A Brush with the Law and the Pope of Brinnington by Man in a Hat.

What of the trip to Gainsborough? This trip, I had the pleasure of the company of Ian Watts, renowned Club historian, SCAN Scheme Guardian and general County Legend (Stafford).

Mainly due to ease of transportation, Bert’s Bowler is benched in favour of the more experienced collapsible topper.

Early start

Firstly, the train we planned to get (the 10:54 you’ll recall) was kyboshed due to industrial action. This meant that we had to get the 08:54, which landed at
Gainsborough Lea Road instead of Gainsborough Central, near our hotel.
Not only that, but we therefore arrived at 10:47, rather than 13:03, which could lead to “peaking too early” and not being able to remember the game.

And what’s more, we now had 2 changes to make en-route, both giving less than
10 minutes to connect with the next train.

Don’t know why I’m moaning really, as everything went like clockwork. We arrived on time, along with others ..............

.............. who promptly dumped us, strutting off on the 30 minute walk into Gainsborough.

There again, they didn’t get to enjoy a pint in the Trent Port on the banks of the River Trent at 11.10am.

Research Aplenty

Now Ian never misses out on the chance to conduct research into Stockport
County, so upon arrival in central Gainsborough, it was straight to the library to look into who played for County in 1905 in some reserve team game or other! 

After dropping our bags at our hotel , which should have had real ale and

didn’t, we headed to the local Wetherspoons, the splendidly named Sweyn
Forkbeard, where we sampled a pint of the superb Exmoor Beast.

Plenty of the Blue Army around as you’d expect, including Viv and Peter...
Greg and Ollie ..........

............ and some other reprobates the police seemed to be keeping a close eye on. 

We then guide Viv and Peter to the nearest pub to the Northolme, i.e. the Elm
Cottage, who were genuinely struggling to cope with the demand from a huge away following, on a ridiculously hot afternoon. 

I had a pint of Moonshine from Abbeydale and Ian managed to blag the first pint of Robinsons Trooper, which became available as we arrived.

A brief chat with Supporters’ Co-op Vice-Chair Dave Marchbank, ensured that
arrangements were made to drop off the beer festival tickets at the Spinning Top for me to pick up on my way back home Sunday. No rest for the wicked?

What’s Going On ‘ere Then?

Utilising a handy shortcut out of the back of the Elm Cottage car park ............

.......... we proceeded to the game, only to be questioned by the Police, one of whom asked “do you want to swap hats?”.

I think he was somewhat taken aback when I replied that I would, provided I could have a picture for this Blog. I could see the cogs whirring around in his head, asking himself questions. What have I done? Could this end my career?

However, the good natured swap took place and here is the picture to prove it,
taken by the officer’s colleague

They took my calling card, so if you’re reading this chaps, thank you very much for one of the most surreal moments of my extensive travels.

Upon entering the ground, I discovered there were no pies. Given the brutal nature of the weather, this did little to improve my mood. The burger was fit-for- purpose, aside from the mustard I managed to get all down myself.

You’ll have already read the report on the game, but suffice to say that the loudest the County Supporters got, was when the players came over to thank them at the end of the game.

As we didn’t have time before the game, it was time to try out the Blues Club,
Trinity’s on-site social club. What a huge venue this is. Real ale as well, which was very good, the rarely seen Great Newsome Sleck Dust.

I visit the gents before we leave, but spot the entire County entourage in the big room. Grab a quick chat with Richard Park at the bar and even get to shake James’ hand. I tried to get a picture of all this for you, but by the time I’d gotten the beer in and my camera out, only the tumbleweed remained. So you’ll have to settle for these snaps of the Fletch crew (he still hasn’t forgiven me for Harrogate!) 

................. and Clare’s posse.

Six Brewers Too Many?

It’s about 6.30pm by the time we check into the hotel. The whole place seems to be  being run by one poor lass called Sharon. Lots of chocolate in the rooms, which gets eaten. Breakfast also seems to be included, which we weren’t expecting.

Off to the pub I’ve been looking forward to visiting more than any other, the Eight

Jolly Brewers (surely at least 6 too many?). Lots of County Supporters are leaving as we arrive. This is one of the most enjoyable aspects of staying over when travelling away with County. Cheerio lads! Off home with you!

Reports of the EJB are spot on. Just beer and good conversation. What more do  you need? Magpie’s Thieving Rouge and Dukeries Bess of Hardwick for starters.

Both excellent.

We get chatting to this Lincoln fan who enthuses about Stockport (the town),
unprompted, with great gusto! He loves his real ale and therefore loves Stockport.

When travelling north following Lincoln, his party would always stay in Stockport overnight for the beer. His favourite pubs were Ye Olde Vic and the Crown Inn.

You’ll think I’m making this up, but I’m not.

Milestone’s Little John. The EJB is a marvellous venue. 8 real ales and lots of
talking - all about ale and football!

Then we get chatting to Deborah and Diddy Boy, two friendly locals. Deb cuts hair (even Dave’s) and talks. Diddy Boy drinks beer.

Lost in Gainsborough

By now we are in need of spicy food. A place called Moonlight is recommended by Diddy Boy. Deborah kindly escorts us part of the way, but we still manage to get lost (I couldn’t let you down). Can’t really blame Ian can I. Eventually we find it though.

Diddy Boy reckoned that if we told them Rick Kane (Trinity’s Chairman) had sent us, we might get a freebie. This actually has the reverse effect, in that all it does is raise expectations of a large tip!

We make it back to the hotel. Still no real ale, so straight off to bed, the most
uncomfortable I have ever slept in. For some reason, I still sleep very well though.

The Final Lap

The following morning, the unexpected breakfast is good, including Lincolnshire sausages and very smoky bacon. Have a chat with a couple of County Supporters who are also staying. How can County still only be 7 th ? This is getting ridiculous.

Don’t mention the freak own goal (Harrogate) or the corner that wasn’t

You can’t change the past. You can only exist in the present.

Upon checking out, it transpires that the breakfast that was included in the price actually costs £5, but it’s still be very good value.

As it’s still the morning, it’s back to the Sweyn Forkbeard - coffee only!

Just one pub left to try, the Canute, which is pretty much son of Wetherspoons, i.e. you’d think you were in a Wetherspoons but aren’t. Very ironic, considering that in real life, Canute was the son of Sweyn Forkbeard. What do you mean, you didn’t read the preview?

We acquire a copy of the Non League Paper, which is studied at length in the Elm Cottage, where I try the fresh on Oakham Citra. What is Telford’s away form like?

What of Bradford’s home form? And so it goes on.

Then it’s back to our favourite, the Eight Jolly Brewers, where I complete “the eight”, albeit over 2 days.

The local CAMRA branch are enjoying an afternoon in the EJB and I glean that
they’re planning a trip to Stockport. What a great reputation we have.

It’s too late to walk to the train station, so Derek the taxi drops us down there. Back to the EJB for Derek. I think we’ve helped him decide he’s knocking off early today.

Sandwiches, crisps and cake are procured from Lidl for the journey home. Swift
half in the Sheffield Tap en-route.

Back to Stockport

One last duty remains - to help Dave Wilks celebrate his 65 th birthday and
retirement at the Spinning Top. We arrive about 6pm.

The Mutha Luvin’ Chimps are on great form, as is the beer, particularly the County Co-hop, which regularly gets polished off after County matches (sometimes during matches, when Pure FM is put on).

Dave Marchbank arrives with all of the beer festival stuff, so now I have to stay an extra hour. This means I get to listen to Wilks’ speech, declaring that he’s been promoted from the Mayor of Brinnington, to the Pope of Brinnington!

A fitting end to another great trip, staying overnight whilst following Stockport
County. That just leaves the two away play-off games!

Man in a Hat


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