Jane Stuart – Writer

Writer on beer, football culture and Blackpool FC.

Sheffield Pubs & Sheffield United v Blackpool

I spent Friday in Sheffield surrounded by feeders and being thrown completely off my healthy eating plan with sandwiches, sausage roll, crisps, cake and mini Toblerones. This, dear reader, is what happens when I leave Paddington at home.

My SlimmingWorld consultant had sent me this to help me through the day.

I did have a heart to heart with Paddington (my life coach) last week and we’ve agreed that I’m going to shift my focus to toning and shaping my body at the gym instead of getting hung up on the numbers on the scales. Hence I really didn’t feel so bad for allowing myself to eat all of the above this afternoon. I knew I had a gym session in advance of my next weigh.

I was due to meet Karen off her train and subsequently Martin and Christine had kindly offered to pick us up from the station.

En route I passed a cat cafe which I made a mental note to book into on my next visit to Sheffield.

Ooh and this place looked great but ain’t nobody got time for that just now.

The Beer Engine.

Sheffield Tap

I love love love station taps! There’s something magical about them. This is partly because they spin train delays on their head so you WANT your train to be delayed. It’s partly because you meet such an eclectic bunch of people there, all with different stories about where they are travelling from and to. But it’s also because the beers are AMAZING.

On arrival in the Sheffield Tap this evening, I surveyed the pump clips.

Ooh Brew York Tonkoko please!

The bar was bustling and it was a minute or two before I caught the attention of the barman. But this delay had proved crucial. It allowed my eyes the time to wander to the fridges behind the bar. And this is what I ended up ordering.

Obvs an 8%er is a far from ideal at the start of a crawl. But how could I resist this? You may recall that I first discovered and fell in love with Thornbridge Brewery‘s Pardus range in The Greystones on my last visit to Sheffield. On that occasion it was a Chocolate Orange beer – but I hadn’t tried this Banoffee one. I was reminded of the Coach House Banoffee Bitter that I enjoyed so much at Liverpool Beer Festival that I had two of them (and I NEVER have the same beer twice at a beer festival).

‘Is there anyone sitting here, please?’

‘Not for about half an hour.’

‘Oh, I’ll be gone by then.’

I took off my coat and hat, relaxed into a chair, poured from the can into my tulip glass and savoured the first delicious sip. Ah lovely stuff! I sighed contentedly and checked my messages in case Karen or Martin had been in touch. And Martin had. He would be here to collect us in ten minutes. This left me with a dilemma. I really didn’t want to down this 8% beer, which (a) deserved to be savoured and (b) would have wrecked me for the night. I was quickly struck by a flash of inspiration. I had my flask with me, which was now empty of the Tick Tock Vanilla Rooibos I had drunk on the train to Sheffield. I could decant the rest of the can into my flask! Damn I’m amazed by my genius sometimes.

Karen arrived and we headed round to the pick up point to meet Martin and Christine, who delivered us to the pub where we were having tea.

Porter Brook

I had selected the previously undiscovered Sharrow area for our pub crawl – but had delegated the choice of pubs to Martin. Whilst I enjoy planning itineraries for these trips, I equally enjoy reverting to ‘follow’ mode. This is a skill I learned on a singles holiday (not THAT sort, it was more like a Saga holiday and it was great) to Transylvania back in 2018 when EVERYTHING was organised for me (I do have that written up to publish at some point). I had, however, requested that our pub for tea tonight would ideally include something SlimmingWorld friendly that I could eat (e.g. steak, jacket potato, pasta, tomato-based curry). This (as Martin learned) is trickier than you might think, with a lot of pubs serving pizza. But good old Greene King came up trumps with the Porter Brook.

Beerwise we had the following options.

I love Rat beers (and loved their tap in Huddersfield the other week); but the word ‘hoppy’ put me off that one. I opted for the Abbeydale (another favourite).

Because Paddington wasn’t here to physically sit on the table and observe what I was eating – and because I’d been eating off plan all day and started on an 8% beer tonight – I didn’t make the best choice of food tonight, although it wasn’t a burger or anything hugely calorific.

Half a roast chicken, rosemary fries, side salad and peri-peri sauce,

I didn’t eat the skin of the chicken and left half of the fries because I was full. There was more meat on the legs than the body of the chicken. But this did the trick very nicely thank you.

The same, however, could not be said for Karen and her meal.

Sausage and mash with chips instead of mash and beef dripping gravy.

‘Is everything all right with your meal?’

‘No. These sausages are terrible.’

‘Oh. Well the ones we use for the starters are better. Should I do you some of those?’

‘Yes please.’

The replacement sausages (chipolatas) were far better received – and there were loads of them for Karen (and Martin, who’d only ordered the squid starter, seemingly preferring to eat off everyone else’s plate) to tuck into.

There was a great picture behind Karen that I wanted to photograph for you, but I grumbled that the light was reflecting off it, making it tricky to snap. Karen immediately set to work wrapping her jacket round the light above the picture to solve the problem.

Observe Karen’s jacket top right.

In terms of layout this pub reminded me very much of The Stags Head (also in Sheffield).

Right – next!

The Beer House

This micropub is practically next door to the Porter Brook. Again, this reminded me of another pub in terms of layout – this time The King’s Ditch in Tamworth. That was a great pub that let us take in our chippy tea from the chippy next door.

Here’s a terrible photo of the beer board.

I had a half of each of the Marble Mild and the Bristol Beer Factory Milk Stout. The former was the best beer of the night – and I was amazed that I hadn’t had it before. It was lovely and treacly and made one of my favourite stouts seem bland in comparison.

This was a busy micropub but there was a bench outside that Christine bagged for us before that was occupied too. Karen was unimpressed with the wetness of the bench (it had been raining earlier) and spotted a table inside where the occupants appeared to be drinking up. It turned out that they weren’t but we somehow ended up securing their table anyway.

Sausage rolls on the bar.

The above elephant reminded my of my pre-blog exploration of Sheffield through the Herd of Sheffield art trail back in 2016. I do love a good art trail.

This is one of those micropubs where I could happily stay all evening (especially with that mild on). But this was an exploratory mission so move on we must. These exploratory missions are important because it is through these that we discover those little gems that we can return to on future visits. And Sheffield is one of those special cities (like Liverpool) where there are so many special pubs, it is vital to expand these explorations (much as I’d happily roost in the Rutland / Sheffield Tap for an entire session).

But we had three further pubs to visit this evening, so on we trotted.

Martin was keen to show us what the Eccleshall Road had to offer, with its cool artisan shops and eateries. I’d have taken many more photos had we visited in daylight (a fine excuse for a revisit). But for now here’s what I snapped on the way to the next pub.

Ooh swings!
Ooh a dog! This is an art shop.

As this was turning out to be quite a lengthy walk, we soon realised we should have made ourselves comfortable prior to leaving the last pub. We called into a pub (where else) with the slight intention of staying for a drink, but conducting a loo review first.

The light came on but it didn’t work.

There was a band warming up in the back room and, had we not been mid-crawl, we might have been tempted to stay. But it was hot and busy in here so we continued on our way.

‘Ooh there’s one of those bears I was telling you about,’ said Christine.

Last year there had been a bear art trail in Sheffield. I really ought to get more art trail aware so I can sneak one in every year. It’s a fine way to explore a city.

Would have looked better in the light. Also check out the street name.

The Ale Club

Yet again I was reminded of another pub (layout-wise) when stepping into this one; this time The Stoneworks Bar in Peterborough.

This micropub was brimming with character and is exactly the sort of place Lee would love because there was so much to look at.

Tiger shark jaws.

Oh, the beers?

I had the Vocation Naughty & Nice, which happily I’m seeing a lot of.

‘Jane! Jane! Look at the fridge!’ shouted Karen.

Since I’d started this evening almost being dragged off track by an 8%er from a fridge, I had no intention of looking in this one. Although of course I did – but I had the sense to wait until I already had a drink in my hand so I wouldn’t be tempted by anything in there.

Ooh I LOVE Bucks Fizz (the band).

I was most impressed with the range of alcohol-free beers in Sheffield tonight. It’s not something I’d normally observe but Martin was drinking them because he was driving. I have enjoyed the above Galactic Milk Stout in a pub in Newbury before the Reading match last season.

Loo review incoming!

Fancy loo roll holder.
Not much puff but great sticker action.
Paint me like one of your French girls.

Martin observed the younger age range of the clientele in this micropub, which was pleasing to note. This was a cool pub in a cool area (Martin wasn’t having the word ‘hipster’ but it totally was).

Again we could happily have stayed here but it was time to head back to the car to head over to a pub that Martin had told me I’d love but we’d promptly forgotten to visit the last time I was in Sheffield Proper.

The Crow Inn

This is the sister pub of my fave pub in Sheffield – The Rutland Arms.

‘It used to be called The Crown but the ‘n’ dropped off.’

I wasn’t having any of this. I mean, look, there was a crow.

‘Look, there’s a crown.’

I was confused now (remember this was my fifth pub of the night).

I knew I was in trouble as soon as I walked in.

I was very much at the ‘scanning beer boards for exciting words and picking that one’ stage of proceedings. As soon as I saw ‘carrot cake’ and all those wonderful words underneath it (‘cardamom cinnamon ginger vanilla’) there was no going back for me. It was only past the point of this decision that I spotted the ABV. 15.1%. Ouch!

These were the casks.

Of course I should have had that milk stout. Or even the Boon Kriek from the keg list – one of my faves and a safe 4%. I had my first kriek in Huddersfield, I think, at the Head of Steam. All beer roads lead to Yorkshire for me. Kriek became my beer of choice on a visit to Bruges, where I found myself falling asleep at 6pm most evenings because those Belgian beers were too strong for me.

Ooh a pork pie with apple!
Dammit we were a week too early for this.

This beermat brought us onto the subject of Kelham Island Brewery, which has recently been saved from extinction. Its flagship beer Pale Rider is being rushed back into production so it’s ready in time for this festival. How lovely is that?

Ooh another crow!

Now it was time to drop Karen at her hotel before heading back to drop off the car and head down to Martin and Christine’s local for a nightcap.

The Blind Monkey

This is a stunning pub – inside and out.

Let’s start with the beer.

I went for the Gongoozler but I found it difficult to drink. It was a thick, chewy beer – and I had reached my drinking capacity for the evening. Happily, Martin had just started drinking now his driving duties were complete, so he made sure it didn’t go to waste.

This was a traditional wood-panelled cosy pub and here are some of its quirks.

Martin was snacking on these, which he was dipping in the jam provided.

I simply had to try this, despite not being a fan of scratchings. The result? The jam made them taste less like scratchings, so it was a YES from me. Not that I’d ever buy scratchings.

Soon it was time to head back to Chez Martin & Christine, who were kindly putting me up for the night. I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

The Morning After

I awoke around 0930 and began my morning toilette. I was delighted by the aroma of the grapefruit shower gel (from the Faith In Nature range, I later discovered). I do love waking up to products that smell nice. It’s just a little bit of extra joy to start the day. Indeed I use this shampoo purely because it smells of tiramisu even though it’s not meant for my hair type.

‘Do you want a brew?’

‘Ooh yes please.’

‘Coffee? Tea? We’ve got herbal teas.’

I had a lemon and mint tea and joined my hosts in their living room. I now noticed that they were ready to head out for the day and immediately regretted accepting the brew, the drinking of which would delay them further. I was glad of it, though, and it set me up nicely for the walk back into town. I was offered a lift but wanted to start the day with good intentions in an attempt to negate yesterday’s food and beer binge.

I spotted an amazing wooden map of the world on the wall. Christine told me it had been hand-carved in Ukraine. I chuckled as that explained why half of Russia was labelled URALS, making that country look much smaller.

As soon as I’d drained my mug I said my goodbyes and headed downhill into town. My rucksack seemed much heavier this morning. It was sunny and warm, too, which always makes walking harder for me.

The walk wasn’t without incident. As I swished through fallen leaves – unable to distinguish between the pedestrian and cycle lanes – I heard a voice from behind me.

‘Excuse me! I’m behind you!’

It was a frightfully posh woman approaching on her bicycle which apparently didn’t have a bell. I chuckled and stepped aside.

After almost being mown down by a man speeding in a mobility scooter, I took a wrong turn, adding ten minutes to my half-hour walk, and collapsed in a chair in reception at Karen’s hotel.

I hadn’t spotted anywhere suitable for breakfast on my walk but observed that it was now 1100 so we might as well head to a pub for our breakfast.

The Penny Black

As soon as I saw the words ‘Greene King’ I knew this was the place for breakfast.

Now it was time to contemplate the menu.

Wow this sounds epic!

I was struggling to read this menu. These varifocal contact lenses are a hard thing to get right and, whilst my long-distance vision is fine now, it’s at the expense of my close vision. Add to this yesterday’s alcohol intake (which for some reason impairs my vision the day after) – and I had to ask Karen to read me the breakfast menu.

Full English Breakfast.

There were no ales on here, which was fine as I only wanted a Diet Coke with my breakfast. And it was a brilliant pub that fellow blogger Evo would love.

As I bopped along to Mr Blue Sky by ELO, I noticed that Now 70s was playing on the tv.

Our breakfasts were delivered but there was no sign of the toast. Karen started chuntering about wanting it to go with her egg but I had no intention of getting up to ask after it as I was still knackered after my walk. Besides, I knew she would eventually, which she promptly did…just as the toast arrived.

A brusque hunk of muscle in a Sheffield United top stood in the middle of the pub holding a full English in one hand.

‘Anybody ordered a breakfast? Somebody bloody has!’

As the silence ensued I was half-tempted to claim it myself to defuse the tension.

I couldn’t leave without conducting a loo review. Indeed I remained in the Ladies longer than required so I could continue listening to a woman who entered into a stream of consciousness as soon as she entered the room.

‘Ooh that’s a squeaky door, isn’t it? Well I hope that’s the end of our traumas for today. Surely nothing else can go wrong. Ooh these toilets seem clean enough. Well the floor’s a bit mucky but as long as the toilet is clean, that’s all that matters really, isn’t it?’

I should point out that she was with someone and not just rambling to herself.

On our way out of the pub we spotted these signs.


But now it was time for the short walk across to the train station to meet up with some more travelling Seasiders. Our walk took us through Sheffield Interchange (the bus station). Just outside I spotted this oddity.

Peering through the window we could see a small desk and chair. This was a tiny office space. Whilst I think I might find this claustrophobic, it is a functional space and I suppose a useful one for remote workers (or students) who live in a hectic household.

Sheffield Tap (so good I went there twice)

The station pub was bustling already at noon but we soon caught sight of some familiar faces at the far end of the bar. I paused at the bar to order the beer I had intended to drink here last night.

After a quick chat with Walshy, I grabbed a seat at the end of the table and began making small talk with the man whose newspaper I had been about to pick up and read before he reappeared with a pint. As the Seasiders began amassing, he realised his mates weren’t going to fit in that corner when they arrived so he relocated – but left his paper behind. Now I’m not usually one for reading the news (you may have observed that I prefer to inhabit my own little world full of beer and food and pubs and animals and music and books and Paddington) but this paper had a grabber on the front page.

Karen’s dentist, Steve, and his partner, Tracy, had now joined us. They are groundhoppers and Steve has already done 46 of the 92, despite living in Scotland.

Ooh that marmalade vodka is one of my fave dessert drinks. But there’ll be none of that today…

Phil of Yorkshire Seasiders arrived and was equally intrigued by the Chinese cat article.

I had spied Houstie down the other end of the table so decided to head over and circulate. I’d forgotten how hard it is to spend quality time with everyone I want to talk to in a busy matchday pub (sorry for not making it round to you Peter). Houstie was great value as always and told me all about his plans for the forthcoming World Cup. He also told me that the female equivalent of ‘man of the match’ is ‘girl of the game’, which made me smile.

Whilst I was having a merry old time guzzling three pints of lush beer with my pals, Lee was encountering traffic troubles on his way over from Blackpool in the car. I’m usually in charge of the departure time and the satnav but today he was flying solo (not strictly true, as he was fetching Paddington, who had packed a cool bag full of healthy snackage to get me back on track). His satnav (not Mike on Waze, who is our usual guide) had taken him off the motorway onto a narrow road and at the same time added 17 minutes to his journey. He seemed incredibly flustered despite me pointing out that his estimated arrival time of 1400 was still in plenty of time for the match and promising to sort out the car parking.

At 1352 Lee called to advise that he’d pick me up in five minutes. I said my goodbyes to the gang and nipped for a quick loo review before departure.

Magic flush.

I was soon collected and we were parked up in a street bay ten minutes walk from the ground by 1415. I couldn’t figure out the parking meter (having never used one, as I don’t drive, and also being three pints down). I left the payment to Lee who, on his way back from paying, groaned that he’d only paid for three hours and not four. Not to worry, I said – we’d just have to be quick getting out of the ground at the end. Plus we’d have to be very unlucky for a traffic warden to appear in the five or so minutes that we might be late.

Sheffield United v Blackpool

On arrival at the ground we were dismayed to see long queues snaking out of the away turnstiles. The police seemed to be blaming the club for not opening more turnstiles. Thank goodness I’d had that wee before I’d left the pub. I had a bit of pub chat with Malcolm in the queue (Cask in Bispham is opening imminently, apparently, but that has been the case since Easter so I’m not holding my breath). When I finally got to the turnstile I got a frisk, which is always a treat because it makes me feel like I’m going on holiday.

I popped to the Ladies (to be sure of being comfortable for the first half) and then to the refreshment kiosk.

£2.50 each but lids left on, which made me happy.

For once I decided to head straight to the far end and hopefully away from the bulk of the crowd, as opposed to migrating towards my allocated seat. Here I was surprised to bump into Karen, who was in our allocated seats, which was where I had been heading despite not knowing this. Here was my view.

Right now where do I start with the match itself? Ordinarily it might get a paragraph or two but this one is worthy of a whole screenplay…

I’ll start with the lad on the row in front, who was whingeing to his heart’s content about Kenny Dougall, specifically questioning why he had been selected as ACM (or whatever positions are called these days by the FIFA generation). He joined in with one of the Kenny Dougall songs, replacing ‘oh what a night’ with ‘can’t pass for shite.’ I imagine he’s equally as perplexed by the other Kenny Dougall chant that claims he ‘never gives the ball away.’

Blackpool looked decent from the off once again and I was surprised to see us go 1-0 down after eight minutes but I wasn’t worried because (as Burnley well know) that’s WAY too early to be scoring against us. On 24 minutes it was 2-0 but again see Burnley.

Cue Jerry Yates centre stage. BOOM BOOM 2-2. He’d scored two last week, too, remember and he was on fire.

At half time we were buzzing and I was supremely confident that we’d go on to win this match. We’d got our swagger back and it was so joyful to witness.

Within five minutes of the restart BOOM that man Kenny Dougall – who had no right playing in an attacking midfield position, remember – put us ahead. And we were CRUISING, dear reader. There was no way our opponents could stop us when we were in this mood. We were in frightening form. What we hadn’t banked on, however, was a shitbag referee.

Remember our match last week, where I’d drifted off and started planning what was for tea? Well there was no chance of that happening this afternoon. This was one of those hugely rare matches that you simply cannot take your eyes off for a second.

I leaned forward to pick up my bottle of water and by the time I was stood upright again I’d missed a red card for our captain, Marvin Ekpiteta. By all accounts it was a late mistimed challenge and his second yellow so that was fair enough.

Three minutes later, Dom Thompson was also shown a red card (another second yellow, kicked the ball away/at someone). This left us playing the last ten minutes with nine men.

Cue the Alamo. Sheffield United attacked in waves but our remaining nine men held them at bay in heroic fashion. Blackpool were playing like a team possessed today and, despite the challenging conditions, it was bloody brilliant!

‘What else can I do?’ the ref seemed to think. ‘I can’t send another one off, can I? Ah I know! I’ll give them a penalty.’

I still wasn’t worried, as Maxi in goal was playing like a superhero and he’s dead good at saving pens. As it turned out, he didn’t need to on this occasion, as it hit the post and went clear. COME ON BLACKPOOL!!!

Lee kept looking at his watch. It read five to four, when it clearly was more like fifty minutes later. It was a Smart watch so should have been telling the correct time. This was unlike our Wi-Fi controlled clock that I bought on Amazon, which is perpetually an hour ahead because it’s linked to a Wi-Fi controller in Germany. Why was Lee’s watch telling the wrong time? I suggested something might be awry with his circadian rhythms as our digital scales always give him wildly different readings when he steps on them, despite working perfectly for me. So what time WAS it? How much longer did we need to hold on for?

‘I feel fucking sick,’ said Lee.

The fourth official held up the board. EIGHT MINUTES of added time. For fuck’s sake. Of course we knew what was going to happen next. Except we couldn’t quite have predicted exactly how it was going to go, because this sort of thing simply doesn’t happen in real life.

The ref awarded Sheffield United corner after corner after corner after bastard corner. And then – in the last minute of added time – they bundled Maxi over the line and put the ball in the back of the net while they had three men offside and the referee decided to allow it anyway and the game ended 3-3.

I headed out of the ground straight away, conscious that we needed to get back to the car pronto. I was also keen to be away from here. As I waited outside the ground for Lee to appear, I heard the crowd going nuts about something and realised the ref hadn’t quite finished dishing out his punishment just yet. I turned to Twitter and saw that Shayne Lavery had been sent off after the final whistle, together with one of theirs. What the fuck had happened there?

Lee appeared, announcing that he couldn’t face walking down the road with smug home fans so he was going to hang back. I said fair enough, he could pay the parking fine and he said okay. I stood to the side of the exit and waited awhile before deciding it had been long enough and he must surely be ready to head back now. I looked around, expecting to see Lee interviewing livid Blackpool fans for the match vlog, but there was no sign of him. I started walking back to the car and he was already there by the time I got there. I immediately reached for that flask of leftover Pardus Banoffee beer from the boot and was very thankful for Past Me decanting it in the Tap last night. That should see me home nicely.

Here’s Lee’s match vlog where you can watch it all unfold.

I took to t’internet to find out what had happened with Lavery at the end. There was already a video circulating on Twitter showing him being wrestled to the ground by their keeper. What the fuck? So that’s now two of our players who have been physically assaulted on the pitch and been sent off for their troubles (see Burnley)? The world’s gone mad.

I doubt many people have witnessed a refereeing performance like that before. Sadly I have. During my Chasetown days, we played Runcorn Linnets at home – and the ref sent off three Chase players AND two of our management team. By the end of the match, the whole ground was livid – Chase because the ref seemed unable to control the match through any other method than brandishing red cards, which seemed very harsh; and Runcorn because they thought (from our five red cards) that we were a dirty team, when we really weren’t. But that wasn’t the end of it. During the subsequent weeks, our opponents and officials had seen that we’d had five sent off and a number assumed that we were a dirty side, when that was not the case at all. I worry that Blackpool will now be tarred with the same brush – all because of an inflammatory refereeing performance. It’s potentially very damaging.

I don’t expect our appeal against Lavery’s dismissal will be successful; appeals very rarely are, as the FA tend to back their officials.

So that, dear reader, was that. We’ll not see another match like that possibly in our lifetimes. But what I will say is that I am hugely encouraged by these recent Blackpool performances. They are playing with so much heart and passion and they would run through brick walls for each other and we haven’t seen that since our Premier League days. This team could go a long way. Thank you, Michael Appleton, for bringing this out of them.

Next Up: Blackpool v Hull City.