In 1998 my old schoolmate Sean and I drove to Hillsborough to see 4th Division Cambridge United grab a memorable first leg League Cup victory at 1st Division Wednesday; Des Walker, Pressman, Di Canio et al.

A memorable night, topped by a pre-match pint in a new Guide tick in the Cow & Calf in Grenoside.

Most away trips with Sean involved a trip through grim estates, parking up near the ground and suffering a rough pub with only Websters Bitter on. The sort of pub I’d rave about now, in fact.

Pretty clearly the Cow & Calf, one of Uncle Sam Humphrey’s more rural treasures, was a bit of a culture shock for a Cambridge lad (OK, he lived in Southend by then) used to thinking of The North as, well, grim. Have YOU ever been to Mansfield ?

Five minutes from the ground, but it felt a different world.

More farmhouse than pub.

Full of characters, beer at half Cambridge prices, and unintelligible Sheffield accents.

I remember his astonishment at the quality of the Pure Brewed Lager, and the OBB would still have been a bit of a novelty for me after Sam pubs in Manchester, Beverley and Holmes Chapel.

I’ve always wondered why it only lasted a few years in the GBG; then I counted the handpumps again.

But it made the headlines last year when Sir Humphrey closed it down, allegedly for failing to serve his favourite desert, which seems a trifle petty. As Pubs Galore wryly notes; Closed after a Humphrey incident

Image result for chocolate fondant recipe

What a character that Humphrey is, eh ?

NB: Will has just reminded me about the second leg at the Abbey, after which we celebrated Di Canio’s humiliation at another classic Cow & Calf.

Cow & Calf, Cambridge


  1. Hmph. The local press had the story from the point of view of the pub managers who were summarily dismissed. Of course, the story from the other side has not been heard. I don’t want to seem like I’m defending Mr Smith, and he certainly seems like an employer I feel grateful not to have met as an employee, but you’ve got to feel that there was more to it than they were letting on.

    Hope the pub reopens when that becomes an option.

    Did you go to the second leg of that League Cup tie in 1998?


      1. You mean that not everything the press writes is meticulously checked ? I’m shocked.

        Despite his probable flaws I’ve defended Mr Smith on these pages many times. Like Tim we’ll miss him when he’s gone. Even at a quid more there’s little to match a pint of OBB and a packet of crisps in the Brown Bear.

        Coincidentally (spookily so), after the second leg (1-1) we headed for the Cow & Calf, one of the last proper spit and sawdust boozers before the hipsters ruined the city.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. “Have YOU ever been to Mansfield ?” Thrice – and can conceive of no discernible excuse any court of law would accept as mitigation after a first caution.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Cambridge United now top of their division. Sheffield Wednesday 23rd in theirs. Sheffield United bottom. Would draw no correlation with your move myself. But should locals begin stoning the house… well, just saying…

    Liked by 2 people

  4. “The sort of pub I’d rave about now, in fact.”

    Ah, the wisdom of age. 😉

    “More farmhouse than pub.”

    Crikey. Indeed.

    “But it made the headlines last year when Sir Humphrey closed it down, allegedly for failing to serve his favourite desert, which seems a trifle petty. ”

    Bleedin’ eck!
    (I’d use stronger language but…)

    “at another classic Cow & Calf.”

    Sigh. 2021 isn’t starting out too well is it?


    Liked by 1 person

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