Hollands Pies: The Sultana and the Sheikh

Alan Leishman has sent DCR a series of wonderful funny complaint letters.  Alas, most of these are to telecoms companies and I think it’s time we took a break from the faceless call centres and dodgy internet connections.  What better way to enjoy a break than to indulge ourselves in a really good pie…. or not so good as the case may be.

As this letter, which dates from 2009,  is not only about pies, but also about football (the original one with a round ball) there are inevitably going to be rather a lot of footnotes for our American friends.

Leanne Holcroft
Marketing Director
Hollands Pies
Blackburn Rd


Like any right minded pie fan, I was delighted to hear that Hollands have now become the pie purveyor of choice at my beloved Manchester City.12  I am originally a Rossendale3 lad and therefore approx 50% of my diet growing up, came from your Baxenden4 factory.  In fact Leanne, the conundrum in our house was not whether to have a pie every day but which pie to have.

I have also been a Manchester City season ticket holder for over 25 years and have always felt that putting the two things together would be a marriage made in heaven.  It appears that all my dreams have now come true……..


There is one very big cloud on the horizon though and I thought it best to give you early notice as to a very grave situation that will inevitably develop.  You see, the pie vacuum created by the absence of Hollands Pies at Manchester City has been filled for many years by a very worthy substitute – the Chicken Balti Pie.5   The version that has been sold at Manchester City has seen us through several crises, umpteen managers, some very sorry relegations and some very worthy promotions. It has become somewhat of a pie-celebre and a Manchester institution.  The Chicken Balti Pie and its natural bedfellow the packet of Rennie6 has been a staple part of the Matchday experience and for some, like me has become almost a reason for going to watch City in itself  (less so now there is decent football to watch but under Alan Ball,7  I almost cancelled my season ticket until I thought about the pie related consequences).

Therefore, when I heard that Hollands had been appointed as Official Pie makers to God’s own football team I was at first delighted, naturally.  However, my delight Leanne was peppered with concern.  What about the Chicken Balti pies Leanne?  What would happen to our preferred pie?  It began to claw away at me and in truth put me off this years transfer window.8  It’s all well and good signing £100m+ worth of football talent but if it meant doing without a Chicken Balti pie then is it worth it Leanne?

In an effort to ease my rising panic, I logged onto your website to seek some re-assurance and lo and behold, amongst your stadia pies (including the extraordinary football emblazoned meat and potato pie)9 was a version of the Chicken Balti pie.  I attended the pre-season friendly against Celtic10 with a slight spring in my step, my concern having dissipated and it felt like the clouds had parted and the sun was shining. Well actually the clouds had parted and the sun was shining both actually and metaphorically.

Anyway Leanne, I’ll cut to the chase.  I raced to the concourse and cut a swathe through the queues to obtain one of your comparison Chicken Balti pies.  I bit into my savoury delight only to find something terribly amiss.

It appeared that somebody had mistakenly placed a sultana in my pie!

I removed the said item from my mouth and took another bite.

Another one!

Now, everyone likes sultanas Leanne, but not in a savoury pie.  Worse, the pie was flaccid and distinctly lacking in spice and heat.

For the first time in my life, I failed to finish a Hollands Pie.

Now, happily I can pick one of your other pies for the time being.  I’ve tried the new peppered steak variety and indeed they are a pie of innovation and beauty.  The meat pie, cheese and onion pie and even the humble meat and potato pie are solid dependable pies that will never let you down.  However, not every City fan is as forgiving as me Leanne and there will inevitably be an outcry and howls of protest from the Chicken Balti faithful.  I fear for your reputation and I think you must act with haste.

Fortunately Leanne, I’m not just bringing you problems, I’m bringing you solutions.  My strong recommendation is that you immediately acquire the manufacturer of the previous Balti pie.  They did other kinds too but forget about them, just swap their Balti pie for yours.  If you act quickly Leanne, nobody will notice and the rumour that your Chicken Balti has sultanas in will be go down as another urban myth.

I mean seriously, who would believe that anyway?

I know that times are tight and buying companies in the current climate is no simple task.  If you are struggling with the business case then ask the good Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan11 to help out. I understand he is partial to the odd pie himself and god forbid he finds a sultana in one.  I’m sure he will be only too pleased to help you with your pie acquisition project as he wants every little detail of his football club to be perfect, even pie wise.

I thought I’d better flag this with you Leanne.  My advice comes free and if you need any more feedback, you simply must let me know.

Thanks & Best Regards


Full marks to Hollands Pies for what happened next.  Alan was invited onto a local radio show on BBC Radio Manchester to give feedback directly to a Hollands Pies representative live on air. Following his radio appearance, he received the response below closely followed by a delivery of some new ‘Prototype’ pies.

Hi Alan,

Thank you for taking the time to write to me.  I really appreciate your feedback and your mail was really interesting reading.  It’s good to know you like our NEW peppered steak pie and that you’re a fan of Holland’s.

In response to your feedback on our Chicken Balti Pies, we constantly listen to feedback from customers.  In fact, we have a pie panel made up of 15 members of the public who provide advice on how our products can be improved.   Our pie panel commented that our chicken Balti pie was too sweet and lacked spice (very similar to your comments) therefore we reviewed our recipe and will be re-launching our recipe very shortly for the new football season.  The new & improved recipe is now made with a rich spicy sauce using coriander turmeric, ginger, chilli & cumin and I am sure you will like it.

I would like to send you some samples of our new & improved Chicken Balti Pie recipe.  Please send me you address details and contact number and I will arrange delivery to you.  Please let me know what you think of the new recipe as your feedback is very much valued.

Kind regards,


Suffice to say, Alan thought the new pies were very good indeed – and not a sultana in sight.  Perhaps City fans would like to provide some feedback?


If that made you smile, please consider supporting the Dear Customer Relations book at Crowd Funding publishers Unbound. You can get your name printed in every edition of the book! Just click the link below:


unbound footer

Please also help spread the word about Dear Customer Relations – hit the Facebook ‘Like’ button below:


And why not share this page on your Facebook timeline (or a friend’s timeline). The button below loads the feature image from this post alongside the link:

Share button

  1. For our American readers: OK, first, we have to deal with Manchester.  Greater Manchester is the second most populous area of the UK with 2.5m pie-eating inhabitants known as Mancunians.  Manchester was the cradle of the industrial revolution and the world’s first industrialised city. 

  2. Now the City Bit: Manchester City is of one of two Premiership Football Clubs in Manchester.  The other is, of course, Manchester United (where David Beckham used to play).  If you’re  a Mancunian, you are devoted to one team or the other.  In Manchester, football is more important than food or money.  Much more important! 

  3. Rossendale is district with borough status in Lancashire, not far from Manchester.  People from Rossendale take their pies very seriously 

  4. Baxenden is a village, not far from Rossendale 

  5. Balti – as well as being a language spoken in parts of Pakistan – is also a cuisine based on the food of northern Pakistan but actually developed in the UK by Pakistani immigrants for the British palette.  Effectively therefore, a Chicken Balti is a rather excellent curry, served in tens of thousands of Indian and Pakistani restaurants throughout the UK.  No two versions are the same. Quite who had the ridiculous idea to put this concoction into a pie is anybody’s guess 

  6. A leading UK brand of antacid tablet 

  7. Alan James Ball Jr MBE was a truly great footballer and one of the 1966 World Cup winning England team.  After he retired as a player, he became a football manager – a role in which he was rather less gifted.  At Manchester City, his win rate was a dismal 26.53%.  He also remembered for his very high squeeky voice 

  8. Transfer window:  A period of time during which a football club can transfer players from other countries into their playing staff.  At present, there are two transfer windows – a longer one (max. twelve weeks) in the break between two seasons and shorter one (max. one month) in the middle of a season 

  9. which can be seen in the header picture above 

  10. Celtic Football Club is a Scottish football club based in Glasgow, which plays in the Scottish Premiership. The club was established in 1887, played its first game in 1888, and has never been relegated to a lower division.  Also know as ‘The Old Firm’ 

  11. Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan is the deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, minister of presidential affairs and member of the ruling family of Abu Dhabi.  He is the half brother of the current president of UAE, Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.  He is also the owner of the privately held Abu Dhabi United Group (ADUG), a specialist investment company that successfully acquired Manchester City Football Club in September 2008, and which has overseen a significant transformation at the Club since that time.  Most notably, the club won the Premiership, its first top flight champions trophy since 1968 

1 thought on “Hollands Pies: The Sultana and the Sheikh”

Let DCR know what you think about this post

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: