Season 8 - Burton PDF Print E-mail
Written by Terry   
Sunday, 27 March 2016 21:41

Burton Albion v Oldham Athletic – League One

Pirelli Stadium, Burton-on-Trent

Saturday 26th March 2016, 12:30 K.O.

Burton 1

I have supported Oldham Athletic for longer than Burton Albion Football Club has existed, but since moving to Burton-on-Trent in 1974, to work and live in the town for over 40 years, I have taken a close interest in The Brewers’ progress, attending many of their matches. My hope was always that one day The Brewers would play Latics in Burton, and so it came to pass in the first round of the F.A. Cup in November 2002, when a 2-2 draw at Boundary Park produced a replay at the old Eton Park ground. Since then The Brewers have joined the Football League and progressed to the top of League One.

The Ernie Flag visited Burton in July 2009, when The Brewers' Chairman, Ben Robinson, went out of his way to greet the ’92 in Blue’ team of Oldham Athletic supporters on the Pirelli Stadium car park, in support of their 92-club charity challenge.

Burton 2

When the fixtures were published in June 2015, the date was set for Easter Saturday 26th March, but it was quickly rearranged to Good Friday, to allow the players longer to recover for Easter Monday’s game.

I had painted such an interesting picture of Burton-on-Trent, the brewing capital, on the OWTB Forum that many Latics supporters had booked two nights’ accommodation in the town, and some even three nights, resulting in a welcome boost to the local economy. The least I could do was to act as town guide, with Margaret’s help, so I worked out an itinerary from Friday to Sunday.

The months went by as anticipation mounted, and then Sky TV decided to change the fixture back to Easter Saturday, but with a ridiculous kick-off time of 12:30pm. The itinerary was re-jigged and the only losers were those supporters who planned to spend Thursday and Friday in Burton before flying out to Berlin for England’s friendly international match on the Saturday.

Good Friday arrived and I was off to Birmingham Airport for 8:00am to meet a family of four Eintracht Frankfurt supporters, who have been great friends of Latics supporters for about 33 years. We drove into Birmingham for a short walking tour of the city centre, before heading to Burton for the 12 noon get-together with 20 other Latics supporters in the Coopers Tavern.

Burton 3

This gem of a pub is pretty unique, with an interior unchanged since the 19th Century. A small bar and lounge with beers poured straight from the barrel in the cosy back bar, it has been described by a Grimsby Town fan as: “pub paradise; alehouse Arcadia; all your pub dreams come true; the greatest licensed premises in the known galaxy.  It makes Orwell’s Moon Under Water look like Friday night at Wetherspoon’s in Dunstable”.

The pub crawl continued to the nearby Devonshire Arms and then to the Brewery Tap at the National Brewery Centre for history, culture, food and drink. Unfortunately, despite the NBC advertising its closing time as 4:00pm, we were told it was closing at 3:00pm, so a planned tour for the keen students of brewing among us was cancelled. That was a pity, because they would have learned that Burton’s broad river valley is carved out of ancient rock, covered with layers of sand and gravel up to sixty feet deep. Water has trickled through these beds for tens of thousands of years, depositing minerals in the gravel and sandstone. It has the highest magnesium and calcium content, lower levels of sodium and bicarbonate, and higher sulphate content than any other major brewing centre in the world, giving a character that was described by one nineteenth century writer as, “A brightly sparkling bitter, the colour of sherry and the condition of champagne”. Therefore, it’s not surprising that another long-dead writer was moved to wax lyrical about Burton as “The one spot in the world where the well-water is so obviously intended by Nature for kindly union with those fruits of the earth, to give beer incomparable”.

Burton 4

Most of our party were content to continue drinking while sitting in the sun outside the Brewery Tap, but the seven keen explorers continued with us to a couple of town centre pubs, The Crossing and The Dog, via the scenic route of a walk by the River Trent. (This walk was repeated on Sunday to show some what they had missed.)

Margaret guided some of the visitors to The Dog, while I walked the others to the Travelodge to check-in, and I took the opportunity to see how the building had been adapted from its former use as Council offices, during my time working for the East Staffs Borough Council. The Travelodge was originally the Midland Railway grain warehouse and its car park houses a former coal merchant’s office, which has been converted quite recently into the Middle Earth Tavern micro-pub, which also had to be visited to satisfy my curiosity.

The evening saw 24 of us in the Burton Bridge Inn, with its own micro-brewery, for a game of old fashioned skittles and food. Thanks go to Frankfurt’s Judith for scoring and organising the skittles, based on German rules, but her fellow-countryman Dirk had to be brought to order under English rules to prohibit his overarm action.

Burton 6

On Saturday morning an executive mini-coach took 13 of us to St. George’s Park, the F.A.'s National Football Centre, for my guided tour, a drink in the bar and viewing of lots of England football memorabilia. The Football Association’s ‘All Together Now’ bronze statue, commemorating the 1914 Christmas Day truce, seemed the perfect photo opportunity for our ‘Two Teams, One Spirit’ gang, with its message of “Football transcends conflict”.

Burton 8

The F.A.’s strong emphasis on 1966 reminded us that it was now 50 years of hurt since England won a major football tournament, and doubts were expressed that the fruits of St George’s Park would be seen in our lifetime.

Ex-Brewers’ manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was spotted and we learned later that he and his family were to be guests of honour at the Brewers v Latics match.

Text contact was made with a lot of Latics supporters, who had arrived in Burton and settled in the Derby Inn, so that’s where the mini-coach dropped us, and we met up with some Albion fan friends of ours before heading for the Stadium.

The Flag was to make its first appearance inside the Stadium and, as is customary, I had emailed Burton Albion FC to request publication of a small article about Ernie and the Flag, including the above picture. I had also told Chairman Ben Robinson that I would do this, when congratulating him on his Club’s promotion last April. Therefore, I was very disappointed to find no reference to Ernie or the Flag in the match programme.

This was the start of arrangements being out of my hands, and for the next couple of hours we were reliant on the players. Latics had already moved up the League table one place on goal difference the previous day, thanks to the other results, and today the players did us proud, coming away with a valuable point in a 0-0 draw. For much of the game, the uninformed may have thought Latics were the team top of the League, rather than in the relegation zone. A great atmosphere was created by the visiting supporters, led by The Athleticos. All that was lacking were efforts at goal.

Burton 9

After the match 19 of us walked to the Derby Inn for drinks with some Burton Albion fans. We were joined once again by Latics supporters who had come for the day. We spent the rest of the afternoon there in good company with the locals, and thanks go to the landlord for arranging a delivery of pizzas to satisfy our hunger. Meanwhile, the pub crawl had continued for some, via a torrential rainstorm, to the Alfred Ale House. Despite appearing like drowned rats on arrival there, the Latics supporters made such a good impression on the landlord that he published the following Facebook comment: “Thank you Oldham fans very well behaved and friendly!! Safe journey home x”.

Evening saw 23 of us, including our four German friends, assemble at the Great Northern to watch Germany play England live on TV. Some of the party arrived later than they intended due to having to wait 35 minutes in the Fish Hut to be served with what was described as “the best fish and chips ever!”. Burton being so far from the sea is hardly a good enough reason for such a delay, but the quality of the food could not be faulted.

Meanwhile Germany were 2-0 up in Berlin and it was looking as if all the work done by the England squad at St George’s Park was to be in vain once again. However, it was only a friendly game, which didn’t really matter. Then England scored and hopes were raised. If only England had a ‘Roy of the Rovers’ character to come to the rescue by scoring with his first touch on his full international debut. The TV camera zoomed in on Leicester City’s little Jamie Vardy waiting to come on as a substitute, who Latics could have bought back in the day for £30,000. Oh no, what if he was to suffer from the England injury hoodoo and the Foxes don’t go on to win the Premier League, to the disappointment of all neutrals. Within no time little Vardy has only gone and done a ‘Mike Milligan’ flick to score an audacious goal, just like Roy used to do for Melchester Rovers in the Tiger comic.

Our German visitors were now looking worried, but a draw was going to be a nice result all round. But no, England only went and scored the winner! The pub erupted - friendly game or not, that must have gone some way towards cancelling out the penalty shoot-out victory for the Eintracht Frankfurt supporters against Latics supporters in Paris in 1983, not to mention all the other football disappointments at the hands of Germany over the years. Not only that, but we were starting to agree with our German friends that this St George’s Park philosophy may be beginning to work.

A short walk took 17 of us to the Tower Brewery for a noasis gig/Born to Boogie disco, where one of my son’s former schoolmates was only too happy to provide the perfect caption to epitomise the friendship between supporters of Oldham Athletic and Eintracht Frankfurt.

Burton 11

On Sunday 13 of us had a very enjoyable lunch at The Winery, in part of the former infirmary of the old Burton Abbey, where the monks first brewed beer in the town.

Fond farewells were said before I returned our German visitors to Birmingham Airport. There was unanimous agreement that it had been a truly memorable weekend for all the right reasons, and appetites had been whetted for return visits in the future.

More pictures are available on my flickr site:

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