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The pubs of Eastlands

Dave Bishop’s tours the pubs City fans visit pre-match, post-match, or if things are going wrong, during the match. He takes a nervous mate: Rod the Red.

Published on September 10th 2009.

The pubs of Eastlands

Just over Ashton New Road from Eastlands, this is not so much a pub, more a Blue fortress: the closest to City. A banner, a jibe at Stretford folk, reads ‘Real Mancunians in this area’ and Rod the Red starts to look a little nervous, even though he looks harder than Roy Keane. Jeepers, even as a Blue I’m feeling nervous. The reference to ‘Guvnor’s’ (City hooligans were known as the Guvnors) hints at what lies beneath. With décor and ambience befitting a Wild West saloon, it’s not a place for the faint-hearted. Of course there’s no real ale, but there is a pint called Guvnor’s Smooth brewed by Holt’s, which Rod the Red seems to down in one to calm the nerves. I stick with diet Coke. Various pictures of owner Mick Francis adorn the sky blue-painted walls in the main bar, together with City photos, shirts and slogans. The second bar, which almost qualifies as a lounge, has MCFC in big letters and the club’s Latin logo (there’s posh). But that’s as posh as it gets. Rough, but in its defence not as rough-looking as Mary D’s Beamish Bar over the road, which has barred windows.

Do go: If you wear only blue-tinted specs and you’re hard enough.

Don’t go: If you’re a Red.

Marks: 1 (just for proximity and unabashed Blueness)

Another handy joint just along ‘the lane’, this is an altogether slicker affair but no less Blue than the Guvnor. One could almost imagine Stephen Ireland, lounging on the fake brown leather banquettes, enjoying a cocktail or two in here while admiring Fergie (the other one) and the Black Eyed Peas on the massive TV screens. On our visit it had an air of ersatz sophistication, but a notice said that because of recent trouble punters had to be over 25 and hoodies were banned. Obviously, then, some handy lads frequent it, but I’m sure it’s fine on match days. There’s a framed City shirt from the 1954/55 season, which is a result in my book as it’s the best City shirt ever, just ahead of the current one (much better than that new Red rubbish). Ricky Hatton and boxing pictures in general vie with City memorabilia for wall space, which again is predominantly blue. No real ale again, but Guvnor’s Smooth makes another appearance. Rod the Red imbibes again and it’s another diet Coke for me.

Do go: If you like modern bars

Don’t go: If you hate watching any Fergie on the telly.

Marks: 3 (cos they’ve made an effort)

What’s this? Van Gogh’s famous sunflower painting as you walk in. What the hell’s that got to do with football? But then you walk round the corner and the City and the Ricky Hatton pictures emerge, while the barman wears his Team Hitman T-shirt and the walls have that familiar blue hue, so order is restored in the universe. Rod the Red looks strangely comfortable, though, and he tells me it’s because this feels like a real pub – and it does. There’s a pitched ceiling and pubby knick-knacks and even some humour, with an events card reproducing Kevin Keegan’s famous quote that “it’s a lot harder when you’re 4-1 down than when you’re 4-1 up.” Ah nostalgia. The beer garden at the side looks almost rustic, an illusion only spoilt by giant posters of City players. A sign says this is run by Tom and Pauline and I’d like to hug them both for creating something so nice, even though the outside is pretty drab, but then I want to give them a jolly good rollicking for not providing real ale. Rod the Red has a pint of keg Bodds and I have another coke. I’m not drunk but I’m getting slightly wired.

Do go: If you like proper pubs.

Don’t go: If Keegan’s wit doesn’t ring your bell.

Marks: 4 (would have been 5 with real ale)

People say this happens when you go into a pub in Wales. Everyone stops talking and then, after a pause, they converse in Welsh. Well we’d got no further than the picnic tables at the side entrance before the conversation stopped, but it didn’t start again as the locals just glared menacingly. Chilly or what? The problem obviously lies in the fact that this isn’t entirely a Blue pub – there are even a few United cuttings above the bar – and the fact that they must have thought we were social security snoopers. But hey, the first pub to serve real ale – Holt’s bitter, so I have half. Rod the Red still has that awful Smooth stuff. We drank in the vault, but the lounge on the other side of the bar looked much more welcoming.

Do go: If you like real ale.

Don’t go: If you look like you’re from the social.

Marks: 2 (nice beer, shame about the ambience)

OK, so this isn’t exactly just a cock’s stride from the ground, but it is close to where a lot of people pay exorbitant charges to park their cars, so it does qualify. Also, it’s on the route towards Stockport, the place that Rod the Red says is City’s spiritual hinterland. I make no mention of Stretford. With the ripples from Eastland dissipating, the Blueness here is very muted, with as much United paraphernalia as City. And muted is something that I wish I could say about the smell in the gents. God they pong. That said, the rest of the four-square Victorian brick pub – several yellow-ochre painted rooms without a hint of blue around a central bar – is surprisingly pleasant and the smiling barmaid looks like she wants to serve me rather than nut me. The regulars look decent and some even say tara as we leave. Trouble is, I’m back on the soft stuff, this time J2o, as again there’s no real ale. Rod the Red has John Smith’s Smooth.

Do go: If you prefer yellow to blue walls.

Don’t go: If your olfactory faculties are acute.

Marks: 3 (for the cosiness and the clientele. A mark lost just because of the walk to the ground afterwards and the pong in the gents)

The verdict
The Townley wins because it’s a proper City pub and because it’s fairly cosy. Fairly. None are exactly the bee’s knees though. Perhaps stay in town, have a drink at the Bulls Head opposite Piccadilly Station and walk. Next time out we’ll take a look at the boozers around Old Trafford to see if they’re any better.

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8 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

SteSeptember 10th 2009.

What about Maine Rd right next door to Eastlands main entrance?

Prestwich ManSeptember 10th 2009.

You forgot the Spanking Roger! That's been a shithole in many disguises!

Dave N PortSeptember 10th 2009.

I think I'll give it a miss, ta.Why anyone would want to drink largely substandard beer surrounded by knuckledragger football hooligans in these grotty pubs is beyond my comprehension. It might be better to stick to bottles - to protect one's palate and life in the all too likely event of attack.

AnonymousSeptember 10th 2009.

Manchester Guvnors can be intimitading if your a blue never mind a support of a non Mancunian team ! Think Mr Francis also had a boozer just off Alan Turing way with a massive poster of himself on the gable end. Can honestly say that the beer on match days can be pretty poor in all the pubs close to the ground, grab yourself a pint in town and jump on a bus !

Tyson the BeerhoundSeptember 10th 2009.

It's pretty shocking but not unexpected. The Guvnors is a stupid name for a pub and I used to think the pubs in Radcliffe were rough, but after visiting there, it makes them look like the Marble Arch!

Robin who?September 10th 2009.

You missed the Legh Arms on Ashton Old Road proper homely oldstyle city pub regularly winning CAMRA monthly awards.

Prestwich ManSeptember 10th 2009.

Has the Apollo on Varley Street shut down?

CasSeptember 10th 2009.


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