The 5 best pubs in Nottingham

Many parts of the UK may live and die by the gastro-pub culture, but Nottingham drinkers know what a proper pub is for – real ale, some decent food and then some more real ale. So what are you waiting for? Grab your coat, warm up your beer drinking arm and start working your way down this list of Nottingham’s finest watering holes:

5. The Cross Keys

Just off the city centre on Byard Lane, this establishment offers a perfect pub experience for those who like a pub to look like a pub and feel like a pub. That’s not to say there aren’t fancy furnishings and a great breakfast, lunch and fine dining menu, too. But solid nourishment, a great selection of real ales and a proper sense of the British pub tradition is what the Cross Keys delivers. 15 Byard Lane, NG1 2GJ

4. The Cock & Hoop

Proudly a member of the Michelin Pub Guide, The Cock & Hoop offers a range of outstanding quality ales and traditional British cooking. From the Victorian exterior it certainly looks exactly like a pub should look, and offers specially brewed Nottingham Brewery real ales among its beers, plus fine wines and spirits. This traditional Victorian alehouse can be stumbled upon while wondering the historic, cobbled streets of the Lace Market area of the city. 25 High Pavement, NG1 1HE

3. The Pit and Pendulum

Pushing a bookcase aside to reach the toilets and nursing a pint next to a torture device isn’t exactly your average pub-going experience. Yet the ominous rumble as a tram passes overhead and the selection of Hammer horror films playing on the ancient televisions all succeed in creating an eerie, gothic and entirely unique atmosphere. There are some good beers and cocktails on offer – and even some mighty food challenges for those with a big appetite. Who said being different was a bad thing? 17 Victoria Street, NG1 2EW

2. The Malt Cross

Tucked down a snug side-street just off Old Market Square, you could easily miss this former Victorian Music Hall. Built in 1887 this pub is steeped in history, having been named after a monument that used to be in the market square which was a gathering. An ideal place for couples or small groups to socialise with a unique pint and some good grub, it is perhaps most famous around the city not for its history but for its delicious hot chocolates. 16 James’s Street, NG1 6FG

1.Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem

Seasoned Nottingham ale drinkers will be unsurprised with our triumphant winner. Ye Olde Trip claims to be the oldest drinking establishment in England and subsequently popular with locals and tourists alike. Carved into the rock of Nottingham Castle’s underbelly, this pub offers perhaps the finest range of real ales in Nottingham – as well as an impressive, yet pricey, gastropub menu. It is brimming with charm and character and, given its history and central location, is almost the type of place you can’t afford to not visit. 1 Brewhouse Yard, NG1 6AD

Alex Clarke (seasoned Ale drinker)

(@alexclarke881)

 

Forest aren’t ready for the top flight

Nottingham Forest fans are split down the middle – half of us have already given up on our top flight dream for another season while the other half are still desperately clinging to aspirations of a playoff final now that automatic promotions are all but mathematically beyond us.

Yet my question is – if Forest do somehow manage to get promoted via either of these mediums, are we really ready?

Even with a clean bill a health I can’t see our current squad, even with potential summer additions, challenging the likes of Norwich, Swansea, Hull and Aston Villa on a week to week basis.

Getting promoted through the playoffs is certainly the most exciting way to reach the Premier League, but in terms of consolidating a position in the top flight, is it the most effective?

I would rather we realistically admit this season is over for us in terms of realising our Premier League dream and start preparing for the next campaign.

We can have another crack at signing that elusive striker in the summer and make a real challenge for the top two places – much like Leicester have done this season.

If you need any more evidence then all I’ll say is Derby County, 2007/08, 11 points. Let’s hang on till next year, regroup and go up the proper way. Come on you reds.

Alex Clarke

(@alexclarke881)

Notts County 1 MK Dons 3: County stay rooted to the bottom

11/03/14 Notts County v MK Dons - Notts CountyIt was an all too familiar case of defensive errors and missed opportunities as Notts County fell to a disappointing 3-1 home defeat to MK Dons on Tuesday evening, leaving them firmly rooted to the foot of League One.

After an impressive performance three days earlier against high flying Leyton Orient, Notts County manager Shaun Derry named an unchanged line-up for the visit of seventh placed MK Dons.

And it was nearly the perfect start for Shaun Derry’s side, with Callum McGregor forcing a fine save from goalkeeper David Martin after just 18 seconds.

From the resulting corner Hayden Mullins crashed a close range shot against the crossbar as the Magpies signalled their early intent.

But County were dealt a hammer blow seconds later as a quick counter-attack and failed clearance found Dons midfielder Dele Alli in space, and he slotted the ball calmly past Bialkowski into the bottom corner to make it 1-0 after only 80 seconds.

After a frantic start to the match there was no let-up in the tempo, with both sides carving out further opportunities.

Nathan Tyson had his first chance on goal as he latched onto a good through ball by Mullins but his shot flew wide of Martin’s post.

And the Dons had an opportunity to double their lead on 11 minutes as Izale McLeod wriggled away from his man and left Bialkowski’s hands stinging with a fizzing shot from 20 yards.

Despite the 1-0 deficit the Kopites were still in fine voice, showing their continued support for Shaun Derry despite their desperate league position.

County’s game plan was clear as they continued to thread balls down both channels in an attempt to utilise Tyson’s pace, but the former Forest man’s ball control was letting him down.

Yet all the while MK Dons were looking dangerous, and a great turn from the increasingly impressive Alli allowed Daniel Powell a free shot on goal, which forced Bialkowski into a fantastic save low to his left.

After a decent spell of pressure from the Magpies it was MK Dons who fashioned the next opening in the 34 minute after a dreadful pass back from Dean Leacock played McLeod clean through on goal, but Bialkowski was quick off his line to save Notts’ blushes yet again.

The first half ended in frustration for County fans after seeing their team taking up some good positions in the opposition half but hesitating to pull the trigger.

Early into the second half it was the Dons turn to make a defensive error which left Tyson one-on-one with Martin, but the former Liverpool keeper was quick off his line to block with his body.

Yet despite this promising opening Notts were yet again the architects of their own downfall.

A defensive error from substitute Haydn Hollis sent Powell through on goal and his cut-back to Alli allowed the teenager to tap into an empty net to make the scoreline 2-0 to the Dons.

Tempers were fraying and the home fans were becoming increasingly vocal and the volume reached a crescendo when Jack Grealish and Dons midfielder George Baldock clashed on the touchline.

The home crowd were adamant that Baldock should see red but referee Geoff Eltringham instead put both players into the book.

Meanwhile Alli was terrorising the County defence in pursuit of his hat-trick and a dangerous shot which bobbled wide of Bialkowski’s right hand post left away fans chanting his name.

But it was Notts fans who were next to celebrate on the 67 minute after the referee adjudged Dons defender Jordan Spence to have handled a Tyson cross and without hesitation pointed to the penalty spot.

Skipper Alan Sheehan took responsibility for the spot kick and his well placed shot into the bottom corner halved the deficit to 2-1.

County fans, sensing a comeback was on the cards, were in fine voice, contesting every refereeing decision that went against them.

Their enthusiasm had an immediate impact on the players, with Tyson continuing to impress with his excellent work rate and determination to win the ball.

However the Dons shrewdly slowed down the tempo in an effort to inhibit County’s growing ascendancy.

Four minutes of stoppage was met with a roar of encouragement from the County faithful and a late corner saw goalkeeper Bialkowski join the penalty area melee.

But the home fans were left stunned as the resulting counter attack saw Powell feed the ball to Alli and his shot took a touch off Hollis before nestling into the net for his and Dons’ third goal.

After the match, manager Shaun Derry lamented his side’s poor defending and inability to finish the chances his side created.

He said: “It was a case of absolute school boy defending all over the pitch and we’ve just given those goals away.

“We’re still making the same fundamental errors every single time we go on the pitch.

“It just goes to show how ruthless you’ve got to be when you get your chances and MK Dons were ruthless with their chances to tonight which is why we’ve lost the game.”

County’s next game is a crucial away tie this Saturday against fellow relegation strugglers Tranmere Rovers.

Alex Clarke

@alexclarke881

 

Five players that will determine Forest’s fortunes

Jamie-Paterson1

IT’S been a mixed month for Nottingham Forest and it’s safe to say there have been more lows than highs in the past few weeks. A disappointing FA Cup exit against struggling League One outfit Sheffield United has been compounded by a bittersweet draw against Championship leaders Leicester and a loss against Burnley which has widened the gap between Forest and the automatic promotion spots to 8 points.

Regardless there is certainly no argument surrounding the importance of Forest’s remaining 14 matches which include touch ties against the likes of Wigan, Ipswich, QPR and fierce rivals Derby County. Forest manager Billy Davies has emphasised on numerous occasions (and by numerous I mean every single post match interview) the long list of injuries that has plagued the Reds throughout this season.

But with each injury comes an opportunity for other individuals to shine – and listed below are the five starlets that could make or break Nottingham Forest’s Premier League dream:

5. Karl Darlow

Thrust into the limelight last season after Lee Camp’s controversial exit to Norwich, the young goalkeeper has quickly won over the Forest faithful. His impressive performances throughout the 13/14 season has even attracted interest from top flight suitors. However could a shaky performance against Leicester last week signal the start of a confidence crisis for the relatively inexperienced 23-year-old? Only time will tell, but the form of Darlow could prove significant to Forest’s push for automatic promotion.

jack-hobbs-celebration-4340-1082457_478x359

4. Jack Hobbs

It was third time lucky for Forest owner Fawaz Al-Hazawi and as he finally managed to capture the 25-year-old defender on a pre-contract agreement from Hull City. Hobbs has been an integral component of Forest’s defensive successes this season and I’m sure most Forest fans would agree that the Reds’ back line just hasn’t looked the same when he hasn’t been playing. A winning goal against rivals Derby County has quickly elevated Hobbs to cult hero status and his re-introduction to Forest’s defence following an ankle injury will be a welcome relief.

3. Jara Reyes

A stricken central midfield injury list has left Billy Davies with little choice than to play the Chilean right back in the holding role sitting in front of Forest’s back four. Yet in recent matches the 28-year-old has made that position his own, pulling the strings with his impressive vision and creativity. He looks assured and composed on the ball and should Henri Lansbury or David Vaughan make a surprise return before the end of the season they would find it difficult to oust him from the side.

2. Jamie Paterson

Despite a series of frustrating hot and cold performances from Forest in recent weeks there is one player who has never failed to shine. Four goals in his last five game demonstrates Billy Davies has succeeded in ushering the young winger into the limelight at exactly the right time. Fleeting glimpses of potential at the beginning of the season have been replaced with a series of majestic performances and Paterson’s trickery and ability to ghost past players with ease is something Forest fans haven’t seen for years at the City Ground.

1. Andy Reid 

Despite one of the most successful January transfer windows in Forest’s history, perhaps the best piece of business Forest did was to confirm a new contract agreement with Irish midfielder Andy Reid. The 31-year-old possesses a keen eye and his cultured left foot is probably the most potent outside of the Premier League. He has the ability to create something out of nothing and when Reid does not start or isn’t on song Forest just don’t look as dangerous – as we found out to our peril against Burnley on Saturday. Made captain due to the long-term injury of fan favourite Chris Cohen, Reid’s creativity and flair is easily the most vital aspect of Forest’s footballing game and a string of impressive performances could well spell the difference between automatic promotion or another play-off lottery for the Reds.

 

Alex Clarke (@alex.clarke881)

Best football parodies on Twitter

jYjHJ1zHI’M sure we’re all well versed in the shameless Twitter activities of footballers, past and present. Whether it’s Gary Lineker slamming the England national team or Joey Barton verbally abusing his followers, it’s always entertaining to watch these sporting celebrities embarrass themselves on the web. Yet receiving far less limelight are those parody accounts which provide an even more ludicrous, and often crass, level of entertainment. Here are the top 5 which, when given a follow, are sure to spice up your Twitter timeline.

5. Boring James Milner (@BoringMilner) – 111,700 followers

The Manchester City midfielder’s boring post-match interviews and less than charismatic personality have inspired one of Twitter’s most hilarious parodies. Boring James Milner discusses all banal aspects of life – from ensuring your ironing is done the night before a big game to remarking on how easy on orange is to peel. Mind-numbingly brilliant.

4. Emmanuel Eboue (NOT) (@Eboue_27) – 125,844 followers

For over two years this account was actually believed to be the real Emannuel Eboue – it even fooled former teammate Bacary Sagna. The account often pokes fun at his old club Arsenal – and the real Eboue was reportedly less than impressed when he discovered its existence. Unashamedly abusive.

3. notBigSam (@TheBig_Sam) – 150,000 followers

Not for the faint-hearted, this Twitter account mercilessly impersonates its straight talking namesake. Best read after a few pints of bitter and while chewing a packet of gum – Big Sam’s parody is a no-nonsense misogynist who also writes a blog for betting giants Paddy Power. Sexist wind-up merchant.

2. John NOT Terry (@BigJohnTerry) – 208,520 followers

It doesn’t take a genius to guess which area of the Chelsea defender’s private life this parody focuses on. The account colourfully claims to have ‘smashed 90% of the women in London’ and often discusses polygamous liaisons with other footballers’ wives. Strictly for over 18s.

1.Evil Kagawa (@evilkagawa) – 231,368 followers

Fully justified, this parody account proudly sits as one of the most popular sporting parody accounts on Twitter. Although Evil Kagawa can often be slightly racist and extremely abusive, there is more often than not substance to his tweets. Most recently seen abusing David Moyes – Kagawa’s fictional alter-ego raises genuine questions concerning the midfielders’ lack of playing time at Manchester United. Twisted genius.

Alex Clarke

@alexclarke881 (not a parody)

Why Arsenal won’t win the league

Manchester-City-vs-Arsenal-2926199A MINOR setback or an absolute calamity? I’d settle for the latter when discussing the almost catastrophic dismantlement of Arsenal by title rivals Manchester City on Saturday. Arsenal’s 6-3 hammering has exposed and effectively underlined the reasons why Arsenal will not be lifting the Premier League title aloft come May.

The Gunner’s display at the weekend above all else highlighted Arsenal’s lack of squad depth. An over reliance on summer signing Mesut Ozil was made painstakingly obvious, with the midfielder’s lacklustre performance compounding a miserable day for Arsenal fans. Olivier Giroud’s goal-scoring form has dried up in recent weeks after failing to find the net in his last four appearances. And who’s there to give the Frenchman a breather or replace him if an injury occurs? Despite a goal against Hull, Nicklas Bendtner’s name doesn’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of opposition defenders.

Arsenal have clawed their way to the top of the pile by dispatching the league’s relegation and mid-table fodder – yet have come up short when faced with tougher opposition. Losses to Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City clearly demonstrate that the London side just can’t compete with their fellow title contenders.

The saying ‘winning breeds winners’ is an old racehorse adage – yet it is particularly pertinent when deliberating over Arsenal’s chances of lifting the title this season. True, a number of Arsenal players have experienced varying degrees of success elsewhere – yet none of them have a Premier League winners’ medal to their name- and this lack of experience is likely to manifest itself over a tough Christmas period.

@alexclarke881

Joe Hart’s replacement: The contenders?

Joe Hart

AFTER being dropped to the bench by his club following a string of questionable performances, Joe Hart’s position as England’s number one could also be in jeopardy. But if the Manchester City goalie was to be dropped, who would take his place?

5. Alex McCarthy

Perhaps the most surprising inclusion on this shortlist, the Reading goalkeeper is yet to appear in an England shirt at senior level. However, during the close of last season McCarthy produced some outstanding performances and has been solid so far this campaign, with Reading currently lying fifth in the Championship. Although the 23 year old continues to improve, a consistent run in the top flight is probably necessary for McCarthy to stake a serious claim.

4. Jack Butland

At only 20 years old, Jack Butland is certainly a goalkeeper for the future. He has been on the international scene from an early age, representing England at all age-group levels, as well as being Great Britain’s first choice keeper at the 2012 London Olympics. Another player who desperately needs Premier League experience to solidify a claim; some might say that the Stoke goalie has taken a step back by going on loan to Championship relegation candidates Barnsley.

rob green3. Rob Green

The 2010 South Africa World Cup, England vs USA. Clint Dempsey drives a left footed shot from outside the area. It looks like an easy save for England goalkeeper Robert Green, but somehow the ball inexplicably squirms out of his gloves and dribbles over the line. Some claim this goalkeeping howler is the reason England were eliminated from the competition so early, with a win against the USA guaranteeing a top spot in the group and a second round tie against Ghana instead of Germany. Rob Green has only made one appearance for his country since that fateful day, but is his current form in the Championship could help in his push for an England call-up. QPR have the best defensive record in the league and Rob Green’s impressive nine clean sheets has even condemned Brazilian number one Júlio César to the reserves.

2. John Ruddy

Widely regarded as England’s number two goalkeeper, the 27-year-old will not have helped his claim to the number one shirt over the weekend with a calamitous on Saturday, conceding seven goals against Manchester City. However Ruddy is clearly a talented goalie, having been voted Norwich’s 2012/13 Player’s Player of the Season. With Hart’s diminished form, Ruddy will continue to be a viable candidate.

1. Fraser Forster

Fraser Forster in action for Celtic

All eyes were on Celtic’s Fraser Forster this weekend after Joe Hart was dropped by Manchester City. Although the 25-year-old has been a regular in Roy Hodgson’s England squad, he is yet to make an appearance, perhaps compounded by him playing his football outside of the EPL. However it is rumoured that Forster is due to start in the friendly against Chile on November 15. A good performance could well see him keep Hart out of the England starting line-up for good. Incidentally, one of the scouts spotted during Celtic’s recent win over Ajax was from Manchester City, indicating Forster could well be replacing Hart at both club and international level.

Alex Clarke