New year, new ground, same old sh…. I’m actually thinking of running a sweepstake for where the next variant will originate from. After five different mutations landing in this country, it’s guaranteed that we’re going to have to put up with at least another two this year. I got the bus into town, got myself a copy of ‘Backpass’ magazine and with earphones jammed in, settled back to enjoy the train journey up to Manchester. I’ve always had a love of railways in this country, although not to the extent of being an enthusiast mind. The history of it fascinated me as a kid, when studying it at school, and even now, I record and watch any programmes on the subject. In fact, when travelling by train, I now find myself looking at the system with probably more appreciation than I’ve ever had. I touched down in a fairly deserted Manchester. It felt like a Sunday, though it was a Saturday. The Christmas holiday really does mess with your body clock and routine. I had got plans to visit my favourite shop, but it being the 1st of the year and thus a bank holiday, it wasn’t open. To anyone with even a partially functioning brain, you’ll be reading this, shaking your head at my stupidity. That’s how much the Christmas holiday affects me. I look forward to the break so much so, and then simply completely relax so much, that what little intelligence I’ve got, shuts down from lack of use. It may recharge the batteries, but little things like thinking shops and pubs are going to be open when they aren’t, leads to disappointment and the realisation that I’ve done it again, and I’ve relaxed too much. Course it wasn’t going to be open. It’s an independent shop that is so jammed packed with interesting things, that it will never need to hold a sale to get rid of the stuff that it couldn’t sell before Christmas like all the major chain stores have to. I was always going to start the days drinking in the Piccadilly Tavern though, and that’s where I went. After there, I checked to see if the Micro Bar was open. Although now, not thinking for a second that it would be open. Of course it wasn’t. Worryingly though, nor was the Grey Horse. I decided to go on a reconnaissance mission for when I touched down back in Manchester after the game. Wetherspoons gets a bad press, and granted, there’s reasons why, but it’s also much needed to fill a gap and does so very well. There’s some truly awful ones within the chain, but there’s some absolute crackers too. One of the truly awful ones is in Piccadilly, so it was with trepidation that I went in The Waterhouse opposite Manchester Town Hall. To say it was better than the one in Piccadilly, doesn’t say a lot, but it was, and much better in fact. It’s not the best Wetherspoons in the country, but as city centre Wetherspoons go, it was excellent. After a decent pint, served by someone who knew what they were doing, I made my way back to the station, noting that, not only was the Grey Horse still not open, but neither was the Piccadilly Tap. I got the train to Hyde, chatting to a Hyde United fan who I found out, now lives in Stockport, but still goes and watches them. Touching down, the Cheshire Ring wasn’t open, and much more unsurprisingly, neither was Jack’s Bar. I’d been expecting the Cheshire Ring to be open, but not the micro pub. As we walked, the Hyde fan pointed out a blue plaque on the wall of the White Lion.
I needed to produce some Carling, so ducked into the Cotton Bale. I wished I hadn’t. It’s an ex Wetherspoons and is now not worth going into. Some ex-Wetherspoons pubs that have been sold off by the company, try to keep the winning formula. Some don’t and quality slides significantly. The Cotton Bale may show football now, but the selection of ale, isn’t worth the effort. Least it wasn’t Doombar. Had it been, I’d have just walked straight back out. There was really only three pubs on my itinerary for Hyde, and two of them had been shut. The third was a breath of fresh air. The Sportsman is excellent and worth going to Hyde for, just to go in there. Mind you, you wouldn’t be able to call it the Sportsman now. You’d have to call it ‘The Sportsperson’. Either way, it’s a drinkers pub.
It was time to do what I was actually there for, and go and watch a game at what was for me, a new ground. Whilst Manchester City were building their complex, including the ground that the women, reserves and academy now play at, they paid for Hyde’s 3G pitch to be installed. The agreement was that they could then temporarily use it. Good or bad, the pitch is the legacy.
Well I think that’s enough photos, now onto the game. The early exchanges made for a tight affair. That though, was completely ruined halfway through the first 45 minutes, when the deadlock was broken. Mickleover took the lead. While Hyde were still regrouping, Mickleover went and scored again. Hyde just carried on regrouping. The second half and I and several others, upheld the Non-league tradition of fans changing ends. Replacing the two dozen or so, Mickleover followers who had congregated behind the goal that their team had been attacking. The second half saw an early penalty, but unfortunately not for the home side, it was awarded to Mickleover instead. It was though, a definite penalty. This certainly wouldn’t have been in the halftime remit of the Hyde manager. To their eternal credit, they didn’t throw the proverbial towel in, and really pushed to get back into the game. But for a little more ability and a bit more quality that their overall play deserved, they may have have had better rewards. They did manage to pull a goal back though. Surely they couldn’t do the unthinkable? There was certainly enough time left. Nope, Mickleover just went straight up the other end and instantly restored their 3 goal lead. It was harsh on Hyde, who still tried pushing forward, but it was clear that any confidence they’d had in their defence had now been understandably shredded.
I walked back to the Cheshire Ring thinking that maybe they’d decided to open up later than usual because of it being New years day. Wrong. A hastily written note had been left in the window. It was shut due to a number of staff being taken ill. Some kind of virus called Corona something or other. I wondered if it maybe contagious. There’s all kinds of illnesses flying around at this time of year of course. It meant that I caught an earlier train back into Manchester. I wandered back to the Grey Horse with the hope that it was now open. Thankfully it was. Not only was it now open, but it also actually had a guest ale on too. The City Arms that I’d scouted earlier and pencilled in for after, was shut though. With that, I headed to The Angel. Worryingly, that too was shut. I’d half expected the brilliant Bar Fringe to be shut anyway, and my worst fears were realised. With the nearby Smithfield also shut, the evening was starting to look like a lost cause. As I reached in my pocket for my phone, (No no, don’t worry, I wasn’t going to call 999 or even the Samaritans.) I spotted The Crown and Kettle. It may be a strange name for a pub, but it’s not a new one. I’d been in the pub several ground hops previously. In fact, it was while I was going to F.C.United of Manchester. The pub is on Camra’s inventory of historic interiors. Although impressive, it wasn’t being looked after too well at the time of my last visit, and so I wasn’t sure as to what to expect. I was though, just glad it was open. (I’ll ring the Samaritans up some other time.)
You can’t tell from the photo, but there is netting underneath to protect customers from falling masonry. I’m assuming that they weren’t so bothered about great chucks hitting them on the head as perturbed that bits were landing in their drinks. The interior has been much cleaned up, with even the sticky carpet having been removed. New year does strange things to people. They’re seduced by the hope of new beginnings. I used to be one of them. Without being too depressingly boring, or just bored of being depressed, this virus has curtailed any long term plans I have for the future. I’m certainly not scared of the virus, but I am fed up of the limbo, groundhog day feeling that hangs over us like a heavy, rain laden black cloud. Catching a really bad dose and then shaking the bony hand of a bloke in a long hooded cloak, carrying a scythe, actually seems quite appealing. That’s why what I was to witness brought such a contrast of emotions.
I wasn’t expecting this. The internal romantic went head to head, toe to toe with the cynic. If I’m being totally honest, the event was to be enough entertainment to save the day for me. As well as the two emotions that were vying to be ‘top dog’, it was an ideal opportunity to indulge in some people watching without needing to be discreet about it. I love psychology, both striving to continually improve on my own, and watching people struggling as they’re completely lost in the fog of their own. It constantly amazes me how obliviously fragile people really are. As the happy couple, bathed in the warm glow of the natural ecstasy that was now washing over them, the future brides best friend was desperately trying to put her intense jealousy aside. She wasn’t ‘in love’ with the lad who had proposed, it wasn’t anything like that, and it wasn’t because she showed signs that she didn’t like him either. You could see that she genuinely cared about her friends, and also loved her boyfriend who was thoroughly enjoying knowing he was going to be ‘Best man’ at the future nuptials, but she wasn’t ‘in love’ with him, and had the ‘Best man’ got carried away and proposed, she may have said yes, but it wasn’t what she wanted. No, what she was jealous of, was the romantic way that it was done. That’s what she was jealous of. The little girl in her still harboured dreams of dress choosing, church picking, reception booking and honeymoon planning. It wasn’t so much, ‘why them?’, but ‘when’s it my turn?’. As I walked back towards Piccadilly station, I reveled in the insight I’d been given into someone else’s psychology. She’ll get her turn in the sun and she’ll enjoy absolutely everything about it, and every single second of it. Well with the Piccadilly Tap shut, I’d got just enough time for a quick half in a place, I hadn’t been in for well over 30 years. In fact, between the time I last went in there and now, it had been turned into a restaurant and then turned back into a pub. The Waldorf holds an important place in my memories of watching Blues. It wasn’t called the Waldorf back then though, but it has definitely been altered beyond recognition since. If I’m being totally honest, I was expecting to experience the same sort of butterflies that I had had when I walked up the steps at Upton Park underground station. It may have been how dramatically the pub had changed, but I definitely didn’t have them, I know that. Slightly disappointed, but probably more disappointed that the excellent Piccadilly Tap wasn’t open, I caught the train back to Brum. Oh, and ask a Preston supporter what ’26 reasons’ means in relation to Hyde.