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Blackpool, one of the most consistently successful teams over the years, have never won the First Division championship or the FA Cup. The nearest they got to winning the League title was to finish third in 1950-51. Twice they have reached the FA Cup Final, only to be beaten at Wembley, by Manchester United in 1948 and by Newcastle United in 1951. Yet, despite the lack of major honours, Blackpool have always been one of the most attractive League sides to watch. They favour the classic style, rather than the safety-first defensive methods so prevalent today. Perhaps that is why the honours have eluded them. They require a little more thrust and bite in front of goal to take full advantage of their great mid-field skill. Even in defeat Blackpool have won admiration. Their terrific performance against Manchester United will always find a place among the great Wembley finals. They attract huge crowds, especially when Stanley Matthews and Stan Mortensen are in the attack.
Besides being good to watch, Blackpool are also a sociable and happy crowd. Their compact ground at Bloomfield Road, though not as palatial as some other League stadia, has “welcome” written on the door. Manager Joe Smith, strong-shooting international inside-left well known down Bolton way, is the guiding spirit behind the scenes. His forthright character has moulded the side into the best that has worn the tangerine jerseys.
When they were formed, in 1887, under the name of St John’s, there was a little trouble. The players quarrelled and split up. After a public meeting, the name Blackpool was adopted. This was followed by six good years, during which the Lancashire League championship was won. That led to a successful application for League membership in 1894.
But more trouble followed. Blackpool, after three years in the Second Division, found they could not carry on. They retired gracefully back to the Lancashire League. Then, in 1899, Blackpool amalgamated with South Shore, their local rivals. Once more they applied for League membership and were admitted to the fold. For twenty-one years they plodded on, without creating much of a stir, in the Second Division. In 1930 Blackpool surprised the football world by winning promotion. They finished top of the Second Division, three points in front of Chelsea and five ahead of Oldham Athletic.
One who played a big part in taking them to the top was Jimmy Hampson, the active little centre forward, who met a tragic end at the height of his fame. He was drowned in a boating accident. On January 8th, 1938, Hampson played his last-ever match, an FA Cup tie for Blackpool against Birmingham City. His final contribution was a quick throw-in, seven minutes before the end of the match, from which Blackpool scored.
On January 10th, a day after visiting his wife, Betty, who was ill in a nursing home, Hampson went out fishing with some friends off the Fleetwood coast. Their 40-foot yacht, Defender, collided with a trawler and Hampson was knocked overboard. He drowned, and his body was never recovered. He was 31. He scored the fastest century of goals, 101 in 97 games between 1927 & 1930.
Blackpool had a habit of producing goal-scoring centre-forwards. First there was Joe Lane, then Harry Bedford, who won international honours and Bobby Finan, a little Scot who started as an inside forward. Blackpool remained in the First Division for only three seasons. In 1933, they ended up bottom of the table with 33 points but won their way back to the top circle four years later when they finished second, a point behind Leicester City with Bobby Finan scoring 28 goals.
Many great footballers have played a part in the Blackpool story. Players like international outside left, Harold Hardman, and one of the few goalkeepers to wear spectacles, Jim Mitchell plus Tommy Browell, Stan Ramsey and of course the great Irish international, Peter Doherty.
Stan Mortensen, “Morty”, was a great practical joker and often when signing his autograph would put “The Rock King” or “Second-hand Car Dealer” under his name. When England travelled abroad to play games he would sit on Frank Swift’s knee and be the ventriloquist’s dummy.
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