So with the "sad" (I mean exciting) news that we will be playing in the Championship next season, pre-match BRAPA options are already on my planning agenda, with the 23 venues now decided (thanks a flippin' bunch Norwich!).
Of course, by mid-September, the 2016 GBG will be published so you could argue the following exercise is more pointless than a dicegame in a darkened room with Richard Osman, but I'll give it a go anyway......
BIRMINGHAM CITY - Ahh Brum! Ticked off a lot of newbies on 30th Aug 2014 during a phantom Aston Villa day, but it is such a big city, there are still plenty to do. 11am opener WOODMAN is attracting most of my attention, especially as it's grade 2 listed and even nearer the ground, the SPOTTTED DOG gets busy on football days but has to be done, maybe nip in for a quick one on 12 noon opening. Still 4 city centre ones I need too. Should also pop in to POST OFFICE VAULTS as I owe them big time!
BLACKBURN ROVERS .... Good lord, the fact me n Dad often stick to the non-guide listed ADELPHI says it all, especially as the police normally turn up at some stage for a non-football related reason. Guide wise, the BLACK BULL listed under Blackburn but in Livesey (so nearer ground) looks decent, could perhaps be combined with 11am opener STATION HOTEL by Cherry Tree station, before a train to Mill Hill to make the walk to Ewok Park easier. Both Darwen and Wilpshire may be worth considering.
BOLTON WANDERERS .... In recent years, Dad and I have preferred the Horwich angle and with me not sure if the BOWLING GREEN has been done as well as the other two, it'd be nice to confirm. However, with 5 still to do in Bolton, it would make sense to come here even if none of the ones I need open pre 12 noon. Late train back to York for after match ticking purposes?
BRENTFORD .... I don't think the MAGPIE & CROWN has been visited before, it's 12 noon and near the station but as the only Brentford listing, will it be too obvious? Maybe not if the 4 corners of ground all still have a pub (I've been in 3 of these 4). I'm thinking Isleworth's two (one an 11am opener LONDON APPRENTICE) might be a good outside box option. Note - 10 points deduction in my quiz on this day for anyone who says "oooh, today is a ground tick for me!"
BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION ..... Overnight stop? More on them later. I've done a fair bit of Brighton (and some of Lewes I can't remember pub names for) but eight pubs still to do including a couple of 11am openers, it'd be rude not to have a stab at all of them and squeeze in a cheeky half at EVENING STAR cos it is such a good pub.
BRISTOL CITY ..... Dad's initial thought was the cider place (not currently guide listed) and it's location is so good, I'd be tempted, but I am thinking overnight stop is a real option here too. Too many central pubs still to do, it even has some pre 12 noon openers now like CANTEEN (nr Montpellier station), BEER EMPORIUM and NO 1 HARBOURSIDE. I'd start now if I could.
Bedminster area may be worth looking at too, 4 pubs and not far from Ashton Gate.
BURNLEY .... Well, on the plus side, we still have Wetherspoons BRUN LEA and the further away RIFLE VOLUNTEER to tick off which I'll be aiming for. Further to this, I'm quite happy to visit Bridge Bier Huis and/or Minstry of Ale (why not in Guide?) once again. Bootleggers was decent too,
CARDIFF CITY .... I'm doing my Cardiff archives soon and despite lots of visits, still a good few central pubs to do. RUMMER TAVERN and ZERODEGREES are two I've physically stood outside but not quite been in! These'd be easy ticks. The other side of the bridge has pubs like MOCHYN DU and CRICKETERS which I'm not sure I've done, whilst going out to local stations like Cathays may generate 2 or 3 new ticks, the 11am ANDREW BUCHAN for example. No excuses not to get some ticks in here, even if just 2 or 3.
CHARLTON ATHLETIC ..... Woolwich worked well last time, but options aren't amazing around this area so am wondering if approaching it from the other side might be beneficial. Something like Blackheath, Eltham or even Greenwich. ROYAL STANDARD near Westcombe Park is 11am and looks a very good pub.
DERBY COUNTY .... Despite my January trip, I still have some (8) absolute crackers to do though most on the far side of town to Pride Park or whatever it is now called. Early train, start at GREYHOUND 11am, a few more on way back in to town, then ALEXANDRA post match is a rough idea of what I might like to happen here.
FULHAM ..... Once again, choosing something on or near the District line might be a good idea and though options are more limited after recent trips here and Chelsea, Earl's Court and Chelsea itself still have ticks and some proper White Hart Lane-esque research might give me an idea of pubs near each venue of the District Line. Chiswick and Hammersmith both look close to tube stops and have lots of pub options.
HUDDERSFIELD TOWN .... If the police allow me into town this year, I'll be sad to declare I've visited all thanks to my midweek West Yorkshire BRAPA trips, though to see Ben's and Christine's eyes light up when he sees the blackboard in the GROVE would make any trip to the Meccano worthwhile.
HULL CITY .... Thought I better include this shambles of a football team. I only need the NEW ADELPHI CLUB from the current GBG, it only opens 8pm, so the best scenario is an early season midweek game at home to Ipswich where we are 2-5 down after 15 minutes, the game gets abandoned due to a pitch invasion and feeling unsatisfied, me and Dad pop to said club for an Oakham Citra before the drive back to York and a much amusing Radio Humberside phone in where Dave Burns murders Dr Allam live on air.
IPSWICH TOWN ..... Only yesterday was Ben banging on about a trip to ST JUDE'S (OBSCURE) TAVERN next season. That got Dad on the DOVE STREET defensive. I will rise above it all and say there are plenty more pubs needed. 4 or 5 but due to the inbredness of the town, they have 'home fans only' pubs still like it's the 80's. Bless 'em all. See you in BREWERY TAP 11am.
THE WH*TE SH*TE - Obviously, working in L**ds means I've done the lot so no BRAPA ticks likely as we speak, but hopefully my knowledge will find us a classic or two that won't be busy and now I know the Holbeck area, that's even more tempting. GROVE anyone?
MIDDLESBROUGH - Ben reckons it's a fair trek but new micro pub DR PHIL's REAL ALE HOUSE is a must for me. Am sure busses and taxis are an option. Also, the Swatters Carr Wetherspoons was very impressive on FA Cup day last time out. The Star had gone downhill.
MILTON KEYNES DONS - Tricky because MK doesn't have much in the way of old pubs or even commitment to ale. THE BARN in the only central tick I need, it is part of a Premier Inn so am not expecting too much! Still, a tick is a tick. Maybe a train out to Fenny Stratford's RED LION would make sense, or a trip out to Willen's SHIP ASHORE, a pub of the year with 11:30 opener but without a car, looks a tricky one. Still, Bucks is quite high on my overall agenda for BRAPA so there is some sense of urgency to get ticks in.
NOTTINGHAM FOREST - It'd be hard not to just retire to the VAT & FIDDLE but as BRAPA demands, a few ticks on the outskirts of the centre like MAJOR OAK and ORGAN GRINDER are needed, and if I was thinking outside the penalty area, then two in West Bridgford are needed but is this where all the home fans go on match days - Poppy & Pint and Stratford House? Worth thinking about.
PRESTON NORTH END - It would be nice to finally get a classic non rushed pre-match session at Preston after so many foiled attempts. Stupid trains, evening kick offs, family do's, sister ex boyfriends, overrunning work meetings, everything has conspired against us over the years! Sadly, apart from the 'Spoons, the other new pub ticks all look a bit out of town, the ANDERTON ARMS is at least in the vicinity but two miles from the centre. May just have to bite the bullet and have a nice day in some of my old centre favourites, just for my sanity!
QUEENS PARK RANGERS - Last season, we did Hanwell and were unlucky with train problems, but passing the SIR MICHAEL BALCON 'Spoons in Ealing as we bussed it in made me think there are 5 pubs in this area I need to tick off, so why not have an Ealing day?
READING - This is the one I'm looking at most keenly, and I'll tell you why. If I complete Bedfordshire this year as per my monthly challenge (unlikely as I'm having a 'break' in August due to punk fest and unknown fixture list but the dream is still on!), Berkshire will become my focus. First pub the BELL INN in Aldworth is middle of nowhere but sounds incredible and a must. Reading nearest big place. If I could combine this with an overnight stop on the Friday (perhaps getting a few ticks at places like Upper Basildon, Tilehurst and Caverhsam's duo) I could be ready for a Nag's Head session with everyone on the Saturday pre-match Or be even more adventurous and do some of the other 4 pubs - which i'm glad to say includes the former Hobgoblin now just called the Alehouse. Rules state I need to revisit if a pub changes it's name.
ROTHERHAM UTD - So glad now I decided to forgo my May trip to Rotherham where there are 4 pubs in the guide plus one out at Greasborough. I'll be aiming to be in early for breakfast in the BLUECOAT, whilst I reckon the NEW YORK TAVERN will be the biggest challenge.
SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY - It's all getting a bit South Yorkshire isn't it? The HILLSBROUGH has been on my list since the 2-4 victory night, the BLAKE HOTEL at Walkley is a good opportunity, and three out at Kelham Island I've not been to before mean surely I can make this a productive day.
WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS - As recently proved in the archives, the GREAT WESTERN is good but unlucky. I'd love to solve the NEWHAMPTON/COMBERMERE conundrum, but you've also got to think about the many other good sounding pubs in town, about 10 in total. I'd be stupid not to try and have a stab at three or more of these. Some early openers too so early train a must.
So there you have it, I'd like to thank Mr Bruce, Dr Allam & son and most of the players for helping me expand my BRAPA horizons between August 2015-May 2016 and If I'm sat here writing about Colchester, Gillingham, Sheff Utd and Swindon in a year, back-to-back relegation will have it's compensations!