Football Pubs #4: The Best Old Skool Boozer (so far) In 2019

I need to thank The Wickingman, or rather his better half for this post, as i lie through my back teeth convince all and sundry that the last post was in fact fake news.

That’s right, Mrs TWM, pubs such as The Bulls Head in Repton are in fact an elaborate hoax and the only pubs that exist in 2019 are backstreet boozers selling Bass and cheese and onion cobs.

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When Ian – AKA The Wickingman – and a fully paid up member of the Bass Appreciation Secret Society (BASS to its members) commented on my last post, he was after confirmation that gastropubs are in fact a figment of imagination and only appear on blogs such as Martin’s and Mudgie’s Closed pubs blog.

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This is where it’s at: Church Gresley, on the outskirts of Swadlincote and home to Gresley FC and a ground that Duncan surely must have visited during his groundhopping.

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It used to be Gresley Rovers but I suspect they are reborn as Gresley FC after financial troubles as that is what afflicts most non-league fallen giants these days.

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As the gaffer of the Royal Oak confirmed, this ground hasn’t changed since the early seventies so it is a real timewarp.

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Mind you, the car showroom opposite the football ground is modelling a neat line in vehicles to attract the punters…

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…although rumours that any damage happened after a visit in the Anglo-Scottish Cup from St Mirren fans are, as yet, unconfirmed.

Within about 250 yards of Gresley’s stadium is a magnificent backstreet pub in an old pit village known as the 476 – Royal Oak DE11 9PJ.

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According to whatpub it has a long serving landlord and I have to say he was the epitome of what is great about pub life.

I was in there at quarter to one on a Thursday and there was the gaffer, Nigel, his wife Lynne and myself and whilst she was busy bottling up out the back Nigel was the perfect host.

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Old school opening hours from 12:30 – 4pm in the week and then reopening again at 7:00pm on the evening, mean this is a real throwback.

He said he gets in a few shift workers and lads who “go to the pub in the afternoon” before he has his own dinner, a bit of a freshen up and then the 7 o’ clock club come in.”

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However, there was a good mix (there’s a Pontoon club) from his description and this really is a place you can fall in love with.  Not only is the Bass absolute nectar (one to add to the list Ian) but the gaffer has an absolute multitude of experience and, as Alan Hansen once said, “You’ll never win anything with kids.”

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He has run or been involved with some tough old boozers in the Chelmsley Wood area such as the legendary Happy Trooper (worth a check on wiki) and was reeling off all the old favourites such as The Prince Hal and Merrymaker.  He was based round there in the eighties and nineties and these were what you would term “lively estate boozers.”

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He also reeled off a few he had been involved with in Coventry before confirming that Bass was an infinitely better drink than Brew XI, Ansells, Tetley’s and even Pedigree.

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As a former Bass employee he reckoned he had a red triangle “running through him” and I was there for the best part of an hour just chewing the fat.

He keeps Pedigree on as a nearby boozer bit the dust that was a Pedi stronghold and said he has to keep them both in tip top condition as there are connoisseurs in this former pit village.

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A commemorative plate on the wall recognises its past and there was nothing Nigel didn’t know about his local patch.

Radio Derby was on in the background and he was tuning into the not very effective teambuilding for Derby County last night that had left Richard Keogh out for the season and whilst there was Sky/BT as an option the TV was off and he was a man who loved to chat.

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We discovered a mutual friend – the previous gaffer of The Swan in Milton and I would love to see this place when it’s full as I reckon the banter is fierce.

The boozer itself is an L-shaped classic with bench seating everywhere and a pool table and dartboard in the end ‘room.’

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A classic former Bass House was sold to Punch Taverns in 1998 and then on again to Hawthorn Leisure in 2018 who aren’t known for making sure local boozers survive.

This is an absolute classic and long may it continue.

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They are expecting The Wickingman and his better half in there for a Bass and a cheese cob before Christmas!


25 thoughts on “Football Pubs #4: The Best Old Skool Boozer (so far) In 2019

  1. You know you’re in safe hands when there’s Doms and a Crib Board on the beaten copper-topped table.

    Whilst it’s great to see the Bass on the bar, I long for the days when pubs like this would have always paired it with M&B Mild (or Highgate if really lucky), which makes two pumps, three beer choices…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Vile rumours re Saints fans! Gresley Rovers had a lot of success for a few years, playing at Wembley in a Vase final and only being denied promotion to the Conference on ground grading. Some big name managers too (Futcher P, Birtles). Don’t know where they got the finance but guess it run out as not the wealthiest of areas. Sounds like a cracking boozer.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Saints never played there – don’t believe a word Martin says! Our Anglo Scottish Cup Final win came against Bristol City in their first division days. Also lost to them in the final the year before. Some interesting fixtures. In the 71-2 Texaco Airdrie knocked out Man City and Huddersfield (both over 2 legs) before losing to Derby in the final!

        Liked by 2 people

  3. People like me would never find a place like this on our own. Not likely to make the GBG so we just would not run across it. I do think I will string some of these together on a future trip. This place looks amazing. On a side note, are those red doors really the entrance to the field? You say “non-league fallen giants” as if this might have been a higher level team. Can it ever make it back and to what league?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes it’s a real backstreet ground! In fact it cost them in nineties. They won Southern premier League which would have taken them into conference (one below football league) but their ground was deemed not good enough so promotion was denied…. they went bust in 2009 and reformed 2013… unlikely to reach those heights again unless some serious investment or, sadly, a new stadium. Great pub though and they still get over 200 people to their home games which is quite impressive really


      1. Just for context they were playing at same level as York, Chester, Stockport, Halifax and, er, Histon have been recently 😉

        I think a Southworth saunter of the LAF approved East Mids is a great idea. I’ll bet they’ve never seen an American in our favoured Coalville boozer!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ha 😀 I think they would love it! Stamford and Warrington is highly cosmopolitan and Americans are now de rigeur in the bar…. Ibstock, Whitwick, Coalville, Gresley, swannington, Ashby de la Zouch, Swadlincote, Shepshed…. there’s a weeks worth!


      3. That’s a great response ⚽ York, Chester and Halifax all football League clubs and, apart from the sea, I would imagine Gresley has as much to offer as Morecambe, Fleetwood et al…I stand to be corrected though 😄 definitely not as happening as Histon though…


  4. Enjoyed re-reading this one. Always worth re-promoting posts as do so many that some get lost.

    Do you think many people have houses that look anything like these pubs ? Odd question, they’re pubs, but you know what I mean.

    Liked by 1 person

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