Monday, 1 February 2010

Bricking It

I've never been keen on Cheltenham - in theory it's a nice enough town, quite genteel, but it just doesn't feel like a football town. And from the station it's a real hike to the town and the football ground. The pubs are, barring one notable exception, not too exciting either.

So with all that in mind I jumped at the chance of joining Steve for the Fulham -v- Villa game when he offered me a ticket.

And since I didn't need to leave home until late, I finally got the chance to try out one of our local greasy spoons, Ken's Cafe on Green Street, which is just done from the Boleyn Ground and highly regarded by Hammers' fans.

(left) House of Hammers

Phill Jupitus is apparently a regular and he looks like he knows where to get a good meal.

The big breakfast is excellent value - egg, bacon, two sausages, chips, beans, fried slice, bread and a cup of rosy lee for a fiver - and fairly decent quality. I was the first customer of the day but it soon started to fill up as West Ham were at home to Blackburn later in the day.

Despite engineering work on the middle part of the District line, I was able to get to Putney without any great hassle - a very pleasant walk across Putney Bridge and onto the Bricklayers Arms.

Although not officially opening until noon, there were a few people already in the pub, Steve being one of them, so he got the beers in.
The Bricklayers is an independent pub but does more or less the full Tim Taylors range as well as a few guest beers. Today the guest were all from Itchen Valley.

I've been here on numerous occasions over the past few years and I always go straight for the Ram Tam - Steve opting instead for Itchen's IVB.

I was quite surprised to find they were using plastic glasses - I know that it's a match day but we're a good schlep from Craven Cottage and it's not likely to have any bother as we cask ale types tend to be quite peaceable.
The Ram Tam was wonderful stuff regardless - it's quite hard to find outside Yorkshire but it's a lovely beer for a cold day.

It wasn't long before we were joined by Neil and Sam, Villa fans and residents of Cardiff just like Steve, despite both of them being Scots and having Scottish teams to support as well (Hearts and Falkirk respectively).

Not surprising the talk was all of Carling Cup final tickets and who'd managed to get one. Steve and Neil have season tickets so they're all right (jack). For the others it looks like it'll be the TV.
(right) Unlikely Lads
Eastbourne-based Villa fan Pat was next to join us followed by Rhodri, Steve's mate from BBC Wales.

It soon became apparent that all was not well elsewhere. John Bell sent a text saying there was a pitch inspection at Cheltenham - his next text was to say the game was postponed (or "Fuck, fuck, fuck!" as he put it ever so elegantly).

I felt slightly vindicated in giving the game a miss - though Neil and Sam are now suggesting we all make an afternoon of it in Cheltenham for the rearranged fixture.

Likewise we hear from Liz that the game between Rotherham and Macclesfield has also bit the dust - she and the other London Millers instead finding refuge in the Fat Cat. It's a hard life...

The Ram Tam failed to last the lunchtime session and we moved onto a double round of Golden Best - not surprisingly it was a bit watery in comparison - before heading off to the Cottage. The journey is as pleasant as they come - walk over the Thames and then through Fulham Palace Gardens and Bishops Park.

In previous seasons we've been in the away end proper but today we're in the neutral section of the Putney End. The tickets are a bit dear at £40 but we're in row E right behind the goal.

The game started off slowly with no side really putting the keepers to hard work. Villa looked the slightly brighter of the two teams as the half progressed but it looked like going into half-time goalless until Agbonlahor got a brace in the last five minutes - a header which sneaked over the line and then a very tidy lob over Schwarzer.

(above) Villa keeper Brad Friedel beats Zamora to the ball

In the second half Villa sat back somewhat, probably expecting Fulham to pile on some pressure but it was all a bit half-hearted. Gera got the ball in the net but was off-side and the game slowly ran down to it's inevitable conclusion.

After the game we headed back to the Bricklayers to meet Cath who'd been busy shopping at the Dr Martens shop. It was heaving with Fulham and Villa fans so after a quick beer we headed to Aldgate East and a pint in the Pride of Spitalfields.

The pub was equally heaving with a mixture of locals and Hoxton-types so we just had a quick pint of Mighty Oak's Maldon Gold and left for some grub.

It's a long time since I'd had a curry down in Brick Lane - these days there are touts outside most restaurants trying to tempt you in with a variety of offers ("35% off the bill, sir?") who get very annoying.

We opted for one of my old haunts, the Sheba, which I patronised a lot in the 80s with various medic friends from the London Hospital. After waiting ten minutes to be seated we finally got to grips with the menu - a bit more expansive that I remember though old favourites such as bombay duck are no longer available. An acquired taste it has to be said.

The food was good standard fare - nothng outstanding but it hit the spot after having nothing solid since breakfast - and then it was back to ours for Match of the Day and relive the victory all over again...

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