My own haul of football grounds pales compared to Duncan McKay, and many other ground hoppers. I did, however, visit the 92 league grounds in a 5 year period in the ’90s, much to the delight of Mrs RM. Since you ask, Middlesbrough’s Riverside was the loudest, but City’s trips to crumbling grounds like Oxford and Luton were the most fun.
Of late, I’ve struggled to get tickets for City’s away games. But that’s OK, after all I’m just a plastic Southern Manc bandwagon-jumper, though I had no trouble getting tickets for the Emirates and Anfield 6 six years ago, pre-Aguero.
Plenty of tickets for our first trip to the London Stadium though, albeit ludicrously overpriced for a reserve team competition;
Before the abuse starts, let me be clear;
Hammers fans aren’t plastics. Like City, their attendances, humour and sense of reality have held up over the years, although the long march back to Stratford Station may start to wear their patience in Winter.
There’s been a lot of discussion about pre-match drinking too. This article by Stonch sums up frustration with Crate Brewing, which is pretty much the closest bar to the ground that’s not in Westgate. Stonch knows how to run a good pub, and assuming your customers are trouble-makers because they watch football (rather than, say, athletics) isn’t how to do it. I have enjoyed their beers a lot though.
Fortunately for me, my pre-match pint wasn’t at Crate, it was a pleasant stroll through Hackney Wick to Victoria Park.
If the former Olympic site is still a building site, the Wick is a genuinely fully-formed art space to rival Ancoats or
Milton Keynes Margate. It is pretty wonderful, if you like that sort of thing. It’s a long way from Plaistow and North Woolwich.
If you think that’s scary (it isn’t), then you should get locked in Victoria Park in the dark. A clear footpath route from Cadogan Terrace to the rear entrance of The People’s Park Tavern came to an abrupt halt. All gates locked at 5.15, no warning signs, no staff, no light. So I had to scale the fence, making sure not to damage my Beer Guide in the process of course. It amused some tourists, anyway.
It amused the staff in the People’s Park too, though getting called “Ninja” was a bit much. I’ll add that to my collection along with “M’Duck“, “Love“,”Darling” and “Brother“.
That would have been the highlight of this characterful Laines pub, but the burger was fantastic and the staff enthusiasm for their beer refreshing. A reminder of that Laines concept again;
I’m tempted to tell you I set fire to my scarf on the candle the staff set light to while I was admiring the ladies toilets, but you can have too much excitement, even in Homerton.
No other Hammers in the Park (15 minutes from the ground), and no other homebrew cask (or keg) sold in the half hour I was there. Plenty of 1664 being pulled, and, as it’s Dryanuary and sheeple do what they’re told, bottled water.
I looked in on Queen’s Yard, to find Howling Hops and CRATE Taps both heaving an hour or so before kick-off. If only Cloudwater and Tickety Brew had Taps this close to the Etihad campus.
I’d have braved the queues, but me and plastic glasses don’t get on, and I was saving myself for the feast of craft beer in the London Stadium.
As I said at the start, West Ham fans aren’t plastic, though many of their fans seemed to be dressed as plastic seats by the 89th minute.
City fans came in their thousands, but as they left all they could talk about was this;
Anish Kapoor’s masterpiece now offers a slide, which all great art should do really. Whatever your views on the former Olympic Stadium, the Orbit really is an Angel for the East End.