Blue Ball Wharncliffe Side: Historic Sheffield pub set to reopen after lengthy closure
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Tony Crofts, who is taking over the Blue Ball at Wharncliffe Side with his partner Jane Fletcher, grew up in a house just behind the pub, which he could see from his bedroom window, and he used to be a regular there.
When the opportunity arose to become the new landlord, Tony told The Star how he leapt at the chance, adding: "As soon as I walked into the pub again I knew I was home."
Karaoke, free buffet and complimentary fizz to mark reopening
Tony and Jane are set to open the doors again on Friday, December 15, from 7pm. To mark its rebirth, there will be a karoake disco that evening and a free buffet, plus a complimentary glass of fizz for everyone to welcome them back.
Tony said: "This used to be the heart of the community and we're excited to get it thriving again. It's not my pub, or Jane's. It belongs to the villagers and we're just the guardians."
He added: "Having been closed for 17 months it needed a bit of love putting back in.
"There have been some great landlords over the years, like Tony Baines, who had it during the 90s, and Alan and Joan Pashley, who ran it before that. We know we've got some big shoes to fill, but Jane and I are passionate about this place."
New landlord was known as 'singing barman'
Tony told how he briefly worked at a pub in Sutton-in-Ashfield some 30 years ago before starting a long career in care, looking after people with autism and those who were recovering from a stroke.
Keen for a change, he took a job at the Cock Inn, in Oughtibridge, where he became known as the singing barman because he would perform karaoke while collecting glasses. He is indebted to the landlady there, Jenny Murphy, who he said had been a great mentor.
That was followed by a brief stint as manager of Champs Sports Bar & Grill, on Ecclesall Road, before he teamed up with Jane to take on the Blue Ball.
Jane, who has lived in Sheffield all her life, worked in a school kitchen for many years and will be in charge of food at the Blue Ball, which the pair hope to start serving there from the second week of January, with only drinks initially being available.
Plans for Sunday carvery and menu featuring pub classics
Tony explained that the menu would include pub classics like fish and chips, along with a Sunday carvery and at some point down the line a midweek carvery on Wednesdays.
Among the fondly remembered former landlords at the Blue Ball is Liam Casey, who sadly died suddenly four years ago.
A toast is held in his memory every year and this year the Drink for Liam, as it has become known, will take place at the Blue Ball on December 27, from midday.
On New Year's Eve, there will be live music from Pete Sheridan, who was a regular performer at the Blue Ball back in the 90s when, Tony says, the place was 'absolutely bustling'. There will also be a free buffet and there will be no need to book.
Tony told how the traditional, cosy pub dates back to the 1800s and was originally three houses and later a Whitbreads Exchange Brewery pub. He added: "It's a lovely place, it just needs bringing back to life."