A place in the sun . . .Meet the family who waved goodbye to the Black Country for a new life in Magaluf
For years he ran The Crown in Netherton, turning a struggling pub into a cornerstone of the local community.
Now Paul O’Neill is finally living his long-held dream of running his own bar in the Spanish sun.
Together with his wife Anne and daughter Sam, Paul has opened Sammy’s Pub in Magaluf – and the family has made sure they have injected a Black Country flavour into the enterprise.
Lifelong Wolves fan Paul, 57, says he’s targetting groups of English tourists by showing live football, with this summer’s World Cup and Premier League games next season all beamed live on a big screen TV.
Wolves will have a huge influence on the family-themed bar, a move that Paul says would be unlikely to go down too well with his late father John.
“My dad was on the books at the Albion in the fifties and was good mates with [Baggies striker] Derek Kevan,” says Paul.
“When I was little he used to take me to see the Albion and the Wolves, but I rebelled against him and decided to follow the boys in gold and black.”
It was no easy choice at the time, with the Black Country enjoying a rare period where both Wolves and Albion were prosperous.
The Baggies won the FA Cup in 1954 and finished second in the top flight in the same season with a side featuring Ronnie Allen and Ray Barlow. They achieved four other top five finishes over the decade.
For Wolves the 1950s was the golden era of three league titles, and of beating Honvéd under the stewardship of Stan Cullis with a star studded team including Bert Williams and Billy Wright.
Paul adds: “At Sammy’s Pub we will be looking to get Wolves fans in, as well as other football fans and stag and hen dos, but we’re also aiming for a real family atmosphere here.
“I hope that in time we’ll get a reputation as a ‘place to go’ for people coming out here on their holidays.”
Paul admits his new life in Mallorca is ‘a world away’ from his time in Dudley, where his family kept The Crown.
Eight years ago, with the whole UK pub trade suffering from the cigarette ban and escalating prices, they decided ‘enough is enough’ and upped sticks for a new life in the sun.
“When we first went into The Crown [in Simms Lane] it was a bit of a dump,” Paul recalls.
“It had been struggling for a while but we really turned it around into a decent boozer. The problem was that every time we showed a profit it would be wiped out by the brewery putting the prices up.
“When the smoking ban came in [in 2007] it was the beginning of the end as far as we were concerned. We had wanted to come over here for a while and just thought ‘the time is right’.”
Paul says he and his wife ‘piled everything in the van’ and left Dudley behind them.
He worked in other bars down on the seafront before Sammy’s Pub became available earlier this year. It was the chance the family had been waiting for.
“The place had potential but it had not been touched since 1997, so to say it needed a lot of work is an understatement,” says Paul.
“We wanted to be open for the end of April, and to be honest we had 14 blokes coming over on a stag do from Peterborough on May 3, so we didn’t have much choice!
“As it happened we managed to open up on April 18, so we ended up being ahead of schedule.”
Paul says the pub, which boats a large terrace area, is ‘a bit off the beaten track’ over a road known locally – and rather unkindly – as ‘heart-attack hill’.
“In one sense I think we will benefit, because we are out of the way of all the madness but still close enough to the strip to attract a good crowd,” he says.
Trade was quiet initially, he says, with Mallorca, like many holiday destinations this year, reporting a slow start when the season officially kicked off at the start of May.
But things have picked up, with a group of 18 Wolves fans from Worcester, as well as supporters of Albion and Villa among the customers that have helped to keep the tills ringing.
“The Wolves lads were great and brought the Black Country flag over with them,” says Paul.
“I’ve also had some mates over from Dudley who came and drank the bar dry.
“It looks like all the places over here had a slow start to the season, but we are hopeful that things will improve with the World Cup and the main holiday period really kicking in.”
Paul said he plans to return to the Black Country around Christmas time, when he hopes to see his beloved Wolves in a Premier League fixture.
But for now his focus is on making Sammy’s Pub the place to be.