But it wasn’t long before it was all-systems go, and electricity was in plentiful supply thanks to an excited crowd keen to re-enact their 1980’s years watching the teen musical.
But Fame The Musical is about far more than simply singing and dancing. It shows the diversity of the people that live in the city that never sleeps, and their various backgrounds, lifestyles, romances, dreams, and heartaches. But whilst it does have its serious moments that touch on some of the darker elements of life, this production is fun, and packed with a number of humorous moments.
Featuring former Hollyoaks actress Jorgie Porter as Iris and talent show runner-up Keith Jack as Nick, the show has a youthful exuberance that is true to the original. But it’s soul singer Mica Paris who is the star of the show for me, as she dominates the stage playing Headteacher, Miss Sherman, and her rendition of ‘These are my children’ is worth the entrance fee alone. It’s loud, it’s bright and sharp, and at times, breathless, thanks to props and stage scenes ever-changing; but for all of this, it’s Mica Paris’ voice and persona that is the standout tonight.
Fame The Musical is well worth a visit up ‘Anley (duck), but is it as good as the original film or TV series? Possibly not, as I wasn’t into the characters as much as I was almost four decades ago, although Molly McGuire as Serena and the aforementioned Mica Paris’ Miss Sherman were big exceptions to this. But perhaps that’s just grumpy, pining-for-the-good-old-days, middle-aged me? Because afterwards, we walked back up Piccadilly singing the theme tune – and isn’t that exactly what you want from a slice of this musical Big Apple pie?
Fame The Musical runs at the Regent Theatre up to and including Saturday 20th April
For ticket details call 0844 871 7615 or go to https://beta.atgtickets.com/times/fame-the-musical/regent-theatre/
One of only two limited edition framed Andy Wilkinson Testimonial Card sets that has been signed by the players who appeared on that special night. This is truly a stunning collectors item.
I’d seen War Horse in the bright lights of London’s West End a few years ago and thought it was superb. So, venturing up Hanley (duck) tonight, I kind of knew what to expect and just how good it would be as it made its merry way to The Potteries.
I was wrong.
The cramped, atmospheric surroundings of its London home made it a cosy-at-best, knees-red-raw-in-the-morning-at-worst experience for my husband at well over six feet tall, and even for me – a few inches shorter – I felt like an overplayed accordion by the end of the evening. Yet here, in the ample leg-roomed majesty of The Regent, the impossible became possible. War Horse was actually even better than when I’d seen it before!
Following 8 record-record breaking years in London’s West End and having played in 11 countries around the world to over 7 million people, I watched the National Theatre’s acclaimed play on the first of it’s 10 day/night run in our lovely city…..
Michael Morpurgo’s classic novel is turned into a spellbinding riot of noise and visuals that batter at any senses that are left after your ride on the emotional rollercoaster that War Horse truly is. It’s basically a love story; true, unbridled (geddit?) and unequivocal friendship between a sixteen year old lad and his horse, set during the First World War.
The horses and other animals are the stars of the show. The puppetry is quite simply breathtaking. Indeed, they seem uncannily real in movement and mood. They may be puppets, but this wasn’t Punch and Judy or Kermit and Miss Piggy: this was striking and inspirational stuff on a grand scale. The horses are quite simply unbelievable. An event in themselves. Add on amazing sound, lighting and animated projections and I doubt you won’t be gobsmacked when you see it for the first time. Or second.
Indeed, at times it seems less a theatrical experience: it’s more of a concert or an event. It’s simply a huge, massive thing.
The city centre has had some wonderful stuff on in recent weeks: concerts by James and the Sleaford Mods went ballistic, and tomorrow I’m off to listen to Dave Haslam and Colin Curtis talk about their dj-ing careers. It’s things like the above, and getting the likes of War Horse here, that will get this city, our city, back firmly on the cultural map. My advice is simply to get yourself a ticket for War Horse before it gallops away from ST1 in 9 days time.
War Horse runs at the Regent Theatre up to and including Saturday 6th April.
For ticket details call 0844 871 7615 or go to https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/war-horse/regent-theatre/
Only a fiver including free p&p.
Limited numbers left.
Order in the BUY section of this website
We’re celebrating the start of the 2019 season at Alton Towers Resort and the launch of the Alton Towers Dungeon!
We’ve teamed up with Alton Towers Resort to give away 2 Premium Season Passes, which include Theme Park entry throughout the 2019 season along with the brand new Alton Towers Dungeon launching 23rd March! Win one for you and a mate!
HOW TO ENTER
1. Follow both @DUCKmagstoke and @altontowers on Twitter
2. Read the info below and send us at @DUCKmagstoke the answer to the question by direct message on Twitter.
3. Winner drawn 8pm Friday 22nd March 2019
For all information regarding Alton Towers Premium Season Pass, please visit: https://www.altontowers.com/tickets/season-pass/
Valid for entry until the end of the 2019 season
Exclusion dates: Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays in August, our Fireworks special events
Not valid on Theme Park closed days, see our calendar here:
Each pass will have a photo & name on, so can’t be shared with someone else
Unleash the ‘Power of the Towers’ this year as you share joy, laughter and thrills with family and friends at Britain’s Greatest Escape! Dare you add a visit to the new Alton Towers Dungeon* where you can laugh and scream as you journey through Staffordshire’s darkest history, plus enjoy an awesome choice of world-class rollercoasters including Wicker Man, Nemesis, Oblivion and The Smiler and a host of fantastic family attractions including the brand new ‘Peter RabbitTM Hippity Hop’ ride etc…………
To enjoy the scary fun of the Alton Towers Dungeon again and again, as well as over 40 more breath taking rides and attractions including Wicker Man, buy an Alton Towers Premium Season Pass for just £70: pay for a day, and come back for free all season. (exclusion dates apply) The Season Pass at just £56 is another fantastic way to experience the Power of the Towers, allowing days and days of fun during 2019. As an added bonus, all Season Pass holders will always be the first to know about the very latest news, with special offers and updates straight to their inbox!
For more information about Alton Towers Resort or to book your fantastic escape, please visit www.altontowers.com
Today is six years ago (to the day – 24/11/2012) since my dad passed away. I can’t even say if the time has passed slowly or quickly. It’s just passed. And the pain actually has got worse over time. For me, this article is my way of remembering him and saying thank you. Because I never really did when he was here.
I make no apologies that every year this goes on our website and that I put it out on social media: I’m proud to have had him as my father. I won’t ever hide that.
The old man has six grandchildren (who he did get to see whilst alive), and he’d have been in his element watching them growing up, but sometimes that’s not to be, is it?
Every now and then, I look over to block 23 at the bet365 Stadium to where we sat. I probably should look over there a bit more often, to be honest. And sometimes I drive past where the Michelin Athletic Club used to stand, The Gardeners Retreat, and down Campbell road – and remember some of the best times of my life: going to watch Stoke with dad.
As soon as I got back from the ground, six years ago on that day, after our home game against Fulham, I remember getting a phone call from my aunty telling me that my dad had had a heart attack. He’d sadly left us by the time I got to his bed side. I wrote these words a few hours later. These will always be my final words that I never really got to say…….
“Unlike most football fans, I can’t really remember my first Stoke game. My first clear memories of watching us were against Middlesbrough at Vale Park and then having a season ticket in 1977 in the Butler Street Stand. Relegation, inevitably, soon followed.
So, basically, I was introduced to the Potters after a visit to our rivals ground and then being forced to sit in probably the only roofless stand in Britain at that time, and watch us go down……….But am I grateful that my old man grasped my 8 year old hand all those years ago and walked me to those turnstiles? What a daft, rhetorical question, eh?
Fathers are all too often the Nigel Gleghorn (or Glenn Whelan in new money) of families – they do lots of unseen work that always needs doing; they rarely get the adoration they deserve; often steering the ship in the right direction; they have a quiet, unassuming style all of their own, and rarely let anyone down.
That was Peter William Bunn. And I will always now have the stomach-churning task of writing about him in a different tense.
Because dad sadly passed away on 24th November 2012, just an hour after watching the club he worshiped beat Fulham 1-0 at the Britannia Stadium. That he did so at exactly 5.59pm, just as Praise and Grumble was finishing, isn’t just ironic, it’s fate. Talking about Stoke City was one of life’s joys for dad. He also loved listening to the post-match Radio Stoke show.
It’s also fate, not irony, that he was aged 72 when he died. It simply couldn’t be any other number, could it?
Add onto the fact that he went quickly, and relatively painlessly, to sleep on the shoulder of his very best mate, Terry (my uncle, who was driving at the time), and that they were within a Greenhoff volley or Sir Stan mazy dribble of the Victoria Ground, simply makes me smile and actually think that if Carlsberg did ways to pass away……
Perhaps I’m looking for fate when there’s simply none there?
But whilst football is never ever “more than life or death”, it gives me huge comfort that dad passed away on such a seamlessly brilliant Stoke City Saturday afternoon.
The analogy with Nigel Gleghorn was given careful thought. He was a player my father admired – a flashback to players who loved their football, with a wand of a left foot, and one who always seemed grateful to be playing the working man’s ballet and to be playing for Stoke City. He also scored a most memorable goal in front of me and my father – no, not our second at Vale Park or against Plymouth at the Victoria Ground to seal the deal on promotion in 1993.
It involved another Victoria – this time it was Victoria Park, the home of Hartlepool United. It’s one of my favourite awaydays of all time and dad can be vividly, easily seen on the telly on Central Sport a day or two later– to the right of the goal, jumping up and down as the 90th minute corner came in, not in anticipation of Gleghorn’s late winner, but because his bladder was about to explode thanks to his pre-match refreshments, after an unbelievable Usain Bolt-like sprint from coach to public house at 2.25pm!
It had to be in that 92/93 season, didn’t it? So many great memories, so many days when me, dad, Terry, Brad, Owen, Andy, Tim and a few others I can’t remember right now, would descend on football grounds the country over, watching Lou Macari’s team.
That day, for some reason, it was just me and dad. The 20th December 1992……..a dad and his son celebrating their team’s last minute winner, together, on the road to promotion, stood on an open terrace. Just before Christmas. Heaven.
No-one was prouder of Stoke City or Stoke-on-Trent than Peter William Bunn. When on holiday he’d nearly always be spotted in a Stoke sweatshirt or t-shirt, it was like a privilege, a badge of honour for him to wear it. He saw it as almost ‘representing’ his city and club in foreign climes. The Cultural Attaché for Sneyd Green, I suppose.
His love of all things Stoke was amazing. I vividly remember Wembley in 2000, and after beating Bristol City 2-1 in the final, we giddily went back to Harrow-on-the-Hill where our buses were parked.
We went into a huge pub, full of Arsenal fans watching their team’s live game at Leeds. As we flooded into the pub – high on winning a trophy, no matter how small – we were given the usual “small club, northern idiots” jibes from the deluded, self-admiring, self-loving Gunners, looking right down their noses as we entered.
Half an hour later, as the coaches were due to leave on the journey back to The Potteries. Dad had had enough.
“Sorry, but I’m not letting them run Stoke down. Back me up, lads”, he announced.
Then, as the assembled Stokies prepared to depart, and at the tender age of 60, he stood, arms outstretched, perched on a chair, and shushed the pub before leading a huge, proud ‘Delilah’ that finally shut those of an Arsenal persuasion firmly up.
Although his Ashes are scattered at the bet365 Stadium – and by the way, the club were and still are absolutely brilliant with the logistics of this and his now redundant season ticket – his heart and soul will forever remain with his family, and at the Victoria Ground.
Dad never really took to our new ground……
For him, the lack of a proper matchday routine was never really replaced, even after 15 years at our new stadium. Dad’s routine was drinking in the Gardeners Retreat or Michelin Club, both close to Campbell Road, and a five minute brisk stroll at 2.40pm to the ground: Campbell Road – Nicholls Street – Lime Street. He loved holding court with tales like when Sir Stan left the ball by the corner flag and headed backj to the halfway line as his marker also left the ball there and simply following him, or the time he kept a pub near Buxton from rioting at closing time as the assembled Stokies wanted to see the FA Cup semi final goals on the telly on their way back from Hillsborough after we were robbed against Arsenal.
I hope the tales he told were true, but if they weren’t, we loved listening to them anyway: How he came back from Ajax in the UEFA Cup so late that he and his mates simply went straight to Stoke’s next game; or how he moved his wedding day to a Sunday to avoid a cricket match; and how he got a lift home on the team bus (and drank ale with the players) after his transport conked out on the way home from Spurs in the 70’s (all of those are definitely true, by the way!).
He told his tales time and again, but it didn’t matter. Our group loved nursing a pint of Pedigree and watching the glint in his eye as he told them.
Proper Werther’s Original stuff.
But strangely, what makes him unique is that he’s just like any one of us.
Sounds daft that, yeah, but does anyone who doesn’t follow their football club truly know what it means to belong to something so special? How can they ever replace taking their kid to watch their city’s football club? How do they ever feel what we feel? Can their bond with their father ever be as emotionally watertight as ours is with our fathers who support the stripes?
I don’t really know. I’m eternally grateful that I don’t.
All I do know is that me and my brother probably only now realise what we had and what we’ve lost, and that it would be a dream to be even half the dad he was, to our own kids. The hundreds of Stoke games we watched together and the hundreds of times he watched us, his lads, play football and cricket seem to have decreased in number as advancing years and grey hairs dim the memory. But deep down, we know he was always there, and for the last five years we somehow got used to the idea that he no longer is.
But isn’t life also about what you leave behind?
If so, this proud man, that me and my brother were honoured to call ‘dad’, has left something of more value than any lump sum of money ever could – he left us with the same standards as he had, a love of sport and the friendships this brings, and he left us to truly cherish our families. He did so in a beautifully understated manner, too. He never really moaned or shouted. Good men don’t have to, do they? He was a true man of the Potteries, and a proud Potteries man.
For me, my football club is part of my family – it’s such an integral part of who I am, and it was to dad, too. That’s why, at 12.01am November 25th 2012, – I wanted it to be the day after his death – I posted about my father’s passing on The Oatcake Messageboard.
I still don’t know truly why, to be honest, it’s just that dad’s family always seemed to include every single Stoke fan. The 11,000+ views and hundreds of messages meant more than anything to me and my family. Blokes who had been the game with dad in the 1950’s onwards contacted us; strangers who knew of dad and had funny stories emailed me; even Port Vale fans set up a thread on their own messageboard, which was a fantastic gesture.
What it means, and this is so clichéd I know, is that those who watch football really are one family. We feel what everyone else feels, we drink from the same cup, no matter the strip we wear. Whilst staunchly parochial, we all have a respect and give a knowing doff of the cap to those who go through the good and dreadful times following a football club.
That bloody day in 2012: Fenton Bowling Club before the game – watching Stoke win alongside his best mate – three generations of the Bunn’s there at the game that day – going to sleep on his best mate – and 72, that beautiful, beautiful number, 72: It was scripted by the footballing Gods, dad, wasn’t it?
Whilst it turns my stomach to know he’s no longer here, it swells my heart to know that he went on his own terms and how many of us wouldn’t want to go like that, eh? I can’t believe I won’t see him in his SCFC manager’s benchcoat (or Henri Lloyd jacket that my brother gave him – pictured here), ever again, but he’ll always be there, walking with us to the ground come sun, rain, snow, wind or whatever the weather throws at us. A truly wonderful Stokie.
That my dad got to walk down, well, shuffled down as he wasn’t brilliant on his feet for some time, Wembley Way with his family on May 14th, 2011 now means everything to me. That we didn’t win hurts, but it would have hurt more if we’d have won and he wasn’t there! Because even if we win the FA Cup one glorious day, it will never really mean the same without dad being present: standing still, huge beaming smile, and holding his arms high in the air when we scored, as he always did as utter carnage reigned around him.
Nothing ever phased a man who taught me that swimming in the invigoratingly freezing seas around the beautiful Lleyn Peninsular in North Wales was one of the most life-affirming things that you could ever do. And whilst his ashes reside behind the goal at the bet365 Stadium level with where he sat (and I pray that he’s now shouting grief at the QPR keeper and haunting the referee today), a huge part of his soul and his heart will always be in one small, perfect corner of North Wales, a place where he simply adored. We all did. As we adored him.
Mere memories aren’t enough, they never are. But they have to suffice as he’s not here now. I pray he knew how much he was loved, but being a bloke I rarely said it enough when it was needed and necessary.
I hope he could hear me as I stood by him, stroking his soft, perfectly combed grey hair as he lay motionless, looking serenely at peace with the world, on that dreadful Saturday night at the hospital. “We won dad, we won”, I kept muttering. He knew.
The final words?
They really do have to be from the most poignant, beautiful and apt football song ever written, don’t they? A song that he actually sung on way back in 72, and one that simply sums up what I’ve written above:
“We’ll be with you every step along the way. We’ll be with you, by your side we’ll always stay.”
Love you, dad. God bless.
The summer of 2017: I sold an 09 plate saloon car. I won’t say what make it was – but it wasn’t something you’d turn your head for.
I’m not into cars. Hell for me would to be bound, gagged, in a room with Lewis Hamilton, watching Top Gear on loop. Oh, with Miranda telling ‘jokes’. Oh, and Jack Wilshere being there, too. Give me a life in Hades over that, any day of the week.
But my car was steady for several years. I need a car to get us from A to B. Simple as that. I also don’t want it to cost me any more money than necessary, either. We hardly spent a penny on it, and did 92,000 miles. It never, ever let us down.
Stoke City also sold something in the summer of 2017……
Firstly, apologies to Glenn David Whelan for comparing Glenn David Whelan to a family saloon car. But I mean it as the ultimate compliment, Glenn. Promise!
I’m sure Glenn Whelan would want to be a roaring Lambo or Ferrari; but whilst every race needs those cars in it, you also need that reliable motor in there, too. A car that guarantees you’ll actually get to the finish line. No fuss, nor mards, no breaking down; just solid reliability.
It’s no coincidence that Glenn was one of the first names on the Stoke team sheet over the past nine years. It’s also no coincidence that managers with diverse and contrasting ideologies as Tony Pulis and Mark Hughes saw Whelan as the glue to hold the Stoke City team together. Such a pity that some Stoke fans wouldn’t or couldn’t see exactly what Whelan offered to the team. “We need an upgrade on him”, was the call from some quarters ever since 20th January 2008. Well, that wasn’t too forthcoming, was it?
What did Glenn Whelan offer the team? You’d be better off asking the team that. They’d have plenty to say. For a start, what Glenn Whelan did do was allow a certain Mr N’Zonzi to be the best midfielder I’ve seen at Stoke in the last three decades. Glenn Whelan also made other players be better players. He made our back four a better back four and he allowed our flair players to show their flair.
He also seems to be like a professional footballer from back in the day. Train hard, play hard, do your job, go home to your family. Players I have always had a huge respect for. And above everything else, he was selfless. Putting others first, and the team first. That’s Whelan: It’s about the team and the dream. There’s no ‘i’ in selfless, but there is in selfish.
He came to us and Tony Pulis gave him the responsibility of keeping hold of the keys to our infamous ‘cage’. And since Mark Hughes has been here, no one has taken those keys off him until this summer. Let’s face it: you do not play 277 games in the Premier League for two contrasting managers if, a) you can’t play or b) you aren’t doing exactly what the manager wants and the team needs. That just doesn’t happen.
As stated before, what I loved about Whelan was that he always put the team first. He never, ever hid. His worst game for Stoke? For me, it was at Blackburn in the FA Cup in February 2015. Yes, THAT game. He couldn’t do much right that day, Glenn, but he went up so much in my estimation when he absolutely laid into the team on the pitch and in the media afterwards. It was superb stuff: he could have said nothing and hidden behind the disappointment of the result and his own performance. He didn’t. He showed selflessness and huge leadership qualities by putting the team before himself. He knew he’d get stick, but that wasn’t on his radar. He said what needed saying and had the guts to do so, despite knowing that the finger would be pointed at him.
“There’s Whelan, having a right go at others when he’s been garbage”. I heard that in the away end at Ewood Park that day and over the next week on social media and websites, too. But that is exactly what I want from a Stoke City player or captain.
You never saw too many kids with Whelan 6 on their shirts, do you? And you never really heard kids going mad when they opened their Match Attax cards and Glenn’s face came into view. Shame that. But that’s probably because of the ‘glamour/name’ players we have had at the bet365, how modern football is, and because he never hunted the headlines, either. He’s simply been a bloody good footballer for Stoke City and one who was criminally underappreciated and underrated by quite a few……..
……But tellingly, not by his peers and managers. And that’s a massive clue as to why he’s been one of the best signings Tony Pulis ever made for us.
When you have a plethora of players capable of 9/10 performances – or at the same time 4/10 – you need that steady 7/10 player. A player who at 2-1 up in the last ten minutes throws himself at the ball to block a goalbound shot and then get the team going afterwards. You need a Glenn Whelan. I always hate to hear Stoke fans having a go at our players, never mind one who has sweated blood for the red and white stripes. Glenn Whelan was an intelligent, totally committed, crucial player for Stoke City.
When we’ve been truly dreadful over the last thirty years or so, we’ve been crying out for the likes of a Glenn Whelan. When we had one for almost a decade, and one that we got for an absolute steal at £500,000, did we really appreciate him as much as we should? I did. “Everybody needs a Whelan in the middle”, went the song. It was right.
Why cherry in the title? Well, Glenn originally played for Cherry Orchard FC in Dublin, before he started his career in England.
And like my car that/ like Glenn, was recently transferred – I really hope WHELAN 6 keeps on trucking and doing other people proud for some time to come!
Yeah, yeah, yeah,…….I know we’ve already done and sold out of two batches. But we really aren’t doing any more. I want my living room back, plus we have another ace tee out in two months!
Yeah, yeah, yeah…..anyone can send a player a t-shirt for publicity. We actually didn’t, as we’d already sold out anyway….but what we didn’t expect was for our lovely Catalonian magician to one day get out of bed and decide to go to the open training session at the ground and then back home in his lovely Kilnscape tee!
So, you’ve got a week left to nab a tee, sweat, or hoodie. Some other stuff:
By Will Farr
28th February 2018
Living in Essex must be tough. A couple of years ago you would have been placed in the same bracket as the ‘characters’ on ITV2’s staged and over dramatized drivel, TOWIE. I’m not a lover of reality TV as you might guess. Fast forward to nowadays and after escaping the Essex stereotypes created by the programme, a new showman has been appointed. Placed second in the “Essex Rich List’ and arriving with a very familiar arsenal of fake tan and the ability to attract widespread media coverage and attention is none other than Mr Glenn Tamplin.
Pretty much unheard of outside the borders of Essex, Billericay Town FC have had a reasonably successful history in the lower divisions of England. They’ve never been out of non league despite multiple titles in the Essex leagues. This makes Glenn Tamplin’s mission to become a Football League club all the more ambitious.
After taking over in 2016, I think its fair to say Tamplin has left his mark on the club. Its currently the 28th of February and at the time of writing ‘Ricay’ are currently sitting one point clear at the top of the Isthmian League Premier Division (the seventh tier of English football to you and me) with seven games in hand.
That’s brilliant, right? You would have thought so but within the past seven days Glenn has caused quite a massive stir on the worldwide web. Now, take a good Google look at some of the things that have happened and may have at Billericay’ – remembering it’s the seventh tier of English football! I mean, imagine if our manager/owner of the club is offering to resign on social media!
Pulling no punches here, last season was the worst of my life as a Stoke fan. However that’s only because I was introduced to Stoke in the promotion season (pretty much an 08’er if you like) and we haven’t really looked back since but last season was a lot different. News came out that certain players were ‘unfit’ which for me is absolutely baffling. The fact that Paul Lambert has come in and within a couple of months has identified these problems makes me ask the question, what were doing in pre season and before Christmas?
In an interesting interview with Iwan Roberts in Mundial magazine, he comments how Mark Hughes was ‘probably the worst trainer that you could ever, ever have.’ Don’t get me wrong, what Sparky did for us will not be forgotten, and its because of him that I have witnessed some of the best football I will ever watch Stoke City play. However, have we reaped what we have sowed?
2nd April 2018
Mark Hughes has a new job, Stoke haven’t won in eight games, Billericay have dropped to 2nd with two games in hand, Afellay has left Clayton Wood, Glenn Tamplin left a game early to catch a flight – crikey!
I didn’t expect either club’s situation to get much better but I never expected it to get this bad. By all accounts, on the 24th of March Glenn Tamplin left his dugout, hopped over the fence and walked straight down the tunnel with his team 3-0 down away to Hendon. With twenty minutes left on the clock. The stories and rumours followed, leaving the Billericay twitter issuing a statement saying that; ‘We would like to announce Glenn was always going to leave early due to having a flight to catch and is now away on business for the next few days‘. In a particularly David Brent-like move, the club posts a picture of Glenn sitting in the back of a taxi almost modelling the taxi sign which is usually on the roof. All of this when they had a game on Saturday against Leatherhead.
As for things closer to ST4, not much had improved. The optimism around the club after the win against Huddersfield is now long gone and normal service has been resumed with us getting one win in eight games. In my eyes, were doomed. I’ve seen nothing from the Watford, Everton and Brighton games to make me think we’ll turn this one around. We struggle to score goals and the defence has only been marginally improved with the addition of Bauer (who Lambert thinks is ok to play left wing against Arsenal? No idea what’s happening there.) and so the problems remain. Please prove me wrong Stoke.
Monday 30th April
Stoke have gone 12 (twelve) games without a win. Billericay have won the title. Since the start of writing this, both clubs have gone in opposite directions. Billericay have won their league and are promoted, despite the media circus that has surrounded their every move.
I’ll be honest with you, for a while I wasn’t sure where this article was going, but it made me remember something. In a time where the Blackpool has been left in a big rotten pile of tangerine, Coventry City in a right mess, and a seventh tier club are paying big wages and getting a big press etc……..our situation isn’t as bad as some might think (myself included). Yes, decisions at the top have not been spot on, but they’re problems we can fix. This city needs us to be in the Premier League but let’s hope we learn from their mistakes and guide us back to the Premier League again. It could be better, but it could be a hell of a lot worse.
June 2017: “Seen who we are playing on August 1st? St Pauli, away!!!!!!”
I don’t know the date that the fixture was announced, and I can’t really be arsed to look the date up to be honest with you, but a pretty mundane July evening was livened up by Twitter telling all and sundry that The Potters would be heading to The Millerntor at the start of the next month.
I phoned my brother, who lives on the south coast, and he was pretty game for the trip. One problem – as always with me, money! A pretty big problem when you don’t have much, but a quick check of the budget airlines showed that we could do Manchester – Hamburg return for just over fifty notes; Less than it costs to go on the train to London.
And with hotels plentiful and cheap, near to the ground, it was decided that we’d once again be having a few days of brotherly bonding, beers, and banter (apologies for that last word, but couldn’t think of another ‘B’ word to complete the trio).
We’d done Austria pre-season twice, back when we’d just been promoted to the Premier League, and they’d been amongst the best days of my existence on this planet. The opportunity to experience another country and culture, all whilst watching my beloved football team, is a heady cocktail for this son of Sneyd Green. And Austria, especially Salzburg and St Wolfgang, did not disappoint. Simply brilliant trips that made the other 362 days of that year a bit more bearable. From sitting on the Bahrain national team subs bench with them in Kapfenberg (don’t ask), to swimming in the coldest waters I’ve ever been in (don’t ask), to having a picture with Messrs Sidibe and Fuller hiding pies behind their back and Dave ‘Dave’ Kitson being the most miserable sod on planet earth (ask), to trying to get local barmen to sing a line from a Luther Vandross song (don’t ask), to human excrement on a pillow (definitely DO NOT ask).
Ahem, great times.
And the chance to replicate these – minus the pillow – in Germany’s second biggest city was too big to miss out on.
Leipzig away didn’t bother me too much, mainly as they are a club I’ve little time for. But St Pauli? I’d heard stories from mates of how great the matches are there and the club and fans’ mantra and social and political stances. I’d heard first hand from my brother how great a city Hamburg is, too. And at less than £100 for flights and two nights at the Ibis, I just couldn’t say no. Thankfully, I didn’t.
Let’s get it right – St Pauli are seen by many as the hipster team to follow, and one that attracts its fair share of I’ve-been-there-badge-of-honour footballing tourists. But that surely applies for any club which is that bit different? Let’s face it, our crowds in size and composition have massively changed over the past decade. Isn’t football all about the core of the club, it’s soul? What the supporters believe in and stand for?
More than a club? Surely, everyone’s football club should be just that?
And I’ll hold my hands up right now – I bought some of their merchandise, too. I’m on the bandwagon. But not for any other reason that a) official and unofficial tackle there is absolutely mint and b) I absolutely love their St Pauli skull and crossbones logo, that’s why each of my kids got a t-shirt with it on.
Yours, footballing hipster wannabe.
Thanks to a certain leading budget airline, both flights were delayed on each occasion. The second leading to the pilot to rather hilariously state over the tannoy that “it’s because we don’t have enough pilots!”
Visions went through my head of the film Airplane for some strange reason, with me half expecting the stewardess to ask the assembled passengers if anyone fancied having a go at flying the plane. Anyway, it gave us plenty of time for another overpriced, weak beer at Manchester airport and extra time at Hamburg to rest our weary feet. Saying that, I’ve never heard the pre-flight, flight attendant safety talks listened to with such keenness!
It was both welcomed and stereotypically expected, but also massively appreciated, that we got from the airport to central Hamburg with no fuss, no mither, no delays – and all for around three quid, at around 6pm. Time to find the hotel, dump the bags and mooch about.
Our hotel was the Ibis was in St Pauli from which we could see the ground from (thoroughly recommended for a cheap stay, too), a couple of streets off the (in)famous Reeperbahn, which to be honest was as gaudy, tacky, and as bang average as I expected it to be. And as it was a Monday, it was relatively empty, too, giving it quite an eerie feel at night. I expect it to be far livelier but possibly no better on a Friday or Saturday night. I was only pestered a few times, which was a bit of an insult to be quite honest with you. One particularly persistent young lady was eventually given the explanation that “Its just that I really don’t want to disappoint you”.
Tip: just walk a street or two off the Reeprebahn and go in the worst looking pub you see. There are plenty – and they are uniformally like drinking in Stoke in 1978 – and they’re ace!
We walked across it and headed down the hill to Blockbräu by the river – a brilliant place, with ace views and cracking ale. We met up with top bloke and fellow Stokie James Knowles, and also Pete Smith from The Sentinel popped over and talked all things transfer windows, until we decided that football is the least important thing when you have a beer and breathtaking vistas slap bang in front of you.
After a couple of hours there, Pete showed he was the ultimate professional by heading back to his hotel, whilst we sampled a brilliant tequila bar and a few more bars afterwards, including the wasted-on-us swankiness of East. Indeed, take that ‘s’ out of swankiness, and that’s the kind of bar we usually find ourselves in!
No, the Chug Club isn’t a Crewe fan’s dream pub, it’s the name of a tequila bar, and for a tenner each we got a number of lovely flavoured tequilas with beer chasers. It’s a tiny place, a superb local bar that looks amazing – although the red lights inside the bar and windows meant that texting photos home to loved ones wasn’t a great idea, and that was affirmed by the reaction of Twitter later that night! Seriously, it’s a superb place, if you’re in town…….it’s not a brothel!
James later managed somehow to get locked out of the 24 hour bar we were in at the swanky East and miss the last U-Bahn to his hotel, whilst we swanned the 20 yards from East to the Ibis. Chin up, mate! We did look for you, honestly! It was dead that night, but it could be a really good option at a weekend for somewhere smart that is walkable from their ground.
So, game day.
Fancy getting some trainers or sportswear? Go to Hamburg. Whilst it’s not cheap, there are numerous clothes and sportswear shops – including the biggest sports shop in Europe (Karstadt), and one of the best shops I’ve ever been in. Thomas I Punkt is four floors of brilliance, with ace staff, a brilliant choice of brands, and a caravan where you pay for your stuff at! And the street it’s on, Mönckebergstraße, whilst pretty much looking like you’re average high street, is cracking for some retail therapy.
Indeed, Hamburg isn’t a particularly beautiful city. I hope the locals don’t take offence at that, as it certainly isn’t ugly. But it’s not Munich, Barcelona, Paris, or Chester. But what it is, is a really cool city, a happening city, a living, vibrant city. One that makes the most of its location as a port, on the imposing River Elbe, and one that makes usage of every inch of any spare space. Teeming with canals, waterways and parks, it’s a really liveable city – as my brother put it, “one to get a job in rather than one just visit for a few days”.
Hamburg reminds me loads of Liverpool. How it looks, how it is, how it feels. It’s creative and vibrant – no wonder The Beatles decided it was the city for them. The docks and riverside aren’t particularly pretty, but there are pop-up faux beach bars and galleries that dot the banks of the Elbe, and whilst the cranes and tankers don’t make for the greatest of views, try that view with your trainers and socks off, stood on sand with a pint of Astra in hand, munching on some ace street grub, listening to Groove Armada and Massive Attack, whilst the sun is out. It’s a bit different that being at home putting the ******* bins out!
As I’m of a certain age, at 1pm it was an hour in the room and the latest issue of When Skies are Grey, wash, and out. That, after grabbing 100 copies of issue 35 and a few hundred DUCK stickers – which we gave out free to St Pauli fans. Indeed, they love a sticker in Hamburg. They now have dozens and dozens commemorating our trip, too!
Around mid-afternoon, we made our way to the ground, around a Carruthers’ shot distance away from the Ibis. On second thoughts, it wasn’t three miles away!
It’s a ground to walk or underground to, not to park at and at that time it was reasonably quiet around there, but the bar was open, a dozen or so Stokies were there, and we got the chance to mooch around it and the surrounding area. It’s a ground unlike any you’ll find in our league – from the outside anyway. A rather modern football-looking main entrance sits in the middle as you approach it off the main road, just after you pass some brilliant reminders of the history and lifeblood of the city, set in stone. At the side is a bar, and on the other side the club shop.
From the outside, it looks like any corporate, branded, football club shop. Inside, you could spend shedloads of time time looking at the stickers adorning the walls (our DUCK one is right in the middle), and the decent, if a bit pricey, merchandise on offer. We then walked to the side of the ground called the Gegengerade – to be met with what can only be called one long side, with thousands of stickers, graffiti, nooks and crannies, little independent fan shops, a bar, a brilliant photographic museum – this was their fan’s area. It was as if we’d been transported back thirty brilliant years, as the various St Pauli punks, pirates, and public bought fanzines, stickers, unofficial merchandise, beer….and with a massive funfair and cityscape immediately to their right.
Take the time to get there early and wander to this side of the ground. Well worth an hour or so having a beer and taking it all in.
Surreal, impressive – but overall, it was all theirs. The fans. They had been allowed to put their own mark, their stamp, and their ownership on it, and it looked, sounded, and smelled stunning! Like all football grounds should. We bought badges and stickers and in return gave them zines and stickers. They had a genuine interest in us, our club, football in the UK, our city……it was just a buzz of activity from two hours before kick off onwards.
Ah, two hours before kick off…….
Around 4.30pm (I think), the free bar opened. We had received a tip off previously that there may be some free ale on offer for travelling Stokies, and this had been officially confirmed by 3pm. Well, it would have been rude not to, yeah, so off we trundled, past Stokies in the bar next to this new pop-up, free bar, guzzling their ale. Er, that ale that they had just paid for!
“Lads, you just paid for those? There’s free beer ten yards away!”.
Expletives filled the air, whilst pints were swiftly quaffed, and they joined the merry band of Stokies (including good mate Judder and his lad) that were in the bar and the overspill outside, all being served by St Pauli’s chairman! And it wasn’t one beer/one fan, either.The good Lord knows, at around 5.45pm I was ready to move home and become a St Pauli fan there and then, as bottles of Astra flowed like the Elbe. Indeed, soon, most didn’t actually know their arse from their Elbe!
Then, through the assembled throng, came Peter Coates, flanked by Messrs Scholes, and Cartwright – to the free bar. I know times are hard, lads, but……..
Soon, the bar was absolutely rammed, and our club’s top brass joined the 500 or so Stoke following in sampling the free bar. Songs were sung, selfies taken, questions about transfers asked. But whatever else, in that twenty minutes or so, hopefully St Pauli fans (and their club’s main man, who was present in the bar for a long time chatting to Stokies, and a top bloke he was, too) saw that Stoke City, our football club, is about fellowship, community, brotherhood, sisterhood……and all things in between. Er, and free beer, too! But here was our owner, an extremely wealthy but loyal, local man, drinking with the rank and file, in a bar in Hamburg. Brilliant.
And I’m pretty sure he honestly enjoyed it, too.
The queues to get into The Millerntor were large, but good natured, with Stokies doing the club proud – swapping shirts, stickers and stories with our hosts. One long concourse saw reasonably priced beer, ace food and the like – all bought and taken to our seats. Football fans, allowed to be responsible adults, eh? Never catch on, that!
Inside, The Millerntor is mightily impressive. Stands stood menacingly over the terracing below them, and whilst only half full at most, you can just imagine this place for a proper game. I stood, with a beer in a St Pauli beer mug (plastic, obv), looking diagonally over at the gap between the two opposite stands (ah, remember those days, eh?) with the city centre in the not-too-far-off distance. The big wheel outside illuminated against the grey, darkening skies. Beautiful.
The sign in German bearing the legend ‘No person is illegal’ is prominent in the empty stand to our left, and all around us there are stickers and the like warning against homophobic, racist, sexist, excluisve etc behaviour within the ground and further afield. This isn’t just their football club and their football ground – This is their life, the St Pauli way of life, and their commandments and beliefs for a life they want to live…….and as ‘Hells Bells’ booms over the tannoy system as the teams come out, you really do want to come back and experience it all again.
The game? Who cares? Who goes to friendlies abroad for the game? Times that for a thousand when you’re going to St Pauli.
The game finished, Stoke players came over, Charlie chucked his shirt in, we clapped…….and then we drank and chatted with the local folk. Remember the days when the full time whistle meant going to the pub and talking, rather than going on social media and saying how crap such and such a player is? Remember when you had adult conversations over a beer rather than typing 140 characters about how that lad “should never play for the club again”, “get rid of *******, he’s toss”, and “like my arse, Stoke, that was”? Remember those days?
Well, they’re still around.
The night was spent at our favourite/only tequila bar, and also conversing with any number of St Pauli fans in some of the biggest dives you could imagine. It was ace. The beer was ace. The chats were ace. The people were ace. Football was ace. Life was ace! They had a genuine interest in us and our football club, and vice versa, and the smoke-filled, raucous bars of this particular part of Hamburg were now alive with noise, 24 hours after resembling a morgue. Time really did fly.
And at around 2am, after saying auf wiedersehen to two Stokies and three St Pauli fans we were nattering with in a bar that had the rudest landlady ever (she unplugged the jukebox after a Stokie put a song on saying “I f******* hate that s****y band, and “it’s my f****** bar, so if you don’t like it f*** off!”) that was that. I’ve never drank tequila before, but as we made our way to the airport I thought back to two hangover-less nights after drinking it, and vowed to brush my teeth in it in the future. I sat there at the airport, cradling a wheat beer, with my new Diadora (sale) trainers off – my feet literally screaming for a cushion or two or a bowl of iced water, my body screaming for anything else but a cramped seat on a small airplane home.
Hamburg was superb. St Pauli even superber (copyright, J Rudge). We’ll be back, even if we have to buy our ale at the ground this time! If you get the chance to go, for a different kind of football fix (especially at £52 return), then you really must do so. St Pauli fans are passionate, knowledgeable, friendly, like an ale, yet are fiercely proud and loyal about all that their club (and area) represents. It’s not the place to act like a tool as their club is absolutely precious to them and the local area. Without sounding pretentious and patronising, it’s a club, area and city that is simply ace for exploring and doing some research on.
Germany gets its cities so bloody right, don’t they, and this is no exception. Indeed, it’s possibly its finest.
The Chug Club: Taubenstraße 13
East: Simon-von-Utrecht-Straße 31
Blockbrau: Bei den St. Pauli-Landungsbrücken 3
Thomas I Punkt: Mönckebergstraße 21
Ibis St Pauli: Simon-von-Utrecht-Straße 64