There’s a Weatherman on BBC named Matt Taylor, who revels in predicting rain. He loves it. Always looks crestfallen when predicting sun and heat. He’s probably a really nice bloke but for this reason, and only this reason, I hate him. I particularly hate him on a Friday, because you know he’s going to predict rain for the weekend. Saturday morning and he’s on my T.V. doing the weather. I came out the flat and was confronted with predicted wind and rain. This is when you question your sanity. You could easily have stayed in a nice warm bed. What was worse, as I turned the corner, the bus was just pulling off. Next one, ten minutes. This was supposed to be for pleasure. Could be worse. I could support a team with no heart, that lose every week. D’OH! I got down to New Street to be met with no one on the concourse. I was later than I thought. I got on the train, missed Spoons but spotted Steve. The digital seat indicator wasn’t working so I sat next to him. Ian got on and managed to find a seat the other end of the carriage next to Spoons. We were sat opposite a couple of old Geordie lads. After catching up with Steve, we started talking to them. Season ticket holders, one from Cheltenham and the other from Banbury. Another couple of supporters whose club doesn’t mean as much to them as the players that play for it. A couple of hardly ever get the trains, got on and proceeded to hunt up and down the carriage for a seat. The woman’s teeth resembled battlemants. She used her walking stick as more of a hindrance to other people than an aid to herself. She plonked herself down by Ian. Well more on him, to be exact. It’s an understatement if I say that Ian has an eye for the ladies. Even he was giving this one a miss. We got off at Sheffield. With the Sheffield Tap not opening for another fifteen minutes after scheduled arrival, we wouldn’t have minded if the train had been late getting in. No such luck. It was still raining too. It gave me the opportunity to get my return ticket to Barnsley and get a lottery ticket. Turns out, Ian like me, gets a ticket in the place he goes to. Nice to know I’m not the only weirdo. We hit the Sheffield Tap. One thing I hate intensely, is a barman that will use his little position of power and always serve a young female before whoever is waiting longer. Sexism and ageism comes in many forms.
Even on a day off, Spoons gets reminded of work.
Other than a slimy barman, this place is a place you could spend all day in. Well, if you love beer and trains, that is. Mikey had missed the train we were on but turned up on the next. He told us about his latest trip to America to see Springsteen. He’s a Springsteen nut. How much of a Springsteen nut? How’s paying £500 for a ticket do you? I don’t know whether to be appalled or impressed. I’ll settle for bemused. Only Mikey. . . . Me and Steve headed off, we’d meet up with the other three later. I wanted to do a couple of pubs in Sheffield I hadn’t done before. First one, a Thwaites pub, The Old Queens Head. I’m not a fan of Thwaites beer but I’ve found that the ones they didn’t sell to Marston’s, are not too bad. I had a milk stout in here. Nice creamy chocolate taste to it. The landladies daughter kept making an appearance. She was doing her homework. The age old project of ageing paper so it looks like parchment, for religious studies. It was tiring just watching this little girl. Perpetual motion. Couldn’t walk, had to run. My lad was exactly the same when he was that age. If I could’ve got him some trainers made out of lead, I would’ve done. Boundless energy. We walked passed the main walkway down to the station. There was heavy police presence. Both me and Steve were intrigued as to why. Both Blues and Sheffield United fans had played up this season but neither of us thought it was Blues. We called in on the Red Lion next. A nice little back street boozer. No away fans, the signs said. Technically, we weren’t away fans. Wednesday were away to B6 and United had got Hull. Our Brummy accents would confuse enough to be served. A few Blues came in after us. Drinking up, our curiosity got the better of us and we had a look at the reason for the police presence. Hull had landed on the Globe and had took over the place. Pre arranged go to pub obviously. We got down to the station and found the platform we needed. The train was delayed. It got later but eventually turned up. We found ourselves sitting opposite a few of the Roost crowd. Regulars at away games. After a bit of a moan at how inept the team was and agreeing that there was just a total lack of heart shown by them, we started reminiscing about games and years gone by. You do that when you’ve been going all over the country for years, decades. The great games, the awful ones. Always there, long after any player. We left them at Chapeltown. Remembering where The Commercial was, we headed there. Spoons, Ian and Mikey were still there. This little pub is well worth the stop over if you’re on a Barnsley away day. Great range of ales, friendly, comfortable. I wonder what they made of the Birmingham Mail I left? We got talking about traffic congestion and ways to combat it. We’re all big advocates of the railway and public transport in general. Spoons argument was whatever the solutions you were to come up with, it wasn’t going to make a blind bit of difference, the roads were still going to be at saturation point. At first, I didn’t grasp where he was coming from, then I got it. Short stop, single and multi drop deliveries. He’s right. What’s the solution for them? There ain’t one. Thousands of little vans going about their business and clogging up the roads at the same time.
We could’ve had Armitage and the Shanks at number one with Prince Charming instead. After all, ridicule is nothing to be scared of.
Just round the corner from the station is a bakery and a shop that does hot pork baps (Or is that barms in this neck of the woods?) We hit the bakery. Sausage roll and peppered steak pasty in hand, we got the train. Spoons, Ian and Mikey got off at Elscar, to do a couple of boozers there. Me and Steve carried on to Barnsley. Landing in Barnsley, we headed for a fantastic little place called The Arcade Alehouse. It’s in a little Victorian shopping arcade. Undiscovered by the Carling brigade. We both wanted to do the Number 7 too, so we had halves. I was surprised to be served with a goblet. I could just imagine the indignation from the locals when these were first used. In Yorkshire? It’s not chuffing wine pal. On to the Number 7. Steve remembered that he had been in the place before, I hadn’t. The downstairs had been opened up since Steve had been in here last and that’s where we headed as the upstairs was a tad cramped for space. Judging by the power points, I’d say it was to enable the place to put bands on. Always a good thing. Same half pint goblets too. Another couple of decent real ale outlets and Barnsley might be worth foregoing Sheffield.
We hit the ground. I said hello to Steph and the crew, who were loitering with intent. Got mugged by the Noonans, who told me that a hundred Villa had got done by forty Blues outside the Woodman. I wasn’t surprised to hear there was a bit of Morris dancing. St Andrews is a hard place to police and as usual, there’d been a lot of Blues wanting to get at Villa. I wouldn’t want to be one of one’s trying to police it, that’s for sure. Oakwell is one of my favourite grounds. It’s got that proper ground feel.
A sense that this club had been around for some time and wasn’t ashamed of itself. Proud community club. Working class, no frills, family blokes club. Sisters and girlfriends welcome, just as long as they shout and swear as much as the blokes.
Just as we were laughing at hearing that Sheffield Wednesday had gone 1:0 up in the first minute at Villa, Blues allowed Barnsley to take the lead. Don’t worry lads, us fans don’t care. It doesn’t bother us that we’d traveled to a place we probably wouldn’t have visited had it not been for the ground in addiction to Blues. Money it costs? It’s only a few pence to us. Clubs virtually give tickets away to everyone these days and anyway, Barnsley is only a short walk from where we live in Brum. Back in time to listen to Jeff Stelling’s Premier league round up. If this team showed a quarter of the passion us fans do, we’d be in the playoff positions. If they hurt a tenth as much as we do, they’d be top of the league. This was the match that any hope of staying up this season was extinguished. I’ve known we’re going down since Hull. That day, I saw players that do not care. I’m STILL watching players that don’t care. I can’t say every single player doesn’t care but I can count on the fingers of one hand the players who do care, and still have five fingers left. Worzel had made five changes to the team, it wouldn’t have mattered if he’d made eleven or none at all. We were never going to equalise. Half time was a relief. As I made my way down from the back, I got a shout from Daz. He told me that George had lost both parents within weeks of each other. It’s never easy to lose one but I can’t even begin to think what he’s going through. I carried on down to the concourse underneath. Walking through, Spotted Squid on the floor so helped pick him back up again. Then I spotted a face I hadn’t seen for a while. Stevie Hall, a lad who used to go to games with my eldest Nephew. I used to tag along with them for a couple of years. It was good to see him. It’s been a season where I’ve seen a few come back. It’s in your blood, your D.N.A. You don’t lose it. Very few stop and never go again. No matter how much they put you through, you’re still there, like a moth to a flame. Always getting burnt, always going back for more, sucked in yet again. So no Harlee Dean, you don’t hurt as much as us and you never will. An empty statement said by a person who doesn’t know OUR clubs history and hasn’t got the intelligence to even try to understand what the club means to us. How do think I felt when my Son started crying, because Blues had just got relegated in 2006? I’ll tell you how I felt. I felt like the worst Dad in the world for encouraging him to support Blues. Like you lot, that lot didn’t care, didn’t “hurt”. I was hurting as I trudged back up the steps. Got to the back of the stand, spotted a regular at away games on crutches. She could’ve stayed at home and listened to the game on the radio. Do you still go to every game to support your team mates when you’re injured Harlee Dean? I’ll expect to hear that you’re traveling on one of the official supporters coaches, maybe you’ll be on Tony’s disco bus. You could always come with us ale trailers. We’ll introduce you to the stuff we drink that anaesthetizes us enough to be able to watch the half hearted rubbish that you lot serve up. The second goal was as inevitable as day following night. Don’t mistake our gallows humour for apathy. It’s as part of us as our anthem. Born out of generations of disappointment that stretches back to when we were formed. I left with “You’re not fit to wear the shirt” bellowing out from the away end. So no Harlee Dean, you’re not fit to wear the shirt because WE say you’re not. Stop whining, start doing your job. Before you do, apologise for having the temerity to even think that the players are hurting more than the fans, you never have and you never will. You’ll never lose my support but you’ve definitely lost my respect.
I saw Clacker and Sons on the station. Along with me, another three out of the 1,848 who had made the trip to Barnsley and were hurting. I’ve seen Clacker’s Sons grow up. Blues now running through their soul like their Dad. I sat next to a Leeds season ticket holder. He was on his way to Sheffield to celebrate his Brothers birthday. I wondered if wearing a Leeds shirt in Sheffield would be a good idea. I got off at Sheffield and headed for the Bath hotel.
You could just imagine the Shelby’s walking into here.
As you can see from the photo, great range of ales and if coupled with your love of real ale, you love old pubs with original features, then this is a must do. Though not in the same league as Darrell, I can move when I want too, plus it was cold, plus Blues had lost AGAIN, so wasn’t in the best of moods. Think Richard Ashcroft in the Bitter Sweet Symphony video. I wasn’t knocking into anyone but had people moving out of my way. I didn’t pick up on it till I overheard someone say, mind out the way of this geezer and realised, they were referring to me. Every time I go to Sheffield, I try and do The Rutland. It’s one of my favourite pubs in the country. It’s got that kitsch feel to it. But not convoluted like some places, more like things get left there till someone likes the look of it and swaps it for something else. It’s a student bar but more a place they can hang out with visiting parents without anyone feeling uncomfortable and out of place. Working class creativity and brains.
You can’t tell from the photo but the yellow thing in the top left, is the pub entrance done in Lego.
A memory from my youth.
Three girls on a night out, destination non-descript, exited the pub, the first of them, dressed in a blue plastic mac made me smile, though not a lookalike, reminded me of Roisin Conaty. If you don’t know who she is, look her up. Anyway, the girl caught me smiling and put her arms out wide, as if to ask, how do I look? I did a bellissimo kiss as a reply, as she bounced out of the pub. I don’t know if Sheffield was ready for her but woe betide anyone or anything that was going to get in between her and a good time. I could’ve stayed in here till closing time but I had a train to catch. Not for me a luxury coach and an overnight stay in a 5 star hotel. What a hard time these wealthy footballers have. Still, when they hurt more than the fans, it’s only right they have something to ease the pain. Especially when they have to get up at 5:40 on a Monday morning to catch the bus to work. . . . . Ahh no wait, they don’t have to. Train, headphones, sleep. I bumped into Badger at the bottom of Corporation Street (Should’ve been looking where I was going.) He’d been to Liverpool bar hopping. It’s on my “To do” list. Once this season is over and done with and we’ve been relegated, I’ll do a day up there. Something to do in the summer whilst Harlee Dean and co are sunning themselves somewhere hot and expensive for a month, whilst their agents are engineering their next move. Such heartache being a footballer with a big wallet, big ego, no soul and no brain.