The Bunch Of Grapes ( London Bridge ) + Other Reasons To Be Beer – Full!

Bunch Of Grapes ( nr The Shard ) + Other Reasons 2 Be Beer-full!
What’s in a pub? What draws us to it? Why do so many of us find solace in a pint glass and a friendly face? For some it’s the atmosphere. For others it’s a safe haven of what they know. I’m sure there is the odd fellow out there who frequents a particular bar because the barmaids are prettier in his local as opposed to the one 200yds down the road. Sometimes it can be the particular brand of beer or the food served up. For example, I have one particular friend who refuses to go into a pub if they don’t have his beer of choice on tap. He’s a fan of Stella Artories ( as Micky Flanagan would call it ) and many a ale house has been excluded from a day out in the country if the “wife beater” isn’t available. Not that he beats his wife of course. He hasn’t even got a wife. Then again maybe it’s because he drinks Stella he hasn’t got married. Well there’s a vicious circle!
It could be any number of things, The obvious one being alcohol of course. Take my local pub, The Traitors Gate. It’s going through a bit of a transitional phase at the moment. For a start, a paint job, it’s the brightest pub on the Riviera, and it isn’t due to the intelligence of a quiz team. fresh new beers on tap albeit at fresh new prices, and a reputation for good live music. The Traitors also brew their own beer. Deverells Darkside is my pick of the bunch, plus they have one pump solely for Mighty Oak and various guest beers which are well chosen. Colchester – Brazilian is a personal standout I remember or maybe it’s more that someone reminded me the following day but anyway, let’s move on. . I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad Mighty Oak real ale either and there is a few to choose from. A tip top brewery.
 It’s a simple fact that as a publican you just cannot afford to stand still. The biggest problem is breaking from its traditional shackles and developing itself into this new venue for the hottest new local talent, while remaining true to its real ale roots and regular customers. I drink there as often as life affords me, because barring the very rare occasion its trouble – free, ( I’m under the safe – haven banner ), and I know enough people in there if it becomes troublesome. 
For reasons that are self explanatory, another of my favourite watering holes is The Woodbine Pub in Highbury. As an Arsenal fan, it’s an ideal meeting point to congregate with friends, talk rubbish and have a couple of beers. They do have a massive selection of beverages to choose from as well. If you like your real ales it’s a winner. The fact that it’s clean and tidy helps. Far enough to be away from MOST of the madding crowd, however only a 10 minute walk from the ground. A win double to rank alongside Torvill and Dean I say. If you are ever at a loose end and want to read about The Arsenal, check out the blog StubbysTours on WordPress. He introduced me to the next pub funnily enough before an Arsenal home match. 
The public house in question is The Harp in Chandos Place, ( Covent Garden ). Not only do they have a vast array of beers on draught but they have terrific guest brews from all over the place. The best thing about The Harp though is the Sausages. It’s their gimmick if that’s the correct word. They specialise in a tremendous sausage roll. A variation of flavours makes The Harp the place to go when in and around the west end for a pint and a porky roll. It’s also a real drinkers pub. No music or jukebox.. Just beer and conversation.
For reasons of trying to keep this blog short others that are worth a mention are:

The Bargemans Rest – Newport ( Isle of Wight ) nice setting, nice beer, it’s our recovery pub when at the IOW festival. It also does plates of food the size of a house!.. It serves fuggle – Dee – dum which is an island brew.
The King Lud – Ryde ( also on IOW ). I’m not exaggerating when I say this pub has the most bizarre and eclectic customers. The live entertainment can be anything from the weird and wacky to seriously good rock music. They do serve a fair pint of Guinness as well. If you think you’ve seen everything, spend a night in The King Lud.
The Hoop – Stock, Essex. I’ve only ever been here twice. Incredible beer garden. Lovely food, attentive bar staff. Nice drop of Doombar as well. 
The Grapes – Limehouse. It’s on the river. It’s very old fashioned. Very welcoming and if you are lucky enough to get out on the balcony, you can sit whiling away your day while the Thames crashes into the wall literally below your feet. In fact on a bad day you might end up with wet feet. A terrific pub. Little fact for you. The leaseholder is actor Ian McKellen.
That leaves me with my favourite 3 pubs, ( I’m not including my local ).
As they would say on X Factor in no particular order.
The Black Lion – Plaistow. Now I’m slightly biased in naming this pub because I know the lovely lady who runs it and her equally fantastic daughter ( just don’t let her mention the board game “Frustration” ), who also works there. However it’s difficult to deny that in general most of my friends who have visited this establishment get exactly the same treatment. A smiling face and all encompassing welcome. They serve a decent pint and if you are very lucky you might even get a seat. We tend to visit on match days though when going to West Ham so it’s fairly busy. Friendly banter before and after the game is most definitely the order of the day at TBL.

The Gun, Docklands. – I’m not really sure how we ended up going to The Gun the first time, but I’m happier than a cat playing with a solitaire set made of marbles that I did. The food is lovely. There is plenty of room, regardless of whether you want to sit in the sun overlooking the River Thames, sit by the roaring fire which is cracking in winter, or do what we do… Wait till it’s freezing outside, get a wine ( ideally mulled ) and sit outside anyway. They also have a few nights in December with people singing Christmas carols which after a bit of grub is a songtacular way to spend a Saturday evening. 
In an ideal world I would live in one of those houses as tons throw from The Gun. This would be my pub to stroll to on a Sunday. Have a read of the free broad sheets offered, ( Ok, the Mirror or The Times if it’s for the magazines ), a Bloody Mary for GB and a pint for moi, then to finish off, a blinding Sunday roast. The Gun delivers on all 3 fronts and is just a proper feel good cosy pub. The Gun also has the odd cinema evening showing a movie in their function garden/terrace. They also do a bit of foodie fun like the “Slider – Decider”. We were present this year when a lot of top chefs went up against each other for the ultimate slider. It was a very good evening with lots of decent food on offer, plus your music and cocktails, beers etc.. A feelgood pub of the highest order.
Finally we have The Bunch Of Grapes, ( it must be that I have a thing about a pub with grapes in the title ). The rub – a – dub – dub in question is a stones throw from The Shard, next to London Bridge Tube. Takes me less than an hour to get there from the Thurrock Riviera. It’s also opposite Borough Market so there is plenty in the area to do before quaffing a few sherbets. TBOG has a small area out the front for smokers and a nice open multi – levelled seating area out the back for when the sun decides to make an appearance. It’s not huge but there is plenty of tables if you get lucky with the weather. 
One thing this ale house does have in abundance is atmosphere. Yes it is in a tourist trap, so you do get the odd shouty American telling tales of NYC being the best city in the world but ignoring that, the whole mindset of the pub is positive with a capital P. In fact it’s that upbeat it should have two P’s. The background music, played at a high enough level to hear and low enough to hear yourself speak is a good choice of anything from Oasis to James Brown. TBOG smothers itself in the feelgood factor like a doughnut surrounds itself in sugar. 
The decor is cosy enough and they sell Meantime beers which gets a thumbs up from this blogger. The choice on offer if you don’t happen to like MT however is substantial enough for you to not have to worry. The staff that serve you ( or at least have served me ) have always been friendly and helpful and will strike up a chat when they aren’t too busy. One thing I do like is that it never takes an hour to get a drink like in some watering holes. There are normally plenty of staff behind the ramp. 
The other thing about TBOG is the food. Recently I had one of their burgers. I guess I was expecting a bog standard pub burger but I have to say it went far beyond that. It was a big thick piece of meat, with bacon, cooked to perfection inside a lovely brioche type bun. Absolutely doodley! ( that’s not a proper word is it ).

The onion rings, purchased separately were the size of a Krispy Kreme doughnut. Proper old school onion rings. Along with fries the whole thing went down like a building full of dynamite. Quick and easy. It’s so easy to criticise the majority of places for their outlook on food being easy money but I think you get what you pay for at TBOG. The menu does have a nice variety to it as well, so get yourselves down there. It’s not the cheapest pub in the world, but consider where you are and you certainly aren’t being had over price wise.
Right that’s it. Reasons to be beer-full, 1,2,3.
See you fish ‘n’ tater.

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The Bunch Of Grapes ( London Bridge ) + Other Reasons To Be Beer – Full!

Bunch Of Grapes ( nr The Shard ) + Other Reasons 2 Be Beer-full!
What’s in a pub? What draws us to it? Why do so many of us find solace in a pint glass and a friendly face? For some it’s the atmosphere. For others it’s a safe haven of what they know. I’m sure there is the odd fellow out there who frequents a particular bar because the barmaids are prettier in his local as opposed to the one 200yds down the road. Sometimes it can be the particular brand of beer or the food served up. For example, I have one particular friend who refuses to go into a pub if they don’t have his beer of choice on tap. He’s a fan of Stella Artories ( as Micky Flanagan would call it ) and many a ale house has been excluded from a day out in the country if the “wife beater” isn’t available. Not that he beats his wife of course. He hasn’t even got a wife. Then again maybe it’s because he drinks Stella he hasn’t got married. Well there’s a vicious circle!
It could be any number of things, The obvious one being alcohol of course. Take my local pub, The Traitors Gate. It’s going through a bit of a transitional phase at the moment. For a start, a paint job, it’s the brightest pub on the Riviera, and it isn’t due to the intelligence of a quiz team. fresh new beers on tap albeit at fresh new prices, and a reputation for good live music. The Traitors also brew their own beer. Deverells Darkside is my pick of the bunch, plus they have one pump solely for Mighty Oak and various guest beers which are well chosen. Colchester – Brazilian is a personal standout I remember or maybe it’s more that someone reminded me the following day but anyway, let’s move on. . I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad Mighty Oak real ale either and there is a few to choose from. A tip top brewery.
 It’s a simple fact that as a publican you just cannot afford to stand still. The biggest problem is breaking from its traditional shackles and developing itself into this new venue for the hottest new local talent, while remaining true to its real ale roots and regular customers. I drink there as often as life affords me, because barring the very rare occasion its trouble – free, ( I’m under the safe – haven banner ), and I know enough people in there if it becomes troublesome. 
For reasons that are self explanatory, another of my favourite watering holes is The Woodbine Pub in Highbury. As an Arsenal fan, it’s an ideal meeting point to congregate with friends, talk rubbish and have a couple of beers. They do have a massive selection of beverages to choose from as well. If you like your real ales it’s a winner. The fact that it’s clean and tidy helps. Far enough to be away from MOST of the madding crowd, however only a 10 minute walk from the ground. A win double to rank alongside Torvill and Dean I say. If you are ever at a loose end and want to read about The Arsenal, check out the blog StubbysTours on WordPress. He introduced me to the next pub funnily enough before an Arsenal home match. 
The public house in question is The Harp in Chandos Place, ( Covent Garden ). Not only do they have a vast array of beers on draught but they have terrific guest brews from all over the place. The best thing about The Harp though is the Sausages. It’s their gimmick if that’s the correct word. They specialise in a tremendous sausage roll. A variation of flavours makes The Harp the place to go when in and around the west end for a pint and a porky roll. It’s also a real drinkers pub. No music or jukebox.. Just beer and conversation.
For reasons of trying to keep this blog short others that are worth a mention are:

The Bargemans Rest – Newport ( Isle of Wight ) nice setting, nice beer, it’s our recovery pub when at the IOW festival. It also does plates of food the size of a house!.. It serves fuggle – Dee – dum which is an island brew.
The King Lud – Ryde ( also on IOW ). I’m not exaggerating when I say this pub has the most bizarre and eclectic customers. The live entertainment can be anything from the weird and wacky to seriously good rock music. They do serve a fair pint of Guinness as well. If you think you’ve seen everything, spend a night in The King Lud.
The Hoop – Stock, Essex. I’ve only ever been here twice. Incredible beer garden. Lovely food, attentive bar staff. Nice drop of Doombar as well. 
The Grapes – Limehouse. It’s on the river. It’s very old fashioned. Very welcoming and if you are lucky enough to get out on the balcony, you can sit whiling away your day while the Thames crashes into the wall literally below your feet. In fact on a bad day you might end up with wet feet. A terrific pub. Little fact for you. The leaseholder is actor Ian McKellen.
That leaves me with my favourite 3 pubs, ( I’m not including my local ).
As they would say on X Factor in no particular order.
The Black Lion – Plaistow. Now I’m slightly biased in naming this pub because I know the lovely lady who runs it and her equally fantastic daughter ( just don’t let her mention the board game “Frustration” ), who also works there. However it’s difficult to deny that in general most of my friends who have visited this establishment get exactly the same treatment. A smiling face and all encompassing welcome. They serve a decent pint and if you are very lucky you might even get a seat. We tend to visit on match days though when going to West Ham so it’s fairly busy. Friendly banter before and after the game is most definitely the order of the day at TBL.

The Gun, Docklands. – I’m not really sure how we ended up going to The Gun the first time, but I’m happier than a cat playing with a solitaire set made of marbles that I did. The food is lovely. There is plenty of room, regardless of whether you want to sit in the sun overlooking the River Thames, sit by the roaring fire which is cracking in winter, or do what we do… Wait till it’s freezing outside, get a wine ( ideally mulled ) and sit outside anyway. They also have a few nights in December with people singing Christmas carols which after a bit of grub is a songtacular way to spend a Saturday evening. 
In an ideal world I would live in one of those houses as tons throw from The Gun. This would be my pub to stroll to on a Sunday. Have a read of the free broad sheets offered, ( Ok, the Mirror or The Times if it’s for the magazines ), a Bloody Mary for GB and a pint for moi, then to finish off, a blinding Sunday roast. The Gun delivers on all 3 fronts and is just a proper feel good cosy pub. The Gun also has the odd cinema evening showing a movie in their function garden/terrace. They also do a bit of foodie fun like the “Slider – Decider”. We were present this year when a lot of top chefs went up against each other for the ultimate slider. It was a very good evening with lots of decent food on offer, plus your music and cocktails, beers etc.. A feelgood pub of the highest order.
Finally we have The Bunch Of Grapes, ( it must be that I have a thing about a pub with grapes in the title ). The rub – a – dub – dub in question is a stones throw from The Shard, next to London Bridge Tube. Takes me less than an hour to get there from the Thurrock Riviera. It’s also opposite Borough Market so there is plenty in the area to do before quaffing a few sherbets. TBOG has a small area out the front for smokers and a nice open multi – levelled seating area out the back for when the sun decides to make an appearance. It’s not huge but there is plenty of tables if you get lucky with the weather. 
One thing this ale house does have in abundance is atmosphere. Yes it is in a tourist trap, so you do get the odd shouty American telling tales of NYC being the best city in the world but ignoring that, the whole mindset of the pub is positive with a capital P. In fact it’s that upbeat it should have two P’s. The background music, played at a high enough level to hear and low enough to hear yourself speak is a good choice of anything from Oasis to James Brown. TBOG smothers itself in the feelgood factor like a doughnut surrounds itself in sugar. 
The decor is cosy enough and they sell Meantime beers which gets a thumbs up from this blogger. The choice on offer if you don’t happen to like MT however is substantial enough for you to not have to worry. The staff that serve you ( or at least have served me ) have always been friendly and helpful and will strike up a chat when they aren’t too busy. One thing I do like is that it never takes an hour to get a drink like in some watering holes. There are normally plenty of staff behind the ramp. 
The other thing about TBOG is the food. Recently I had one of their burgers. I guess I was expecting a bog standard pub burger but I have to say it went far beyond that. It was a big thick piece of meat, with bacon, cooked to perfection inside a lovely brioche type bun. Absolutely doodley! ( that’s not a proper word is it ).

The onion rings, purchased separately were the size of a Krispy Kreme doughnut. Proper old school onion rings. Along with fries the whole thing went down like a building full of dynamite. Quick and easy. It’s so easy to criticise the majority of places for their outlook on food being easy money but I think you get what you pay for at TBOG. The menu does have a nice variety to it as well, so get yourselves down there. It’s not the cheapest pub in the world, but consider where you are and you certainly aren’t being had over price wise.
Right that’s it. Reasons to be beer-full, 1,2,3.
See you fish ‘n’ tater.

Arsenal V Bayern Munich ( Alternative TV Review )

Arsenal v Bayern Munich ( The TV Alternative review )
I was going to call this Arsenal V Bayern ( balancing out the scales after BTSport’s embarrassingly biased commentary ). Then I thought of “Arsenal V The worlds best 11 players according to BTSport “. In the end I came up with what’s at the top. I do feel though that I need to redress the balance after yesterday. 
Let’s start though with the initial cost of the match ticket. The cheapest ticket was £64. This isn’t palatable for the majority everyday Arsenal fan. It certainly isn’t affordable for me. Munich fans made their feelings known by protesting outside for 5 minutes, and fair play to them. What isn’t added to the equation is the cost of the ticket to an Arsenal season ticket holder. Lower tier, where most of my friends sit, a ticket for last nights game cost approximately £41. I don’t think that’s unreasonable. That price is included in the season ticket, so is it really that expensive?… Well BTSport obviously thought so as they mentioned it on a number of occasions, while providing us with costs for going to see the “worlds best 11 players”. 
Next we have the fans. Last night was a good night. The Arsenal fans in stages were magnificent, especially during the 2nd half. In general we Arsenal fans are not known for our loudness at home, however Tuesday proved when needed the noise can cascade around the ground. The Arsenal away support is also as good as any away support I’ve encountered. There is one thing that I noticed though. How is it that Arsenal fans have been turned away from Ashburton Grove ( remember that ), for carrying inflatable objects and yet on TV, a Bayern fan who was also standing up ( naughty naughty ) was clearly holding a metal megaphone!… So let’s get this straight, blow – up banana confiscated, metal megaphone, as seen in a hostage situation in many a TV programme is absolutely fine!. Well I know what I’ll be taking to Everton at home on Saturday. 
Now the fun bit, the players. Here are facts admittedly courtesy of The BTSport commentary team about the “worlds best 11 players”:
They had become the first team in Bundesliga history to win their first 9 games. ( Judging by the strength of the German league I would suggest that Burnham Ramblers would have a chance ).
They had won 12 games on the bounce, scoring 25 goals in 7 games. No arguments there except they aren’t the first team ever to do that. With regards to the goals scored, at the end of the Arsenal championship winning campaign in 1991 we had scored 26 goals in 8 games. Bayern have scored 25, and they now have not won 12 on the bounce. 
Bayern had not failed to score in 23 previous CL appearances. Scratched!
Listening to BTSport, Owen Hargreaves in particular made me cringe at times. I think Owen is still unsure of where is heritage lies, at times using the word us when talking of Bayern, and then Arsenal. He does however categorically love Douglas Costa. At 22m quid I’d like to make a valid point. Surely for that amount of money of the 6 deadball situations he took control of at least 1 of those should have beaten the first player in the box. His crossing was diabolical.
 I will agree he looked quite a player in a 1-on-1 situation but take him out wide and he can’t cross the ball. A very good player but not a patch on Thiago judging by the commentators dribbling after One little back drag and spin he done. Sadly Stoke City’s Arnautovic had beaten him to it the night before against Swansea, but Arnautovic doesn’t play for Bayern so it doesn’t count as skill. Personally I do think Thiago is a fantastic footballer, but don’t go overboard BTSport!
Xabi Alonso. If you believe the comments made by Owen and his fellow commentator in the gantry he was born in a stable. Three wise men arrived after his birth delivering gold, frankincense and myrrh for the holy one. His feet did not touch the pitch as he levitated across the pitch. Well, I hate to disagree but was he any better than Santi, Mesut or Alexis? I’d love to know the number of chances he created during the game, because of all the 73% possession Bayern had, Alonso was the one with the ball at his feet the most. Listening to the team commentating I thought at one point Bayern were 5-0 up. Alonso had set up 3 for Lewandowski with Mueller scoring the other two laid on by the Spanish OAP. 
I have no argument about Lewandowski or Mueller in fairness. They are both excellent footballers who on their day can score against anyone. 22 goals in 16 games is remarkable form, and BTSport were full of praise for Lewandowski. Of the 2 though I’d still take Mueller first, but that’s just me. I thought our defence played exceptionally well and contained the Bayern forwards barring one or two tricky moments. Yes Bayern had a lot of the ball and yes they had lots of shots ( 6 on target, 2 less than Arsenal ) but several of them were regulation saves for a keeper with the stature of Cech. There is no doubt with Cech in goal we look a far safer, stronger unit. 

 

Then we have Lahm and Vidal. Lahm is a truly classy player. He can play anywhere across the back and in midfield. I can understand the praise he receives. 2 or 3 years ago he would have gone into any team I picked as a current best 11. I’m not so sure now. As for Vidal, the £28m pound Chilean is an embarrassment. The only hardman that loves leaving his foot in but cannot keep his balance when anyone so much as tries to tackle him. He was constantly in the face of the ref trying to get players booked with his acting. I noticed it in the CL final last year when he played in a similar fashion. We definitely got the better Chilean of the two. 
Finally there is Neuer. Described regularly as playing a Beckenbauer sweeping role he looked more like Jack Bauer at times , once kicking the ball out for a corner to the opposition and then obviously his error for the goal. I will say though that the save he made to keep Theo’s header out was world class. The fact that he nearly repeated it in the 93rd minute, the ball having already crossed the line is testament to how good he is. I do think though that his arrogance shines through making it funnier when he makes mistakes. BTSport would have you believe this man is the best goalkeeper in the world and there is no – one near him, in fact others should wash his feet, and maybe they would if they could get past that arrogant attitude. 
I’m not belittling Bayern Munich. They are a fantastic team. I just think there was a complete lack of balance in the commentary. I thought Santi was excellent. Theo scared the life out of their defence and both Sanchez and Ozil both contributed well. The Coq was at what is now becoming a consistent and regular level of control in the centre, and when we broke away we looked like we could score. We have now scored 8 and conceded 0 in our last 3 games. Didn’t hear BTSport mention that!
The Sac and Kos are starting to play together well again and either side of them while Hector is still learning he looks a great full back and “So Nacho” after a rough start to his Arse career looks solid enough. I like Olly G. I know he has his critics, and sometimes they are justified but when he plays well he is one of the top forwards around. Is he in Lewandowski/Muller class? Probably not, but at this moment in time he scored and they didn’t so who cares. In goal we have Petr. I’m happy enough with that!
Shortly we go to the Allianz Arena. I can’t say I’m looking forward to it. Then again I wasn’t looking forward to Tuesday’s game, so maybe I need to be more positive!.. I do hope the cheat that is also known as Arjen Robben isn’t playing though. Such a talented footballer, but a serial diver. 
* please note when talking about Thomas Muller I spelt his name wrong most of the time. Sorry, but I can’t be arsed to go back and change it. 

Balance addressed, thank you.

A Grand Day At The Palace

A Grand Day At The Palace! 

I will start this ( relatively ) short blog by stating quite openly That I don’t mind Crystal Palace. When I say don’t mind, What I mean is that on the scale of likeable where Chelski sit at a detestable 1, Palace sit at a comfortable 4 in my head. After Arsenal, which is my club of choice, and sit at around 20, no other club gets over the Palace number so that should be seen as a compliment. Actually Southend, Leyton Orient, Forfar and Stenhousmuir also get a 4, and maybe West Ham solely because I know a lot of my friends are happy hammers…. But anyway.
The football team that is, not the area. Let’s face it Croydon, or South Norwood to be more precise is not the first place that would spring to mind for a day out, unless of course you have a great desire to visit IKEA. Crystal Palace FC are like the old bird on TV, no not Rod Hull’s Emu. I mean Great British Bake Offs Mary Berry. I couldn’t watch them every week and they are slightly annoying, but now and again if they are on TV you will leave it on. I’m not sure if Alan Pardew is any good at baking cakes though. Side note, have you ever tried saying Alan Pardew in a Geordie accent. When I do it I sound Indian!
So what is it that makes me think Palace are ok ?… Well there are three main reasons. Firstly, players. Two of the finest players to wear an Arsenal shirt in my time have come from CPFC. Kenny Sansom and of course Ian Wright. I loved Ian Wright at Arsenal. Yes he made the over enthusiastic tackle now and again but his energy was infectious. He was also one of us. A normal bloke working on a building site before being spotted playing semi – pro with Greenwich Borough. Not many footballers start their careers aged 21. In fact in the modern era some are finished at that age, Take note Mr. Wilshere. 
As for Kenny Sansom, the man was an incredible player. His move to Arsenal in exchange for Clive Allen, even though Allen had been on Arsenals books for only a few weeks without even playing a competitive game was possibly a gamble, but one that resoundingly paid off. He won 78 caps for England. Kennels captained Arsenal during a barren spell in the early to mid 80’s before eventually being replaced as captain by a young Tony Adams. Without doubt Kenny was Mr. Consistent. It was rarer than an honest politician for Sansom to have a bad game on the left side of the Arsenal defence. Cheers Palace.
It should also be mentioned that although we were lavished with Wright and Sansom, Arsenal were also to sign the likes of Eddie McGoldrick. At the time the CPFC captain, and the Apple of her indoors eye. Whether good enough to play for the Arse is another story.
The other two reasons are much quicker to get through. I quite like the kit. Or I did. Not so much these days but the Palace kit 25 years ago was alright. Not a patch on the Arsenal green and blue away kit but let’s face it, some teams have a good colour scheme, some don’t. Coventry – brown, Everton – pink springs to mind. 
The final reason is much more biased. As long as I’ve been going to Arsenal, we have always seemed to do well against Palace. Even when I’ve been to Selhurst Park, and I have seen the Gunners play there quite a few times against Wimbledon, Charlton and of course CPFC my club always seem to excel. I won’t bang on too much but one fixture stands out, although at Highbury. We won 4 – 0. Paul Merson scored a hat – trick including a sublime chip from outside the box. The Arsenal love playing Palace. I was looking forward to a day out after receiving a late call from Stubbly regarding a spare ticket.
I met up with three other gooners at the Wetherspoons pub across the road from Balham train station. I think I pitched up at about 10:45. Already into a second pint the chaps nodded their respective hello’s. Just to be sensible I had a full but small English to line my stomach. This adjoined to not going out the previous evening was a proper first for me. Sensible, twice, in 24 hours!… I polished off brekkie quick smart and we headed back to Balham for our three stop jaunt to Thornton Heath. 
Fact of the day: Balham Station was used in the video of the song “Missing” by Everything But The Girl. They were a band with a female singer with a canny resemblance to Rodney out of Only Fools & Horses. 
On arrival, all ship shape and Bristol fashion we had a short stroll down the road to The Railway Tavern for a few pre – match snifters. I was a bit surprised it wasn’t already open but, we got there just before a shower and the doors opened. A little queue had formed with a punter or two giving the landlord grief for opening up 30 seconds after the advertised time. Very harsh!
As a pre – match watering hole it served its purpose, and by the time 1.45pm had come around we had squeezed in a good 4 or 5 pints. No silly shots though. Captain Sensible!…. I still felt a bit merry as we bobbed down the High Street and Whitehorse Lane to the away end at Selhurst Park. Our numbers had grown slightly and a top bod I know named Guilly announced his immense dislike for all things Palace. Not in song or aloud, but if you knew Guilly, you could see his rationale reaching breaking point. Most specifically his hatred for Wilfred Zaha. 
Fact of the day part 2 : Crystal Palace were initially nicknamed The Glaziers. 
It’s not the newest of grounds. It does however create one of the best atmospheres in the premier league. Or at least it seems to under the floodlights of a night time match.  Sadly I have to say I wasn’t overly impressed with the home crowd. It was a full house of roughly 24,500 so no real excuses. I have said it before, regardless of the team, and I include my own, the away fans mostly these days are the folk to make the noise. This is mainly down to all seater stadia and the improbable chances of you sitting around another three or four hundred people wanting to sing. 
It wasn’t the best of games either. When Santi Cazorla scored a penalty early doors it was the very least we deserved. Arsenal started off at a very quick pace. Ball retention was good and Palace were struggling to keep up. Welbeck broke into the area and drew a foul from the young French kid making his debut, Papa Souare. Palace fans are starting to remove their original neutral, slight liking for this blogger….
The first half continued with Arsenal seeking a second goal and CPFC, whilst keen failing to make any sort of  impact on Ospina’s goal. The old Chichester, ( I’m not sure how cliche turned into Chichester ), clicked into overdrive. We had a few chances to make it a little more comfortable than it was. When on top you really need to make it count. Thankfully, just before the interval,sharp thinking from Olly Giroud brought us that safeguard as he prodded home from 5 yards. 2-0 at half time. 
The second half was played in a very conservative way by Arsenal with CPFC trying to force the pace. We had the odd chance on the break but with 11 minutes left most of us just wanted to get back to the pub with the three all important points and no injuries. Then Glenn Murray came on!
Palace huffed and puffed but I really never saw them scoring. Apparently neither did the AFC defence as Murray ran in to score a header and make it 1-2 with 3 minutes left. A nervous finale was upon us. All of a sudden the Arse were awash with panic. This transferred itself to the stands and the travelling thousands ( including myself ) mercifully implored our team to stand firm. Now I did have a few to drink. At the final whistle I done my usual hugging of old ladies, hugging of old men, basically hugging anyone that wanted to celebrate our 3 all important points.
What I never realised as I walked outside of the ground, and then back in again after remembering my man bag was still under my seat, was just how close the Arse were to buckling. Sub Murray had hit the post from a free kick in injury time!… Now that could have ruined a good night out!….
I wouldn’t go as far as to say we were lucky to win. We were superior for 85 minutes of a 90 minute game. That last 5, or 9 minutes including injury time was horrific though. We basically shut down and invited the pressure, almost suffering another calamitous capitulation of Newcastle away proportions ( 4-0 up, finish 4-4 ). I think the terminology I used was maybe slightly less technical on the day though. Guillys most definitely was. I finally found my bag. The old dear in front of me clutching it with all her might. Thank you furry coat lady!
I then had to try and remember my way back to the pub. That was hard work trust me. To the point I stopped in a pub on the way there to replenish my dehydrating mind. Alcohol, me, and directions just don’t mix. I’m bad enough sober. Eventually though, 20/25 minutes after everyone else I located the wee party of gooners.
After a few more, ( I would hazard a guess at one for moi ), we jaunted off to our hotel. It was near to Waterloo, ( couldn’t escape if I wanted too ), we changed into our dancing outfits and swung into the glorious London nightlife . I should just add that our hotel, and very nice it was too had a smashing cocktail bar up on a roof terrace. Tremendous views of Londinium and even more impressive were the size of the cocktails. It was like drinking out of a goldfish bowl, but a lot more tasteful and thankfully without the Blackmores.
I’m not going to go into what happened that evening, mainly because I can’t remember. I do recall that we pretty much stayed in a pub we were in the day after cup final day last year. Hopefully we will be back there on 31st May.
“Didn’t we have a lover-ly time the day we went to Palace……”