We sat down with the man who led the Blackpool team out in the homecoming, fired that memorable penalty at Accrington and saw the monumental club ownership change first hand, Jay Spearing. He gave his perspective of the significant changes that happened to the club during his time at Bloomfield Road, as well as his departure in the summer, having initially discussed extending his contract.
Jay Spearing was talking to us in episode #28 of the 1-2 Podcast which is also available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.
Jay made over 100 appearances in tangerine, initially coming in from Bolton Wanderers – having just won promotion back to the Championship with them. Initially brought in by Gary Bowyer, Spearing also played under Terry McPhillips before Simon Grayson took charge in line with the takeover from Simon Sadler. Neil Critchley was his fourth manager and the pair initially held talks over an extension of his deal, but those talks stalled during the outbreak of the global pandemic.
Recalling his talks with Neil Critchley when he took over in February 2020, Jay said: “No lies whatsoever… I told him I wanted to stay. He told me that he wanted me to stay – this was before COVID with a deal that was initially mentioned in the January window. We both said that I’d like to sign a new deal. I said right, no problem. I couldn’t think of a better place to be as the club was still on the up and I got on really well with the new owner.
“Then COVID hit and things changed, the deal that was on the table and what was talked about then kind of was, with the way the world was going, taken down quite significantly and it just didn’t work for me personally.
“Critch again tried to battle his way and explain to the board that he wanted me to be a part of it. I explained that I didn’t want to leave, but also that I need to be looked after I’ve been there. You know I mean I’ve been a club captain, maybe for two-and-a-half years. I did everything that I could for the club. I wanted to continue on the journey. I felt I fitted the club well. I felt that I had led the boys well and got on well with the manager and the owner. Everything just seemed right for me to do.”
“Sadly, the contract on the table just didn’t work out for me. They only offered me one season – a one year extension – and I was looking for a bit more security. I’ve got a family to look after at the end of the day. My children and my wife come first and if it doesn’t work for them, then it doesn’t work out for us in the long run and I need to look elsewhere. But there was no denying that I wanted to stay at the club. I would have loved to have stayed. But, it just didn’t work out.”
Coming through at Liverpool
Jay was at Liverpool as a youngster, coming through to the first team where he played 30 senior Premier League appearances, some of which were alongside former Pool captain Charlie Adam. He explained the impact the club had on him as a young man, both on and off the field.
He said: “It was the probably the best upbringing and football that I probably could’ve asked for. Going to my team that I support Liverpool at seven. My dad’s friend said they were looking for players for the u7s at Liverpool and they wanted me to come and play. It was me and Craig Linfield at the time who were the key young players, and then we went for six week trial and four weeks in they asked me to sign and didn’t look back. I went right the way through the academy, loved every minute of it.”
On the up again – The Penalty at the Wham Stadium
Jay captained Bolton Wanderers and also had the armband for Blackpool throughout his three seasons at Bloomfield Road, and was always happy to lead by example. That much was clear when he stepped up to take a penalty at Accrington in the fans’ first away day since the boycotting ended. Recalling his memory of the takeover while it was going through and how important that penalty was for him, Jay said:
“That was for us as players – again with all the trouble that had been going on and all the rumours that he was on his way out and things were changing with the fans returning, it was a pivotal moment. The lads thought ‘Wow, we’re part of something special’ and that penalty I’ll never forget it.”
“I took a few big ones [penalties] a couple weeks before and I thought I’ve got this. It felt more special with the jam packed fans behind the goal. The atmosphere in the game was class! It was a Tuesday night under the lights and it was just a pivotal moment. It really made you think ‘wow, this club is on the turn and on the up again’.”
Roar of Noise – The Homecoming Game
Jay also led the team out to play Southend in the ‘homecoming’ game when Bloomfield Road sold out for the first time since 2011. It also marked the biggest home attendance in a number of years.
“I think a lot of lads had never played in front of a crowd like that before, so a lot of the boys would probably have been a little bit nervous, because they didn’t know what to expect. We’d been playing in front 1500 – 2500 maximum a week – the stadium was empty. It was dead. There was no noise. There was nothing.”
“I’ll always remember that day, I’ll never forget it. We jumped out the car in the car park, and I had my mum, dad and the kids and my wife in the car and we jumped out. Literally all you could hear was this roar of noise, obviously down by the front. I was thinking ‘wow this is mental’. If that’s what that sounds like there then it’s going to be a mad day!”
“But all week, leading up to it, the place had this buzz. The staff in the stadium who have been there for years and not seen anyone were asking, ‘are you excited for the weekend?'”
“It was just another moment that I look back on and I’ll never forget, leading out the lads in front of jam-packed stadium.”
Thoughts on Simon Grayson
Following the appointment of Simon Grayson in summer 2019, the hope was that we’d move up the table and challenge towards the top, which happened until Christmas time when we had a run of poor results, ultimately leading to Grayson’s departure in February.
On Grayson’s demise, he said: “I wouldn’t say he lost the players. Grayson, to me, was a fantastic guy and a fantastic manager. We built a side and added a few extras. Those first few months, if you look back at the team selections, we had a similar team and had a connection. We beat Fleetwood, which was a great occasion and we were sat fourth.
“Then in the January window I think he brought in eight or nine players and it really changed the direction of where we were going. When things aren’t broken you don’t need to try and change things. He didn’t lose the dressing room. It wasn’t for lack of effort or lack of trying, but things just didn’t work out.”
To hear more about what Jay Spearing had to say listen to the full interview either on our podcast page or find us on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.
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