Pre-match tension (PMT) is a debilitating condition that can cause the sufferer anxiety, superstition and bouts of irrationally blaming others.
‘What fucker took my lucky thong?’
Yet some scientists believe PMT is a myth, that it is all in the mind. I strongly suspect these are the people who would prefer to be in IKEA at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon, or have a round of golf with an accountant called Jeremy.
‘Epic putt, Jezza.’
They are not affected by the awful mood swings that accompany the beautiful, terrible, game. So who gives a toss what they think?
The bad news, dear reader, is that PMT is as real as my pasty white butt. But the good news is, effective treatment is just round the corner. At the pub.
Long may these treatment centres continue, and through your generous funding they will, though there are forces at work who would like fans to be breathalysed on entry. The person responsible for this initiative needs to be breathalysed with a cuntalyser.
Your choice of pub is vital to your wellbeing throughout the season. Today we look at the best places for a pre-match tipple near South-east London’s three Football League grounds, plus Ryman League favourites, Dulwich Hamlet.
The Traditional: The Royal Oak, round the corner from The Valley, is the natural place for Addicks to gather before a game, even if the pub seems constantly surprised by the football crowd. I like the beer garden, as the road is so residential it’s like having a pint in your mate’s backyard, albeit a mate who has a pub in his living room – the best mate of all.
The Challenger: It should have been the White Swan or the Bugle Horn, but the Swan is closed (watch this space, though!). The Bugle Horn is on its third manager of the year, like Wigan – and who wants to drink in Wigan? So, it has to be the Charlton Liberal Club. It’s huge, partisan and has cask ale at £2.50. We can all support that.
Something Different: Coming up on the inside is the Anchor & Hope, if you don’t mind a slightly unlovely walk to the ground and like a bit of industrial Thames. As a Cancerian, I’m drawn to water. As a human, I’m drawn to beer, so this ticks all my boxes. Or, if you can deal with further travel, the Pelton Arms is a beautiful way to start any day.
Away fans: The Rose of Denmark welcomes away supporters that like to mix with home fans. It’s almost like we live in some kind of civilisation where people are nice to each other even if they come from another town.
First Home League Game: QPR, Saturday, 8th August, 3pm
Deserter Prediction: 4-0
The Traditional: By Norwood Junction station, The Cherry Tree (aka, confusingly, The Cherry Trees) wins for the febrile football atmosphere that builds from about one into a crescendo of hubbub by 2.45. It’s especially throbbing now Palace are in the throes of one of the most exciting periods in their history. The Doom Bar isn’t always in peak condition however, so some prefer The Clifton, which is closer to the ground, has better ale, but is quite shabby. The noticeable anti-drugs policy is partly enforced by the Clifton’s ancient Staffy, who barks at you if you roll a fag. Mind you, he could probably smell what was in my bag with his eyes closed.
The Challenger: The Pawsons Arms is a nice backstreet boozerie with a central bar, three pumps and walls filled with Palace porn. It has a year-round Merry Christmas sign outside too but seeing as the club has gone from stiffing St John’s Ambulance to spending £13m on one player in the space of five heady years, it must see seem like Christmas all year.
Something Different: The Two Brewers is a charming old Shepherd Neame boozer, which means the beer can be anything up to OK. It’s smaller than most football pubs, so it gets busy, but is a welcoming locals’ pub and preferable to the White Horse nearby, especially if you don’t need a terrifying children’s playground.
Away fans: The Railway Telegraph is the smartest of the pubs within walking distance of Selhurst Park, has the best kept ale, at £3 a pint too. It welcomes fans of both persuasions and is right by Thornton Heath station, should you ever want to leave.
First Home League Game: Arsenal, Sunday, 16th August, 1.30pm
Deserter Prediction: 5-0
The Traditional: The Fox On The Hill has become a regular stop off for some en route to Champion Hill. Yes, it’s a ’Spoons but who cares when you’re in a fine beer garden drinking well kept, cheap ale, smoking your arse off? You are actually able to booze your way through the full 90 minutes at Dulwich, but still, where’s the harm in starting early?
The Challenger: The DHFC bar. Now the club bar boasts several delicious local casks and Beatnik on keg, it’s a must-visit before, during and after the match. That it’s also one of the few club bars you can watch a game from makes it seem like a giant executive box (for the people).
Something Different: The Brick Brewery, near Peckham Rye station, is a 15-minute walk from Champion Hill and serves its own delicious ales in its tap yard. Fast becoming the stop-off of choice for football-loving luxury communists.
Away fans: There’s no need for away fans to avoid home pubs, in fact, mingling is actively encouraged at Dulwich and many non-league grounds.
First Home League Game: Canvey Island, Saturday, 8th August, 3pm
Deserter Prediction: 6-5
The Traditional: The Ancient Foresters has Elvis and The Beatles playing Saturday. What have you got, North London? The Foresters only has fizz for ale but is a bantertastic, busy Millwall boozer before and after games, full of South London stories and cheeky exchanges with affable bar staff.
The Challenger: The Blue Anchor has scrubbed up well, though ale is not a priority. The Blue is the heart of proper Bermondsey, as far away from the chi-chi restaurants of Bermondsey Street as you can get. It’s a solidly Millwall pub: Big, lively and part of the community. Matchdays, it sets about reducing PMT with booze and sausages, like any good doctor would prescribe.
Something Different: The Gregorian on Jamaica Road has been taken over by Antic, which is clear the moment you open their kooky chic door. Whether they’ll attract a football crowd, even they don’t know yet, but its focus is on food, ale and style, rather than lager, karaoke and sport, so it reflects a changing neighbourhood. A lot of fans will have to walk past it en route though and many habits can be changed by the right pint.
Away Fans: Away fans are not advised to go to any of the home fans’ Bermondsey boozers, but you’re so close to London Bridge, you’re not short of choice. After the game, there’ll be Wall in the ruddy lovely Old King’s Head and the Bunch of Grapes, but you’ll be fine there as long as you don’t wear colours or get gobby.
First Home League Game: Coventry, Saturday, 15th August 3pm
Deserter Prediction: 18-0
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Dulwich Hamlet image courtesy of Forward The Hamlet.