Jane Stuart – Writer

Writer on beer, football culture and Blackpool FC.

Blackpool v Reading

The big kick off was finally here – pitting one former Blackpool manager against another. Michael Appleton has returned to the seaside following his spell as our shortest-serving manager ever ten years back; and Paul Ince (who succeeded Appleton in 2013) now remarkably has another job at Reading, having been out of work since we potted him a year later.

But before we get to the football let me take you into town for a bite to eat and a few drinks…

Michael Wan’s Mandarin

I’d heard great things about this Chinese and was very excited when I spotted it on Clifton Street (home to Twisted Indian and East 4 West, both of which I sampled last season). I was delighted when Louise agreed to accompany me on Wednesday night. We were unable to book in for our preferred time of 1930 so ended up with the 1730 slot. Bit early, I thought, before realising that’s the time I usually have my tea.

I was pleased to be greeted by staff wearing tangerine jackets not unlike my own. It was a good job I wasn’t wearing mine tonight – although, that said, it was a bit nippy under the air conditioning against my bare arms (I was being brave as it was forecast to be 18C this evening).

It was busy already and we were seated at the only vacant table. This was surely a good sign if the restaurant was this popular.

The bar was impressive with a wide range of drinks. I decided to attempt to be sensible with the drinks tonight (which meant avoiding cocktails with dinner), so I opted for one of these.

A cocktail but not a cocktail.

Other beer offerings were Black Sheep, Tiger, Lucky Buddha, Peroni and Becks Blue (bottled) and Sun Lik and Becks on draught/draft/however it’s spelled these days. Obvs the Becks Blue would have been the most diet-friendly option but the above at 4% was still a good option.

I fancied the Chicken Lettuce Wrap starter (stir fried diced chicken, cashew nuts, straw mushrooms, water chestnuts and carrots, served with iceberg lettuce for wrapping); however this was a sharing dish and Louise didn’t fancy it. Plus my stomach doesn’t really have the capacity for two courses at the best of times. So it was straight into the mains.

My Chinese staple is Szechuan Chicken but I was a bit scared of the ‘Very Spicy’ in brackets, given that I hadn’t eaten here before and wasn’t sure quite how spicy this would be. I chickened out and plumped for the less-diet-friendly Chicken Curry. This sounded amazing on the menu so I couldn’t resist it.

It was delivered within minutes of ordering.

My plate was soon cleared with half a bottle of my beer still remaining. It had been tasty but, when all said and done, it was just a Chinese Chicken Curry. Nor was I particularly full afterwards – and Louise reminded me that the last time we’d eaten out at a restaurant I hadn’t been full either and had ended up having two packets of crisps in the pub afterwards. She invited me to tuck into her Salt and Chilli Chips – and boy were they hot and spicy! They didn’t even come with a warning on the menu so goodness knows how hot the Szechuan was… I managed two chips before downing the rest of my beer.

I’m glad I’ve visited Mandarin but I’ll confess I do prefer Indian and Thai restaurants so I’ll probably revert back to one of these on my next restaurant visit.

We headed out in search of new pubs for me to research for this blog (despite me really wanting to head to Cask & Tap at this point). Louise wanted to go somewhere that would have the football on in the background. I realised I tend to avoid pubs showing sports so this proved quite a challenge.

We headed first towards Louise’s friend’s new magic bar – Russ Brown’s House of Secrets – but it appeared to be hosting a private party. Next we tried Scream & Shake Horror Bar – unsure if it had alcohol or not, but determined to move on if it didn’t – but that was closed (although subsequent research reveals it does have beer). Grr. We then found ourselves veering towards Rose & Crown but that seemed a bit loud for our liking, so we turned heel. We were about to head for Little Black Pug but the doors were firmly closed. Boo. I wanted to try the Three Piers Cookhouse + Pub (the pub that’s part of the new Premier Inn, where Yates’s used to be before it burned down) – but it was full of kids (it now being the summer holidays). We turned instead towards Counting House. This is a Greene King pub (who knew?) and was nicer on the inside than I’d expected. I must have been here before but not for around 25 years and it was probably much busier and scarier at that time (I always did prefer smaller, quieter pubs). I would have been inclined to stay – as it did have TVs – but the two cask pumps were bare and I wasn’t up for drinking Strongbow Dark Fruits for three hours so took the decision to move on. It was quite hard work to find somewhere we liked that was open and I was reminded why I usually gravitate towards Cask & Tap / Alberts / Brew Room when I’m in town.

Statue outside Counting House.

Ah but that’s North Pier in the background…and there’s a new(ish) bar at the end of the pier…

Bloom Bar

In an inexplicable phenomenon, it was less nippy as soon as we set foot on the pier. With every step we prayed that this bar would be open. The last time I’d arrived at a pier bar (on South Pier), they immediately turned off the cricket from the big screens outside and, when we headed inside, we were given short shrift and told they were closing.

North Pier is my favourite pier. I’m originally from Anchorsholme, so this was my nearest pier when I was growing up (ok technically it was probably Fleetwood but I’m not counting that). Other reasons for it being a favourite are as follows:

It’s got a little train!
It’s the birthplace of Sooty!
It’s got one of these!
Look at this view!

But of course the main purpose of our visit was alcohol, so let’s get to the bar…

There was no beer on in here – and I still wasn’t in the mood for Dark Fruits or Old Mout.

‘What diet pops do you have?’

Louise was unimpressed.

‘You’re not having a SOFT drink, are you?’

‘Noooo I’ll be having a vodka in it.’

‘Oh that’s all right, then.’

I made enquiries of the barman as to the flavours of Absolut Vodka available but I couldn’t hear his responses when he had his back to me at the rear of the bar, so I had to ask him to repeat them more than once. I went for the Absolut Raspberri with Slimline Tonic and was asked a question about this that I couldn’t make out either but the barman was now looking at me expectantly.

‘Sorry, I can’t hear you from back there.’

‘Do you want some strawberries in it?’

‘Ooh yes please!’

Drinking spirits (more SlimmingWorld friendly than beer, so a good option when there isn’t any) was opening up a whole new world for me. In the past I have been appalled at the idea of objects in drinks (the sheer amount of mint in mojitos had a big hand in this). But I’m changing my view on this, possibly as a result of the ‘beer tapas’ offered in Wigan Central or the cocktails at Strait & Narrow in Lincoln.

The seats were comfy in here and it was certainly a pleasant change of scene. I imagine this place will be particularly lovely on a sunny day (although it would also likely be busier and therefore not as nice for me). It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area.

But it didn’t have the football on and didn’t have any beer so of course we weren’t stopping for more than one drink.


We weren’t sure we fancied this place, both of us having visited previously and not fallen in love with it. But we decided to step inside instead of passing by – and this proved to be a good decision.

First of all, it wasn’t too busy. Secondly, it had the football on. And thirdly, there was an ale on. Yippee!

£2.30 wasn’t far off, as it was around a fiver for two pints.
Ooh a Halloween glass.

There were a couple of highlights in here for me. One was the retro 90s music (Mambo No 5, Pretty Fly For A White Guy, No Scrubs). And the other was the incredibly exciting spirits menu. Ooh things could get messy in here if you were in for a sesh.

Taboo! Who knew that was still a thing!

After we’d finished our pints we consulted the spirits menu and decided we both wanted to go ‘off menu’. Fully realising that the bar staff may decide not to accommodate this, we each selected a back-up drink. The barman was happy to accommodate Louise’s Havana flight with ginger beer instead of Coke; however he would not accept swaps of cheaper vodkas as part of the vodka flights. This was a shame, as I wanted to try the Black Cow Strawberry, Boë Pink (raspberry and white chocolate!) and Au Red Cherry. It seemed a daft refusal, as I would have paid more for cheaper drinks, but perhaps this was another example of ‘computer says no’ from the till. So, instead of buying six drinks between the two of us, we ended up having just one each (probably the wiser decision for us but the pub missed out on additional revenue here). I went for this:

Double of this rum, obvs.

The football proved decent background entertainment, with Germany beating France 2-1 to get to the final of the Women’s Euros. And then it was time to head home.

So that’s your pubs and grub ticked off (for the uninitiated, I get complaints if I don’t include enough pubs and beer). Now let’s move on to matchday…

Pre Match

I’ll confess I’ve been feeling burnt out recently so have decided to take my foot off the gas a little – and introduce more self-care – starting this weekend.

I began the day in the shower, with Deacon Blue’s Raintown blasting out. I simply love that album but did wonder why I’d chosen it today. Well, I supposed it was raining and I was feeling drained before Blackpool have even kicked a ball.

I then listened to the SlimmingWorld Podcast as I did half an hour on the static bike for my morning motivation. I’ve resolved to introduce more exercise into my routine and there’s no point putting it off until tomorrow. I’ve also decided to join the gym. I’ve got a week off coming up and intend to use that time to have an induction, familiarise myself with the equipment and the layout of the gym and try out a few classes to see what I like before incorporating them into my weekly routine. I dug out my journal and jotted down a schedule of classes that I might attend that week. For me, committing things to the page gets thoughts out of my head and brings them into the real world and makes them tangible. Journalling helps me solve a lot of perceived problems that might otherwise overwhelm me.

I sold three fanzines before I’d even left the house via online sales and packaged them up ready to post en route to the ground.

At 1315 it was time to head down to Bloomfield Road (in the rain!) with my fanzines for sale. I had no idea how I was going to juggle fanzines, an umbrella, a card machine and my phone, so I issued a tweet encouraging people to bring cash for their fanzines. I suppose this cash v card payment has been the root cause of my anxiety this week as I honestly don’t know what percentage of people carry cash these days. Mercifully Lee would be on hand with that extra pair of hands that I needed.

Of course, if you subscribe to the fanzine that will help reduce my matchday selling anxiety. It’s just £15 for the whole season and a dry copy of four fanzines will be delivered to your door over the course of the season. Press the button below to do this.

It was only drizzling a tiny bit as I stood outside Arcade Club (which never appears to be open but I’m dying to visit!). Fortunately the brolly wasn’t required – and there was also little call for the card reader, as mercifully most customers had cash. Phew! Lee did a sterling job, though, when called upon to process a card payment.

Zine sales went pretty well and, if you haven’t bought one yet, this video provides reasons why you might want to.

It’s interesting selling zines because, you begin to observe certain behaviours of passers by and potential customers:

  • Those who are determined not to meet your eye
  • Those who come scurrying towards you purposely with money already in hand (these tend to arrive three at a time, like buses)
  • Those who think it’s the programme (there’s always one who returns it after they’ve bought it for this reason, despite me constantly shouting ‘FANZINE!’)
  • Those who get excited that it’s not the programme and buy one
  • Those who are just plain rude (a Reading fan today: ‘didn’t you notice the blue shirt’)
  • Those who ask where Lee is (‘he’s just over there’)
  • Those who lie ‘I’ve already got one’ (impossible, actually, as there’s only me selling them)
  • Those with random requests (‘are you the guy from Yorkshire Seasiders?’ What?!)
  • Those who present me with unexpected gifts or pay over the odds

It’s a fun game which passes the time nicely while I’m standing in the rain for 90 minutes.

I decided to pack up and move into the ground around 1450, so I could get to my seat in time for kick off. Thank you so much to everyone who bought a copy today or who has already subscribed – I really appreciate every one of you.

Blackpool v Reading

I made it to my seat in time! I was pleased to see the familiar faces around me in the South Stand and I caught up with Derek, who was excited to report on his summer’s Hotpotting and his new puppy.

I hadn’t had chance to look at the team but was pleased with what I saw. That midfield of Fiorini, Carey and Virtue ain’t half bad. Ekpiteta and Williams is a lovely tall and composed centre half pairing. There was a debut for Dom Thompson (new full back woo!). And of course my beloved Josh Bowler was in there.

We started brightly and scored after just nine minutes – Connolly pouncing on a rebound from Bowler. Joshy was at the centre of many strong attacking movements – and the new gaffer hadn’t been wrong about this aggressive attacking; it was a joy to watch. We went in at the break 1-0 up and I was really encouraged by what I had seen. Reading hadn’t looked up to much at all and were powerless to stop our attacks. Even with the might of Thomas Ince in their team (who, by the way, was never a patch on Josh Bowler).

No biryani for me at the match today as I’d had cheese & bacon pasta just before the match to sustain me through the zine selling – although there was clearly one close by, as I got a waft of its tantalising aroma. Mmm…

After the break it was a different story. We allowed Reading more time on the ball but, although they did attack, it wasn’t with any great threat; I wasn’t worried at any point that they would score. But then the ref got in on the act, awarding them everything. I was also annoyed by his foam spray, which he used to denote where the ball should be placed for the free-kick and where the wall should stand.

Note these are still visible minutes after use on our lovely new pitch. I worried he’d brought a can of spray paint by mistake.

Reading continued to attack – and I was really encouraged to see Appleton making changes; he clearly wasn’t impressed with our second half performance either. And, most exciting of all, after already making a couple of changes, he made a triple sub (A TRIPLE SUB!!!) ten minutes from time (we are allowed five subs now). Critchley would never have done that! How much did we put up with from that badge kisser that was actually pretty poor? I’m genuinely excited at seeing how Appleton can revolutionise and breathe fresh life into this Blackpool team. I’m already loving the subs and the corners and switching the play from side to side and the hoofing the ball out of danger and trying players out in different positions (Jerry Yates looked revitalised on the left wing today).

The game ended 1-0 and I left the ground far more excited than when I’d arrived – and already looking forward to Stoke next week.

Post Match

Tea was a SlimmingWorld Chicken Tikka Masala (ready meal from Iceland) with quick cook long grain white rice. While that cooked, I put the finishing touches to this blog (most of which was already written earlier this week and this morning).

Tonight’s movie of choice was Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It’s almost 20 years old now but I’d never seen it before. I could get into this Saturday night movie night thing. I know you prefer to read about the pub – and I probably will get back into doing that post-match as the football wears away at me over the course of the season – but for now a movie does me nicely.

By now I was in my jim jams and could finally relax and switch off for the night…and the rest of the weekend. Amen to that.

Next Up: A Football Tourist’s Guide To Stoke.

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