By Neil Fissler
BLACKPOOL fans could be forgiven for thinking someone was against them after they blew automatic promotion in successive seasons.
For the second season running, they reached the Twin Towers of Wembley as they bid to get out of Division Four.
The Seasiders were beaten on penalties in 1991 by Torquay United after blowing automatic promotion on the final day.
Twelve months later, they had another chance to go straight up when they went into the last league game only to lose to Lincoln City and miss out by a point.
After seeing off Barnet in the play-off semi-final, Billy Ayre’s side returned to Wembley to face Scunthorpe United – the team they had put out in the last four 12 months earlier.
It could have been a different story had Aldershot not gone out of business and had their points deducted as Blackpool had beaten them twice.
“When we played Torquay, we were quite confident and even went a goal ahead,” said David Eyres. “Big Dave Bamber missed a penalty and Torquay went on to win the game.
“We were devastated, absolutely gutted, but really determined the following season that, if we could keep the same squad and maybe add one or two, we could win promotion.
“We got ourselves into a position to go straight up and the last game of the season was Lincoln away. If we’d won, we would have gone up, but we lost.
“It was in our hands, like the season before when we had to go to Walsall. If we had won that game, we would definitely have gone up as well. So, it was a case of falling flat on our backsides.
“When Aldershot went out of business, it cost Tony Rodwell a hat-trick and us six points. We were gutted because we had worked so hard in both games.
“We went to Aldershot and won 5-2 and beat them at home 3-1 and I got a couple of goals.
“The goals were wiped off and the points, whereas it gave a couple of clubs around us the opportunity to get a bit closer.
“To be honest, going to Wembley two years on the bounce was a great achievement. I have always thought that, if you are going to go up, the best wayis via Wembley.
“It was heart-breaking the first season, one of the worst moments of my Blackpool career.
“When it came to penalties (against Scunthorpe), I was absolutely bottling it.”
Eyres scored what turned out to be the crucial penalty after Graham Alexander had missed for Scunthorpe. He remembers that half the ground thought he had missed as well.
“I had scored the odd penalty that season,” he said, “but I just made my mind up to hit it as hard as I could.
“The Scunthorpe keeper was a big lad and I thought I needed to put it as far in the corner as I could at pace. I smashed it and it hit the stanchion and came back past me. I hit it that hard.
“Half the ground thought I’d hit the post because the ball was heading towards the halfway line but I knew I had scored and celebrated.”
- Grant Leitch: Winger who became the leisure club manager at the Village Hotel in Cheadle.
- Ian Gore: Central defender who ran a Sheffield firm called Lockstock & Two Full Barrels.
- Andy Garner: Midfielder who worked for a printing company and as an account manager for an agency but is now first-team coach at Burton Albion.
- Paul Groves: Defender who managed Grimsby and Bournemouth, coached at West Ham, Portsmouth and Crawley and is currently academy manager at Bristol City.
- David Eyres: Midfielder who was joint caretaker manager of Oldham Athletic with John Sheridan. He’s also been a match summariser for BBC Radio Lancashire and is now an agent.
- Mark Taylor: Winger who was a physio then performance director at Fulham and Sunderland and director of football operations at Bolton.. He now runs his own recovery and stimulation business.
- Tony Rodwell: Winger and uncle of Sunderland’s Jack Rodwell. Ran Southport’s programme for academic and sporting excellence and also works for the Press Association news agency.
- Steve Redmond: Physio who spent 13 years at Bradford City until 2008. Now has his own practice in Leeds and is academy physio at Huddersfield Town.
- Trevor Sinclair: England winger, who coached at the Carlton Palmer Football Academy but is now working as a pundit for the BBC and other broadcasters.
- Paul Stoneman: Defender who was Halifax’s youth team coach and managed Bridlington Town. Now working for the family building firm in Whitley Bay.
- Phil Horner: Defender who qualified as a physio and worked at the Royal Preston Hospital before returning to Bloomfield Road as physio in 2000.
- Carl Richards: Striker who returned to live in London and was last known to be a house husband based in Brockley.
- Steve McIlhargey: Goalkeeper who sold insurance and coached goalkeepers at Morecambe and Fleetwood. He is now running his own financial services firm, West Park.
- Dave Bamber: Striker who settled in Blackpool, where he became a property developer and now runs Bambers Contractors.
- Dave Lancaster: Forward who lives at Bamber Bridge and, like former teammate Mike Davies, was an engineer for British Aerospace at Samlesbury, Lancashire.
- Chris Hedworth: Centre-half who qualified as an accountant and worked in North Tyneside, Australia and New Zealand.
- Mike Davies: Right-back who coached at Blackpool, worked for British Aerospace at Samlesbury, Lancashire, and has been a carer at a children’s home.
- Neil Bailey: Midfielder now based on the Fylde Coast. Worked at Manchester United’s academy, then the PFA and was reserve coach of Sunderland. Now a coach educator for the PFA.
- Alan Wright: Left-back who coached at Blackpool’s centre of excellence and managed Northwich Victoria and Southport.
- Mark Murray: Full-back now living and working in his native Manchester.
- Gary Brook: Striker who managed Gainsborough Trinity, Ossett Town and Bradford PA. Works at New Hall Prison, near Flockton.
- Billy Ayre: Later managed Scarborough, Southport and Cardiff City and was assistant manager of Bury before his death at Ormskirk in 2002, aged 49.
- Dave Burgess: Right-back who has coached at Preston North End’s academy.
- Andy Gouck: Midfielder still based in Blackpool and working in social services in Fleetwood.
- Nigel Hawkins: Forward who is co-owner of the family motor business, Berkeley Vale. Also Yate Town director of football.