Who ate all the pies? Well I did actually!

A few months ago a fascinating story caught my eye in my Metro newspaper on my then daily commute to London (now my commute takes less than 4 minutes from luxury bachelor pad on the waterfront in cool Copenhagen to the office – well during the week anyway!). It was a story about a mad chap who had visited all 92 clubs in one season and wolfed down a pie at each one – who would be so crazy to do such a thing? Well all of the TBIR team would have, and having picked up the hotline to HQ in Brighton I can confirm that the EFW team would be on that mini-bus too.

Bolton Pie

After months of searching for our elusive pie-muncher I had to fall back on the excellent match making skills of Claire from Sky Sports Magazine, who is an Angel of the First Degree (the highest honour TBIR can bestow on anyone) who put us in touch with Tom Dickinson, the Pie Man extraordinaire and the rest as we say in this industry is gravy.

So here we go. Me, Tom and a plate full of assorted nibbles….

Obvious opening question – Best pie of the 92? Would have to be what’s on offer at Morecambe’s Christie Park. They’re supplied by a local independent company ‘Potts Pies’ and have more taste and depth than any of their rivals. I recommend the steak and ale.

Would you say you were a piexpert (new word created there and sent to Oxford English Dictionary) – could you pass the equivilant of the Pepsi challenge? I can bravely state ‘yes I can easily tell the difference between Hollands and Pukka in a Perpsi challenge!’ I might be less cocky if you had both in front of me though.

John Portsmouth Football Club Westwood
John Portsmouth Football Club Westwood

So next season lets say Tamworth are promoted – what will be your objective? I confess that the excitement of visiting a new ground is NOT about the pie. My journey was in all honesty more about seeing if I could actually visit the 92 grounds in just one season. The pie aspect was a bit of a gimmick, the ‘meaty glue’ that holds the 92 together.

It was about meeting the fans, seeing the different grounds and finding out what role these lower league clubs play in our society (and my adventure along the way)! That’s a bit long winded though so the press caught on to the pie aspect! I was bloody glad to see the back of pies after my 92nd match!   You park up, walk to the ground and pay your money to get in. What’s first – programme, match or pie? I tended to have it (the pie) straight away because clubs often sell out of them at half time, leaving you with a lukewarm grey slap of burger. Nonone wants that.

Any no-nos in terms of pie eating? I admit I’m a southern softy and use a fork. I can’t justify shoving it into my mouth. The more gravy the better! If I had my way I’d bring a hip-flask of gravy to the match and layer the pie in it to take the taste away.

TBIR like a game abroad or two as you know. Have you done a jaunt abroad yet looking for the foreign offering? The foreign pie – it’s something I (distressingly) am yet to encounter. I’m only 23 so I’ve got my years ahead of me to get to some foreign matches. I’m a Bolton fan, and I busted my balls to try and get some UEFA away tickets when we were in the competition a couple of years ago (particularly the Bayern Munich match) but missed out. If I can save some money then some European games will be on the cards sooner rather than later hopefully.

Maybe you can tell me though; do they have pies in the European stadiums? Are they in the bland English meat n potato mould or do they have a suitable slant in each country? Paella pies in spain? Sausage und sauer kraut pie in Deutchland? (insert other poorly thought-out European stereotypes here!).   I am still to find a decent offering abroad in terms of pies. Germany has its bizarre sausage and two rolls plate, Spain has its “bring your own bocadillo” and Italy just has ice cream. Here in Denmark it is your classic sausage and beer combination.

Frank Sinclair at Chester City
Frank Sinclair at Chester City

Have you had the infamous £5 Wembley pie yet? Yes! I have! I saw an England match and bought one. I am incredibly reluctant to say it was actually really good. I wanted to hate it but was proved wrong. Damn Wembley and their tasty corporate pastries.

So why did you decide to turn your back on a normal life and become a footballing hero? I decided to start my trek around Spring 2008, I had just graduated from uni and spent the entire summer working every hour to save enough money for the trip. I knew it would be a fascinating way to spend a year, and would provide a great story for people to read about.

Where did you start and finish? The 92 were all done between August 2008 (Charlton Athletic was my first) and May 2009 (ending at Bolton’s Reebok – to see my team at home for the first time that season!) I had to average between 2 and 3 a week, and often had to go to more, sleeping on floors and in my car all around the country! I became obsessed with meticulously inspecting fixture scheldules to see if it was possible, and (because of the big freeze in January and February) I very nearly failed!

As a world famous author (well so my daughters think) it would be rude not to ask – when’s the book coming out? Still in discussions with publishers but will hopefully be out early 2010!

Come on – confession time. What dirt can your exclusively reveal to the TBIR readers? I admit a couple of places didn’t have a pie, so I bought the nearest available substitute, think a gloopy meat pastry or something similar!

We are very in to our Non-League football at the moment – especially the Blue Square South. Has your planning reached down that far yet? Non league – again I was so obsessed with the 92 I have had little experience of the non-league sides, it’s on my must-do list of footy adventures though! Now my local side Luton have been relegated I’ve got 3 teams nearby (Luton, Stevenage and St Albans) that I need to get better acquainted with!

Accrington Stanley
Accrington Stanley

Ever need to use a pie as a weapon? No – but seeing 92 games in such quick succession in one season the quality often tired A LOT. At a certain few clubs (Chester, Walsall and Shrewsbury spring to mind) I certainly considered lobbing my pie at the players to get their arses into gear.

As a fully fledged member of the 92 (handing over special TBIR certificate made by Littlest Fuller), what is your favourite ground? I’m a massive fan of the old crumbly gorgeously shabby stadiums situated in the middle of a football loving community. Take your pick from Brentford, Exeter, Bradford, Fulham, I could name plenty of others. I’m very sad to see the back of Cardiff’s Ninian Park. I went to the new Cardiff City stadium last week, and whilst, yes, it’s big bold and brash it lacks any of the crappy romantic charm that their old ground had in abundance. Other similar bland new identikit grounds like at Colchester, Shrewsbury and the like get my vote as the worst. The best game I saw was either a 5-4 win at Peterborough, Derby’s first league win in an entire year (against Sheffield United) or Port Vale winning 4-3 at Huddersfield! All classics.

So what’s up next? My Scottish mate thinks I should do all the Scot league grounds as a follow up to ’92 pies’. 42 deep fried Mars bars perhaps?

And there we stopped, tucked into the pies and pasties and started forging a plan for sampling sausages in the Bundesliga. Many thanks to Claire for making this beautiful moment happen, and a big Football Friends Thumbs Up to Tom for sharing his stories with us.

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