Yet another carefully prepared plan
|Train from Bristol Parkway 7.45|
|Via Newport change Birmingham and Wolverhampton|
|Arrive Stoke 11.25|
|Taxi to Burslem|
|Bulls Head 11.35|
|Johnys Micro Pub|
|Bursley Ale House|
|Taxi to Stoke|
|Change at Wolverhampton via Severn Tunnel|
|Bristol Parkway 21.59|
This trip was fraught with difficulties from the off. The line between Bristol and Cheltenham was closed and our connection had to be made to use the 9.15 train from Cheltenham. No bus replacement service for us. Network rail preferred us to wake up an hour earlier and send us via Newport, Chepstow and Gloucester and then on to the normal route. I had to play partners with the Good Lord to get the third off discount so we were joined at the hip by Rose dripping me off at Parkway at 7.30. No one was particularly happy as we met and called the roll in carriage F. Present were Peter de Meteor, Mumbles, the Good Lord, Ronnie the Ice man and Coventry Bob.
We were joined at the station by Wrexham Paul, Geoff the Pikestar would be arriving later courtesy of the supporters’ club coach. A helpful policeman offered some advice to drink in the local dive near the station and they would offer a lift to the game via an organised bus service. With my usual charm I offered the plod a piece of my shortest shrift and we headed off to the taxi rank. £3 each and ten minutes later we were outside the doors of our chosen pub.
Bulls Head (12)
Paul in The Bulls Head
I once described it thus:-
The Bulls Head is titanic in many a sense, cared for and attended by Bob the man, Titanic beers are brewed a few streets away and there is the prospect of an open garden abutting choice modern town houses (Victorian brick walls up to now). This area is extremely friendly, and there’s so much to air in conversation starting with the range of beers on tap, Away fans are really welcome here. This pub has a top rating in my personal list of pubs because Bob and his team have become personal friends.
Bob and Jim are indeed long term friends from the guide and pub days. It is always good to get Bob’s views of the local pubs. He offers a most negative view of his rivals and will stress the beauty of his own at every opportunity. He updated me of his retirement plans, sometime in the future, but involving buying a house in Morecambe. We recalled the good days of what are now several years since we were last in the pub. Beer trips, advertising events with the local press and honest advice about beers and buying policies Bob is a mine of great info. The gang settled in to a corner, fanzine friends came and went with recalled friendship. We took to Jim’s BBQ in the garden with Andy leading the way to the black pudding and burger rolls. Over the next hour the Gasheads filled our bar and Bob was left to try to find space for his regulars.
Beers: Titanic Plum Porter (7), Titanic Stout (Keg version) (8)
Johnys Micro Bar (10)
According to Bob they have similar beers to him. Well not today Bob. This small micro bar had a comfortable amount of space and a quiet and happy atmosphere. Yet again we were able to sit with the Farquhar family and compare notes. I liked the pub as I do most Micro bars. It was good not to have a long walk and it will surely add to the draw of St John’s Square for beer tourists. By now Geoff had arrived and we were able to get some insight into the events at the Supporters club. Not that we had anything definitive but we all had some sympathy for some long term friends who are going through a hard time at the moment.
It’s a family affair this beer drinking lark.
Beer: Fyne Jarl (6)
Duke William (12)
A short stroll across the road and a refreshment of my notes.
Mark and Joy like a challenge and this restoration of a once closed and boarded up pub is certainly one that has some serious advantages. The Post Office, their other pub, is tiny, The Duke is grand. The bar itself is central and high ceilinged, the beer range large and imaginative. This option works as a good real ale pub that offers good food in a restaurant setting upstairs. Things really are on the up in Burslem. The Duke William serves eight real ales at any one time. Four are cycled on a regular basis and four are kept constantly tapped. This description should mention the oak paneling, red painted lower walls and carpeted lounges in three of the four large spaces. Most will gather in the bar area where tradition means timber floors and classic pub windows on to the Market Square.
Beer: Oakham Citra (7), Magpie Raven Stout (8)
Johnys Micro as seen from the Duke William
There was a good mix of home and away fans and some seriously good beers. We decided on a second beer rather than move on because the other pubs to visit might well be rather full after 2 on a match day and we had a comfortable table near the bar.
Port Vale 1 Bristol Rovers 1 Attendance 4,460 (765 Gas) Take those numbers with a pinch of salt.
Joe Lumley 7, Bob Harris 4, Tom Lockyer 6, Ryan Sweeney 7, Joe Partington 6, Stuart Sinclair 7, Chris Lines 7, Ollie Clarke 6, Billy Bodin 5, Ellis Harrison 4, Rory Gaffney 4
Substitutes: Jonny Burn 7, Cristian Montano 6 Luke James 5
Entertainment Value: 1
It was a pretty dull game. In all honesty Port Vale were so poor I don’t think the Rovers could get any rhythm to their own game and they played down to their level. In games such as this you need some quality to come to the surface and hope your own players can at least have a modicum of their usual performance. Unfortunately four players having “shockers” was never going to be easy to compensate To name names, Rory Gaffney, Ellis Harrison, Billy Bodin and Bob Harris will have games they wish not to see in their personal match highlight collections. To rescue himself a little Billy was able to smack one home when bullied to get involved by a stream of passes from Ollie Clarke and Cristian Montano
Man of the Match: Chris Lines
Bursley Ale House (11)
The second new pub of the day. We arrived having walked through an extraordinary number of police folk itching to be the friendly face of the Staffordshire experience. The atmosphere in that walk contrasted perfectly to that found at the bar of this friendly and well sourced bar. We were able to chat and watch the sports on a TV above the bar. A quick read of the results and we were still in tenth place and note was made of all the teams around City in their league getting points while they rested. On another day the outside area would be a fine prospect but perhaps not today as the town was in riot police mode. It was all rather surreal that this should be quite so.
In the Bursley Ale House
Beer: Oakham Dr. Phobia (7)
Bulls Head again
Back for some more fun with Bob. It was somewhat quieter but still busy enough with Gasheads doing similar to us. We had until 6 but the taxi arrived a bit earlier and so we made our farewells with comments of see you next season. In reality I was thinking that the Vale might well be heading to pastures new in a lower league. Paul collected some bottles from the nearby bottle shop, much to Bob’s disquiet and we headed off to the Glebe.
Beer Titanic Iceberg (7)
The chaps found the concept of going to a pub near the station a little difficult to grasp as they were wary of the distance from pub to station. The taxi driver reassured them that it was a four minute walk. As it was we left with 20 minutes to make that walk
Beer: Joules Slumbering Monk (7)
I like this pub. Owned by Joules, it is quite a classic town centre beer house. We were able to get a table and carry on our now convoluted conversations. Somehow we got around to talking about Brexit and Trump. I know, I shouldn’t but I did. For the next half hour I was in serious wind up mood. The whole thing is so important that I couldn’t let the crap be unchallenged as talk went on about ”getting back control” and “democracy being the voice of the people” saying we have to roll over and have our tummies tickled. I was fully aware that the pub was possibly a hothouse of political folk in town as a result of the up and coming by election. Stoke is also reputed to be seriously of the exit persuasion. Bollocks to all that, I was having nothing of it and exercised my freedom to speak. We left as good friends but it is seriously getting more difficult to get through the thought that those wishing to leave are in for quite a shock when they eventually see what is offer in a few years time.
Pub of the Day: Bulls Head
Beer of the Day: Titanic Stout (Yes, keg version) 8
The Journey home
Yet again the trains ran to time and we were able to transfer at Wolverhampton and Birmingham to what is now a rather usual ten o’clock train home. As we arrived at Wolverhampton we were advised that there was likely to be significant number of football fans joining us for a one stop trip to Birmingham. As Bob does he was soon into conversation with a couple of Wolves fans on their way home after a defeat to Chelsea. They recalled the days of Stan Cullis, were in their eighties, and were certainly not the sort of fans that needed a public health warning attached to their boarding. Later on it was somewhat odd to be sitting on the line just past Caldicot while driver and crew moved to the other end of the train and we went the opposite way into the Severn tunnel.
All in all it was a good day with some great pubs. Just a shame about the football.
Bolton Away 28.2.17