Jane Stuart – Writer

Writing about real life Up North: football, ale, food and mental health – with a good dash of humour.

Blackpool v Barnsley: No 10 Alehouse & Top Lytham Pubs

Much as I love researching and exploring on away missions for the Football Tourist’s Guide, I do need a break every now and again, so home games are a welcome respite. I saw a tweet today from a Blackpool fan who was envious that we don’t get to do Blackpool away – the one epic awayday that everyone looks out for. But I can make an awayday out of a home game – and regularly do so. Tonight I was going out in Lytham but in the meantime…

No 10 Alehouse

I did toy with the idea of not going to the pub pre-match but (a) Martin makes me do it; and (b) I do still find myself feeling anxious in football grounds / crowds without a pint to settle my nerves. So pub it was.

I tried this pale one first.

The Acorn 18 was my pick of the bunch. I did a lot of drinking in Barnsley when I first made the transition from lager to ale – and Acorn (brewed by a Seasider) was one of my first favourite breweries.

I enquired after the brewer of the Seasiders Ale – which is very quaffable – but was told that it was a secret. Shame, really, as it stopped me from checking the beer in on Untappd and from complimenting the brewer and sampling more of their beers.

Having initially seated myself outside – listening with interest to tales of the latest petrol crisis / scaremongering / panic-buying and rumours of limits on how much petrol people could buy (enough to get us to Hull on Tuesday please!) – I moved indoors when the rain made an appearance. I wouldn’t normally bother, but I was going to Lytham tonight and wanted to look slightly presentable at the posh end of the Fylde Coast.

Landlord George came over waving a glass in my face.

Cool, huh?

After brief chats with a man at the bar (1966_and_all_that from Blackpool fans forum AVFTT) and a fellow Seasider in the seating area, who I recommended the Acorn beer to, I realised I had forgotten my phone charger and Lee kindly offered to call by to drop one off and transport me to the ground. I moved to sit outside, where the sun was now shining and the seating area was full. I perched on the end of a bench and realised that loads of my pals were out here. That’ll teach me not to flee indoors at a hint of rain. Wilf hollered over:

‘I’ve just been in Cask & Tap – I was expecting to see you in there. But the landlord did say you put it about a bit.’

By which I assumed he meant I frequent lots of different pubs; nonetheless I’ll be having words with Gary on my next visit to Cask & Tap…

In my defence, I am currently undertaking an important pub research mission following my return to the Fylde Coast after 20 years in exile. I need to find out for myself (and for you, of course, dear reader) where the best pubs are so I can support them going forward. So, don’t worry, Gary – I will be back at the Cask & Tap whenever I’m in town (before 9pm).

Now here was Lee and it was time to head to the match.

‘Jane! Don’t go!’

But I had to. It was nice to feel welcome here, though – and I would be back.

Blackpool v Barnsley

On arrival at the ground, I headed to the refreshment kiosk with the realisation that I hadn’t had anything to eat. There was quite a queue, which gave me time to consider the menu, which was wider than I thought: a selection of Pork Shop pies (meat and potato, steak and ale, cheese and onion, pepper), hot dogs, nachos, crisps, chocolate. I decided to give the pies another go. I used to like the meat and potato pies at Bloomfield Road when they were Hollands, so opted for that one.

As I began tucking in, I heard a voice behind me:

‘Jane! Jane!’

I looked round.

‘Where’s your tangerine Aero?’

‘Don’t worry, it’s in my bag.’

‘Oh – good, good.’

But back to the pie: this was a step up from the previous effort – and I ate as much of it as I usually do of a pie (the lid and the contents) – but I did have indigestion immediately afterwards.

Which presented a problem.

Chocolate wouldn’t help with that.

But Lee and I had a strategy for the win today. I planned to eat the lucky it’s-not-tangerine-it’s-Orange Aero during promising attacks; and we would reinstate the Armfield Forcefield when Barnsley were looking dangerous. What is the Armfield Forcefield? Basically we link arms to create a defensive wall and summon Jimmy to help keep the ball out of the Blackpool net. We had been forgetting to do this all season – and consequently Blackpool had been conceding more goals than usual. We needed to do our bit. Critch can’t coach this sort of thing.

I was pleased to see that today’s ref was Steve Martin. I know Steve from my Chasetown days where, as a local ref, he would occasionally officiate our friendlies and County Cup matches. As part of my job as Match Secretary, I had to assess and score referees, so I kept a closer eye on them than I had done previously. I knew what areas to score them on and soon began to recognise signs of a good referee. And Steve is a great one. Blackpool have had questionable officials at every match this season, with the sole exception of Bournemouth away – where Steve was again the referee. So I knew we were in good hands today.

Blackpool were unchanged from their win at Middlesbrough last week – and I was particularly pleased with the strength of the bench: Moore, Connolly, Husband, Yates, Madine, Mitchell, Carey. I would be happy to see any one of them in the team. This illustrates the strength in depth that we have, which should serve us well this season as other clubs start to suffer.

A rainbow on the pitch

And Blackpool played tremendously well, too. With no match in the week, we had been able to spend the whole week focussed on this match – and the results of the week’s training were there for all to see. We were in complete control of the match.

‘Yeah but we just don’t capitalise on it with goals!’

‘I know – it’s so bloody frustrating.’

Boom! Shayne Lavery scored right in front of us from a tight angle right after we had that conversation. Love that man!

We went in at the break 1-0 up but it really should have been three or four.

At half time, my eyes were drawn to our sexy new electronic advertising hoardings. They were advertising for advertisers who wanted to promote their brand ‘locally, nationally, internationally and beyond.’ Now I know Championship football is popular internationally but beyond that? Does the International Space Station count as ‘beyond international’? Because I’m not aware of any inhabited planets, let alone ones with a good enough signal strength to pick up matches from Bloomfield Road. God knows we can’t even get on the internet in the ground at half time. At the Fulham match last week, Paul confirmed the signal here is ‘worse than at Chasetown’ and trust me it’s bad there.

The second half was more of the same: Blackpool dominated and the result was never in doubt. We were 1-0 up and that was enough; that was how it was going to stay. And so it came to pass. And we left the ground happy.

I had arranged to meet Karen at the Jimmy Armfield statue at the end of the match. In retrospect, this wasn’t the best of meeting points. It was very busy and also seemed to be a flash point for home and away fans passing each other. I stepped up onto the raised area and stood next to Jimmy, where I felt safer. I smiled as I noticed a number of passing Seasiders patting Jimmy as they walked by.

As soon as Karen arrived, we made a hasty exit and strode through the car parks towards Blackpool South station, where we were to catch the train to Lytham. I noticed a man packing the boot of his car on the phone to someone.

‘Was it the Aero?’

Did he really just say that or was I in one of those weird scenes off a tv show where people aren’t really saying what you think they are? Just how far-reaching is this Lucky Orange Aero? Do they know about it on the International Space Station?

We were way too early for the train, having misread the timetable, having not got back into the habit of organising travel quite yet. We loitered on the platform and watched the 15 Barnsley coaches head out of town. They had brought 3,000 fans today and oddly were the quietest visiting fans at Bloomfield Road all season.

Finally aboard the train, we took a seat at a table, where we were excited to find USB sockets to charge our phones. The journey was short and, as we approached Lytham station, I pulled my phone out of my handbag to remove the cable. Ew! What’s that gunk all over my phone? Dear reader, it was melted Aero (for I hadn’t needed to resort to it in the second half and, besides, I had indigestion). Mercifully, I had tissues in my handbag, so managed a successful clean-up operation.

As I hunted down a bin on the way out of Lytham station, I was stopped by a friendly Seasider.

‘Ooh are you still doing the videos?’

‘Yes – Lee’s at home editing today’s footage now while I’m off to the pub.’

Which sounded great at the time, but that did free up his Sunday, while I’m spending the day writing my blog, so perhaps there’s something in the quick turnaround? That said, I do like to spend my Saturdays away from the screen.

Here’s our video memory of the match:

We headed immediately (well, via the bin) to Taps for our tea. I still wasn’t really hungry but knew we needed to eat to soak up the beer we were going to have. Alas, the sign indicated food was only available until 6pm (as opposed to 9pm, which I’m sure it said when I visited the other week). It was now 6pm. We needed a contingency plan – and we didn’t have one. The Deacon was nice but we had limited time tonight and that would have eaten into it too much. Ship & Royal was busy and loud.

The Craft House

We had only been planning on a two-pub strategy tonight so decided to stick with that. We had passed a couple of chippies but they didn’t look up to our standards. We really wanted a nice hot meal (a rarity on a Saturday) but decided to settle for the cold platter at The Craft House. After all, we had really enjoyed our platter at Shipwreck the other week. We verified that these were available before placing our order.

Pint of Plum Porter please

Even though cheese is a migraine trigger for me, we ordered a cheese platter to share – and a pork pie for good measure.

‘What’s piccalilli? I don’t like the sound of that.’

‘It’s…er…cauliflower, I think. The landlord of my old local (Black Country Arms) used to make his own and it was delicious.’

‘I’m not convinced, Jane.’

‘Well I don’t really like pork pie, so you have that and I’ll have the piccalilli.’

‘Why did you order the pork pie, then?’

‘Because I like the sound of the piccalilli.’

We hadn’t even had a drink at this point; however we were quite flustered after our unexpected rebuttal at Taps and subsequent hunt for food. Anyway, this is what we had:

The cheese was particularly ace and I even ate the salad this time.

I have taken more of an interest in beermats thanks to one of my Twitter friends. I first encountered this man at Manchester Beer Festival when I spotted his Clitheroe Beer Festival tee and demanded – pen and notebook in hand – details of the best pubs in Clitheroe, as I was off there for a match imminently (results here, if you’re interested – and I will be updating this in November, when I go to Clitheroe v Market Drayton). This same man is a collector of beermats from North West breweries, so I try and look out for beermats to add to his collection (it’s a thing, apparently, with swapsies and all sorts). Here is what I found tonight:

An Austrian beermat! As it didn’t meet with the given criteria, I didn’t snaffle it for my now growing collection (which I must remember to take to Clitheroe). I enjoyed looking at it though. There was an Italian beermat on the table, too. I love beer culture.

I also like toilet culture, as regular readers will know. Nice art here.

But there was one item in The Craft House that I completely fell in love with. It was a while before its full beauty became apparent but, as my pint of porter went down, it began to reveal itself. Check out this magnificent glass:

Now, back in the day, I would have snaffled the glass away in my handbag. However tonight – not only had I forgotten my oversized handbag purchased quite possibly just for this purpose – I reverted to glass etiquette. The way this works is that I explain to the staff just how much I have fallen in love with the glass (I really had) and offer to buy it from them. The usual response is ‘oh, just take it – people don’t usually ask’ or ‘just pop something in the charity box.’ That wasn’t the response I got tonight.

‘Ooh I don’t know – he’s a bit funny about his glasses.’

‘But I’ll buy it!’ I was almost in tears. I was not going to leave without this glass. I would stage a sit-in until the gaffer came back if I had to. Surely he couldn’t refuse a crying woman?

‘Then again, I have broken one already today – and so has she – so…do you want me to wash it for you?’

I thanked them profusely and threw all my change into the tip jar.

I loved it here. I love the beer. I love that they welcome dogs and even serve dog biscuits. I love the staff because they’re a bit naughty (I couldn’t even bring myself to write about the conversation we had with the barman here on my last visit but it was hilarious). I’ve yet to meet the gaffer Chris (unless he was the mystery micropub owner I met at the opening night of Cask in Layton) but he’s great at recruitment (please don’t sack them over glassgate – I was quite insistent). I love engaging in chat with the locals. Tonight I was reacquainted with the newly-married couple from my first ever awayday vlog at Southend, who told us about the new wine bar at Booths, which does nice seafood platters.

Much as we didn’t want to leave, I knew a full sesh on the 4.9% Plum Porter was far from a good idea, so we kept on track for the two-pub strategy.

Taps

Dear reader, there are a lot of handpumps here. Indeed, at a busy bar area, there were too many for me to comprehend. I stepped aside to photograph the beer board.

Ooh mild!

On my way to the beer board, I had spotted something quite unusual. I took a second glance on my way back and had to report this immediately to Karen.

‘Psst! That man has got a wine bottle in the front pocket of his trousers. I was so tempted to say “is that a bottle of wine in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?”‘

‘I’m going to do it!’

And so she did, while I ordered a half of mild and a half of stout. I’ve only just realised whilst writing this that it is the same stout that I enjoy in Shovels.

So much for switching to a lower ABV…
But the mild won out

The man with the bottle of wine in his pocket said he won it in a raffle and where else was he going to put it? Answers on a postcard…

We headed to the left of the room (as you go in) to the area that used to be the Ladies loos but is now home to the comfiest pub chairs in the history of pub chairs. There was only one available when we arrived, so I immediately snaffled it while I told Karen how good it was without letting her sit in it. However, as soon as the group next to us got up to leave, she commandeered one and agreed – as she sat down with an ‘ooh!’ – that these were indeed fine chairs.

I didn’t take a photo of the chair – as I did this on my last visit, which you can read about here – but I did begin to wonder how big a handbag I would need to smuggle one of these out of the pub. And I did photograph the lovely lighting effect on the ceiling.

And of course the new Ladies toilets, which I was visiting tonight for the first time.

Any idea what that is on the wall?

The phone signal in this pub is terrible (theme of the day) so I had to step outside the pub and cross the road to call Lee to arrange our collection.

It had been a brilliant day and night. What a difference a win makes. And some cracking pubs. Thank you Blackpool and thank you Lytham.

Next up: A Football Tourist’s Guide to Hull.

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