Away fans, more than most, know the pleasures of a pre-match pint. After enduring a hideously early rise and driving however many miles with a coffee in one hand and a map in the other, you more than deserve it. Here is MATCHhotels.com’s guide to pubs near the Emirates for those hardy folk who make the trek to Arsenal.
The Drayton Park
The Drayton Park is the main pub for away supporters, situated opposite the stadium’s away entrance. As such, it is seriously busy on match days. Unfortunately, there are no ales on tap.The Drayton Park 66 Drayton Park Highbury London N5 1ND
The Woodstore Bar & Grill
A quieter option is The Woodstore Bar & Grill, a clean, spacious pub serving up a wide range of drinks and some good grub. Football colours are allowed and the staff are friendly. They have full Sky Sports and ESPN coverage.The Woodstore Bar & Grill
1 Carpenter Mews North Road Highbury London N7 9EF 0333 240 2000
The Twelve Pins
The Twelve Pins is a bit of walk up Seven Sisters Road, but they are big on sport and welcoming to all fans. It’s an Irish pub, so you can get a decent pint of Guinness.The Twelve Pins 263 Seven Sisters Road Finsbury Park London
N4 2DE 020 8809 0192
If you can’t get in anywhere else, try The Blackstock across the road. It’s not exactly the nicest pub in the world, but it’s good enough for a pre-match drink. It also has Sky Sports.The Blackstock 284 Seven Sisters Road Finsbury Park London N4 2HY
Fulham, Chelsea and its neighbouring communities are the playgrounds of London’s millionaires. Alas, paupers like ourselves at MATCHhotels.com will never be able to afford a lush pad around those parts, but we do like to pretend we can by drinking in the pubs. The following four come highly recommended.
The Eight Bells
The Eight Bells is a friendly pub with a few hand-pumped beers attracting a genteel crowd, as it’s tucked off the usual football route (but still very close to the tube). It is the oldest recorded alehouse in Fulham, dating back to 1629, when it was known as The Bell.89 Fulham High Street London SW6 3JS 020 7736 6307
The King’s Arms
There’s a lot of competition in the area, but The King’s Arms (formerly The Larrik), on the corner of New King’s Road, is a gem that stands out. It’s been transformed into a modern, airy venue serving excellent seasonal food. The range of drinks is similarly good.425 New King’s Road London SW6 4RN 020 7371 9585
The Duke’s Head
If you don’t mind a brisk 20-minute walk to the stadium, there are a few decent pubs across the river in Putney. The more civilised travelling fan can enjoy some excellent grub while looking out on great views of the Thames at The Duke’s Head.8 Lower Richmond Road London SW15 1JN 0208 788 2552
The Bricklayer’s Arms
Another Putney pub, The Bricklayer’s Arms, is a proper beer drinker’s pub, with a huge range of excellent real ales – and many awards to show for it.32 Waterman Street London SW15 1DD 0208 789 0222
At long last, the Premier League is upon us. At 12.45pm next Saturday, August 14, Spurs welcome Man City to White Hart Lane for the first fixture of the 2010-11 season. What a cracking tie it ought to be: the two sides fought furiously for fourth place last year, with Spurs pipping City by just three points. While it would be crazy to make any predictions after the first game of the season, it will be fascinating to see who comes out on top when they were so closely matched last year.
To celebrate the start of the new season, MATCHhotels.com is compiling an away fans’ drinking guide for each Premier League team, so you’ll know exactly where to drink before every match. We’re starting with last year’s champions Chelsea, who face newly-promoted West Brom at Stamford Bridge on opening day. The majority of pubs near Stamford Bridge are strictly home-fans only, and it would be wise to keep away colours under wraps. There are, however, a couple of excellent pubs about 15 minutes’ walk away.
The White Horse
One of the best locations for away fans is The White Horse, “a haven of Victorian grandeur” near Parsons Green. It’s a charming boozer, with a smart dark wooden bar, some great big leather couches and a superb selection of beers (over 135 bottled varieties alone, as well as six to eight cask ales at any time). They also hold four beer festivals a year, and regular barbecues in their spacious beer garden. There are loads of Chelsea fans in on matchdays, but it’s friendly enough for away fans.The White Horse 1-3 Parsons Green, London, SW6 4UL 020 7736 2115
Photo: Iain Buchanan @ Flickr
The Blackbird at Earls Court is one of Fuller’s ale and pie houses, run by friendly, capable staff (which helps on a busy match day). A wide selection of Fuller’s fine ales is available, but not much in the way of cider. The pub has a few nice decorative touches, including an old clock behind the large central bar, set in exquisitely carved wooden panelling, and a large antique mirror with the pub’s name etched into it. All in all, it’s an excellent traditional pub.The Blackbird 209 Earl’s Court Road, London, SW5 9AN 020 7835 1855
It’s that time of year again, ladies and gentlemen, when extortionately-priced new kits are purchased, fantasy teams are carefully assembled and Sky Sports News occasionally finds real, actual news to report – yes, it’s the start of the football season. As far as we at MATCHhotels.com are concerned, it couldn’t come soon enough. Summer is great and all, but life is that much worse without Match of the Day on Saturday nights.
It ought to be an intriguing and particularly passionate season. Sure, we’ll have the usual derbies, such as Man United v Liverpool, the Merseyside derby and the north London derby, but there will be added spice this time round. For the first time in 27 years, all four major West Midlands teams – Villa, Birmingham, Wolves and West Brom – will be in the league at the same time, and it will be the first season to witness the Black Country derby between West Brom and Wolves. And while both Newcastle and West Brom are far from unknown quantities, it has been a full 39 years since Blackpool last competed in the top flight.
The introduction of the league’s new rules also makes the competition a lot more interesting. Clubs can register only 25 players, of whom at least eight must be ‘home-grown’, ie they must have been affiliated to the FA or FAW for at least three seasons (or 36 months) prior to their 21st birthday. This pool of 25 can, however, be supplemented by an unlimited number of players under the age of 21, and registration can be changed during transfer windows.
The rules are intended to bolster the number of young English players playing regular football and, over time, improve the standard of the national side. The most immediate impact of the rules, however, will be on clubs like Chelsea who have massive squads and will effectively be forced to freeze players out. Towards the end of the season, too, as players pick up injuries and suspensions, clubs will be far more restricted in terms of who they can pick than in previous seasons.
Perhaps with the new regulations in mind, champions Chelsea have already shed quite a few players in the close season, including Juliano Belletti, Michael Ballack and Deco (although Joe Cole, who left to sign on a Bosman for Liverpool, qualifies as home-grown). So far their only signing is skilful midfielder Yossi Benayoun (who effectively swaps positions with Cole), although an £18 million deal to sign Benfica’s Brazilian midfielder Ramires is close to completion.
Man United have been similarly quiet in the transfer market. Manager Alex Ferguson has repeatedly insisted the club’s finances are in order, but their absence from the transfer market certainly suggests otherwise. Their only new recruit so far is young Mexican striker Javier Hernández, who impressed during the World Cup.
Arsenal fans approach every season with increasingly naïve optimism that they might win something, but perhaps this time they are right to be hopeful. It looks like Cesc Fabregas will be staying at the Emirates (at least for another season), which is a coup in itself. Jack Wilshere, fresh from a promising spell at Bolton, is an extremely talented footballer who has the potential to make a real breakthrough this season, and perhaps Theo Walcott will find some consistency after his, ahem, extended summer break.
But of the big four, it’s Liverpool who look the most likely to make serious improvements on last year. Finishing seventh was a disaster, and things have rightly been shaken up. Rafa Benitez is out and Roy Hodgson in, which should at least guarantee that a regular team will be picked. A fully fit Alberto Aquilani almost seems like a new signing, and the attacking trio of Torres, Gerrard and Cole is not to be sniffed at. Weaknesses at the back remain, but if Hodgson can make Chris Baird look like a Premier League defender then anything is possible.
Man City are surely the best of the rest, and look more likely than ever to end up in the top four and secure the Holy Grail of Champions League football. If they do that, they will surely have no trouble attracting even better players, and it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that we will seeing them lift the Premier League title within a few seasons.
At the bottom end, Bolton should do fine under Owen Coyle and West Ham will expect better than last season’s 17th. Wigan and Wolves will both need to score a lot more goals next year, or at the very least concede fewer. Wigan in particular were prone to awful defensive displays last year; perhaps they will have learned from the experience.
And Blackpool? Well, with Olly in charge, it’s bound to be entertaining…
To get you in the mood for the upcoming season and help you prepare for the trials and tribulations ahead, MATCHhotels.com is compiling a pub guide for every team in the Premier League which will be published over the coming weeks. We’ll start with last year’s champions, Chelsea, tomorrow.