For the second successive year me and big brother Harry set off on a glorious Saturday to watch Hull FC v Rovers at the Etihad stadium in Manchester.
I’d booked us into a Travelodge a short walk away from Deansgate where we intended to go for a pre-match drink, and all we had to was navigate to a car park just along from the hotel. But we almost ended up in prison! The satnav announced that we had arrived at our destination but neither of us could spot it. We stopped to ask a very dodgy looking bunch of locals who seemed as clueless as we were before they ran off after taking a phone call. I tried using the navigation app on my phone which told us that we were only a third of a mile away…. but for some reason the display always appears to be upside down so we set off in the wrong direction and wasted ten minutes wandering in and out of seedy back streets. When we got back to the main road and spotted the sign for a car park, we followed another driver up to the barrier which closed in front of us as Harry hesitated to go through. It turned out to be the right thing to do as when I looked into the car park I noticed the sign saying HMP Strangeways! We decided to back out and head for the hotel to ask for guidance there, and discovered that the car park was actually right next door to it!
We declined to pay the £10 early checking in fee, and just left our bags in the car as we headed off for a well earned pint at the Moon Under Water. Despite being unusually quiet in the pub we couldn’t get served. The incompetent bar maid seemed incapable of moving away from the position she occupied at one end and repeatedly served people who had just come into the bar while I stood there pointlessly trying to attract her attention at the handpumps. We left.
A few beers were enjoyed in some of Manchester’s other hostelries and I had the opportunity to try a few local brews from Holts. Can’t say that I was overly impressed. The weather was gorgeous though and it was nice to find a few places where we could sit outside, have a bit of banter and watch the world go by.
Next up on the agenda was a bit of tucker, so we made our way to Market Street, a bustling area full of shoppers, street performers, and food stalls. I had a very tasty venison burger with stilton followed by a chicken tikka kebab.
Final stop before the stadium was a Wetherspoon pub we hadn’t come across before, the best thing about this place was the stop directly outside with buses pulling up every few minutes for the stadium. The previous year we made the mistake of walking there, got slightly lost on the way and ended up roasted with aching feet. No such stupidity this time… a couple more beers and then on the bus for a quick ride to the Etihad.
Hull FC were on a losing streak to Rovers so we were hoping for a better performance this time, and the first ten minutes were very promising with Hull running in a try and showing plenty of determination. It didn’t last though, for most of the rest of the match we were woeful.
Despite a very poor game there was a great atmosphere in the stadium, with most of the noise coming from a large gathering of Warrington supporters who were clearly enjoying themselves. One of the worst things about the stadium was having to pay £4.20 for a pint of John Smith’s smooth. That really hurt.
FC looked out of the game but late on they made a bit of a comeback, and were awarded two very dodgy tries, the first of which was dubious, but the second was later shown to be clearly offside. We couldn’t believe we’d won the game but I guess it made for being robbed the previous season when Rovers were awarded a try from one of the most blatant forward passes ever! We stayed for the first half of the next game where an in form Warrington were giving Saints a bit of a pasting, then headed back into town for a few more beers and a late night snack.
Back at the hotel I couldn’t believe it when Harry made for the bar; I was full to the brim and staggered off to bed. I have a vague memory of wandering around a dark room trying to separate the twin beds before collapsing into a deep sleep after a very enjoyable day.