Jane Stuart – Writer

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

Barnsley v Blackpool

There was no need for a Football Tourist’s Guide tonight, as we’d already done it when we were in town in January, when this fixture was originally scheduled for. Here’s Part One and here’s Part Two.

Of course that didn’t stop us returning to Barnsley for tonight’s rescheduled fixture. There would be no bells and whistles tonight, as Lee was feeling unwell, so we left later than I would have liked, plus we had a couple of passengers that we needed to accommodate (Lee’s son and his pal). Nonetheless, there would be fun adventures to be had because every day is an adventure with me.

Yorkshirebound

We set off around 1600, picked up the boys, fuelled up and headed across the Pennines to South Yorkshire.

My search for Barnsley music failed to muster much on Apple Music (Stan Richards wasn’t on there). I managed ‘How Deep Is Your Glove?’ by The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican. I quite liked metal band Saxon but Lee doesn’t like that sort of music and I felt mean subjecting him to it, especially given he wasn’t well. Instead, I stuck on my Blackpool @ Wembley playlist, which is full of positive, joyful tunes (many of which have also been adopted as football chants).

I had spent some time researching pubs to find somewhere we could stop for tea. We’d loved our visit to the Crown & Anchor on our last visit, but I like to try new places because I’m an explorer. My selection process – via the trusty CAMRA Good Beer Guide app – was thus:

  • The Old Post Office, Haigh – This one came recommended by Walshy after we had reluctantly passed it on our recent visit. It did look great – and had Barnsley Chop on the menu, which definitely needs trying. The menu was a bit pricey, though.
  • Talbot Inn, Mapplewell – Nice menu – again with Barnsley Chop – plus this pub was in the Good Beer Guide (not all pubs on the app are). It was even dearer than The Old Post Office, which I was baulking at, especially now there were four of us. Nonetheless there was something on the menu to suit all our odd dietary requirements, so this was the place Waze was directing us to.

The traffic was more challenging than usual tonight, as our late start meant us travelling in rush hour. Also, we took a wrong turning when Lee was distracted by sweets, meaning a slightly later arrival time. Time had already been tight – leaving us only an hour tops in the pub – so we decided to head straight to the ground. We could always grab something to eat and drink there. It wasn’t ideal but I would rather that than the stress of arriving late.

Lee tasked me with locating a parking spot in Barnsley and I found this really useful Visiting Supporters Guide. Of course Barnsley FC were helpful because we knew from our previous visit that this was a special town with a special community. This guide told us there was parking by the Metrodome – the one place we had taken pains to avoid whilst we were here (because for so long it was the ONLY place away fans would go). This trip was turning into exactly the kind of away trip that I had been trying to avoid all season.

We arrived around 1830 and were pleased to find the car park situated directly between the Metrodome and the ground, which was only minutes away on foot. This designated away fans parking was in the perfect spot. Well done Barnsley.

It was colder than expected so I donned my bodywarmer and Big Coat, as well as my snug Fritidsklader hat. I really needed a wee, so practically sprinted to the ground.

Barnsley v Blackpool

On arrival at the ground, I found Seasiders congregating outside the away end – and the gates firmly closed. But I needed a wee! This was no good, Barnsley. The Visiting Supporters Guide confirmed that the turnstiles opened 90 minutes before kick off on Saturdays – why were midweek matches different? MG said he’d been advised that the gates would open at 1845, so I danced on the spot for a few minutes before dancing over to the gate to silently plead with the gateman (and so I could be one of the first in).

When the gates did open (an hour before kick off), I danced my way through – but woah was that a dog? My pace slowed as I opened the camera on my phone and, as I stopped to pet and snap the dog, a steward urged me to ‘keep moving please.’ Was she on loan from Rotherham? But I appear to have developed a habit of ‘seeing things from both sides’ – and there was now a long queue snaking behind me. That said, if they’d opened the gates earlier, most of these people would already be in the ground spending money at the food kiosks.

I was in the ground now – and headed immediately for the Ladies. Bonus points for free lady products (catch on, please, Blackpool), but the water was cold and the hand drier was even colder. Brr! I wiped my hands on my jeans and headed for the (now quite lengthy) queue at the refreshment kiosk.

En route I had been studying the menu in the Visiting Supporters Guide in a bid to stave off my hanger. I had decided I would have a cheeseburger (because I don’t like pies or hot dogs and pastry gives me indigestion) and a bitter (I don’t usually drink in grounds but I had missed out on the pub tonight, so why not?).

As I approached the front of the queue, I hoped I’d misheard the following:

‘We’ve got no bitter, I’m afraid. But we’ve got lager.’

Now at the front of the queue, it was confirmed that there was, indeed, no bitter on tonight.

‘Ok. What else have you got by way of alcohol?’

‘Well we’ve got lager, cider…’

I stood on my tiptoes and peered into the fridge.

‘What’s that pink stuff?’

‘It’s pink.’

‘Yes but what flavour.’

‘Err…let me look…it’s Pink Gin WKD.’

Dear reader, I ask you: why is Pink Gin WKD being sold at a football ground in Yorkshire? That said, if she’d said pretty much any other flavour (pink lemonade or even unicorn if I’m honest), I would have bought it. But the word ‘gin’ is a red flag for me, as it makes me catastrophise and thus it’s the last thing I need when I’m in a football ground.

‘Can I have a cheeseburger please?’

As you may deduce from the unmelted cheese, this burger was cold. How had that come about, when I’d bought it pretty much as soon as the gates opened? How long had it been sitting there? If only they’d opened the gates 90 minutes before kick off like it says in the Visiting Supporters Guide… Nonetheless I polished off the whole thing because I hadn’t eaten a thing since lunchtime. I only hoped that I wouldn’t live to regret it, as I had once upon a burger in Stockport…

In fact, I was so hungry that I reached into my pocket for dessert.

Yes, it’s a mess because it melted in my pocket then reset.

Aeros are, of course, lucky. I forgot to mention that we won 6-1 on Bank Holiday Monday because I’d polished off two Orange Aeros over the course of the weekend. Hopefully the Dark & Milk Aero would have a similar effect tonight (Orange Aeros don’t seem to work midweek, so I was trying a new tactic).

There wasn’t much to write home about on the pitch tonight. And, to be honest, I haven’t really been able to see much since the original fixture was postponed. You see, that weekend (when there was no match), I was trialling some new multifocal contact lenses and I told my optician they were fine and bought six months worth of them. Only to find at the next match that they weren’t great at long distance. My long sight has been gradually deteriorating since then to the point that I now cannot make out who the players are on the pitch. Karen kept trying to engage me in conversation at the match and I said she might as well be talking to a blind person as I had no idea who was having a good game or not, as I couldn’t distinguish between the players. She then helpfully started commentating for me, which I found really helpful. I’d be glad to pick up my new lenses from the opticians tomorrow.

What I could see, however, were the smoke bombs thrown onto the pitch, which remained there for AGES, with no-one wanting to take responsibility for removing them and getting on with the match. Eventually one of Barnsley’s backroom staff (I think) strolled onto the pitch to remove them. This happened AGAIN later in the match (you’d have thought the fire safety officer would have been on standby after the earlier incident). I didn’t understand why the referee didn’t remove the smoke bomb himself so the match could resume. Sure it might have officially been ‘someone else’s job’ but surely sometimes someone/anyone needs to just man up and get shit done, as opposed to standing with their backs to the pitch pretending not to see like the stewards in front of us.

At one point, the ball ended up in the Blackpool end and the visiting Seasiders proceeded to play with it amongst themselves. When they eventually lost possession and the ball ended up in the vicinity of the Blackpool subs warming up on the touchline, they sang:

‘Jerry giz the ball / Jerry Jerry giz the ball.’

And bless our Jerry Yates, who delighted the travelling fans by kicking the ball back to them so they could continue playing. Yes, that’s how entertaining this match was, dear reader.

Oh we won 2-0, with goals from Owen Dale and Olly Casey. Here’s Lee’s vlog of the match:

Again I had one eye on the Chasetown match, as they were away at Halesowen Town in the semi final of the NPL MIdlands play offs tonight. Talk about drama! Check out what happened in the last minute of that match.

Lancashirebound

We got off the car park easily but it proved much trickier to escape Barnsley itself as there was a local road closure. This flummoxed Waze and we had to pull over and do some map reading. I plotted a course for Wilthorpe, which seemed out of the way enough, and this plan worked to get us back on track.

The boys wanted to stop for refreshments – and I was in need of a drink, too – so we made a pit stop at Woolley Edge Services.

Of course I was once again tempted astray by an exciting confectionery item…

…although this is now in the Naughty Cupboard and I have yet to eat it. Perhaps I could try it at a match and see if it is more lucky than the Orange Aero?

The remainder of the journey was uneventful and we arrived home safe but tired and willing the season to end so I can have a rest…

Next Up: Blackpool v Derby County.

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