Blackpool: Boycotting supporters set for emotional return after Oyston exit

1,823 Blackpool fans made the trip to Accrington Stanley on Tuesday night ahead of their return to Bloomfield Road

When Bloomfield Road opens its doors on Saturday, in excess of 14,000 Blackpool fans will welcome a new dawn for the seaside town that has its team back.

Following an excruciating wait, the League One visit of Southend United marks the end of the Oyston family’s turbulent reign and an emotional return for the crowds.

An unwavering four-year boycott united supporters, yet Blackpool – a Premier League side in 2010-11 – appeared in free-fall. Plummeting into English football’s fourth tier on the back of three relegations in five seasons, a sustained lack of interest from those in charge left fans with little optimism.

Now, after an arduous period of fleeting hope and demoralising set-backs, concluded by a High Court ruling on 13 February, the subsequent announcement of owner Owen Oyston’s removal signals the end of a damaging struggle.

“When you’ve suffered for something, when you’ve been deprived of something and you’ve fought for it and won, that gives you so much pride,” Blackpool Supporters Trust chairwoman Christine Seddon told BBC Sport.

“It’s been a very, very, long, drawn-out and painful campaign. There have been some very dark times. When nothing seemed to be happening, that’s when it was hardest.”

‘They know now what fans are capable of’

The atmosphere at Blackpool in recent years has been nothing short of toxic, with the owners suing fans for online comments epitomising the disconnect at the heart of the club.

A burning sense of injustice took hold as a Premier League legacy failed to materialise, and payments from the club to companies owned by Owen Oyston and his son Karl, former chairman, realised fans’ suspicions of mismanagement.

Court rulings in November 2017, brought by shareholder Valeri Belokon, found the Oystons had “illegitimately stripped