Missing You - The Anfield Wrap

HE LOVES me, he loves me not. He loves me, he loves me not. He loves me, he loves me not. He loves me.

He loves me not.

For anyone who’s ever been dumped in a relationship, the subsequent pining for that person will be an uncomfortable, unwelcome memory.

For days, weeks, months, years, you miss their touch, their smell, them.

Attempts to consign it all to the deepest recesses of your mind prove futile. It rests in places that distresses most; riding your churning stomach like a bucking bronco and slaloming through the centre of your broken heart.

You took them for granted. You never thought they’d leave. The love was fizzling out and you did nothing. It’s not me, it’s you. You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.

Everything serves as a reminder.

Those crisp, dark Wednesday evenings you spent together; the way you felt the morning after, heart as fuzzy as head, voice nothing more than a post-euphoric whisper.

But it’s always the song which hurts the most. You know, that song – the one which embodied the relationship perfectly; the one which, somehow, expressed your love more than you ever could. You sang it together, you made love to it together. You even bought it on vinyl, cassette, CD and iTunes.

That song. The same song which now scythes through your soul; each drag of the violin string, every tap of the piano, acting as rusted spike twisted further into wounds that will never heal.

It happened again last Wednesday. In Manchester, of all places, around 7.40pm.

Ce sont les meilleures équipes
Sie sind die allerbesten Mannschaften
The main event!

Die Meister
Die Besten
Les grandes Équipes
The Champions!

Une grande réunion
Eine große sportliche Veranstaltung
The main event!

Ils sont les meilleurs
Sie sind die Besten
These are the champions!

Die Meister
Die Besten
Les grandes Équipes
The Champions!

The old routineWhen Napoli came to Anfield last season to play in the Europa League (nee Fairs Cup), passion resided in the stands, but not on the pitch. Lavezzi scored without breaking a sweat, Hamsik and Cavani wished they’d stayed on the plane. Italian teams care little for the competition. Get in line – few do.

But some Liverpool fans had asked for this. We’re bored of the Champions League, they’d arrogantly proclaim; we’re fed up of seeing our team win at some of the greatest stadiums in the world against some of the greatest teams in the world. We’re fed up of the Camp Nou, San Siro, Bernabeau et al.

I, foolishly, was one of them.

What we want is Prague, Bucharest, Utrecht; cheap ale, small grounds, mad fans. We’ve had enough of Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Who the f*** are you trying to kid?

Real nights to rememberEverything is different on a Champions League night; everything is more intense, more emotional, more meaningful. Everything is noisier and louder.

Everything is better.

Last week, the floodlights shone brighter and more intense than ever before on the Etihad Stadium pitch; brighter than they ever had at Maine Road. The spirits of Lee, Summerbee and Law, all beaming down at the stage they thought they’d never witness watching a show they never thought would be written.

There – left, right and centre – was Cavani, Lavezzi and Hamsik, all playing with full capability; all playing in a manner fit for the finest club competition in world football. They were there because they weren’t against Liverpool the season before; their second-half no-show at Anfield was followed up with a 2-0 league win overParma, one of the 20 wins that secured their place at Europe’s top table.

City have all this to look forward to: Munich, Villarreal, Naples; and then, progression pending, Barcelona,Madrid, Milan. The eyes of Europe are now on them. Those famous European nights. Silva, Aguero, Nasri; Messi, Ronaldo, Xavi – all against the backdrop of the Poznan which now hits the mainstream, while Lech Poznan fans hit their head against the wall.

Our European CupPrague, Utrecht, Braga and others were all fun, but Anfield doesn’t glow as it does on the evening of a European Cup tie.

I miss it.

I miss the deadly cocktail of nerves and continental beer pre-match as eight different people around the table come up with 18 different scenarios.

I miss the buzz that envelopes you as you approach the ground, the eight different people and 18 different scenarios multiplied by thousands.

I miss entering the ground half-an-hour early, shoulders tensed, fists clenched, mouth salivating about the 90 minutes ahead. Liverpool, your Liverpool, taking on Europe’s best. Liverpool, your Liverpool, beating Europe’s best.

As Zadok the Priest played and the giant plastic replica was waved on the centre circle by local schoolchildren, magic happened. Biscan became Redondo at the Riazor, Babel transformed into Maradona against Real Madrid; Le Tallec, Pongolle, Mellor and Nunez all played a part. Going back even further, Howie Gayle became a hero in one of his six Liverpool appearances in Munich, while Bruce and his legs entered folklore.

There was something special about the relationship between Liverpool and the European Cup, both at Anfield and on the road.

It was enough to make Messers Tyler and Tyldsley stay up late and conjure phraseologies about what could be witnessed the following night; their efforts were futile. Only the support could vociferate that.

From the mundane of the league, to the magic of midweek; the sight of Anfield standing tall, prodigious and prestigious, was enough to make everyone raise their game. Every game offered another chance.

Another LuisIt was another chance for players to become heroes. It was another chance for supporters to write another chapter in the club’s illustrious history; another anecdote to tell brothers, sons and grandsons.

No one failed. Not until the bitter end, at least – and the end certainly was bitter.

The trio of Lyon, Fiorentina and Debrecen did little to inspire players or supporters. We felt we were above it. Our thoughts had turned to bigger, better places already; frustrations at being denied that were vented in the worst possible manner, the fallout of which still reverberates and echoes around Anfield on its fixtureless Wednesday nights.

All we want is one more chance. One more chance to show how much we love you; one more chance to better ourselves. We just want to listen to Zadok the Priest one more time; to dance to it, to make love to it.

When you’re ready to come back, we’ll be waiting.

A sea of Red awaits