Or: INSET: How to lead from behind.
An 8 o’clock train from B.T.M. meant that waking up at 5 wasn’t quite such a bad thing. I may well have been in a sleep deprived grump and even forgot to tune in to the cricket to compensate for the earliness of our party. Rose dropped me off at 7.30 and I joined Tangent Tim, Mumbles and the Pikester in the station café bar and waited for Coventry Bob, The Boy Racer, The Real Lord Powell and Peter de Meteor to join us on platform 3.
On the journey in we had speculated as to the level of Saturday demand for trains to the north. Well Rose, let me tell you; it was heaving and reservations were needed. Not that we have a problem with that. We do love the Lord, bless his not so little polyester mix socks, but he likes to use the “break a journey into smaller legs” method of keeping costs down. Nothing wrong with that also, but he also has a random method of distributing the tickets. So we had four different legs using the 3 breaking points of Cheltenham, Wolverhampton and Stoke on Trent. And crucially there were 4 different tickets, four different reserved seats, and all in 2 different carriages. If it was an INSET session at school you might have thought it was managed, a mixing of people between sessions, so that everyone could get to chat with everyone else over the course of the trip “thus promoting team harmony and love”. As we reached a named station, we were asked to move again by a newly arrived reservee, we did the same to another person who moved on to disrupt another and so on. Sometimes the move might be across a table so swaps are in order. The upshot was I had a perfect babble free journey without the company of Ronnie and Bob and with the chatter of young kids, old ladies and rather sombre students. The downside was that we hadn’t decided on a pre-match plan. Potential disaster was looming large.
Pre match Pubs
Manchester Piccadilly at 11. Geoff and I had discussed the various option. Option 1 was to use the time before 12 to get to Oldham, drink there and head on to the game around 2.15. Option 1 subsection a, is to go by metro to Oldham. Subsection b, to use the bus from Oldham Street. Option 2 was to drink in Manchester until 1.15 and use subsections a or b but go direct to the ground from Manchester. Option 3 drink in Manchester till 2 and get a taxi to the ground from there at 2 ish. Geoff resolved that this option should be followed by a codicil of get the bus back after the game.
Try explaining that lot to the group that was now assembled on the concourse and looking doughy eyed towards me to lead them off into the Mancunian sunshiiiiiiiine. I had a subversive plan of my own up my very large shirted sleeves.
I decided and declared that I would follow wherever they chose and would not moan whatever we drunk. I was at their mercy beer wise.
Four other gang members had arrived and were sitting upstairs watching us think. Clive from Malton, Paul from Wrexham, Richard from Sheffield and Somebody from Somewhere Else led us to the pub round the corner and we were off. It appeared we were going for option 3 or maybe 1b.
The pub was still being fixed up when we arrived. To the sound of drills and hammers we sat in this newish bar to a fine selection of beers. Burning Sky Plateau (8) was my choice. Encouragingly between us most were samples. We split into two groups. The INSET was not working and the Northern group appeared content with ciders. They were itching to move on and led the way with messages of the next pub they were going to. I pretended not to hear and Lord Powell was left to lead the way. I left promising to return later that day.
No real ale there
Must be the Piccadilly Tavern?
One road, three pubs of similar name.
The Shadow is following
The cider drinkers were indeed there and sat to their corner drink for their chain pub lunches. There was no option to join them so we went for the beers and a separate gathering. What followed was a choice for me of the usually excellent Brains Reverend James. (1) The 1 was for it looking a good pint. It was as clear as a bell. It tasted as if it had been left overnight in the company of the pub ashtrays and cleaning rags. I hazarded to suggest the pipes might need some attention but the beer was undrinkable. Andy found a similar problem with another different beer that was replaced with the surliness associated with fast turnover chain pubs who smile the smile only when it suits them best. My resolve to follow was being severely tested. I couldn’t tell them where I would go next so waited to be asked and with classic political sidestepping stated “if I was forced to follow you to the Port Street Brew House I wouldn’t complain”. We left the food crew with instructions as to where we were going and I led Lord Powell from behind to the next pub.
Port Street Beer House
This was more like it. I congratulated the Lord on a fine discovery. We gathered in the back garden where Andy could smoke and we could chat beer and curiously, care for the elderly. We all appear to be of an age where parental support has, or was, an issue and in true counseling training style what followed was a workshop on the subject of housing elderly parents. This leading from behind was now working very well. My Wylam Mandarina Bavaria (7) won an award for the most pretentious beer name of the day. Bob’s Thornbridge Cocoa Wonderland won best shared sip beer of the day.
Waiting for me to catch up
Geoff then volunteered the next pub. Perhaps he was planning to get the bus and so we headed for Oldham street and
A Firebrand Black Forest Stout (6) was chosen as the thirst for something dark had been imprinted by Bob’s persuasive skills. The pub has an impressive style and is very comfortable and comforting. We had resolved that we would be taking the taxi option and were still all together when a fifth pub was chosen. Martin led the way to:-
The Crown and Kettle.
The group were now in familiar territory and were chatting of past hotels and beers over the many years of watching games up north. The ceiling of the pub still has nets to catch potential masonry falls but the back room appears to have some fine restoration of the ceiling in place, I was now in tease mode and went for what turned out to be an excellent Trach OZ US Wheat (8) it was unlike any wheat bear I had had before. It was clean tasting, clear to look at, well balanced and a simple beer. I had one more task to avoid. This was the dreaded booking of the taxi ritual. Ronnie had kitty duties. Mumbles obviously avoids talking to strange Mancunians about taxis. Random Tim? That question answers itself. The Lord doesn’t have a phone. Me or Geoff it was then. Masterstroke number 4 was coming. I went to the bar and told the young girl behind it that on religious grounds I could not phone for a taxi. Bemused she asked why? It is the 22nd of the month I replied. Perhaps you might give the number to my friend over there, Geoffrey the Pikestar. Bemused and perhaps amused she did so as I departed to go to the essential pre taxi toilet break. It was Geoff then who assumed the responsibility of getting 7 folk into two cabs direct to the ground. I followed having made absolutely no contribution to the session. I was happy beyond my considerable years.
Oldham Athletic 0 Bristol Rovers 2 Attendance: 4,394 (859 Gasheads)
at 13 minutes to 3
Rovers Rating /10
Roos 7, Clarke J 7, Lockyer 7, Hartley 8, Brown 6, Sinclair 8, Boeteng 6, Lines 6, Colkett 7, Gaffney 7, Taylor 5, Subs, Montano 7 Moore 6 Clarke – Salter 6
A clean sheet? A first half lead? A thoroughly good performance throughout the team. Sinclair stood out for me because he appeared to be taking responsibility for getting things going forward. Boeteng did some rubbish things and then some magic. The Gas was in good voice. It always appears strange to me when opposition clubs give away fans the best roof under which to belt out their party anthems. The result was really never in doubt. We were left to continue a thoroughly good day out. What is more Ronnie and Bob were not with us. They sat totally separately. Don’t know why, don’t really care. Would have been nice to know why though. I had the enthusiasm of Roger Right hand ringing out as the goals went in.
Man of the Match: Sinclair
We lost Ronnie, Andy and Bob after the game. They were partying in the toilets and we waited until 5 past 5 before rushing up the hill to catch our bus to Manchester.
On leaving the bus we stood and waited for someone to make a decision. Eventually Tim remembered the Waldorf and led the way there. Wahoo I thought. The times they are a changing. Think again Stedders
This is usual last beer before train pub for the boys. It was my first and last visit. It had loud music and curiously Liverpool V Bayer Leverkusen football. It had three pumps turned round and a fourth, a pint of Moonshine that, when requested, was also described as off. Simple, I just turned and left. Thankfully the pub doesn’t have bouncers because Tim had ordered two pints of something random. He saw me leaving, realised what was going on and left, leaving the bar man in mid pull of his nitro keg option. I had visions of a chase along the streets of Manchester as so often happens. We were free but beer less.
The Piccadilly Tap return
One beer had changed from the morning and I went for a Hawkshead Windermere (6). Others walked past as we sat looking out of the Window. We left at various times to get food and reassemble in Coach D for the journey home. Rose will be pleased, I thought, as I took the Waitrose option for a sandwich and fruit juice. On arrival Bob and Ronnie told us of their mutinous defection to a pub near the ground and taxi to Manchester.
Ronnie had singing company in the form of a random Derby / Stoke City fan who thought the carriage was full of Leeds fans on their way home to Bristol. After the dear Delilah left at Stoke we had calm and peace restored, shuffled seats a few more times, gave them up to more deserving lap top users and internet surfing knitting grannies and then arrived safely home and perfectly on time.
A contented Real Lord Powell
It had been a top day out and I returned so stress free that I might do it again sometime soon.
Best Beer: Trach Oz US Wheat in the Crown and Kettle (8)
Best Pub: Port Street Beer House
Beer choice 4 (out of 5) 4
Beer Quality (average score of beers chosen, out of 5) 4
Staff and service 5 (Out of 5) 4
Total: 12 out of 15
Next up: Peterborough home 29.10.16
Meet Post Office Tavern, Westbury on Trym at 12.