I bought a season ticket for City this year, first since 2016 when I was getting fed up of missing games moved from Saturday 3pm, and only doing a dozen out of nineteen games.
With the prospect of foreign travel off the table for a while, and now living an hour rather than three from the ground, I reckoned I’ve no excuse for not seeing the Champions of England (till Chelsea win it back, probably in March).
James has come to a few games with me, as has (more surprisingly) Matt, who has shown as much interest in soccer as America before he realised barbers are expected to have firmly held views on VAR, Ronaldo v Messi and the best footballer’s haircut.
I met Matt, who now lives 20 minutes walk from the ground, before the Burnley match and we had a father/son lunch at Chef Diao, a homely Malaysian place on Oldham Street, opposite The City pub (never been in, should I ?).
I love the fact there’s still about 377 new places to eat in the Northern Quarter alone, many of which I’ve never noticed walking past the Castle or the Crown & Kettle.
Chef Diao were lovely, they even brought us forks, and the Beijing noodles with unidentified meat products were wonderful.
Washed down with a gallon of Chinese tea, the detox I needed pre-match.
Matt skipped the match, a wise move, saving himself for cheaper fixtures ahead (Bruges is £17.50).
After the routine 2-0 win the Premier League flag fluttered gamely in the Manchester sunshine that comes out whenever I’m in town,
and I wound my way down to New Islington Marina, determined to get a post-match pint at cask, the local Pub of the Year.
I don’t like queues, I don’t like standing at the bar, I don’t like having to choose my beer from a board. But nearly everyone was drinking good cask, and that’s got to be good, hasn’t it ?
But everyone else had the Mallinsons so I did too. It was cool and crisp, and improving in the sun (NBSS 3.5). Just a shame I had to perch on a wall to drink it. Goodness knows what proportion of weekly trade Manchester’s pubs do on match days.
It’s possible I’ll start to feel a bit constricted by the season ticket soon, having to spend every other weekend in Manchester rather than in Orkney or Paignton or Lampeter ticking pubs, but I’ve got to say, there’s few better places in the world.
NB Chap pictured at Piccadilly is Pete the Badge, the City super fan.