Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Introducing the holy trinity; football, beer and music

Music and football have always gone hand in hand, with beer proving a readymade accompaniment. When Revie’s youngsters had just burst into the first team in the early-mid 1960s, and their youthful effervescence caused giddy flutters of excitement around the terraces of Elland Road, the sharp suits and slick, neat ‘short back and sides’ of Messrs Hunter, Bremner, Giles and Gray were modelled on the well-groomed, urbanity of The Beatles. The cherubic innocence of both Revie’s ‘family’ and Liverpool’s ‘Fab Four’, and the excitement at what each would soon achieve was clear to see. By the mid-1970s, Leeds had won everything but friends, and their chunky sideburns, long hair and nonchalant swagger mixed ruthless hard tackles, day-glo colour, sweaty glamour and cacophonous fun with the wild, uncultured abandon of Slade, T-Rex and Bowie.

                   


Every era has its own soundtrack. The Wilko years were the perfect explosion of energy, positivity and euphoria to lift us full throttle out of the gloom of the mid-80s, just as The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and Acid House taught youth culture new moves and embraced blissful vibes as a flawless antidote to mark the end of Thatcherite Britain.

Somehow football images become a hedonistic feast when music adds another dimension. The most routine 25-yard half-volley becomes a life-affirming, epoch-defining, sea change point of consequence when a guitar riff, a stomping beat or an epic orchestral sweep adds to the sensory overload. Sometimes football and music combines like the stars have aligned and fate meant it to happen; like New Order and World in Motion in 1990 or Baddiel & Skinner doing Three Lions for Euro 96. You may even still find Tottenham fans who yearn for winning trophies rather than just Champions League qualification, and miss the inimitable accompaniment of Chas & Dave. For me, the most perfect combination of football and music is this montage https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=haFzhSSl6QU that somebody at Leeds United put together in the early 2000s, choosing a quintessential but fairly obscure soundtrack in Andrew WK’s ‘Party Hard’, to put a breathless and exhilarating sheen on an impeccably edited thrill-ride through the halcyon decades which sums up exactly what it is to be ‘Leeds’.

Undoubtedly, music brings life to the party, and god knows we need some fun at Elland Road. And while we are pretty happy with the buoyant sense of adrenalin and pre-match positivity at the Old Peacock in the form of our tried and trusted matchday programme, in true Spinal Tap fashion we have decided to turn the dial up to 11, to guard against complacency and on the basis that nothing is ever enough.

We have quenched your thirst at the Old Peacock since 1826, and we have been filling your bellies with great food since Ossett Brewery started the special matchday menu in 2013, now we are going to be offering a treat for your ears. From September 10th and the visit of Huddersfield Town we will have free live music in our beer garden before every Leeds United Saturday home game. This is a unique venture that we hope will add a new dimension to the matchday experience for our many regulars, and will have all the Leeds fans bouncing with vivacity and confidence as they hop off to the ground to cheer on the Whites. Furthermore, we are insisting on only local bands climbing on our stage, so we are promoting both established and up-and-coming Yorkshire talent and giving them an opportunity to perform in front of hundreds of people, in some cases for the first time they have encountered such an audience. We know you’ll be gentle with them and we hope you’ll be dancing along in the build-up to kick-off.

All our bands will start at 12.30pm and will perform two 45-minute sets, with a short break in between, so we hope you can turn up early and support all of them. First up is a Mod/Ska band called The Snapp who perform covers of The Jam, The Clash, The Who and The Specials amongst others. We are confident they will put yet more zip into your Saturday and hopefully our live music venture will prove to be another successful addition to make matchday at the Old Peacock an all-consuming experience.        

Of course our parent company Ossett Brewery have a long history of supporting live music ventures through their chain of pubs, and later in September, on Saturday 24th, we will see the second Wharfest event in Granary Wharf. Our sister bars The Hop, Archies and Candlebar are perfectly placed to offer an all-day feast of free live music to suit everyone’s tastes. From 3pm all three bars have different acts performing a whole range of styles deep into the night, so even if you are at Elland Road for the Ipswich game beforehand, we guarantee you will reach the midnight hour tapping your toes to something. Wharfest 2 is absolutely free, and again, will be concentrating on promoting young, local talent, and as well as hearing great music you might just be catching an intimate performance from the little-known performer whose next Leeds gig could be in the O2 or even the First Direct Arena in a couple of years’ time. So grab the chance and see what takes your fancy at Wharfest2 on September 24th.

After a relatively quiet August in terms of home games, we have a hefty wedge of action in LS11 in the form of four games over a two-week period in September. Saturday 10th sees the aforementioned local derby with Huddersfield, followed by two consecutive Tuesday night encounters with Blackburn Rovers. Given the horrific midweek 2-0 defeat to our Lancastrian friends last season this might seem like some kind of sadistic plot, but following the routine league fixture on 13th we welcome Blackburn again a week later for a League Cup tie on the 20th. Live music will be back on Saturday 24th when Ipswich Town are the visitors, and if your foot is still tapping when you venture off to make the short walk to the ground, you can carry on to town after the game and check out Wharfest in Granary Wharf. Leeds are also at home on October 1st against Barnsley, so there is very little respite after a fairly tranquil start to the season at the Old Peacock.


So all in all it promises to be a very busy September. Keep your eye out for announcements on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram on the latest bands to be performing in the beer garden for home games. Not so much a case of keeping your ear to the ground, but keeping it primed and ready to hear some fantastic live music in your favourite beer garden over the next few months. As ever, we hope you enjoy the ride.    

Friday, 12 August 2016

Let’s start thinking big!

‘Life is what you make it’; a phrase that commands us to accept our ills and misfortune and to overcome them with effort and a strong will, with the knowledge that we are more likely to prosper in the end, if we put plenty in to begin with. As one of the most common clichés in everyday life, it is something we should all, perhaps, aspire to. At the Old Peacock it is an ethos we have taken on board in the last couple of years, and over at Elland Road, it is a notion Leeds United could certainly put into practice.

You could substitute ‘life is what you make it’ for another phrase that translates as, essentially, ‘you get out what you put in’, and that is ‘thinking big’. We have been thinking big at the Old Peacock, in terms of how we can serve our core customers better. On Leeds United matchdays, the main feedback we used to get was that fans couldn’t get served quick enough. Everybody loved the Ossett Brewery refurbishment of 2013, the Leeds United-themed wallpaper, the stained-glass peacock and the ornate, tiled floor motif, the new range of beers offered lots more variety and the quality of the food was like nothing LS11 had seen before; the Old Peacock had never looked so comfortable and resplendent in its surroundings. But that counts for nothing if Leeds fans can’t get served quick enough on a Saturday afternoon. Word spreads, mud sticks and everybody knows that the Old Peacock is a football pub innately associated with Leeds United, bequeathed through generations of fans and with more history and local standing than Don Revie, John Charles and Billy Bremner put together. Well, sort of, anyway.

So we invested in the matchday marquee last summer to provide another bar for our thirsty customers on Leeds United matchdays, to ensure they could get served quicker and easier and to make the whole experience much more pleasant. The feedback we have received has been great, and we have permission to keep the marquee open again for the 2016/17 season.

Over the road, Leeds United are commencing what feels like yet another pivotal season. With each campaign that ends in the thick, disorientating fog of mid-table, and with a list of unanswered questions longer than the Dead Sea Scrolls, Leeds United’s fanbase loses a little bit more memory of what the club could and should be. Of course, Leeds United are currently what they deserve to be, a mid-table Championship club. But as each season passes and Leeds remain stuck in a quagmire with seemingly nobody willing to pull them out, it is easy to forget what once was, and what kind of a football club we are supporting.

History counts for nothing on the pitch, obviously, but it is more about potential, and understanding what Leeds United could become, very easily, if everyone was on the same page and working to the same goal. Financial realities dictate that Leeds are currently operating with skeleton staff across the board, and are fishing in the freebies and loan market for players, while the clubs showing bona fide brawn and who appear to be a shoo-in for the top six places in the Championship, are spending tens of millions bolstering their squad with known quality.

Clearly, Leeds United need investment in order to truly compete at that level, but in order to be big, you firstly need to think big. Leeds United needs to ‘believe’ it can be that football club again, and go about its business with that mentality. In Garry Monk, Leeds have a very capable head coach who I expect is in line with that thinking, and who has the qualities to work at both the level Leeds United are at now, and the level Leeds United should aspire to reach.

Maybe the signing of Pablo Hernandez is the first sign that Leeds United are thinking big again? But we should remember that thinking big is not just attracting 30,000 crowds for the first and last home games of the season and being content to tread water in the meantime, it is feeding off this potential and working in between to achieve 30,000 crowds every week, with commercial activities, solid infrastructure, and most of all, quality and results on the pitch. From there, the rest will take care of itself, we know this to be true. But the last five years, if not more, have seen little evidence of Leeds United truly realising their potential, and seemingly accepting their fate; that the football world has changed too much in the 12 years they have been absent from the Premier League. It has, of course, but plenty of other clubs – Watford, Hull, Bournemouth, Burnley, Swansea etc, etc – have shown what is possible by ‘thinking big’.


Back at the Old Peacock, we might not have the same ultimate goal as Leeds United, but we have realised our potential, and made the most of what we have got. We could have rested on our laurels, but we understand that there is always more we can do to satisfy our customers, and to make that precious matchday experience even better.

For the new 2016/17 season we have introduced a four-pint pitcher; a bulk purchase, a supersize-me offering and a positive step-change which will mean less trips to the bar, less frustration and more time for chatting, drinking and soaking in the unique atmosphere. The four-pint pitcher is available for lagers, ales and cider and is another key investment in a matchday programme that requires a lot of planning and a lot of hard work. It might not always be seamless, we may experience our ups and downs, just like Leeds United, but we are always working hard to deliver, and at least with the four-pint pitcher, we are ‘thinking big’.

We are looking forward to welcoming you back to the pub for Saturday’s first home game against Birmingham City, when a 30,000 crowd is expected, and again on Tuesday when Fulham are the visitors. Unfortunately that’s it for home games in August, with the next scheduled Elland Road occasion being the September 10th visit of Huddersfield Town.

Before that, we have our August Bank Holiday Family Fun Day on Sunday August 28th. This is always well-attended by our regulars and it would be great to see more and more visitors, for the competitions, kids games and our famous barbecue. You will be hearing a bit more about that in the forthcoming weeks through our social media channels on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, so stay tuned. In the meantime, we can’t wait to see you in the pub during August, enjoy the four-pint pitchers and most all, keep thinking big!





Friday, 8 July 2016

Everbody's Making Plans

Our stained glass ‘Peacock’ window above the back door is getting a dose of Windowlene, our ‘Peacock’ floor mosaic is being given a scrub, our beer garden picnic tables are getting a coat of varnish and even our pub sign in the car park might get a lick of paint. That’s right, we’re getting ready for the new season at the Old Peacock.

With the Euros nearly out of the way, we have a clear run-in to August and preparations are well under way while we await the pitter patter of quite heavy feet as thousands of thirsty Leeds fans return to the pub. The fixtures for the new season are out and although Leeds aren’t at home for the first game, we don’t have to wait long until the feel, taste, sounds, smells and sights once again signal the reverberant commotion of a Leeds United match day at the Old Peacock.

Leeds have a home friendly against Atalanta planned for Saturday July 30th, and we will certainly be expecting a healthy influx of fans for that occasion, but Leeds’ first home game of the new season is scheduled for August 13th when Birmingham City are the visitors. We will have to make sure we are well stocked up behind the bar because another home game will follow hot on its heels, Fulham are stopping off at Elland Road on Tuesday August 16th, but then that’s it for the month of August.
It is not hard to summon up a sweeping wave of optimism for each new season, particularly for Leeds fans. I think we are quite keen to wave goodbye to last season and agree to never mention it again, indeed, much like the previous four seasons before it. But it is quite easy to look forwards and presume that the new campaign must surely be a better one.

Certainly Leeds are quietly getting their house in order over at Elland Road; with a young, forward-thinking and professional coaching set-up in place and some key backroom appointments also made. Of course, there is much work to do in order to build a squad capable of making inroads into the top six, but there is still time to do that before the end of the summer transfer window, and right now there is at least a more ‘collective’ feel about the squad. With certain ‘characters’ having departed the dressing room, let’s hope there is a lot more unity and togetherness next season at the very least.





There have been some incoming transfers so far at Leeds, and we warmly welcome Swedish striker Marcus Antonsson, defender Kyle Bartley and French winger Hadi Sacko to Elland Road. Long gone are the days when the players would inevitably cross our threshold and share a drink with us at the Old Peacock on a regular basis. But like any of the players and staff at Leeds United, our new signings are more than welcome, and as the longest-standing establishment on Elland Road it really should be part of their initiation ceremony.

For those that have missed their football and were hoping the Euros would fill that gap, England didn’t help us out very much in that respect, unless it was the perpetual feeling of being let down by your football team that you were craving. And who would have thought Wales would be the team carrying the fight? All of England’s games were very well-attended in the pub, but there were plenty of furrowed brows and shaking of heads, certainly after three of the four games in the tournament. The obligatory post-elimination inquest took place amid many more pints being served and for a minute it could have been any Leeds United match day, except for the fact that, for most of us at least, we have the new season coming around very soon to distract us from England’s never-ending travails.

Currently Leeds United are in Dublin on their pre-season training camp, and while, for the players, their holidays are well and truly over, many of us are planning to fit in a quick trip away before the season starts. Frankly it will do us all the world of good to forget about football completely before August comes around, and I would certainly advocate a week away in the sun to cleanse the mind, body and soul before we get back on that rollercoaster again.

In the meantime, we will be here at the Old Peacock, as ever, making sure everything is in order to welcome you back. The old place takes a bit of a hammering over the course of the season, but with some gentle TLC over the summer it is back and refreshed, and like all of us, just can’t wait to get back into the swing of things.

Enjoy the rest of the summer and we will see you back here for the friendly on July 30th and in early August for the first home game of the new season. Meanwhile, keep up with our activities on our Twitter and Facebook pages until we meet again.


All the best
Jon Howe

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Football's Coming Home...To The Old Peacock


To people like us, football people, who measure time in two blocks of five months bisected by Christmas and New Year rather than in calendar years, June is one of those months where literally nothing happens. June is just an aching chasm of DIY chores you have repeatedly put off while Leeds steamroll towards 15th place in the league again, or trawling around the shops for holiday clothes while checking your phone for transfer gossip even though every man and his dog connected to Leeds United is already on holiday. June exists only to coax us into an unnatural, but mercifully brief, interest in tennis, and furthermore, it usually works.

June represents a time when footballers are supposed to unwind and re-charge themselves, but for fans, while it might offer some precious respite from the emotional drain of following Leeds United, it drags like the last school day before the summer holidays and leaves little or nothing to remember it by. That said, every other year there is an international football tournament to look forward to, and if England have anything about them, they have sailed through their qualifying group with ease and are nicely poised to offer a reliable substitute for that comforting sense of crushing disappointment and anti-climax that all us Leeds fans need in our lives.


Yes, Euro 2016 begins this week and there is even more interest than normal this time around with England joined by Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in the group stages. This rare feat has perhaps been aided by there being 24 teams in the finals rather than the usual 16, but nevertheless, there are unprecedented levels of interest and excitement with household names parading around in almost every match.

International tournaments are quite literally a feast of football. Even though the games prior to the knockout stages are sometimes a bit of a let-down, we are quite prepared to take that chance as we settle down for wall-to-wall football that doesn’t involve traveling up and down the country at all hours of the day and standing outside in the freezing cold shouting obscenities at Scott Wootton. It is almost like international tournaments are a release from the everyday travails of being a Leeds United fan, and we can enjoy football for just being football; sport for sports’ sake, with none of the political, legal and financial farce that regularly engulfs life at Elland Road. Not that England, or whichever of the home nations you are following, don’t have the ability to let us down of course, but with international football the sense of expectation and emotional intensity isn’t quite the same, and you can enjoy the games more as a regular football fan.

Needless to say, having three games live on TV every day for a fortnight during the group stages doesn’t always go down so well at home, and there will doubtless be some domestic ructions when Iceland v Austria clashes with EastEnders. While you can attempt to pacify this impending breakdown in family relations by lamely pointing to your ‘Euro 2016 match-by-match TV guide’ and explaining that you didn’t select the fixtures and this particular conflict was a known possibility many months ago, it is perhaps wise to avoid a season ticket for the dog house and plan ahead a little. So we have the perfect solution for you.  Avoid family disputes and hostilities altogether by spending almost every afternoon and evening for the next month in the Old Peacock, but this time with your partner’s blessing. Possibly.

Yes, we will be showing every game from Euro 2016 on our big screens, so you don’t have to worry about being absent for a single minute of any game. In truth, we’re missing the action at Elland Road ourselves, and we kind of long for your company over the summer, so while this is an inferior substitute for the real thing; a bona fide match day at Elland Road, we are hoping to see as many familiar faces in the pub over the next month as possible, and hoping that the heady mix of beer and football will rouse a familiar match day atmosphere.

Dates to look out for include England’s first game on Saturday June 11th (8.00pm) v Russia – when we also have a 50th birthday party in the pub, so the atmosphere should be particularly lively when Roy Hodgson’s men kick-off. Wales are also playing their first game on Saturday afternoon (5.00pm) before the England game, while Northern Ireland start on Sunday 12th (5.00pm) v Poland and the Republic on Monday 13th (5.00pm) versus Sweden. National Sicknote Day has been declared for Thursday June 16th when England play Wales at 2.00pm and a nation grinds to a halt for a couple of hours. England’s final group game is on Monday 20th June against Slovakia (8.00pm) and after that it would be foolish for us to predict when England might be playing again or to plan too far ahead.


There are certainly parallels between following Leeds United and England, except that where Leeds United are pretty much stuck in a rut at the moment, England are caught in a continual cycle of nagging inevitability.
Each major tournament ends with an early exit, following which we tend to write-off the next tournament in two years’ time and work towards having a team ready for the one after that, even though the media will never actually allow that to happen in reality. Having breezed through qualification we then hail a team with a nice blend of youth and experience and usually champion an individual as the best thing since sliced bread. But then in the weeks before the tournament we are ravaged by self-doubt, still experimenting with new players in the final friendly and have no idea what our best Xl is. While other teams have a settled side working to a familiar pattern, England approach their first game still arguing about which formation to play. And while flags are still hauled out of storage and proudly stuck on cars, more in diminishing hope than expectation, the inevitable early exit comes along and we are back at the first stage of the cycle again.

But perhaps we should be more hopeful given England’s 100% record in qualifying? And certainly with a lot more interest in the home nations this time around, we are looking forward to the next few weeks and hopefully some busy afternoons and evenings in the pub. The combination of a cool refreshing pint, football on the TV and maybe a bite to eat to keep you going, is a traditional winner and we definitely have plenty of all of those to keep you out of mischief during June. So you can blame us if the family don’t recognise you by the time July comes around.

In the meantime, we’d like to extend a warm welcome to Garry Monk as the latest incumbent of the head coach position at Leeds United. While we can joke about the revolving door at Elland Road this is almost definitely the best appointment we have seen in recent years, and we just hope that Garry can keep his position for many years to come. Good luck Garry and you are welcome to stop by for a pint any time you are passing.


There will be all the normal food and quiz events going on throughout the Euros tournament, but for any special announcements, log in and check out our Facebook and Twitter accounts for all the latest news.

All the best,

Jon

Monday, 16 May 2016

The Passing of Time Leaves Empty Lives

As we get older, time tends to move at a very different pace. In our youth, a football season seemed to last a lifetime, so did the school day and the six weeks’ holidays and the wait for Christmas was agonising. Now nine months seem to pass in no time at all, possibly because most of us now have a lot of regular stuff in our lives, like endless hours watching the kids at dance or football practice, skilfully avoiding household chores and getting irritated by stuff our partners do that really have very little consequence. All these things help fill in the voids around Leeds games very easily.

Indeed, with Leeds United we are somewhat cheated, because routinely the football season only really lasts until Christmas, and the rest of the time we spend thinking about the next one. But nevertheless, we chalk off the first few games, soon enough it’s the new year and before you know it you’re waving off the season in a haze of beery regret, wishing you had savoured it properly and that Leeds United could have done a bit more by way of creating something memorable during it.

It seems pointless analysing the season just passed and the current state of Leeds United too much, because there is so much up in the air with regards the governing of the club and how things might pan out for next season, and in essence the Old Peacock really acts as a form of escape from the everyday drudgery and pain that currently encompasses life as a Leeds fan. Judging by the contrast in atmosphere in the pub before most matches and then ten minutes later inside Elland Road itself, it’s fair to say that the pub is more successful in reminding Leeds fans what being a Leeds fan is all about, than the football club itself.

Nevertheless, it has certainly been another campaign that never really got started for Leeds United. Back in sunny August it was hard to recall a season that had been ushered in with more optimism and enthusiasm. While we still appeared to be a few players short, there had been genuine investment in the team, no star players sold and there was structure and a sense of cohesion about the club.

Sadly, that had all unravelled before Massimo Cellino was able to get his Halloween costume out (insert your own Steve Evans joke here…..) and by Christmas time Leeds were fighting off relegation. Uwe Rösler was sacked after just 12 games in charge, executive director Adam Pearson left the club in mysterious circumstances and the fans were left to watch a record run of games at Elland Road without a win, through their fingers. Steve Evans wasn’t a popular appointment to replace Rösler, but he has at least managed to get results while playing a brand of football that only a mother could love, and in truth Leeds have never truly looked like being drawn into a relegation battle.

One of the most interesting sideshows during a season when on-pitch matters have routinely failed to inspire, was when the Peacock gained brief notoriety as a result of Massimo Cellino’s comments in the Italian media. Cellino referenced the pub as a competitor taking business away from Elland Road’s beer sales, and used it as justification for his infamous ‘Pie Tax’ levy on tickets in the South Stand. While we briefly considered a playful pie promotion on match days in response, we quietly got on with our business throughout all the fuss, as we have since 1824, we should add, and it certainly didn’t harm our beer sales.

It’s fair to say it’s been pretty meagre fare at Elland Road for much of the season; just seven wins in the league from 23 games, and we even walked away from some of those with the conclusion that root canal surgery would have been preferable. Having said that, some of those ragged wins and anti-climactic draws have been peppered with some spectacular goals, and we have been treated to some rare glimpses of class in amongst some of the decidedly average performances this season. Alex Mowatt hit a beauty to stun Cardiff and record our first home win since dinosaurs roamed the earth back in November. Lewis Cook struck one from even further out in the 1-1 draw with Fulham and even captain Sol Bamba recently got in on the act, netting a crisp half-volley in the 2-1 win over Wolves, which was one of very few home games that could legitimately be described as ‘entertaining’.


Still, we have generally maintained an upbeat stance at the Old Peacock, and in amongst the madness that continually encircles Leeds United and while we wonder whether the club’s season ticket pledge for next season will result in the investment in the team it undoubtedly needs, we have once again enjoyed your company pre and post-match for every home game this season.

We kicked off in August with our new beer garden marquee and there is no doubt it has been a great success in getting Leeds fans served much quicker, reducing queues and stress levels and generally creating a nicer, more comfortable atmosphere. We have been blessed by decent weather on most match days, so a lot of fans have continued to drink outside, although the day the marquee nearly blew away in a gale was a particularly challenging one for all involved. We hope you agree that the marquee has been a welcome addition and we are always happy to hear your feedback on what we can still improve, so let us have your comments direct to staff or via our Twitter and Facebook pages.
Match days at the Old Peacock are a huge undertaking, and a lot of planning goes into making them run smoothly. We have to temporarily re-house a lot of furniture, we have to suspend our normal food menus for the day, we make sure we have enough staff on all the bars throughout the site, and enough security staff on the doors and of course we have to make sure there is plenty of beer on tap. Anyone who has experienced an Old Peacock match day will testify it is a pretty unique experience, and while it is definitely a mad few hours for all of us involved at the pub, we wouldn’t have it any other way. And let’s also not forget, we’ve had quite a lot of practice.

While we have a few plans in store for next season already, we also have the Euros kicking off in June, our Family Fun day at the end of May and of course our weekly food events will be continuing throughout the summer. So even though the football is over, there are still plenty of reasons for making the Peacock pilgrimage.


More about our plans for the Euros in next months’ blog post, but the Family Fun Day will be on us very shortly. It’s often difficult to think of a way to entertain everyone on a Bank Holiday weekend, so we’ve done the thinking for you. We have tried to make this an annual event now and the success of previous years will hopefully attract a healthy crowd on the next Bank Holiday weekend. There will be plenty of food and drink promotions on the day and all sorts of games and events for all ages. Entry is absolutely free from midday on Sunday May 29th, so come along, bring the kids and enjoy our hospitality for the afternoon.

That’s all for now. Thanks again to all Leeds United fans for your custom, support, impeccable behaviour and for generating such an amazing atmosphere throughout the season. We hope you can stop by over the summer to come and see us.


All the best.
Jon

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

When Leeds United Finish, The Action Is Only Just Beginning

It’s about this time of year that our plans for the summer are beginning to take shape; holidays are booked, the odd family get-together arranged and maybe a friend’s wedding to attend. In the case of Leeds United, they are for once a bit more advanced than everyone else, and are usually a couple of months into a vague and wishful programme of “re-building for next season” by now, having long since given up on the current one.

2016 is no different, and we once again count down the games until we can pack this season up into a suitcase and send it off on a one-way ticket to ‘destination unknown’. But that’s not to say there isn’t plenty of fun to be had in the meantime, it’s just that none of that directly involves football. The inherent ability of Leeds United’s fans to create their own entertainment is legendary, and has become ever more important in the last few seasons with such a dearth of merriment to be derived from events on the pitch. Whether this is in the stands, under the stands or in the pub before or after the game, Leeds fans are perhaps at their best when the team is at its worst; when the gallows humour and proud defiance comes to the fore, and God knows we’ve had some practice.

Of course we know all about this at the Old Peacock. Despite another season of chaos, legal cases, sterile football and everyone largely running to stand still, the pub has been packed out before and after every home game with a boisterous atmosphere and vibrant energy that you suspect could power a small fishing village in France for a week.

But for once the fun needn’t end with Leeds’s last home game of the season on April 30 versus Charlton, because that other vehicle for abject mediocrity and routine anti-climax, the England national team, will soon be rolling into action.

Yes it’s once again the time for football fans to forget the daily grind of following their club team and support the national side, without the expense, mental anguish and endless hours stuck in train stations in the middle of nowhere. For non or part-time-football fans it is the time to feign interest for a fortnight via car flags, jester hats and St George’s flag face paint, as the country is whipped up into a frenzy of patriotism like we’re going into war.

At the Old Peacock we will certainly be doing our bit, and all of England’s games in the Euros 2016 in France will be beamed live on our big screens, with drinks and food offers to keep you fed and watered as the action unfolds. Our Euros events will start with all of England’s warm-up games against Turkey (May 22) at the Etihad Stadium, Australia (May 27) at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light and Portugal (June 2) at Wembley.

Then the real action starts, and you may wish to make note of these dates and book some time off work or the family chores, if you haven’t already. England start in the Euros on Saturday June 11 against Russia, then play Wales at 2.00pm on Thursday June 16, on a day when national productivity will be at its lowest and highly-creative absenteeism at its highest. England’s final group game is against Slovakia on Monday June 20, and after that I suspect we are tempting fate by trying to work out when or where England are likely to play should they advance from the group stages.

Suffice to say, at the Old Peacock we will be behind England all the way, and with a more-than-passing interest in the other home nations, and whenever they are playing we will be welcoming you all like an Elland Road match day, and we hope that there is an atmosphere to match. Naturally, we will be showing every game live throughout the tournament, and that includes the exploits of Northern Ireland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland.

In the midst of England’s friendlies in the build-up to the Euros we have a Family Fun Day on Sunday May 29, which is a Bank Holiday weekend. There will be plenty of family activities throughout the day, with games for kids and an adult tug-of-war, along with food and drink offers to keep everybody happy. Precise details will be on our Twitter and Facebook pages and posted in the pub nearer the time, but for now pencil the date in.

Until then there are another three home games left for you to enjoy/endure, whilst partaking of your pre-match ritual at the Old Peacock. Leeds entertain Reading on Saturday April 16 and then three days later welcome Wolverhampton Wanderers on Tuesday April 19. These double-header home games usually attract an impressive overseas following, so we are bracing ourselves for the usual influx of the Scandinavian and Irish contingents setting up camp in the pub for a few days. As mentioned above, Elland Road hosts its final home game on April 30 when Charlton Athletic come to town; another club with disgruntled fans and ownership wrangles. At least we can be thankful that Leeds are not staring down the barrel of relegation back to League One, as Charlton are, but certainly we can have some sympathy with their plight.

The final topic to bring to your attention this month is our Wednesday Curry Night, which is bubbling away nicely and becoming as popular as our Thursday Steak Night and traditional Sunday Lunch. We have a choice of three curries each week, usually a hot, medium and mild variation, and a mixture of lamb, chicken and beef. Vegetarian options are available too. Many of our customers so far have commented on the outstanding value, whereby for £19.99 you get a pickle tray and poppadums to share, two curries with naan breads, and a bowl of rice to share, PLUS a bottle of house wine or four halves of Ossett Brewery ales. If the fresh-cooked aromatic curries aren’t to your taste, however, our normal menu is always available, so you have no excuse not to check out what everyone is talking about.



So we will see you in April for the last three home games, plenty of times in between for our great themed food events, and several more times over the summer, when the football never stops! In the meantime, check out our Facebook and Twitter pages for all the latest updates on events, menus and match days and we look forward to seeing you all soon.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Football Is Nothing Without Fans……And Beer


Football and drinking go hand in hand, they always have. It’s not just a cultural thing either, although that has a big part to play in it. The concept of having a drink in a favoured establishment before the game is as old as the game itself. It’s just what you do. Football fans are creatures of habit, and whether it is a superstitious thing or merely a routine source of pleasure away from the humdrum of work and the weekly chores at home, a drink before the game and a catch-up with mates is quite often the highlight of a Saturday. Certainly if that Saturday involves watching Leeds United.
When the ‘Peacock Inn’ first appeared on a barren patch of land at the bottom of the hill leading from Beeston village in 1826, the rules of Association Football didn’t even exist, never mind Leeds United, who would appear as a by-product of Leeds City’s expulsion from the Football League some 93 years later.


In the 19th century pubs were very much a working class domain. When the Peacock opened its doors for the very first time, Beeston had an estimated population of just 894 people. By the end of the century this had grown to nearly 3,000 as families migrated to the area to work in the many local pits. Villages such as the nearby Islington, Hunslet and Holbeck gradually merged together and the densely populated area saw several pubs materialise to serve the growing local workforce.

Football didn’t have any presence in West Yorkshire until the early 20th century; the West Riding was a strictly rugby and cricket stronghold. Several amateur clubs were playing in the area, but the Football Association were keen to make inroads into the traditional territory of their rival sports by promoting the professional game, and Bradford City arrived first in 1903, then Leeds City in 1904 and finally Huddersfield Town in 1907. We all know Leeds United’s story from there.


The local pits and clay mines closed towards the end of the 19th century and the ‘Elland Road’ area was a sporting metropolis at the time Leeds United was formed in 1919, with greyhound racing, speedway, crown green bowling (on what is now the Peacock beer garden no less) and cricket all played to a high level at some stage, while the embryonic Leeds United attempted to establish itself both in the area and in professional football itself. By the 1970s it had finally done so, and the whole geographic area surrounding Elland Road had been changed accordingly. Lowfields Road was built in 1923 purely to serve as a conduit between Elland Road and Gelderd Road to transport football fans away from the ground. Also, a prime justification for the M621 passing within yards of Elland Road when it was built in 1973, was the ease of access to one of the biggest football clubs in the country at the time.

It is true that the Old Peacock possibly needs Leeds United more than Leeds United needs the Old Peacock. The motorway carved the area in two and completely changed the demographic of the surrounding landscape, but the Old Peacock survived and still does. Although there is still a healthy population of around 16,000 in the Beeston area today, the pub trade is very different, and the Peacock is no longer as central to the community as it once was.

That said, the Peacock’s enduring appeal transcends mere football. Local pubs are monuments to England’s industrial heritage and melancholy symbolism of an unsophisticated past; a living, still existing history book dripping in faces, smiles, stories, characters and laughter, cultural emblems built on customs and regimented but simple pleasures.

Pre-match rituals and the well-trodden path between the local pub and the football ground make up much of the eternal fabric that binds fans and football clubs together. These are the bits you don’t see on Match of the Day, the bits that don’t secure multi-million pound product endorsements, the bits that existed long before Sky Sports ‘invented football’ in 1992 and pitched it to a more prosperous audience. These are the internal organs of football, which stoically continue to function up and down the country in the face of progress, and offer football fans their lifeblood at every level of the game every single week.

Local pubs, local beer and local food for local people, maybe, but also welcoming those who travel far and wide for their regular fix of everything that surrounds the beautiful game, and the hearty, flavoursome goodness of life itself.

Drinking inside football grounds, in comparison, is a somewhat hollow experience. Football fans have been exploited since the beginning of time, but never more so than now. Held captive for a couple of hours, choices are limited and ‘value for money’ is dismissed by the football machine as some form of unworkable Marxist theory. Football fans are held to ransom and their loyalty to the club is exploited by over-priced beer and food of dubious quality.

Leeds United is not the only football club guilty of this of course, everyone does it. Throughout the country, drinking beer in concourses beneath football stands can be a depressing pastime. Clutching a freezing cold pint and framed by bare concrete walls, you stand in a dark wind-tunnel with all the hospitality of a nuclear power plant, and in a setting that doesn’t so much remind you of home and friends and comfort, but of grim, post-war Soviet austerity. You stare around not at framed photos of famous ex-players or a roaring fire, but at exposed breeze blocks, un-lagged pipework and air conditioning vents, not installed for the convenience of the rank and file supporter, but to serve the plush suites upstairs to which you will never be party.

There was no licence to sell alcohol at Elland Road until 1st April 1959. But it is only in this generation that football clubs have woken up to the fact that alcohol can serve as a vital source of income. For that reason, it is surprising that the vast majority of football clubs don’t try and do it a bit better, by conducting research into what football fans like to drink or eat, and making the experience a little more comfortable, and, well, anchored in the 21st century.

It all makes Massimo Cellino’s recent suggestion (in an interview with an Italian journalist) that the Old Peacock was taking alcohol sales from Leeds United more than a little perplexing. His intimation – it is widely agreed but not 100% clear – was that the marquee opened in the Peacock beer garden in the summer of 2015 had affected the club’s match day income. This has then been used as justification for the £5 ‘pie tax’ added onto the price of tickets, but only in the South Stand at Elland Road, rather than in all stands.

Quite apart from the fact that the Old Peacock was selling beer nearly a century before Leeds United was a twinkle in the Football League’s eye, and exists as an independent enterprise in the Elland Road area like various other food and drink establishments, the marquee installed last summer hasn’t increased the pub’s capacity. A licence exists to hold a capacity of 1100 people on the site at any one time, and the marquee hasn’t changed that. It has just allowed people to get served quicker and easier on a busy match day.

The marquee is an investment made for the comfort of the core customers; Leeds United fans. It is a result of seeing problems and listening to concerns, and through a desire to make the match day experience a better one for everybody. The feedback we have received has been very positive and consequently the Peacock is thriving as a progressive, buoyant and successful entity.


Across the road at Leeds United, the mood is decidedly different, and this brings nobody with the club’s blood in their veins any pleasure. A major concern for many Leeds fans is that the current regime at the club has little interest in the foundations of what made Leeds United in the first place; the people, the area, the community, the past players, management and staff. Leeds United is built on a rich history, not always a successful one, but it is what it is because of that history. The Old Peacock is a part of that and has always harmoniously existed in tandem with the football club. Leeds fans understand that, football fans understand that.


Drinking, eating, rituals, affordable choice and convenience. It is very easy to look and listen and to act upon what you see and hear; basic supply and demand principles, but providing what people actually want and how they actually want it.  It’s how you survive for 190 years, and as they approach their centenary in three years’ time, Leeds United need to start doing the same.

Jon