Teams take inspiration from visit to Liverpool’s training ground ahead of BT Sport Pub Cup regional heats kick-off.
Three landlords and their regulars had the chance to learn from the professionals ahead of their BT Sport Pub Cup debuts.
Teams from The Masons Arms in Billinge, The Spital Vaults in Chester and The Lion Tavern in Birkenhead will all be taking part in the North West BT Sport Pub Cup qualifier at Goodison Park next month.
Ahead of the tournament, they joined BT Sport for an exclusive visit to Liverpool’s Melwood training ground.
There they had the chance to glimpse a behind closed doors training session, grab photos with club manager Jurgen Klopp and star player Mo Salah and quiz first teamers Danny Ings, Dejan Lovren and Alberto Moreno on all things football.
Jurgen Klopp signs a shirt for licensee Danny Williams
For Liverpool fan Ian Smith, it was the chance of a lifetime.
He is the landlord at The Masons Arms in Billinge, near Wigan, a pub that has been in his family for the best part of 200 years. He visited Melwood with business partner and brother-in-law John Ruffell and members of Billinge FC, who will be representing the pub in the tournament.
Ian said: “I’m a Red so this was too good an opportunity to miss. It was great to see Klopp, the players and the set-up here.
“It’s been really good this season with the Champions League as a Liverpool fan and it has been great for business as well.”
Ian Smith and John Ruffell from the Masons Arms take in the scene at Melwood
Ian said the trip has given the team even more motivation to do well.
“The players are really excited and up for the opportunity to play at Goodison. We entered last year and didn’t get picked so it was great to get the call this time.”
And Ian might even dust off his goalie gloves to play in the tournament himself.
Similarly, Danny Williams, licensee at The Lion in Birkenhead, will be playing between the sticks at Goodison. That experience will be even more special for the lifelong Evertonian. However, he also enjoyed the trip to his club’s rivals.
“It was great, even though I support Everton, and it’s got me really pumped-up and excited about playing at Goodison. We have put a team together for the tournament. We all used to play seven-a-side so the heats should suit us.”
Players from The Spital Vaults in Chester will also fancy their chances. Shane McKenzie, licensee at the Marston’s pub, was at Melwood with Liverpool supporting players from the pub’s Sunday league side.
The Spital Vaults squad meet the Liverpool trio of Ings, Lovren and Moreno
He said: “They play at a reasonable standard and are top of their league, so they will have a chance. They will be going to Goodison to win. There are some big Liverpool fans in the team so coming here was an incredible experience for them. It’s really something different getting the chance to come here.”
As well as running two football teams, the sports pub also has darts, pool and a bagatelle team, showing how important grass-roots sport is to the business
“We’ve got lots going on here which always keeps us busy. Football is big for us and Liverpool’s run in the Champions League has been something else this season.”
The pros pass on advice to the Pub Cup players and publicans
The three pubs will be hoping to secure the one qualification spot from the North West heat. The winners will head to the semi-final stage at St George’s Park in Burton. They will compete against successful sides from five other regional heats played at top grounds across the country.
Two finalists will emerge from Burton to play for the BT Sport Pub Cup trophy on June 2 at Leicester’s King Power stadium.
As well as the title, the winning team will receive £5,000 of equipment and a free BT Sport subscription for a year for their pub.