BEER AND LOATHING : Watching England With Your Mates Special
So England are currently playing football against other countries again and it’s slowly but surely killing those of us that care. The traditional (and arguably best) place to watch any England game is down the pub, alongside like minded strangers. You all find yourselves sharing the same emotions, making similar noises, and generating something known in the industry as atmosphere. Anyhow what follows is a direct comparison between going to watch a game in a sports pub with your male mates who know about football, and going to a touristy pub with female mates who know very little about football.
The Hobgoblin, New Cross.
France 1 – England 1
I know The Hob has been touched upon before and I bullied it for being a sporty pub for sporty sportsmen who like playing all the sports. But fairly obviously this makes it a no brainer when deciding which pub to watch the game in if you find yourself in New Cross with only 20 minutes before kick off.
I met with a few male pals who, whilst all sharing the same passion for watching England lose at football, had varying levels of knowledge of the game. I reckon I probably filled the lowest rung of the football knowledge ladder, so was pretty keen on keeping my mouth shut to avoid embarrassment.
The football was being shown on about 12 screens dotting the pub, but the biggest was projected onto the wall of the higgledy piggledy shack-cum-conservatory that it looks like Del Boy nailed to the back of the pub. We headed for this one and sat down in the only seats that were left, right at the front, about 12 centimetres away from the screen. And right next to the guitar amp that was being used for the audio. This meant that not only did we get the best sound and worst view, but if we stood up to cheer/bemoan/get another drink we blocked out the action for the people behind us, which was around 50 football loving geezers all hepped up on goals and blind referees, who would scream at us to sit the fuck down. I say geezers. Whilst they shouted all the right cuss words and aggressive anti-French one liners, whenever they got up to buy more beer you could see the hardcore tattoos poking outof their sleeves and the skinny jeans tightly clutching their legs. These weren’t geezers. These were New Cross kids putting on their geezer hats for the day. The true geezers were down the road in The White Hart and The Five Bells glassing one another and shaking livid fists at all the players of non-anglo saxon descent.
Part way through the game, at a particularly crucial moment as I remember it, I saw a dude look the most terrified I have ever seen any dude look. The projector was inexplicably housed in this MDF birdbox thing with a little hole for the light to peek out of and a lid which needed to remain up at all times for the picture to retain clarity. Well, the aforementioned dude was struggling through the crowd with four pints when he knocked the aforementioned lid and suddenly the picture quality dropped to the level of animated fuzzy felt. A scream of panic quickly turned to a howl of anger and the young beer carrying man found 100 furious eyes cast upon him. He was absolutely helpless, laden with as many pints as he could physically hold, with his friends too far away to aid him. Eventually some kind hearted NXGeezer shook off his fear to fix the projector situation. But that look of completely helpless embarassment and fear will stick with me for a while. It was hilarious.
I remained fairly quiet the whole game other than celebrating, laughing out loud whenever one of the geezers behind us shouted something funny (9 times out of 10 it was just the word ‘Cyyyyaaaaannnnnt’), and asking what clubs players played for when they weren’t playing for England. The levels of football knowledge doing the rounds in the room meant we all stayed fairly quiet on our opions of the tactics being adopted by the players, lest we be heard and mocked for getting it wrong.
It’s football, yes, so England strips abound but more often than not they are ironic nu rave 1993 away strips or the infamous Gareth Southgate missed penalty 1996 grey strip. So this isn’t real football fanaticism. This is hipster peacocking with an ironic football fanaticism twist.
NX, place of wonder and opportunity for those of us who live nearby. Mild amusing distraction with a few good pubs in a dead end part of London for everybody else.
Average. Kudos to them for not putting up the prices for the football though. Which they could have done to be honest considering how packed they were. They even did food throughout the game, which somehow managed to get delivered to your seat through the scrum of sweat covered football cool-igans.
I was intimidated. But I also felt like a bloke. And very about as patriotic as I can get over anything without having pangs of paranoia that passers by think I’m one of those racist they’ve read about in the Guardian. Blokey atmos with blokes created by blokes for blokes whilst watching blokes do bloke stuff on incredibly well kept grass surrounded by literally thousands of blokes.
The Shakespeare’s Head, Carnaby Street
England 3 – Sweden 2
Eating my weight in chilli fries then washing it down with an 8 quid ‘hard shake’ at the Diner off Carnaby Street with two gal pals, totes catching up and gossin’ and junk, was a poor to very poor preparation for a football match that shook me to my emotional core. Vomit didn’t happen. But science tells me that it should have.
Being a gaybo and chattin’ wiv mah gurlz was in fact so much fun that I forgot to be a bloke and get them to hurry the fuck up and eat their bloody salads so I could watch football and throw full pints of beer at the screen whenever anything of note happened. So we found ourselves hurriedly going to the nearest pub showing the game. The Shakespeare’s Head. A Walker and Taylor pub that is ‘proud to be serving Costa coffee’ according to the A-board outside the front. Internationally translated this means ‘this is a pub for people who are scared of pubs’. This demographic include; baffled Italian people wearing those I <3 London hoodies with neon paint splattered all over them (you know the ones), mums, people from Hertfordshire who are in London on a ‘city break’ and bag thieves (who are not scared of pubs but feed upon those who are).
Upon entry I discovered two things.
1 – All my previous concerns about the inhabitants of this pub were proven correct, once again crowning me the king of baseless preconceived judgements.
2 – Carroll had literally scored a goal as we entered. This meant that we crossed the threshold into a cheer. And joined in obviously. But we hadn’t seen the goal. Nor experienced the tension leading up to it. So we sort of felt like silly people cheering for no reason. The same sort of silly feeling you get when you take your headphones off in a silent disco but keep dancing because everybody else is.
It was absolutely rammed. There must’ve been 120 people packed into a space designed to comfortably fit a quarter of that. However, through the magic of being birds, the girls managed to bag us a table. Benefit # 1. What followed in these seats was a lot of head holding, face grabbing, screaming, cheering and uninformed tactic discussion. The last in that list is Benefit-of-going-to-the-game-with-laydeez #2. My crushing lack of interest in football outside of major international tournaments means that I know fuck all about formations or attack or offsides or anything. My female accomplices shared this with me to a degree, which meant we could talk to our hearts content about what we thought X should be doing, and why he should pass to Y, without being overheard and told we were wrong. It also meant that I could shout ridiculously vague, slightly aggressive things like “Get it up the fucking pitch!” and feel like a bloke instead of a goon encouraging the players to engage in the most basic tenet of football; move it in the direction of the opposing goal.
There were tough times but as I am sure you are aware we did more footballs than Sweden and were declared the goal champions of the day. Resulting in glasses being raised across the country. In our particular corner of the UK the glasses being raised were full of celebratory Jagerbombs. Possibly not the best idea after a night of heavy drinking to calm frayed nerves. But it lead to a fun, meandering walk to the tube station and a video being filmed on my phone that I apparently thought was the funniest thing ever. However, on second viewing, in the sober light of day, it turned out to be 7 seconds of my friend hiccupping her way through a section of ‘Three Lions on a Shirt’ whilst trying not to be hit by a bus. Which is less hilarious and more the preamble to a horrible accident in a “Drink Aware” advert.
There were like Soho office workers, some of whom looked kind of young and expensive, but none of the cool Soho crowd were in The fucking Shakespeare’s Head. This was tourist territory. The tattoo and earring brigade will have all been in this hotly tipped pop up burger joint/craft ale cellar down the road that was showing the football so ironically that it became not ironic and people were actually there watching the football. Or whatever. I don’t actually know. I made that place up. It gets 10/10 on the hipst-o-meter though.
I guess for ease of access it deserves some praise. I think it’s the only pub properly on Carnaby Street. You know the one with the creepy little wooden Shakespeares all leaning out some fake window giving passers by this blank unforgiving stare? Man, I hate that guy.
Tourists are like the canary in the overpriced coal mine. If you see people clutching bags full of Big Ben fridge magnets in a pub you know you’re about to get your wallet raped. This boozer was no exception.
I had an amazing time, but I can’t put a great deal of that down to the crowd or the pub. More the people I was pretending to be a geezer in front of. But having said that the crowd all went mental at the right moments and the screams that met narrowly missed goals were uncontrollably emitted by us all. The only thing that ruined it somewhat was fucking Gianluca in the corner wearing his rucksack on his front over his I <3 London hoodie, laughing and clapping whenever Sweden scored. Your time will come you pizza munching bastard (his time won’t come we’re going to lose).
Photoshop: Andrew Parkes
Do you have any god awful pubs in mind for Jack to go to at some point in the future? If you do please harass him on twitter @beerandloathinz