12/9/17 Leeds United v Blues. Rip off Britain.

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And I thought security was strict down St Andrews.

Unsurprisingly town was fairly quiet. Kids being back at school helped. I had a quick one in the Wellington. I’m not sure I’m ever going to truly like it in there. There’s not one thing I can pin down as the reason for feeling like this but I just don’t feel right. Pint drank, I went for the train. There were a couple of tourists trying to get through the barriers. Working out where to put the ticket was causing a problem for them. I showed one of them what to do. Where were the staff? Everything seems to be impersonal these days. Having electronic ticket scanning barriers hasn’t made it any quicker and when you have someone who doesn’t know what to do, which is a regular occurrence, It actually causes a bottleneck. Before this occasion, I’d been to Leeds 6 times, 4 times by train. I’m only just now getting used to the place. For me, there is no other station I visit that is as confusing. Not only is the station layout confusing but also the street layout round the station is confusing. Every other mainline station I know has A and B ends to the platforms. Leeds has A at one end, B in the middle and then C at the other end. It’s got 2 lots of footbridges, but not where you’d expect them to be. Outside, it’s just as confusing, with concealed steps and tunnelled walkways. Partly luck, partly hazy memory, I found the hotel I was staying in. This was my first stay over of the season. In my eyes, staying over on a night game is the ultimate commitment to supporting your club. After doing a game in Europe obviously. I checked in. I was staying right opposite the station in the Discovery. Not only was it ideally placed but the staff were really friendly. I dumped my gear and went to meet Steve Whaley in Tapped after a quick visit to Ladbrokes on the way. He also thinks that the station and surrounding streets are confusing. It was comforting to know that I’m not as stupid as I thought, or does that mean me and him are as bad as one another? Last season, we made a right hash at finding the bus to the ground, tried walking to the ground, took a wrong turn, did a huge circle of the ground and ended up getting in 20 minutes after kick off, missing the first 2 goals. We were both determined that wasn’t going to happen again and wouldn’t have to resort to using taxis. The subject of the Bree Louise and it closing to make way for the HS2 came up. It’s due to close its doors for the last time in mid November. It just seems appropriate to visit one last time to say T’ra. The place has been the last port of call on many a London trip. We compared lists of the pubs we wanted to do. Steve’s got the new G.B.G. and his list was a bit more comprehensive and up to date than mine so I happy to follow his.

The North Bar was on both our lists anyway so we started there. I tried pushing the door open when we got there without actually reading pull on the handle. That was a good start. The place is a cafe style bar. These places are definitely getting more and more popular. The next place was to be my favourite of the trip. The Belgrave Music Hall. Very very student orientated but really comfortable. A place that had I been 30 years younger, would’ve spent an awful lot of hours in. If I lived in Leeds of course. They’d got a pizza counter to your right as you walked in, the drinks bar and then a burger bar. The food smelt gorgeous. We vowed that this place would be the start of a Saturday game.

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The Templar Bar was next. I was expecting better. It’s one of the John Barras pubs of Green King. Usually these pubs are a bit spectacular. This place isn’t. With a bit of T.L.C. It would be. It had horse racing on a couple of the T.V. screens. In my experience, It attracts the retired Carling brigade. Never a good thing. It had been in the Good Beer Guide for a few years and neither of us had done it. I can’t see either of us going in there again. As it was after 5 o’clock, Steve attempted to buy his Hull ticket. It wouldn’t let him put his card number in. We went to a Clink style bottle shop next in a Victorian/Edwardian shopping mall called Tall Boys.

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If you didn’t know this place was here, you wouldn’t know this place was here. It sold 2 different products, beer and weirdly, bread. Not sure whose got the best range of beers out of here and the Clink but if I was getting dragged round the shops by the Missus, I would be dragging her in to here. Maybe that’s why they sell bread. Now there’s a cunning plan.

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The beer priced £25.65, is a Canadian import. It hasn’t got an A.B.V. on it. Is that because it’s strong and unstable or because it’s actually pop? Not sure I’d pay the price to find out. I’m sure there’s someone who would. Nat Peters probably. It was on to Foleys Tap House next. It was Steve’s 68th birthday the next day and he reckons he’s unfit. If I’m as unfit as him when I get to his age then I’ll be more than happy. There’s people half my age that aren’t as physically fit as Steve. This place was named Leeds pub of the year for 2017 by Camra. You could easily see why. Easy on the eye, comfortable and excellent beer. Steve tried ordering his Hull ticket again, this time it worked. Ticketmaster strikes again.

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My photo doesn’t do these eye catching pieces of artwork justice. The other thing this pub had was an extremely viscous looking dog but he was so passive that if I hadn’t known any better, I would’ve thought he’d been shot with a tranquilizer gun that afternoon and was just coming round. Time was moving on and we both still wanted to do the Hop. If seeing Andy Bird on Saturday was a surprise, then seeing Paul “Tin man” Edwards in here stopped me in my tracks. We’ve lost touch over the years but he was actually my best man when I got married the second time. I went over and said hello, he was tucking into the meal deal like he hadn’t eaten all year. A pie, mash, baked beans. The whole lot swimming in gravy. It looked horrific.

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Has any other pub in the country got this as a walkway to it?

Time to get the bus. This year, we managed to find it. Elland road is 4 miles from the city centre. The ground is a mission to get to and the away end appalling. Being charged £37 for the “privilege” of watching a championship game is a disgrace. But then you’ve got idiots like me who will pay it. I was to talk to a Leeds idiot named Phil after the game. The photo at the top of the page shows Steve’s bag with a tag with Birmingham on it, put there after they’d searched it. Talking of searching. Not for us, the usual pat down. Nope, we had to do the starfish whilst we had one of those electronic sensor metal detector tennis racket things glided round us. All to watch a game of football. Do opera goers get this sort of treatment? Ladies day at Ascot? I think not. I could easily add to this list but I’ll just leave that for a rant on another day. If I’m being totally honest, I hadn’t rated our chances against Leeds. Early in the season it maybe but their results had been fairly impressive so far. Going behind was no surprise.

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It wasn’t THIS bad though.

As the half wore on, we got better, started looking a team and not a bunch of strangers. We finished the half the stronger of the two teams. I went downstairs to see who was about. Our away following was pitiful. Another rant for another day. Probably after Middlesbrough. It wasn’t hard to spot regulars. I saw Dave Moyna and Rob joined us. They had the same view of the first half as me, It was a improved performance from Saturday. We started the second half even stronger than the we ended the first and we just got better. We completely dominated the second half and the Leeds fans went quiet. A sure sign that they were more than concerned we’d get the equalizer. The equalizer and winner never came and to add insult to injury time, they scored with a sucker punch.

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I’d never seen this place so full. Except us lot

On the way out, Steve encountered one of our lot that is obviously never happy unless we’ve won ten nil. There was just no placating him so Steve shrugged and gave up. The heavens were still unleashing hell in the shape of rain, rain and more rain. At least the wind hadn’t put in the predicted appearance. Steve found out he’d lost his return bus ticket. He was expecting to have to go half way round the ground to get another one, he didn’t. The bus back into town was quicker than expected but then the steps were closed. The shop at the bottom still open. Leeds just doesn’t make sense. We dived in Tapped and attempted to stop squelching as we walked up to the bar. We caught up on all the other scores. The results of the clubs you have soft spots for take on a little extra significance when you’ve lost. Sometimes, there’s no straw that isn’t clutched at. I had that optimistic disappointed feeling. Step forward every Labour supporter, the day after the last election.

We swam to the Head of Steam. It was here that we got talking to a fellow idiot. I’m never going to get tired talking to proper football addicts. Phil the Leeds idiot had seen the game in exactly the same way as we had. When you see as many games as we have and pass that moment when it dawns on you that there are other clubs than just your own, your view of the game and football related topics becomes balanced and honest. You become respectful of other addicts clubs and those addicts that follow them. We had earlier moaned about the £37 we had been charged. Pay on the gate was a £5 mark up. Phil mentioned it was too much before we’d had the chance to bitch about it again. He’d paid £800 on top of his £500 home season ticket for an away season ticket. Not an executive deal in sight. Leeds sell out virtually everywhere they go, regardless of what division they’re in, so he won’t be the only mug. I use this term with a boat load of respect. It works out at £34.78 a game if you’re trying to work it out in your head. I know of only 2 clubs that charge anywhere near that in the Championship, so the club is making profit where profit shouldn’t really be made. Screw the corporates by all means but don’t rip off the people who have the clubs name and emblem running through their very soul. Am I wrong in thinking it’s immoral? I got kicked out of the Head of Steam by the early morning cleaner before getting some munchies from what seems to be a 24 hour shop across the road from the Discovery. I sparked out watching the telly.

The revitalization powers of a shower should never be underestimated. Refreshed, I went for a mooch round the city centre before going in the Scarborough Hotel. I was not surprisingly the first one in there. It was just after 10 o’clock on a Wednesday morning after all.

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The Scarborough is a Nicholson’s pub. Another that is well looked after. They’re a little impersonal but beautiful none the less. I spotted an ale from the Madness collaboration with The Yorkshire Brewery called Absolutely. Sometimes you come across a beer that you just have to have. Nice hoppy pale ale. Just the right thing to aid the recovery. A couple of Replica wearing Leeds fans came in carrying their overnight bags and ordered breakfast. They were 50 somethings Northern Irish. Make no bones about it, this lot are heading back to the Premier league honey pot. There’s a buzz about the place. They’re a National club. One that has the likes of the Irish lads coming over on the ferry. Don Revie’s legacy still hanging over the club like Busby at Manchester United, Shankly at Liverpool, Nicholson at Tottenham. Steve joined me. We talked about yesterday’s pubs and game before heading for the train. We caught the 12:11 Penzance train back to Brum. The train itself was due in Penzance at 20:54. A posh sounding old couple got on with their 2 dogs. Fish out of water. This pair struggled to work out that most of the seats were not only reserved but where they were reserved from and to. They went up and down the carriage, various passengers trying to help them until it dawned on them that they weren’t going to be able to sit together. Most trains in this country are cramped at the best of times but trying to settle big dogs in to hardly any space at all isn’t ideal. At one point a trolley dolly was trying to make his way down the carriage but one of the dogs legs was in the way. The owner advised in a very matter of fact way to kick the dogs leg out of the way. I had images of the dog biting the bloke with the trolley, causing him to fall over a stray bag, up ending the trolley, covering everyone with tea, coffee, sandwiches, soft drinks, crisps,  yes madam, what can I get you? Milk? Sugar? Neither me or Steve were sitting in the seats that we’d been given. By that, I mean, you get compulsory seat reservations Traveling by train can be a minefield for the uninitiated. Steve had split his journey to make it cheaper. 3 times in fact. He didn’t have to get off the train, just change reservations. I’d made mine cheaper by advance purchasing. I’d bought mine in June. I’d also got a compulsory seat reservation. We’d worked out that a couple of reservations next to one another from Leeds to Cheltenham on the opposite side of the table weren’t being used, so we sat in them. A couple who were traveling for business and had possibly got expenses paid for turn up on the day, pay full price but no compulsory reservation tickets, sat opposite, viewing the digital seat reservation indicators with trepidation before we reassured them, they’d be fine and why. They sat there in disbelief. Surely, this would only happen in this country. How can a cheaper priced ticket guarantee you a seat over a full priced ticket? How can splitting a ticket for the same train be cheaper than one that isn’t split? Two different companies can provide a service on the same line yet one is cheaper than the other. How does the dearer company vindicate charging more? It makes the Duckworth/Lewis formula seem like counting on your fingers in comparison. Talking about having to be extremely clued up. When I touched down in Brum and parted company with Steve, I caught the bus up to St Andrews to get my Hull ticket. Thankfully, It wasn’t as painful as I was expecting it to be. Perhaps it was because all the summer staff had started secondary school and the permanent staff were back.

 

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