THE PIE-OFF

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The Pie Premier League

A pie, a pint and a match. It’s a holy trinity that makes a chilly February in the stands almost bearable. We sent Jamie Bowman out into the away end to rate the best pitch-side pies in the north. 

Liverpool FC’s recent announcement regarding match day hospitality in their new Main Stand raised more than a few eyebrows among the seasoned supporters of the beautiful game. From the eye watering prices (packages start from £2,900) to the name of the new sports bar (‘The Anfield Dugout’) alarm bells were already ringing before the promise of a “vibrant mix of complimentary street food” sealed the deal. While some fans will undoubtedly lick their lips at the thought of “vibrant Asian”, I’m sure I won’t be alone in wondering where this leaves the most essential of half time snacks: the pie. Thankfully, the wonderful Pie Hole at Homebaked, over the road, is set to be a more permanent fixture than, say, whoever happens to be managing them as we go to press.

There are few things more British than consuming a pie in order to keep warm during those bleak Tuesday nights and as a football reporter based in the North West for the last decade, I’ve come to regard their life-saving properties as a nigh on essential part of my working day.

“THERE ARE FEW THINGS MORE BRITISH THAN CONSUMING A PIE TO KEEP WARM ON THOSE BLEAK TUESDAY NIGHTS”

Sadly, as the Reds’ example proves, the humble pie’s status isn’t what it was and these days most grounds will only sell mass produced brands such as those made by Shire, Peter’s and the ubiquitous Pukka. Actually, talking of Pukka, Rotherham United’s pie-loving supporters hold the record for the most pies consumed at a match: with consumption 40% above the Football League average. And it was at their Millmoor ground that the Pukka Pie first hit the fan.

But dig deep throughout the footballing pyramid and you’ll find a few juicy gems to satiate that freezing feeling only some hot meat can remedy. So here’s a rundown of a few of the home wins on offer at our local football grounds.

  1. Morecambe

Consistently voted the best pies in the league, League Two Morecambe’s savouries have become legendary amongst connoisseurs. Supplied by local firm Potts, the Shrimpers decided to bring their pie making in house and gave the job to Graham Aimson who quickly turned lowly Morecambe into the must visit ground for pie lovers. Highlights include the chicken, ham and leek pie and a meat and potato pie that is akin to a Lancashire hot pot encased in pastry. Wonderful.

2. Ramsbottom United

I cut my football reporting teeth following Marine FC around the frozen north and during that time enjoyed a variety of culinary horror stories (sorry Nantwich). But more often than not, the lower down the leagues you tumble, the better and cheaper is the pie. Northern Premier League Ramsbottom is a typical example of the good value to be found in non league. Extra marks too for serving tea in real mugs which are then collected by a lady walking the ground during the match.

3. Manchester City 

Disproving my theory is mega rich Manchester City whose pies are easily the best in the Premier League – and at £4, the most expensive too. Bringing in Fabulous Fan Fayre – a company linked to Jamie Oliver – has proved to be a winner at the Etihad Stadium. The Beef Bourguignon pie is a particular treat with its mixture of tender beef, button mushrooms, a red wine jus and delicate herbs. I kid you not.

4. Everton

Another Premier League bright spot is at Goodison Park where Everton’s pies are made by East-Lancashire based Clayton Park Bakery who also supply Oldham Athletic and Rochdale. Three choices including ‘Goodison’ Steak, Chicken and Gravy and Scouse ensure a decent feed. Website Pierate has moaned about the apparently disappointing meat-to-gravy ratio, but there was no such shortcomings with ours.

5. Blackburn Rovers 

Although I’m quite partial to Rovers’ Balti pies and they look after visiting journalists well, it’s to neighbouring Leaver’s Bakery where pie lovers head. Leaver’s have been around for over 100 years and have proved a beacon for generations of football fans visiting Ewood Park. Meat and potato pies are the speciality but the great service from the lovely ladies behind the counter is the real proof in the pudding.

6. Glossop North End

Evo Stick North Div One club Glossop North End has enjoyed some big days out in recent years, reaching Wembley twice in the final of the FA Vase. Each time local award winning Mettricks Butchers have turned their pork pies blue to match their team’s kit and donated a percentage of the sales to the club. Their meat and potato pies, which are also sold at the club’s Derbyshire ground have won the football pie category at the British Pie Awards.

7. Frickley Athletic

Frickley Athletic play in the small town of South Elmsall in the shadow of the site of one of the largest coal mines in the UK, the scene for major disturbances during the strikes, and one of the last to return to work. The club’s Westfield Lane ground retains some of that defiant mood with its windswept bleakness and fervent atmosphere. Food is purchased from the strangely named ‘Big Fellas Snack Bar’, where copious peas, gravy, mint sauce and chips are slopped into your tray with a substantial pie for under £4.

WHO ATE ALL THE PIES?

It’s up there will all those knotty conundrums, like solving the P versus NP problem, or figuring out a universal theory of everything. Because many have asked, but the question remains: Who ate all the pies?

The inquisitive interjection’s still something of a rallying cry from the stands of the British football ground. But why?

The history of pies in football goes back further than you might think. According to The Penguin Book of Cliches, the question was first posed from the terraces of Sheffield United, when their supporters chanted “who ate all the pies?” during the 1894 season.

The object of their enquiry was their own goalkeeper, the fabulously rotund William “Fatty” Foulke, who weighed over 21 stone – a Guinness Book of Records entry for the heaviest ever footballer. Since then, the sport’s taken the chant as its own, with ex-Newcastle United frontman, Liverpool-born Mick Quinn using the phrase as the title of his autobiography.