Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Love Is In The Air

By this time of every year, we have already dismissed our new diet and fitness regime as an unworkable fantasy, we have already suffered with a horrendous head cold and we have considered quitting our job on at least half a dozen occasions. But the mornings are getting ever so slightly lighter and, hey, there’s some crocuses flowering over there so the downhill momentum towards a hedonistic summer of relentless partying and sunshine, yes even in Leeds, is on.

February is that month where nothing really happens apart from FA Cup replays and the mother-in-law’s birthday, and it is one of those periods where the winter seems to be going on forever, even though we are starting to make plans for a brighter, warmer and happier time. But there is one key date that we would all be foolish to forget, February 14th, and of course we won’t this year, for two reasons. Firstly, the love of our life deserves a treat on Valentine’s Day and the date is imprinted on our mind because we wouldn’t want to miss an opportunity to express in the form of chocolates, flowers or a four-pack of beers how much we respect, savour and cherish every moment with our loved one. And secondly, because Leeds United are at home that day.

Across the land, when the 2016/17 fixtures came out last June, every Leeds fan made a mental note to thank the Football League for once again scheduling a home game for Valentine’s Day, so that the extra effort we make on February 13th will really go down a treat and be remembered fondly as we disappear out of the door 24 hours later just as our other half is chilling the champagne and rustling up a three-course feast. So yes, for us Leeds fans it is a thrice-cooked pie warmed up from last Saturday’s home game and returning home to our dinner in the bin or the dog’s stomach instead. But such is life, and secretly we suspect, and indeed hope, that our loved ones would prefer the telly and the chocolates all to themselves anyway.   

And it doesn’t mean that love isn’t in the air on February 14th, because Leeds United fans have fallen in love with this team. New signings such as Luke Ayling, Kyle Bartley and Pablo Hernandez have gladdened our hearts like none of the endless stream of mediocrity passing for Leeds United players have in the last decade or more, while youngsters like Ronaldo Vieira and Kalvin Phillips show an energy and vitality that we love to see in our Academy products. Even established players like Chris Wood, Stuart Dallas and Charlie Taylor have won over fans this season and it is refreshing to see a Leeds United team gelling as a unit and bringing out the best in each other, rather than plodding around aimlessly and showing no evidence that they work on anything in training during the week.

But there’s one man who has enamoured himself to the Elland Road crowd to a degree not seen since Vinnie Jones grabbed us by the throat, fixed us with his enraged eyes and drafted out a contract insisting we loved him, written in our own blood. That man is Pontus Jansson. For a long time the Leeds United faithful have been looking for heroes, at some points just anybody who can take responsibility and maybe score the odd goal or 20. But the panorama has been so bereft of quality, leadership and character and the Elland Road atmosphere has reflected that barren emptiness. It is not solely Pontus that has ignited the fans this season, of course, but he is a huge part of it and the first Leeds player since Luciano Becchio to have a rousing song about him sung endlessly on repeat.   




Jansson arrived at Elland Road as a lost soul himself; un-selected and unloved at Torino in Italy and disillusioned with the game, and in Leeds fans he has found a reciprocal need for attachment and belief in something real. Has there ever been a more compatible coupling of two parties so adrift and disorientated and so in need of each other? Jansson is the kind of player who not only understands Leeds fans and what they need, but has the personality, fearlessness and bravado to pull it off. Many have tried and many have failed, but in Jansson we have the real deal, and now he is ours on a permanent basis.

The day after his 89th minute winner had secured three hard-earned points at Blackburn Rovers, it was announced that Jansson’s loan deal with Torino would be made permanent in the summer, for a sum of £3.5 million. It is more than Leeds have paid for anyone in nearly 15 years, but it is still a complete bargain in today’s market, and the most important thing is that it sealed the deal, the circle of love was complete and we are now stuck with each other, for better or worse. We have even invited Pontus over for a pint in the Old Peacock now he is settled in Leeds, and he would be following in some esteemed footsteps, not least one Vincent Jones, if he were to spend a post-training afternoon with us over a pint or two.






Of course, the hope now is that Jansson can play his part for the rest of the season and beyond, and while he is happy to take the limelight and be at the forefront of Leeds United’s charge to the play-offs, Garry Monk and the rest of the team are quietly going about their business. February sees three home games for us to navigate at the Old Peacock, starting with a double header of Cardiff City (Saturday 11th) and Bristol City (Tuesday 14th) followed by another Yorkshire Derby against Sheffield Wednesday (Saturday 25th). By the end of that run of games we should have a much clearer idea of where Leeds stand in their pursuit of promotion. The nagging feeling is that the top two automatic spots are just that little bit out of reach, but all we can do is keep the momentum going and make sure we are as close as possible should either Brighton or Newcastle falter.   


At the Old Peacock we are looking forward to this run of home games, as it seems 2017 hasn’t quite got going yet with no big Saturday games for us so far. Rest assured we will be ready, and while we have no big plans for romantic set meals for two on Valentine’s Night, because the pub will be ram-packed with you lot creating a very different vibe, we are quite content that Pontus is leading us and love is very much in the air. 





Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Turning the January Blues White
Welcome to January. I write this on a miserable, grey Monday morning. The wind is lashing rain against my office window and normally motivation would at an all-time low. January is traditionally the longest month of the year, not simply in the number of days of course, but in the energy-sapping way in which it drags interminably. December fair skips by in comparison and there is always real momentum going in to the end of the year, but that hits you hard like a Pontus Jansson sliding tackle at the turn of the New Year, and January appears on your doorstep knocking rather too loudly and carrying a suitcase full of bills, work, bad health and a mountain of other problems.

Is it the third Monday in January that is cited as the ‘most depressing day of the year’? When people have lost the zest of all the festivities over Christmas and New Year and can only see a very long road ahead, even though the mornings are getting ever-so-slightly brighter each day. Well in 2017 that Monday falls three days after Leeds United play Derby County at home in a vital fixture that could further cement our place in the play-off places, and may even see us close the gap further on a spluttering Newcastle United in second place. For that reason, it is perfectly possible that Leeds United fans will continue sailing through January on the crest of a wave, fighting off the traditional January Blues with a vim and vigour borne from a superb string of displays over the festive period and a surge of optimism that doesn’t appear to be ending any time soon.

Not this year are we worrying about our ‘New Year, New Me’ diets, or boycotting our favourite pub in a misguided and fatally flawed attempt at a ‘Dry January’, and no longer are we looking forward with dread at the endless treadmill of work, sleep, work, sleep. Instead, Leeds United fans are looking forward with a beaming smile even Lucas Radebe would take inspiration from.

Two wins and a draw out of three games over Christmas and New Year was a far better return than Leeds fans usually expect, from a busy period that traditionally saps the festive spirit like a lump of coal on Christmas morning. Add to that the 50% ownership change at the club, with Italian businessman Andrea Radrizzani finally concluding his deal last week, and arriving with a flawless track record in every sense, and there have been few better times to be a Leeds United fan since we were marauding fearlessly across Europe at the turn of the Millennium.  The sea change in commercial activity, media output and stability in management this season has brought its own rewards which are clear for all to see. And we are hopeful the strength and solidity of the club will only improve with this latest change in the boardroom. Being honest, we don’t expect Mr Radrizzani to pop over and join us for a drink at the Old Peacock, we think he is more likely to keep a lower profile than our previous owner, but he is definitely welcome, and indeed we will certainly be toasting the new ownership regime if results continue as they are.




It is true that previous ownership changes have come about at a time when they have been absolutely necessary, and they have found Leeds United on the floor and picked it off the canvass looking bloodied and beaten. Right now, the club is in great health and everything is in place to take it on and make it work. This ownership change has come as a boost, at a time when momentum is taking Leeds United forward like an un-manned bread van hurtling down Wesley Street, and it could be just the tonic we need to carry us over the line.

And ‘boost’ is the operative word in January. Rather than looking ahead with fear and dread, we are taking everything in our stride. That goes for us at the Old Peacock too. We aren’t changing too much in 2017, we are maintaining our high standards, happy to keep serving the hordes of happy, smiling Leeds fans that turn up on a match day, and delighted to be seeing and feeling the general buzz around Elland Road all through the week at the moment.

Of course we have already navigated one hectic match day at Elland Road this year. January 2nd saw one final blowout before we all returned to work, and there was certainly no evidence of a Dry January pre-match in the Peacock for the Rotherham United game. A 33,000 crowd ensured the festive spirit kept flowing for a few more hours, and the lads did the business on the pitch too, with a fine 3-0 victory setting 2017 off on the right foot.




Friday 13th will be unlucky for Derby County if Leeds continue this rich vein of form. We have seen some major occasions at Elland Road in recent weeks, with 30,000 plus crowds for the visits of Newcastle, Aston Villa and Rotherham. But in terms of vital points and administering psychological blows to near challengers, the visit of Derby is arguably the most important home game since our promotion from League One. We are expecting another busy evening behind the bar but after that, January could return to being a bit of a long one, with the team’s progress in the FA Cup meaning there are no more home games this month.

Our weekly food events are still proving extremely popular. After our Christmas Day service sold out in record time, we also enjoyed a busy run-up to Christmas with lots of you taking advantage of our Christmas Fayre menu to host your parties with friends, family and work colleagues. Our Curry Night, Steak Night and Sunday Lunch menus will continue in 2017 and of course we have our general menu available all week as well. We are always keen to hear feedback from our customers and we have been really honoured to have received some lovely reviews from people who have visited us in recent weeks. These can be viewed on our Facebook page, where, along with our Twitter account, you can also keep up to date with all our events and any information about match days.

For now, keep your chin up, enjoy January and confront the things that get you down with the gusto of Chris Wood fending off that Rotherham defender to turn and smash the ball into the roof the net; eat my goal. We’ve been through it all together, as the song goes, and we will beat January together. 

All the best.    


Thursday, 8 December 2016

Something Unmistakable……..

Looking outside at this time of year there is that unmistakable flavour of ‘December’ about the surrounding landscape. That might seem like I’m stating the obvious, but it’s fairly likely to be dark, with an air of frosty mist around and traffic gets busier in December for some reason as everyone seems to be wanting to get home earlier, or they are off Christmas shopping to White Rose after work. And that brings us to that most distinctive and widely evidenced indicator that we are deep into December already; Christmas lights, no longer just a sign that we are in the run-up to the Big Day, but now a hefty clue that the calendar has ticked over from November into December, because we simply cannot wait to put our Christmas decorations up.

Nothing wrong with that of course; everybody loves the jovial comradeship of the Christmas period, where people’s inhibitions are a little bit looser and our inclination to get out and enjoy life is counteracted only by the warm, cosiness of an entire day in front of the telly with family eating chocolates, mince pies and leftover turkey. Gradually losing all energy and vegetating to such an extent that fetching some pickle to embellish your pork pie is a challenge that takes on titanic proportions by Boxing Day, is not an unusual scenario, while inadvisable and hopelessly out-of-time ‘Dad Dancing’ to something the kids listen to is as mandatory as arguing over EastEnders or the Queen’s Speech. It is all part and parcel of this time of year. But there is something else unmistakable about December this year, but only this year, and it is a feeling that many of us have been fighting for a number of weeks now. 

There is an unmistakable whiff of Leeds United getting their act together. Let’s be honest, we have been looking for signs that this is just some temporary, and albeit very welcome, blip for some time now. We have been waiting for the lack of depth to our squad to come back and bite us for several weeks as injuries and suspensions have taken hold, but still there are no signs of Leeds faltering. We have been fearful that behind-the-scenes interference will affect morale or stability, or will distract the focus of the team pretty much since the summer……but nothing. Leeds United is looking like a sturdy and formidable ship sailing purposefully through calm waters, and much as we scan the horizon there is no evidence of a storm brewing or choppy waters to send us off course. Something or someone has intervened to ensure Leeds United is run professionally, with dignity and with a healthy measure of, not just ambition, but realising its very obvious potential. It was never going to take much to get fans to buy into this, just a hint that this is for once the real deal, and the fans are coming back in droves, not just in body but in spirit too; there is an air of buoyancy, drive and energy about Elland Road and December comes with Leeds making a concerted effort to stay in the promotion race having finally discovered where the starting line is.


Naturally, there are quite a few Christmas presents that Leeds fans would like; a continuation of the recent winning run over the festive period would be nice. Leeds are traditionally poor around this time of year, but somehow, you think we can cope with the frequency of games a bit better now. We would like the off-field stability to continue, and if there is a takeover or investment happening, as has been widely reported in the media, we need that to happen as soon and with as little disruption as possible. Which brings us to the last wish on our Christmas list; we need a whopping great shopping splurge in January and that’s going to take some money.

Quite apart from securing the services of key loan players such as Pablo Hernandez and Pontus Jansson – ideally also putting some money aside to make Kyle Bartley and Hadi Sackho permanent transfers in the summer – Leeds also need to make Charlie Taylor a respectable offer and boost the first team squad with more depth, which needs to include more striking options and more pace in the side. This is all before looking at the management team and pinning Garry Monk and his coaching staff down to long term service, before we adopt that very ‘Leeds United’ stance of watching it all collapse around our ears in a clumsy muddle of bad decisions, inactivity and lack of vision. Now is the time, and if the upper management of Leeds United can’t see it, or aren’t prepared for it, then they should expect much wrath. Quite frankly, we’ve been waiting years for this.


So 2016 is closing with a surge of optimism and many smiles on faces. At the Old Peacock it has been like that pretty much all year. We have enjoyed another successful 12 months where we have continued to look at our customer base to ensure we do everything we can to make your time with us a very pleasant one. On matchdays we have set on more staff and have introduced the four pint pitchers to try and cut queuing time at the bar, and we have set up live music in the beer garden to help build the pre-match atmosphere up to a euphoric crescendo. The rest is the continuation of a winning formula and the feedback we get is that we continue to provide the best pre-match build-up anywhere around Elland Road. So thank you for all your custom throughout 2016 and we promise to maintain our standards and provide even more in 2017.

Away from football our Food Nights and Quiz Nights throughout the week continue to be very popular and our general food menu catches the eye of many passing folk. Our Christmas Fayre menu has already started in December, but we still have plenty of places left if you want to call in or phone (0113 2715962) to book a table for your family, friends or work Christmas party. We have catered for weddings and big birthday celebrations this year, which have been triumphant events where the famous Old Peacock atmosphere contributes to a memorable occasion for all. We are happy to play our part and are looking to stage more of these events next year, and on the flipside, we are also promoting our location and facilities as a great venue for business meetings and seminars. Your multi-functional Old Peacock can be adapted for almost any occasion, so get in touch and we can talk through the details.



We are looking forward to a couple of big home games in December for Leeds United, although the traditionally busy Christmas period has no Elland Road dates for the club. Leeds entertain Reading at home on Tuesday 13th December, before welcoming Brentford on Saturday 17th. That is it for home games in 2016, as the next time we welcome the Leeds United hordes is on January 2nd against Rotherham United, when sore heads will have just about been cured and we will be ready to go again. That unmistakable, winning combination of Leeds United, beer and the Old Peacock; heading into yet another year. Merry Christmas to all our customers and Leeds fans everywhere, from all of us at the Old Peacock.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Reach For The Stars

So that’s it, the clocks have gone back, the leaves are falling and we’re on the countdown to Christmas. We’ve just spent the weekend with aching necks looking up to the skies at fireworks, but it’s quite nice when you feel like you can reach for the stars and achieve something. It’s round about this time of year that we usually find Leeds United in crisis, finding their feet with yet another new manager, wondering how they will get enough points to survive and limping towards a January transfer window that rarely refuels us sufficiently. 

But at the moment it is very different. You sense that Leeds United are on the move in the right direction again. It is too early to say Leeds are fully resurgent, but we are picking up points with relative comfort and looking strong in most departments. I guess it’s called ‘progress’ and we have seen precious little of that in the last few years. Perhaps most importantly there is a sense of stability about the club; the Elland Road landscape appears peaceful and serene like a fresh winters’ morning greeted by a blanket of virginal snow. On and off the pitch there is an air of professionalism about Leeds United, people getting on with their jobs, and it is no surprise what can be achieved when that is allowed to happen.

October was a great month for Leeds United; six games, four wins, one draw and one defeat. One of those wins was, of course, the defeat of Norwich on penalties in the League Cup, which was a pulsating contest in which a patched-up Leeds side showed all the attributes upon which the club’s history is based, and after this euphoric win I think we all started to believe that ‘something’ just might be happening here.

It has been a busy month at the Old Peacock with four home games to keep us all on our toes. October was bookended by the excellent 2-1 win over Barnsley and the nervous but ultimately exhilarating 2-0 win over Burton Albion. It seems crowds are on the up too, and with 22,222 sharing in the ecstasy of that penalty shoot-out win over the Canaries, there can be little doubt that the ‘feel good’ factor is back at Elland Road. At the Old Peacock it has never left of course, we carry on regardless serving thirsty Leeds fans who turn up on our doorstep come rain or shine, win, lose or draw. We see happy pre-match faces wherever Leeds are in the table, but it doesn’t half give us a boost when fans are returning after the game with another three points in the bag. And if there is anything that prompts you lot to get that extra pint in, it is a late winner or a dramatic win on penalties. Mind you, ‘one more pint’ has soothed the journey to getting over plenty of harrowing defeats too…..

There is no shortage of fireworks expected in November too, although sadly, many of them will be away from Elland Road with just the one home game during the month, but what a pyro-tastic Chinese rocket of a fixture that one is. Newcastle United visit Elland Road on Sunday November 20th for the first league fixture between the two in 12 years, and it is looking like a sell-out. It will be great to see over 38,000 inside Elland Road and if that doesn’t whet the appetite for more occasions like this, then nothing will. Once was the time when Elland Road was packed to the rafters every week and these kind of high-profile games were commonplace, it seems so long ago now, but it is great to see a highly-charged game on the horizon and with Leeds approaching it in fine fettle too. With Aston Villa visiting shortly after in early December, it all helps with momentum and building up the excitement, maybe even reminding some of those younger fans what Leeds United Football Club is all about.

Of course we are no stranger to capacity crowds at the Old Peacock. We have a specific number of fans we can accommodate on the footprint of the pub for each match day, ie. inside and outside, and we regularly fill that. So whether there are 20,000 or 38,000 at Elland Road for the game, we can still only fit in that same number. But we certainly anticipate a lot more people queuing to get in the pub for the Newcastle game.

Hopefully the weather will hold off as we head towards Christmas and we will be able to stage more energetic sets from The Snapp in the beer garden. Our local, resident band have proved a massive hit in the build-up to Kick-Off over the last few games and we have received some great feedback. We will endeavour to have them on as long as the weather holds out. We know a lot of fans like to drink outside even in the crisp and frosty afternoons in January and February, so where we can we will continue with the live band outside, but stay tuned to our social media accounts before each game and we will keep you updated as to when the band will be appearing.

With Halloween and Bonfire Night passing by at a rapid pace we will shortly be preparing for another busy period in our calendar, and that is Christmas. We are already sold out for Christmas Day, but don’t be crying into your pigs in blankets just yet, because we have a separate menu package for the party season leading up to the big day. We know how you all enjoy your works’ Christmas dos, getting together with family before Christmas or having a blow out and a big feed with your friends. So our Christmas Fayre menu is right up your street.  At £12.95 for two courses or £14.95 for three courses, this is a great value way to celebrate Christmas in a cosy but lively atmosphere and with a quality home-cooked festive feast. We are serving a choice of soup, garlic mushrooms or liver paté for starters, roast turkey, salmon or a vegetarian alternative for mains and then there is the tricky decision of strawberry cheesecake, chocolate fudge cake or of course, a traditional Christmas pud for afters. We start serving our Christmas Fayre menu in December, but places are being booked up fast, so call in or phone 0113 2715962 to book a place for your party now.

Here’s hoping Garry Monk and his coaching staff continue to work their magic in November and we can march towards the New Year with some confidence for a change. It’s a lovely feeling looking into the skies and reaching for the stars and here’s to much more of that over the next few months. Cheers.



  

Monday, 10 October 2016

That’s Entertainment

We have always been very proud of the atmosphere we create at the Old Peacock on Leeds United match days. When Leeds are at home it is our bread and butter of course, we are known as a football pub despite everything we do in between games, and while ourselves and Leeds United reside where we do, that will always be the case. As a result we put a lot of work into making match days work for everyone and in general the fruits of this is the buzz of conversation, laughter and chanting that makes the match day atmosphere so intoxicating.

September saw us introduce another factor to this; live music. It is something we have never attempted before and we were a little apprehensive about it, at the end of the day, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. But that isn’t in keeping with our philosophy, which is essentially to always strive to make improvements and never become complacent. So as The Snapp belt out ‘A Town Called Malice’, ‘She Bangs the Drums’ or ‘That’s Entertainment’ in the beer garden we can be satisfied that we have pushed ourselves to provide even more for our loyal customers and Leeds fans.

Naturally, if Leeds United are doing well it makes our jobs a lot easier. But one of the many fascinations of the modern world is how Leeds fans have remained so chipper in the face of a decade of largely meagre pickings at Elland Road; season after season of mediocre performances, under-achievement and off-field chaos somehow hasn’t dented the enthusiasm of our customers. Still they arrive with a raging thirst and an undiminished vigour for the match day routine, to share some pre-match beers with their mates. Of course, to many that is the only thing that is important, for others the pre-match routine and the social aspect has become an indispensable substitute for the blood and thunder of events on the pitch at Elland Road; a sort of life-support machine in the absence of Leeds United offering any thrills and spills over the road from 3.00pm onwards.

So imagine our surprise when Garry Monk finally got the lads firing and we saw, not just home wins, but entertaining, attacking football from the men in white? Leeds have been solid, dominant and expansive in their football, and since I last wrote, three home wins in the League and one in the League Cup have turned the season around.

Of course, Leeds have won sporadic home games before over the last few seasons (honestly, they have, you may have blurred them out) but nowhere near enough, and anybody who has witnessed the last month at Elland Road will recognise that this feels very different; there is something in the air and it isn’t just the whiff of Pontus Jansson’s aftershave.


Our Swedish recruit on loan from Torino has been a major factor in Leeds fans not squirming uncomfortably and hiding behind their half-time pie every time a cross enters our penalty area in recent games. Jansson has been a colossus at centre half, like a Viking marauder fearlessly rampaging through the Championship and leaving a trail of timid and fearful million-pound strikers in his wake. Again, we have maybe been here before. The likes of Marius Zaliukas and Sol Bamba initially entranced us with their performances, and we briefly felt like our saviour had arrived, until they signed a permanent contract and slipped unnoticed into the legions of Elland Road’s most unexceptional and forgettable. It is so easily done and yet something feels different about Pontus Jansson. We are so desperate for genuine heroes, against a grim decade of famine in that regard, that we will latch onto anything that suggests a way out of this. But there is a sense of composure, nonchalance, surety and aggression about Jansson that suggests he is the real deal. We are all waiting for the catch but maybe, for once, there isn’t one.


The run of four straight home wins started with a scrappy and desperate 2-1 win over Blackburn Rovers. This was the Tuesday night after Huddersfield Town had beaten us 1-0 at home on the Saturday. It was absolutely vital that Leeds got the three points, and it didn’t really matter how we got them. Since then, we have beaten Blackburn again in the League Cup with a much-changed team, and have then glided effortlessly past both Ipswich Town and Barnsley, without the scoreline truly reflecting our superiority. It is the Leeds way of course, they would never allow us the luxury of enjoying a commanding and technically-adept display without the eternal fear that we are one sliced clearance away from dropping yet more points at home.


But suddenly there is a natural vibrancy to Elland Road and that unmistakable energy and a healthy glow that comes from actually enjoying what you are watching. There is an audible sense of expectation rather than a debilitating fear and apprehension, which a succession of owners, managers and players have failed to overcome, and as a consequence we are feeling that in the Old Peacock. We are not taking credit for transforming Leeds United’s fortunes simply via introducing live music before home games, but the extra buzz this is creating is certainly sending fans off with an extra skip in their step, which the football on show at 3.00pm is not stopping dead in its tracks.

We should be wary that we are only talking about a few games, however, and Leeds are still yet to penetrate the top ten, never mind the long-coveted play-off spots. We are on the run-in to Christmas now and the chilly Saturday afternoons that swiftly turn into dark nights by the final whistle. This is when teams with promotion pretensions tend to get found out, and if we are still hovering around the upper half of the table when we are defrosting the turkey, and certainly when we are pretending to get fit as a new years’ resolution in January, then it’s time to get serious.

On that note, we are also on the run-in to a busy period at the Old Peacock, and we are already completely booked out for our traditional Christmas Dinner menu on December 25th


We are aware that the festive party season will soon be in full swing, however, and we have plenty of booking space available for our Christmas Fayre menu, which is perfect for celebrating Christmas a little early with friends, family or workmates. So call in or phone us to book a place. In the meantime, buckle up and enjoy the entertainment at Elland Road.

  

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!