Mine's a Hairy Helmet: Day Tripping to Leicester

The tube entered Marble Arch with a good 45 minutes to get to St. Pancras before the 11.25 to Leicester. All was good with the world. Until 15 minutes later and we hadn't moved!

I can appreciate people being ill on trains but do they have to be ill on the one in front of me. Anyway, why do we stop, just throw them off and let us get on?

It was obvious we were going nowhere, commuters were getting upset, well I think they were, they all spoke Italian. Time to make a move.

Marble Arch to Oxford Circus is two stops and three minutes, by tube. It's a bit longer when running through a crowded Oxford Street full of shoppers. "Sorry luv." No Yank tourist or day tripper from Gillingham is stopping me missing my train!

On the Jubilee Line, get off at Euston but still a ten minute walk to St.Pancras, I turn it into five!

First time at the renovated station, it's a turkish bazaar, where the hell is the platform? Missed the champagne bar though!

Up some escalators, there it is, on a packed train, at 11.23. Phew! Along with the odd Blue shirt a few London based Sheffield United supporters.

Train arrives on time at 12.34, have lost a vital half hour drinking due to the rugger boys so no time to waste, the Pub Crawl map comes out.

Like many uni towns, and with the rugby it was a double whammy, Leicester has a fine tradition of decent real ale pubs. I could visited more than the four chosen but with a 2.30pm kick-off I had a plan and was going to stick to it.

12.45: The Ale Wagon was found fairly quickly and I noticed it was now in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide for 2009. Five sad looking blokes, cheer up the Blues are in town, sat around tables as a large breasted barmaid, nothing I like more than a good stereotype, served me an excellent dark, strong pint of Turners Tipple (5%, £2.70).

Other than my left wing credentials being knocked by the sale of Thatchers Gold Cider there were several Burton's real ales on offer as well as Hoskins Hob and a wheat beer named White Dolphin, that had one above the pump! A White Dolphin that is, very unsettling.

The next pub should have been easy to find but a wrong turning past a statue of some bloke called Samuel Biggs took me to the fourth on the list!

I was determined to find them in the right order, this is serious research, and did, but vital drinking time had been lost.

13.15: The Criterion is a serial CAMRA winner of the best pub in Leicester but didn't look much from outside however once inside a treasure chest of beer, not on the barmaid this time, temps you to the bar.

I choose the Woods Wonderful, a lighter Shropshire beer, (4.8%, £2.50), but really could have been in here for a lot longer. Not surprisingly ales from the Rugby Brewing Company including, appropriately, Sinner Man (4.6%, £2.40). Also, if you dare, White Satin (6.2%, £2.50) and, Amber Blonde (6.5%, £2.50).

There was a lack of the female form in these pubs, other than behind the bar, it would be nice to look at something other than middle age blokes supping beer on their own.

Er, anyway, on to the next. (I was working for the website.)

13.30: Out of the Vaults was proving harder to find mainly as there was nothing to tell you it was an actual pub. Another big breasted lady, I think I'm working out the target audience of these pubs, passed me in the street where I spotted 'the Vaults' on her rugby shirt. The 'Out of' might have been somewhere but I was narrowly avoiding a lamppost. I knew I was close though.

Sadly the early kick-off was starting to bite and this was to prove my quickest visit. Sad as this was my sort of pub, a mixed crowd of students and older football supporters of both codes and a choice of beer to stay a whole day for, let alone fifteen minutes!

I had to go for the Hairy Helmet from Northumberland (4.7%, £2.50), drunk out of glass from the Peaks Boozer Blues Festival 2008 and served up by a guy sporting a fetching mohican haircut! Terrific stuff.

13.45: Swan and Rushes, the last choice and twenty minutes from the ground with the Royal Infirmary next door, so you can always cut out the middle man if you've spent too long in the other establishments.

One last order of the wonderfully named Bucking Fastard (4%, £2.50), which turned out to be not the case. The label had been placed wrongly and I was served York Breweries Nordic Fury (4.3%, £2.50).

The landlord, who looked as if he drunk plenty of his own product, was apologetic, shouldn't have been it was an incredible pint. After telling me the history of Crouch Vale brewing in Essex he insisted I had pint of the "excellent" Bucking. 14.05, oh well, in for a penny and all that.
14.15: The ground suddenly seemed a long way away, if I could see it at all! Got there in time going across the river, not in it. Cut twenty minutes in half!

14.25: In seat eating a pork pie the German had packed, it had cheese on the top, weird. Great to see Chrissy get his glass thingy, well deserved, didn't realise it was 750 games, amazing, and he went on to have a bloody good game the old sod.

16.20: Match over, lost 3-0, I was still awake. Read the report here: www.southendunited-mad.co.uk/news/loadnews.asp?cid=TMNW&id=420860

As it says we didn't play that badly but the continuing absence of Freedman and Barnard is starting to bite.

I appreciate the loanees coming and going argument but to be honest if we hadn't got Sawyer and HRK in when we did we'd be in a far worse position. The damage was done by not getting them signed up in August. However Tilly and the boys proved me wrong last year after another Oldham home defeat and I'm not counting them out yet. This was a very good Leicester side, even with Gilbert in it.

Time to get the rugby score, to be told: "It hasn't started yet!" Time to get the train.

Due to something happening somewhere the 16.42 left at 17.30 so I jumped on, God knows what happened to the actual 17.30. Packed but a seat and home by 19.30.

20.10: Some blonde haired bloke called Boris started going on about the Crusades, early night.

Mildenhall - 6; Did OK, can't be blamed for any of the goals.

Francis - 6; Not too much of his attacking skills seen as he was continually forced back.

Clarke - 6; A very tough game for both centre halves up against two very classy centre forwards. Toughed it out well.

Barrett - 5; Gave Fryatt too much room for the first, probably believed he was safe from 30 yards out, and made to look silly for the second, one to forget.

Harding - 7
; Our best source of any offensive play at times. Continues to look the classiest player in the back four.

Betsy - 5; Early Christmas spirit stops this being a 4, sorry TB and other Betsy fans but this player continues to disappoint.

McCormack - 5; As both Leicester full backs charged up the wing, play often passed Macca and Milsom by but tried to keep things going.

Milsom - 5; See above, he's no Sawyer which is probably unfair. Did his best and has good control.

Stanislas - 5; Welcome to League One Junior.

Revell - 5; The Blues favourite work horse huffed and puffed but nothing happened. Needs a rest.

Laurent - 6; Not much of that early magic we all enjoyed. On saying that not a lot of the ball played to his feet.

Subs: Walker (for Laurent 72) - 6; Tried a few tricks, no cutting edge.

Feeney (for Betsy 80) - 5; A bit of a step up for the lad, look forward to seeing him when he gets more time.