Aside from the 90 minutes of football, the half time pie and pint is an essential part of a matchday for many. It can make or break someone’s experience at a stadium and leave people vowing to never return.
Across the country, clubs offer a wide variety. While some resort to the classic Rollover Hot Dogs, others have ventured down the route of creativity. From chicken tikka wraps at Aston Villa, to buffalo wings at Horsforth St Margaret’s, times are changing.
Non-league clubs have turned to food as a way of growing attendances, and Avro FC, an Oldham-based side in the North West Counties Premier Division, are no different. The club have recently become a hit on social media, for their mouth-watering menu which has attracted ground-hoppers for the sole purpose of their food.
Meet James Hegarty, Avro’s volunteer chef who serves a wide variety of delicious meals from ‘Macies’ food truck. Located within the Vestacare Stadium, the truck operates in a non-profit way with any money raised going straight into improving the facilities and the club.
From classic football grub to more healthier alternatives, the 27-year-old has made sure to include vegetarian and vegan options in order to cater for all as he believes, the food is the most important element within a stadium.
“The way to someone’s heart is through food. It is what someone remembers,” said James, who spends his weekdays working in catering at a university.
James, who has worked in a number of Manchester restaurants, decided a menu change was needed only a few months back in order to “keep up to date and keep things exciting”. ‘The club’s meat is sourced from a local family butchers, and the Gorton-born chef believes it is important to keep the classics but with a twist.
“We wanted to be as fresh and healthy as possible, but still serve the good old classic football grub you expect to see at a stadium,” added James.
“We want people to come down for a few drinks, have a burger but one that would be remembered, enjoyed and make people come back for.”
Avro went viral on Twitter when ‘Footy Scran’ – an account with over 250,000 followers – retweeted their steak and salt n pepper chips [£5] meal along with their ultimate burger [£7.50]. More than 20,000 people have liked the tweet, and among the 500-plus comments, many have complemented the prices.
“We have to make sure we are covering what it costs to make the food but because we are not doing it for a profit we try and keep the prices as low as possible,” James said when asked about the appealing prices.
“We are based in Oldham so we want the prices to be welcoming not just for footballing people but for the families and young people who live on the local estates.”
The chef’s recommendation, and social media sensation, steak and salt n pepper chips, has been a key factor behind the club’s increased attendances. James revealed many opposing players, and visiting supporters, have praised the food, with many planning a return.
“Since the steak post went viral it has been mental. We have had ground-hoppers come from places like Liverpool just to try the food – it is crazy at the minute,” he said.
“The recommendation would definitely be the steak but if you wanted something more on the handheld side, then you have to go for the chicken and halloumi wrap with salt n pepper chips.”
The truck is open on Saturday’s and Sunday’s providing fresh food and beverages at Avro and rugby league side Oldham RLFC matchdays. For all the hard work, James – and many more volunteers – put in at the club, the positive feedback makes everything worthwhile.
The chef added: “It has been amazing just to see a bit of recognition after a few hard months with events at the ground and Covid-19, but we are finally getting through it and it is great to be getting some publicity.”
Avro FC – whose Twitter account is @AtAvro – are next at home on Wednesday in the Manchester FA Premier Cup semi-final against Ashton United, and the club would love as many people to come down, show support and, most importantly, try the food.