Regulars in Jordan Pickford’s local pub in Wearside are preparing to cheer him on during England’s Euro 2020 quarter-final clash — one of thousands of pubs gearing up for a huge sporting weekend while still trying to maintain social distancing restrictions.
The Biddick Inn looks set to be rammed as the Three Lions go head to head with Ukraine in Rome on Saturday evening, if the phone ringing off the hook is anything to go by.
Assistant manager Tracy Macintosh says doing good business during the tournament isn’t straightforward while trying to adhere to the government’s Covid rules.
“The phone’s never stopped,” she tells The Independent. “People want to book in for the match but we aren’t reserving any tables for drinks.
“We are trying to organise so we can stick with regulations at the same time as trying to maintain good business. It’s proving to be a bit difficult.”
The 43-year-old, who has worked for 15 years at the Washington pub, says the locals are ready to cheer on the keeper at 8pm.
“We will all be rooting for him,” she says. “I know his family really well, they’ve come here for years and years. It’s mad watching him on the telly.”
She says she sees the football star, who is the only keeper in the competition yet to concede a goal, every now and again, “but he’s not really a big drinker”.
“He likes a J2O,” says Tracy. “He is lovely like that. He always breaks his neck to say hello, he is dead pleasant.”
In Oldham, David Mowbray tells a similar story of tricky social distancing rules stopping him from getting as many customers into the Colliers Arms as he’d like.
“It’s a bit of a mixed bag because we are full … but we can’t get the amount of people inside that we would like,” says the landlord, who has run the pub for 17 years.
“We had a queue down the road on Tuesday [during the England-Germany match] of people waiting to get in, which was good.
“Tuesday night matches are a huge bonus to us, because on a typical Tuesday let’s say we’re serving between 10 and 20 pints an hour – at one point on Tuesday night when we’d just opened the doors, in that first couple of hours we were dispensing well over 100 pints an hour, which is really good for a small backstreet pub in Oldham. So yeah, the sales boost is very much needed.
“We are a big rugby town so I’m hoping people get caught up in the euphoria, and if it carries on after Saturday then it can only be good for the Lions team.”
Sinead Murphy, who manages the White Horse, the closest pub to Wembley stadium in London, suspects Saturday won’t be as hectic as Tuesday, when England won 2-0 against Germany, but is looking forward to seeing busy trade nonetheless.
“Before the game on Tuesday the atmosphere was brilliant; it was just nice to feel some normality really,” she says.
“Because the football’s on on a Saturday, I think more people will come out to watch it in the pub environment for sure, so I definitely think there’ll be an uptick in sales.”
The Three Crowns in the West Sussex village of Wisborough Green had only been open for a matter of weeks when a Covid outbreak, thought to be linked to the Euros, forced its new owners to shut up shop again.
“We’ve just taken over this pub and we opened up three to four weeks ago, but unfortunately one staff member tested positive for Covid,” says Nick Pigott, who bought the pub with childhood friend Rupert Burstow.
“We shut down for eight days so we’ve just opened up again today.
“The last match we showed was the England game on Friday and we did abide by all the rules, but we still believe that’s when it came into the building.”
He says the pair are hoping for “a little boost” in sales this weekend but “it’s very difficult”.
According to the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), pubs are set to lose more than £5m in sales during the quarter-final, as more than 1.5 million fewer pints will be sold because of continuing restrictions.
The trade association has said it hopes England fans will buy 6 million pints during the game itself, and forecasts 19 million will be sold throughout the day – although it says this number would have been nearer 24 million pints if restrictions had been lifted.
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the BBPA, said: “As fans will not be able to attend the next match in Rome due to Covid restrictions, I urge England fans to support the team – and our pubs – by watching the game at their local where they can.”
Nigel Bunting, director of retail and tenanted pubs at Shepherd Neame, the country’s oldest brewer, added: “Such occasions do drive additional footfall to our pubs as people come together to socialise safely and celebrate the football, with an upturn in the drinks trade and less demand for meals.
“If England win, as we all hope, it gives the nation a great sense of euphoria, encouraging consumers to continue to come together to enjoy our pubs and celebrate.”