Jane Stuart – Writer

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

A Football Tourist’s Guide To Sheffield – Part Two

(If you missed Part One, here’s the link).

After a Good Night’s Sleep (guaranteed) we headed down for breakfast.

I also had a fat-free natural Greek yoghurt and an Earl Grey (sans honey for diet purposes).

We headed out into the rain for a hike across Sheffield to the point of our next adventure.

National Emergency Services Museum

I’d been wanting to visit this place since I spotted it when hunting down the Herd of Sheffield in 2016. It’s a former police and fire station that is now a museum charting the history of the emergency services.

At the counter I was greeted by a friendly face.

‘Morning! Two adults please.’

I struggled to hear her reply through her mask. I rely on lip reading more than I realised pre-COVID. I cocked my ear.

‘Sorry – could you repeat that please?’

‘Would you like a ride on a fire engine?’

Would we like a ride on a fire engine?! Er…yeah! How exciting!

‘Just go to the red doors around 1115.’

Meanwhile we perused the lower floor of the museum and this is what we saw.

The car from Heartbeat.

A horse-drawn ambulance.

How the Victorians poisoned themselves.

We sat inside this air raid shelter for only a few minutes and it already felt claustrophobic. I can easily understand why singing was a thing to raise spirits. I can’t begin to imagine how terrifying it must have been waiting for bombs to fall. As mentioned in Part One, Sheffield was bombed twice during the war.

There was a whole room dedicated to fire engines. And I even got to dress up as a firefighter.

We also got to see another friendly museum worker sliding down a fireman’s pole, which looked great fun.

And then it was time to ride the fire engine. Yay! We joined the queue of predominantly young children with their parents. Mercifully we were called forward to jump the queue to join another couple for the ride in the 1981 engine.

I sat in the back while Lee filmed and interviewed the driver from the front seat.

I’ll confess it wasn’t the most comfortable of vehicles to ride in but it did allow me time to put myself in the shoes of a firefighter. What must it have felt like travelling to a fire?

Back in the museum we were transported to a time before the fire service existed. Can you imagine?

These are examples of home fire safety devices.

We watched some old Pathé footage of a horse-drawn fire cart.

We visited the old firemen’s quarters.

Even the mannequins of firemen are handsome!

I got to sit on a police bike, which was really wide like riding a horse but pretty comfy.

Here was a video of a pursuit on the screen in front but I failed to catch the baddies, despite the use of a stinger. Boo.

There was also a room dedicated to the RNLI…

…and Mountain Rescue.

We spent about 90 minutes here in total and it was an enjoyable morning. Who thought I’d be riding in a fire engine today? That was surely the highlight of the day…or was it…?

Three Tuns

We’d walked down a steep hill to get to the museum and neither of us fancied climbing back up it. Mercifully, the architecturally interesting pub at the foot of the hill was just opening its doors.

There’s a word for pubs shaped like this, isn’t there? Like the Baltic Fleet in Liverpool.

Here was today’s beer selection.

This pub was no less interesting on the inside.

How often do you see a decanter like this these days?

It put me in mind of Duty Free, the 80s sitcom.

I wasn’t tempted by the pickled eggs or pork crackling.

There were sweets on the bar for Halloween (which was today) and we were encouraged to help ourselves.

How nice was that? Sadly the diet didn’t allow it.

There was a board game corner too.

Tiddlywinks!

There’s more! There was a disco booth, record player and boxes of LPs.

You could pick a record and play it on the record player. What a pub!

We of course sat at the top table, right at the front of the pub, which offered a great view of the room.

I sat back and read the paper I had picked up in the museum while I drank my Yorkshire Blonde.

I began to wish I had a whippet, then I’d have felt completely at home in this wonderful Yorkshire pub.

We eventually plucked up the (Dutch) courage to ascend the hill, which really didn’t seem all that bad.

The sun had come out now and Sheffield was looking stunning in its autumnal glory.

Now it was time to make our way towards Bramall Lane. We went via the car so Lee could pick up his camera stuff and I could despatch my newspaper.

We were almost at the ground when Lee realised he’d forgotten something from the car (this happens every time). I jumped on this opportunity to check out a nearby pub that had been recommended to me on Twitter.

Beer Engine

Ooh a duck by the door! I followed the clue and discovered Sheffield had a pubduck trail. Brilliant! That sounds like a challenge for my next visit.

Despite being just ten minutes walk from Bramall Lane, I was pleased to find this pub was not rammed. It was quite busy but there were seats available.

Here are the beer boards.

I opted for a half of the Black Iris Rise & Shine (because I’ve only just noticed the Cassels Triple Cream Stout). I’m totally down with this drinking dark beers for breakfast thing now. It’s perfectly safe provided I’ve eaten beforehand (as I had today).

I took a (wet) seat in the beer garden and even the smell of a cigar from across the garden didn’t dampen my spirits. Today was a good day.

Lee called to let me know he was back at the ground so I strolled over to meet him.

It was a pleasant walk back, past some words of wisdom from son of Sheffield Jarvis Cocker…

…and what appeared to be Sheffield’s oriental quarter, with lush restaurants and a couple of pandas.

Sheffield United v Blackpool

I met Lee just outside the turnstiles and we headed into the concourse. I’d managed to sneak in my bottle of Diet Coke (purchased at the museum) so avoided the queue at the refreshment kiosk. Result!

I mooched over to find our seats, which were at the far end of the section we were in (but still nearside of the goal). They were good seats, towards the back of the lower tier.

I decided to use the Ladies so I could get comfortable. By now the concourse was rapidly filling up with exuberant Seasiders so it was a battle to get through.

I had noticed on our walks through Sheffield that there were a good number of people who were shorter than me (I’m 5’2). I only know two people who are shorter than me and I’m always surprised and delighted when I find myself standing next to them. But there were loads of them here. I loved it. I really belonged here!

The toilet cubicles at Bramall Lane – like the turnstiles – were tiny and I wondered if the Sheffield folk knew visiting fans were not tiny like them (apart from me, obvs).

I enquired of a steward if it was possible for me use a different entrance to the stand to avoid the crowded concourse but that wasn’t permitted, so I battled my way back.

It’s Sod’s Law that, as soon as I go on a diet, the pies at football grounds improve exponentially. In less than three weeks on SlimmingWorld, I have already missed out on the Moroccan Style Tomato & Chickpea Pie at Reading, as well as this little beauty.

I have appointed Karen as my pie proxy and she advised that this one was much better than Reading’s effort (which apparently sounded and smelled more exciting than it tasted). From the look and smell of this one (all I can do, aside from taking it in my hands and testing for warmth and texture) it was similar to the Chicken Balti Pukka Pie I enjoyed very much at Sunderland back when we played such lower league outfits. I recognised the cumin seeds on top. Sign of a good pie, that touch of garnish.

There was a minute’s silence before kick-off in remembrance of those lost serving our country. This was impeccably observed by the 28,304 crowd.

Much as I’m not a fan of standing up in seated areas, I was resigned to being on my feet for 90 minutes today – the alternative being seeing nothing of the match. I do try to find joy in everything I do, so today I took to appreciating this lad’s haircut.

The match was a tough one from the outset. Sheffield United came at us and looked strong on the attack, roared on by – er – no-one. The home support was so quiet, I began to wonder if they were still observing the minute’s silence. Or they weren’t real people at all, but cardboard cutouts left over from the fanless days of last season.

As strong as the Blades were in attack, we were equally strong in defence and managed to hold them at bay until the half time whistle blew. Quite how, we weren’t sure. But we had defended heroically, hurling ourselves at everything. Could we keep this going?

I remained in my seat at half time to avoid the crowded concourse. I learned that I was sitting behind a former fireman and a former policeman, which tickled me, having just visited the Emergency Services Museum. I also learned that Jeff Stelling was leaving Soccer Saturday. Those shoes will be hard to fill! But I don’t watch it anyway, as I’m usually at a match on a Saturday – plus I’m boycotting Sky since they laughed at me for suggesting Blackpool might get promoted last season (who’s laughing now, eh?).

The second half saw Sheffield United step up a gear as they seemed determined to score.

At Reading, we met a fellow football tourist called Sam North of Footy Adventures fame. He had remarked on Blackpool fans celebrating corners and I hadn’t realised other clubs didn’t do this. I replied to him accordingly.

The chant in question was ‘COOOOOOOOOME OOOOOOOOON YOOOOOOOOU POOOOOOOOOOL!’ We used to chant this at every corner from at least when I started going in 1990/91. But did we still do it?

Well we only bloody did today! I squealed with joy at the return of the corner chant. God knows we needed something to improve our corners which, like our free-kicks, have been rubbish this season.

Now it’s not so much that I can’t bear to watch but sometimes (often) my mind wanders during a match. During the second half I became taken with one of the electronic perimeter adverts, which I was determined to photograph for you. I narrowly missed it and had to wait for it to come around again. It would be worth the wait.

Dear reader, I waited and waited. Meanwhile we took yet another crap corner that ended up at the other end of the pitch. But then… Grimshaw in goal pumped it back up the pitch…and Keshi was through…and onside…and OH WHAT A GOAL!!!

Which of course came at the exact moment that my advert appeared again.

If they don’t sell giant animal suits they need to change their name.

Anyway we only went and bloody smashed and grabbed a cheeky 1-0 win, didn’t we? The Blades fell apart after we scored. They need to reinforce that steel.

The post-match scenes were epic, with the Pool fans remaining in the stand to applaud Critch and the lads, who came to celebrate with us. Critch is quite possibly already the most popular Blackpool manager in living memory. How can you not love him?

And we were sixth! That’s in the play-offs!

The walk from the ground back into the city was magnificent, too, with hundreds of Seasiders marching on together.

You can see all of this in the accompanying Football Tourist’s Guide video.

We took the scenic route home, across the Peaks and through Glossop. It was a shame it was dark and we didn’t get to appreciate it fully. Instead we blasted out a Sheffield playlist (during the moments when we had signal) and sang all the way home.

Next up: Stoke at home.

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