were comparable to Mr. Burns constant evil plots to dupe the good people of Springfield. Whilst Ken Richardson never attempted to block out the Sun, he did put Belle Vue up for sale (despite not owning it) and also paid a former SAS man to burn down the ground for the insurance money.
Years later Belle Vue is long gone, not because Richardson got his wish but because Rovers somehow survived through efforts from former players, an optimistic and generous chairman but most of all from the fans themselves. The funeral procession before the Colchester game following our relegation seems a long, long time ago now as Rovers have tasted life in the second tier in English football as well as a trips to Wembley and the Millenium Stadium.
In our darkest hour Brighton fans, themselves struggling at the hands of their tyrannical chairman Bill Archer, found a solidarity with Rovers which led to joint demonstrations and a relationship that has lasted ever since, cemented by Rovers being the last team to play at Brighton’s Goldstone Ground (sold by Archer for no profit to the club) and the first team to play at the Amex Stadium.
This brings us nicely on to Rovers opponents on Saturday Blackpool FC. Owner Owen Oyston, a man convicted of raping a 16 year old girl when he was 58, has mostly left the running of the club to his son Karl Oyston. A man living off his father’s millions, Oyston Jr has become almost a pantomime villain in the football league after changing his personalized number plate to OY51 OUT (Oyston Out) as a way to mock those that continue to support their team. Under Oyston’s regime Blackpool have been relegated twice, have constantly seen managers and playing staff come and go, the statue of the legendary Stan Mortensen was sawed down in response to planned protests from Blackpool fans and in a particularly pathetic act, the Oyston’s even sued their own fans for comments made on a message board.
It is hyperbole to suggest that Rovers wouldn’t be where they are now if not for Brighton fans and vice versa but meeting up with kindred spirits who help you remember why we do all of this, why we spend the money and put in the hours year after year is the only thing that keeps supporters going through the hard times. Just as the Tangerine Knights (the fan group set up to lead the protests against Oyston) are currently focusing their efforts on trying to raise money for Northampton Town, we must remember where we came from and join Blackpool in any chants or protesting that may happen during Saturday’s game.
The big clubs don’t care about Blackpool or Northampton or Rovers for that matter, the FA don’t care, the local councils don’t care, so it is up to us, the supporters, the lifeblood of any football club to stand together and show the Oyston’s of this World that they can’t just throw our clubs away like a discarded toy out of their silver lined pram.
Stand up and be counted.