Chris Taylor looks forward to enjoying the football in (relative) freedom
A year ago we sat trussed up in face masks dripping in sanitiser awaiting the non-arrival of Euro 2020. With nothing to do but sit in lockdowned and furloughed tedium, we had a month of footballing festivity dangled in front of our expectant faces like one of those feathers on a string you persecute your pet cat with, only to see it suddenly whipped away at the last minute.
But this is 2021, a whole year later. We’re emerging, blinking into the sun, like giddy caterpillars. Pubs, bars and restaurants are sort of open, limited travel is allowed if not yet realistic, and football has decided that it costs too much to rebrand an entire tournament, and so Euro 2020 is belatedly here.
If the excitement of watching England’s elimination at the hands of the first decent team they face wasn’t enough for you...
We are surely by now sick and tired of cocooning ourselves in our homes, pestering local breweries for drop offs as we wait for Deliveroo to deposit food upon our greasy and hungry doorsteps while we binge watch Poldark on Netflix.
So as Euro 2020 aggressively confronts us like a sunburnt, plastic chair-wielding hooligan confronts a polite Belgian family in a continental piazza, we look at the best places to follow the action in and around Manchester.
A huge fan park has been created at Event City next to the Trafford Centre. For 34 quid a pop you can get a table with snacks and drink included, in front of the UK’s biggest screens. If the excitement of watching England’s elimination at the hands of the first decent team they face wasn’t enough for you, they’ll be further stoking the atmosphere with pre-match DJs and the opinions of former professionals not quite good enough to secure a gig with the BBC or ITV.
For other lovers of al fresco supporting, the Oast House has erected a large screen and will be showing most matches. The England games are ticket only, £10 per person, but it includes a free pint to throw over the heads of nearby people should England score. Other games are non-ticket events, but may not have the sound on.
For the beard-stroking cognoscenti, Libero in Altrincham is a craft ale bar with a retro football aesthetic. Set in lovely Kings Court, Libero have erected a marquee outside and will have every match on the three screens. The Libero team's love of football, beer and their local community shines through in everything they do. To book a table, send them a DM on Twitter at @wearelibero
It is notoriously difficult to get a decent pint of cask ale and watch football at the same time in the city centre. However, the Grey Horse on Portland Street is a Good Beer Guide regular and a favourite haunt of football fans from across Manchester, England and, when life is more normal, Europe. The capacity may be small but that creates a friendly and raucous atmosphere, and means the queue for the bar is never too long. No bookings are necessary, it’s a casual first-come, first-serve arrangement, and it’s been suggested that free, themed snacks will be offered. And who doesn’t like free, themed snacks?
If traditional pubs are your thing, then over at the Sir Ralph Abercromby it’s also first-come first-served. Outside in the garden, there are multiple TVs, socially distanced space for 130 people and, arguably best of all, a Victorian tram cart serving beer and hotdogs.
For those who like their football more Tiki Taka than Blood and Thunder, El Rincon de Rafa is the place to go. Hiding behind Deansgate, just off St James Street, El Rincon has been Manchester’s most authentic tapas bar for years. The walls are festooned with football memorabilia, and they regularly show matches up on the big telly. Experiencing a Spain game here is a must, and the fact you can do it while eating albondigas or espinicas con garbanzo is just an added Steve Brucey bonus.
If the idea of having your tea while watching the match appeals, but Spanish isn’t your thing, then squirrelled away above a kebab shop in the Village is Habesha, an Ethiopian restaurant with a big love of football. A genuine hidden gem that serves fantastic food, Habesha is a known haunt of Manchester United’s Juan Mata. Despite being packed for Premier League games, they don’t expect you to need to book for the Euros.
Up in the Northern Quarter, Pen and Pencil is showing every single match. Good grub guaranteed but booking is recommended especially for England matches. If you're NQ bound, then Smithfield Social, Lost Cat, Tib Street Tavern, Bunny Jacksons and Dive Bar are also options.
NQ-based Tariff & Dale is turning its basement into a Euro 2020 experience showing every single game. Providing the same great menu – including sourdough pizza and burgers - as well as steins of beer, they’re splitting the room in half, with a huge projector screen at each end. Book online or give them a ring to reserve your spot.
There’s little Manchester does better than football and music. One of the newcomers to our nightlife scene, The Blues Kitchen, is showing all England games in its Concert Hall. As soon as the referee blows the final whistle, the house band will take to the stage to play funk, soul and rock and roll. DJs finish off the night, playing what's described as a “timeless selection of rhythm and blues” until 2am. Book online, though walk-ins are welcome. For a more low-key feel, Withington Public Hall is also screening matches for £5 a ticket and encouraging families to come along.
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