Visited: Saturday 31 January 2009
When I go to a pub before the football I like it to be quite busy. Not so busy that it takes forever to get served, but perhaps a little busier than I normally like a pub to be. If there isn’t room to sit down in a pub, and I have to stand, I normally get a bit fed up. If it’s before the football, though, I don’t mind so much. I like the bustle and the hubbub a little: they add to the anticipation and sense of occasion.
I was at a pub in Stockport once before the football and it was busy, borderline rammed, slightly edgy too, nearly all home fans, some a bit on the Burberry side. Then, as one, they all sang the Stockport song ‘The Scarf My Father Wore‘. There must have been 20 or 30 joining in. Even as it excluded me and the other Grimsby fans I was with, it was pretty electrifying, and quite moving.
Most of the time, the other team is pretty much the same as your team, and even if you have particular grounds for antipathy because their club is run by arseholes, their fans are pretty much the same as your fans. In my view, fans of smaller clubs like mine ought to forget their parochial niggles against each other and unite against the common enemy of the Premier League. So I like it when both sets of fans are represented well in a pre-match pub and it’s all chatty and friendly. The Corn Dolly achieves all of this and there’s no need at all for anyone to cover their team colours. At one point a lad of about six, in a Bradford shirt, is perched on the edge of a long seat in between two fully grown Grimbarian counterparts. I really must get a camera for this blog.
There are those who’d say that when someone’s limbering up for a knock with the words “Did you spill my pint?” it’s unlikely to be a pint of real ale. By that reckoning, the super friendly buzz of the Corn Dolly is partly the product of its mouthwatering panoply of beers. I start off with a pint of Bass, because I drank so many bad pints of Bass when I lived in the midlands that drinking a good one when I have the chance has become a kind of moral duty. After that I’m on the Honey Porter from a brewery called Black Bee; never heard of it, but the beer is rich and bittersweet and deep and it keeps me going beautifully until we set out for Valley Parade.
It’s a fairly small place, with one room semi-divided by an internal wall that stops halfway across it. Chaps wishing to urinate are directed by a sign to the ladies’ room, as the gents is being repaired or flooded or something. I expect terrible congestion here as the place fills up, but all we get is a vague sense of resentment on discovering that women’s toilets are all nice and properly looked after with attractive curtains and little vases of flowers.
The Corn Dolly is a handsome building and they know how to keep and serve beer. But today it’s the people who make it. The Mariners go on to lose to Bradford, the same as always, but for the umpteenth time in my life as a Grimsby fan the bitter edge of defeat on the road has been smoothed and sweetened by the time spent enjoying a very good pub.