Other than Preston being cheap and easy to get to, there wasn’t any major appeal to this fixture when I’d decided on it. By the time it came round, not only did the fixture have greater significance, but I was to be joined by a lad from where I work. Fylde were top of the league with Brackley a close second. I was half expecting a dull as dishwater performance where the two teams cancel each other out. I wasn’t expecting Liam, the lad from work to join me though. Plenty of times down the years, I’ve had people exclaiming they’ll accompany me to a game, only for them to back out. Talk is cheap as ‘they’ say. Too be honest, ‘they’ have got far too much to say for themselves. Regardless, Liam hasn’t been to many games, let alone grounds, so until I’d purchased his advanced train tickets and received the money back for them, I was still sceptical whether he’d carry through with his threat of joining me. He’s a Chelsea fan and an armchair fan at that. As you well know, if you’ve read enough of this garbage, I don’t think much of armchair fans. Liam is a good lad, although a little fractured though. Thing is, we’re all fractured but in different ways and levels. Working with someone and spending time socially, is totally different. I had no idea how the day was going to go. What I definitely wasn’t expecting when I got to New Street, was to see Jinksy. He was off to watch Solihull Moors away at Notts County. Although not since 1991, had I been to Meadow Lane, I am at the moment, at a stage of hoovering up grounds I haven’t been to. That’s other than Blues and Hearts games of course. Liam had got a taxi to the station and was now phoning me to find out where I was. I had a feeling it was going to be a long day of nurse maiding. Liam turned up looking much the same as he would for work. Practical clothes for work, but impractical for a day ale trailing and watching football. I bid farewell to Jinksy and embarked on the day with my mate from work. The journey up to Preston was quite pleasant. The talk was of football and past trips I’d made. I did notice that Liam was full of nervous energy. How? Liam’s train ticket was getting a right battering. Thankfully, there’s no ticket barriers at Preston, because not only would the machine have rejected his ticket, the chances are, was it would’ve jammed inside the apparatus causing It to be out of action until fixed by a maintenance engineer. It cast my mind back to when my lad was growing up and I took him in the pub with me. If there wasn’t a pool table to keep him occupied, the abuse several beer mats would get, was immense. You didn’t need a shredder with my lad around. Touching down in Preston, we went to the Twelve Tellers Wetherspoons. Although Liam had tried bottled ale before, this was going to be his first introduction to proper cask ale. Knowing that he is normally a fizzy lager drinker, I bought him something that would be compatible to his palete. The Twelve Tellers is one of the more visually spectacular Wetherspoons outlets in the country, but none of them compare to the Black Horse. I’d been determined to take Liam in the pub at all costs. Although there’s a few great pubs in Preston, the Black Horse is by far my favourite. On entering the premises, you are transported back to a different era. I’ve taken many photos of the place for this blog before, and although I could’ve taken some more, I’ll just implore you to just check it out for yourselves. It’s simply stunningly beautiful. Unsurprisingly, even Liam was impressed. The next place I was attempting to impress Liam with, decided not to open at its advertised time. The Vinyl Tap was not to get our custom. I’ve got to say, I was bitterly disappointed. Not only do I love the place, but I really wanted to give Liam an idea of all the different kinds of places that do real ale. The next on the list was the Orchard. It’s not quite as good as the Bob Inn in Chorley, but it’s still a place you don’t expect to be on a market. After there, we moved onto the Guild Ale House. Everytime I go in this place, it’s got bigger and better. It’s continually improving and it’s always been brilliant. The beer was taking its toll on Liam, or more to the point, the alcohol was. There’s a difference with drinking cans of fizzy rubbish at home and decent beer on the move. It was imperative that I made sure he ate to soak what he’d had up. Luckily for me, he was hungry. I’d had had the idea of breakfast at the Twelve Tellers, but he hadn’t been hungry at the time. He got himself a ham salad cob and some chicken nuggets from the Pound Bakery, a northern version of Greggs. Somehow, the food dislodged and destroyed one of his false teeth. Thankfully, he didn’t make too much of a big deal about it and it didn’t affect the rest of the day. With time knocking on, we got the train to Kirkham and Wesham. Touching down, Liam announced that he desperately needed the toilet. We now needed to find a pub for a quick half so he could use their facilities. I decided on the Stanley Arms. Whilst doing my research, I noticed the place advertised having three ales on. It didn’t, it only had one. Thankfully, it wasn’t Doombar. Coming back out of the pub, I took a wrong turn. Instead of heading towards the ground, we unwittingly headed away from it. Now I’m not going to blame Liam’s weak bladder because quite frankly, anyone who’s read about my football watching exploits, will know all about my infamous lack of direction, but it didn’t help matters. It took me until a micro pub in Kirkham to realise we’d gone the wrong way. Had I not done my research on that place, chances are, we’d have still been walking now. So although we’d gone the wrong way, I at least knew where we were going after the game. So did we make kickoff? Not quite.
Looking at the queue for the home end and the lack of one for the away end, I decided on the latter. Especially as we had to get a ticket with its barcode on to get through the turnstile. New build ground plus new technology equals won’t bother going to Fylde again. Even if Liam did keep calling them Flyde.
Like I’ve said, it’s a ‘new build’. Least it’s been built properly and not on the cheap. As you can see from the photos, it’s still being improved too.
Looking at the construction going on, I’d say they’re increasing the seating capacity. The whole place definitely gave you the feeling of ambition. Pre Covid, they made the playoffs to get into the EFL. At the time, it may have been a push too far, because the clubs fortunes took an immediate nosedive the very next season. Relegation followed the very next season after the playoff attempt. After a regrouping, this season has seen them on the up again. Brackley on the other hand, have been steadily building. Like I’ve stated at the start of this post, this was a top of the table clash. Very rarely does the performance fulfill the expectations, when it comes to a top of the table clash. I certainly wasn’t expecting what was to unfold, and Liam was just glad to be at a game. The first half followed the script, but also followed Brackley’s game plan. The away team took the lead in a tight affair. In all fairness, they were just about worth their lead. It definitely seemed to settle them down and they finished the first half not only the stronger of the two teams but it looked likely they’d increase their advantage. Halftime, Liam fancied a drink. This was where his naivety let him down a little. I won’t drink just for the Hell of it. I certainly won’t drink fizzy lager. It’s all they had available. Although he thought he was doing me a favour, he made the mistake of buying two pints of the muck. The two teams were back on by the time he’d finished the majority of the second pint. If the first half had been a cagey league game with Brackley just about on top, the second half was a gungho cup game with both sides intent on attacking and not just defending. After an initial to and fro, the game exploded just after the hour mark. On the 63rd minute, Fylde equalised. Just three minutes later, they were in the lead thanks to a towering header from Fylde’s colossus of a number 5. It took Brackley all of five minutes to get over the shell shock and equalise. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to fully congratulate themselves for too long, before they were behind again just 2 minutes later. Four goals in ten minutes takes a fair bit to get your head round as a spectator. How the two managers felt, I don’t know. If I’d been worried that the game would be be boring, then those fears were firmly put to bed. It was Non-League football at its very best. I’d seen some cracking games this season, this one was every bit as good. After the explosion of goals, we then went through a barren spell. It wasn’t from the lack of endeavour from the two protagonists in the proceedings mind. As the game went into added time, it looked like Brackley were going to full short in their frantic search for an equaliser. Wrong, there was one more twist in the tale. They scored. Neither team deserved to lose. In fact. I could quite easily campaign for both clubs to be awarded 3 points. I’d even go as far to say that on entertainment value alone, 3 points actually wasn’t enough. Both teams deserved at least an extra point. It had been the quality game I’d been wishing for. I just needed to get us back to the station.
I could’ve quite easily have gone wrong and got us completely lost, but in an absolute rarity, I got it right. The relief I felt once buildings became familiar, was palpable. Also, now knowing exactly how to get to the micro pub in Kirkham, we headed there. The looks we received when we entered the place, was akin to the ‘Slaughtered Lamb’ scene in the film ‘American Werewolf in London’. With the clothes I favour to watch football in, I do get that a lot. ‘Never judge a book by its cover’.
The Tap & Vent Brewhouse is a decent little place in terms of ale, but the ambiance was a tad clique. Real Ale is for everyone, not the select few. That’s regardless of whether they look like a couple of the Carling brigade. We returned back to the train station. Liam wanted a cigarette, so we sat on the bench outside. Little did Liam know, but I’d been casually observing him all day. His nervous energy was blatantly obvious. I hadn’t really noticed it at work, but here, I’d been free to watch it in all its glory. I enjoy working out the psychological side of a person, and I’d finally worked out why Liam was like he is. He’s hit a point of crisis in life. His body clock is furiously ticking away, and he’s desperate for domesticity. It’s not because he’s particularly jealous of what his younger brother has got, but he wants the kind of little family unit that his brother has got, for himself. Liam feels like he’s aimlessly drifting. That domesticity will give him a sense of purpose. I outlined what I believe he needs to do to achieve that goal. As of yet, I haven’t been able to ask how well he’s tackling the advice I gave him. I suspect, he’s still drifting due to his anxiety eating into his confidence. Such is work always getting in the way of the truly important things in life. Touching down back in Preston, we went to a micro pub that hadn’t been opened the last time I’d visited Preston with Blues. I didn’t take any photos, but I am definitely looking forward to going back there when Blues do play them. The Wincley Street Ale House is a very welcome addition to what is, an expanding real ale scene in Preston. However, if the W.S.A.H. was definitely new, I’m not sure if I went in Plug and Taps last time. I’ve a vague recollection that I did it after the last game at Preston, with Daryl and Mikey, but without trawling back through everything I’ve posted on here since, I’m not entirely sure. I was though, to have the best beer of the day. I’d had it before, and it had tasted absolutely fantastic then too. Cinder Toffee from the Bristol Beer Factory, is a wonderful beer. Not only was it the best beer I’d had in the whole day, but it’s now a ‘I’m definitely having that’ beer, if I see it anywhere on my travels. Had I known about it being on in Plug and Taps, I would have headed there for opening time and wouldn’t have gone anywhere else. That includes going to what was, a great match. Sadly, it was time to get back to Brum. Liam was hungry again and we ducked into K.F.C. Rather impressively, I was to discover that the branch we were in, was the first to open up in the U.K. Back in 1965 in fact. Why am I so impressed? Well firstly, it’s usually London that gets something first, and secondly, I was surprised how long KFC has been open in this country. I always thought it was an 80s phenomenon. Liam was determined to get alcohol for the train home and we found a shop so he could indulge in some fizzy rubbish. No mate, I’m fine. You enjoy your Budweiser. (Shakes head, and grimaces.) It had been a good day. A bit full on, but still good. Like I’ve said, Liam is a good lad, he just needs to calm down a little and be more aware. The next international break isn’t until next March, and Liam’s determined to accompany me to wherever I go. Preston was a taster on so many different levels. Wherever we go, at least we both know what to expect. I for one, am looking forward to it, I just need to recover a little.