2nd January 2023. Or “New Year’s Day (observed)” as the hipsters call it.
Among the many things I’ve taken for granted over two years in Sheffield are the theatre (just missed the Richard Hawley musical at the Crucible), the local football teams, and the New Barrack Tavern.
In fact, only one visit to the Barrack, and that was on Black Eye Friday 2021, hardly the ideal day to sample what’s traditionally been one of Sheffield’s best known ale houses (in a crowded market).
So inevitably I chose the New Year’s game, Wednesday v Cambridge (wherever THAT is), where it was packed.
Oh well, at least the pumps will be flowing.
Which they were, so I had to take a Vanilla Porter out past the Wednesday memorabilia to the garden.
I think that game against Chelsea in ’61 was the last one ticker Alfie aka Ian missed, possibly because he wasn’t born yet.
I had the smokers garden to myself. Plenty warm enough in our warmish start to the year, and an absolute joy.
So good, I stayed for a second. Unfortunately queueing culture has moved from Spoons to Proper Pubs.
What can you do ? If I go to the bar I’ll be labelled as a queue-jumper. I struck up a conversation with a couple of Owls fans from Epping who couldn’t get their heads round the idea I’d moved North, but we bonded over a shared love for Essex pubs and Barrow, improbably.
The house Barracks Bitter from Bradfield was, well, bitter.
On to Hillsborough, where I was meeting James and his housemate Matthew, two of only a handful of people who can walk as fast as me. That number increases if I eat a “football burger”,
so I waited till I reached the ground for a steak pie and can of Stones (an ambitious £4 each).
I joined about 700 Cambridge fans who probably wished they’d stayed in the New Barrack or Fat Cat rather than watch a lifeless 5-0 defeat to a Wednesday team who would go on to beat Newcastle at the weekend.
A terrific old ground, the emphasis on “old”, and a traditional repertoire of football songs. Press PLAY now.