As Everton were at home for a proper three o'clock kickoff today, my objective was some pubs near Goodison which may have match day only opening hours.
But first, a chance to tick off one in town as I pass, Central Sports:
This is located upstairs above Tess Riley's on Charlotte Street, making it the eighth bar on that short road.
I wasn't sure exactly what to expect here, imagining a scruffy shed designed to sell lager to as many fans as possible when there's a match on. However, what I found was a very well done sports bar offering tables large and small, booths with individual TVs and even some sofas facing a giant screen.
I was the only customer, I suggested to the barmaid it would be busier later but she opined "it's only FA cup, so probably not".
I couldn't see Carling so I treated myself to Stella instead. A text came in from my brother who was enjoying Oakham Citra in the Live and Let Live in Cambridge, making me somewhat jealous! A great pub and a favourite ale. When I said I was unlikely to see a handpump today his reply was "Oh dear".
On to Central Station to join the throng on their way to Kirkdale. Actually, the train was surprisingly empty.
I exited the station to find crowds of people heading towards the match, the pavement was so busy I had to queue for two cycles of the traffic lights to get across the road. The first pub I came to was the Melrose Abbey, but I wasn't going in because I ticked it less than a year ago:
I peered into the open door to see how busy it was and there was former work colleague, drinking buddy and Evertonian John, so naturally I joined him for a pint and some catching up. I do like it when this sort of thing happens on a survey.
The Melrose Abbey is a plain two sided boozer, naturally doing very well an hour before KO. The other side is in the process of refurbishment, with missing bench seats and temporarily exposed pipework.
When I exited the Melrose I noticed a large black cloud in the sky, not a thunderstorm as I first thought but the emissions from a large fire nearby.
Next, on to pub number three which was the first target on my plan, the Saddle:
This gem continues unchanged, there are some wonderful ceramics inside and the lounge is still served from a hatch at the end of the servery.
Having poured me a Carling the barmaid warned that they hadn't got the match on. When I indicated that was fine she assumed I was going to watch it on my tablet. As if!
The counter was almost full of empty glasses but all the fans had gone by now and I was briefly the only customer until I was joined by one other, who requested racing from Uttoxeter on the telly.
Rapid loading of glassware into the dishwasher occupied the staff, one also hoovered the lounge side.
What else can I say about this pub, I think the word beautiful sums it up.
Leaving the Saddle I noted the smoke plume was thinner than before but there was a sprinkling of pieces of ash on everything, pavement, parked cars, front yards, it must have been a major fire.
On to Walton Road, and the first pub I came to was the Saint Hilda:
A plain well cared for place with an L shaped main room plus a side lounge.
It was ticking over, much busier than the Saddle, with miscellaneous groups of locals enjoying the calm between the pre and post match rushes. Or perhaps the rush doesn't reach here?
The walls in the side room were decorated with classic albums, I checked them all but I only own one, Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water. Can I renew my not recently repeated complaint, that classic vinyl should be preserved, not nailed to the wall.
I was interested to see some hotel guests checking in, I had assumed one would stay here only if visiting for footie, but apparently not. It's good to see another source of income for the establishment.
I proceeded up Walton Road. The advantage of bumping in to John is that he knows my interests and advised me someone had told him the Salutation had reopened. So I walked past my next planned target, the Clock, last visited in 2018:
... and on to the Salutation. My last time here was in 2010 and it is recorded as closed in my database:
Oh yes, it's open!
A two room plain boozer, with a counter only in the front room. Lots of tellies, mostly switched off, and a large number of regulars chatting, some watching the footie. Everton weren't doing very well, but then they equalised.
It is good to see a plain pleasant comfortable boozer surviving, especially when I had it down as closed. Long may it continue. I'm guessing it'll be packed after full time, so perhaps long term survival is at risk once Everton go to their new stadium.
What a great survey, nothing like what I'd planned this morning. One new bar, one I thought was long closed, and an unexpected reunion. You can't ask for more than that. OK, maybe some real ale! I headed home before the post match rush.
Beer of the day: Carling
Miles walked: 1.8
Maybe coming soon: Fazakerley, Crosby, Anfield, Wallasey.