It’s a trip to the city best described as Beiruit, only worse. Yes, our friendly North Staffs neighours are waiting to welcome us!
For those arriving by train Stoke away is a bit like being shot down behind enemy lines.
Three miles from the ground and with the video cameras zooming in donâ€™t expect to be welcomed by a bevy of beauties bearing garlands and invitations to the nearest hostelry.
More likely just remember the imaginary advertising phrase â€œSenokot donâ€™t do away trips but if they did, Stoke would be a classic stool softenerâ€.
Having sensibly avoided trapping any stray nasal hairs in the zipper of you coat before alighting the train, the next stage is to act casual and make it to the relatively cosmopolitan atmosphere of Leek Road. Once there you will be delighted to know that there are two bars directly opposite, namely The Roebuck and The Fawn and Firkin.
Both are pretty average â€œsawdust on the floorâ€ type student bars the former being of the â€œItâ€™s A Screamâ€ chain. Well it might be a scream if youâ€™re an 18 year old fresher trying to pop your cherry before your loan runs out, but for peace loving footy fans seeking the asylum of a quiet pint itâ€™s not the greatest.
The service can be not so much slow as random, and the beer often of the type where you donâ€™t realise itâ€™s not so nice until youâ€™ve nearly finished your pint. Not a great start to the day with the hike to the ground nagging at the back of oneâ€™s mind.
Head instead to the University less than five minutes walk down College St (left then right). and the award winning Ember Lounge. A contributor to the message board last week mentioned they admit non-NUS so Iâ€™ll go with that. Here you can get a relaxing drink and ring a taxi to the ground (recommended) or attempt one of the busses that leave from Glebe Road at the other end of Leek Road.
The bar itself is very well appointed with a good choice of reasonably priced beverages, and a snack and bar-meal menu. Soft lights and art deco feel give it that Casablanca ambiance, an oasis of calm atop the tension and hostility of the afternoonâ€™s local derby.
Once at the Brit you are as well to just go straight into the stadium where John Smiths and Fosters are readily available in outsize plastic bottles rather than brave the crowded home orientated Harvester on the A50, the only pub in close proximity to the ground.
If arriving by car and parking at the Power League Complex by the Toyota garage (Â£4 parking) there is a comfortable bar with Sky Sports at the complex, although getting out of the car-park can be a pain after the match.
Busses pick up the train travellers afterwards and whisk them back to the station black-leg style