By Andy Thornley
I DID something incredibly stupid on Sunday. I ran a marathon. Making the ultimate cardinal sin of failing to check the fixture guide before agreeing to something, I booked myself and the missus in to 26.2 miles of pain, taking place over in Paris.
I followed through on my promise despite the fact the auld fella qualified for an FA cup semi final ticket, against Everton no less, and was ready to grease my sweaty palms with it. As scant conciliation, we did manage to spend two of the 36 hours we had in the city of love watching the reds triumph over Everton – to which I owe much gratitude to my long suffering girlfriend.
Ok, so I’m pounding the streets the next day and I’m keeping a look out for people from the UK, and in particular, any other scousers who have been as daft as me in failing to keep tabs on the dates of semi-final weekend, when I came across a girl wearing an orange t-shirt. What caught my eye was the caption; ‘2012 miles in 2012’, which I thought was an achievement that I wouldn’t really fancy, unless it was perhaps in an aeroplane to somewhere sunny. Next, I noticed the fact that she was wearing a cap with ‘Slovakia’ emblazoned on it in their national colours. “Is right” I thought. “I’ll go up to her and say ‘Martin Škrtel, she’ll know who he is”.
Read that back. I was going to go up to a complete stranger, in a foreign city, and just shout the name of a Liverpool player to her – despite knowing nothing of their lingo or customs. When you put it like that, it seems completely absurd. However, how many of you have been on holiday; saw someone of a different nationality and thought of a Liverpool player from said nationality. Then, either thought about, or actually did say their name with smile on your grid and a head like a Churchill nodding dog.It was a close call, but I didn’t actually blurt out the name of our beloved no. 37. But it did get me thinking – as I had a bit of time on my hands for contemplation. Football transcends many things; including the culture and customs that I was oblivious to with my newly found running partner. But perhaps it was more than that. Perhaps Liverpool’s success over so many years has given us such a profile that when a player joins us, people in their own country see it as a measure of success. They have been seen to be good enough to be part of us, propelling their name on to the lips of their respective population.
As a scouser that lives in London, I regularly get asked if I’m a ‘red or a blue’. Such is the sporting reputation of our famous city, often the first utterings of conversations with strangers is to quiz me on my football allegiance. I have no problem with this – it is a compliment of the passion we show for our respective clubs. However, it is sometimes the only thing that people want to talk to you about. Now as much as I love Liverpool Football Club, there is much more to me than the team that enjoys my support. I have a very good friend who hails from Aigburth and also lives in London. One night in the boozer, he asked me if I get the one dimensional conversation. We agreed that it can be tedious, especially if you are hurting from performances and results as we have in the league recently.
However, given the reflection sparked by my near ‘Martin Škrtel’ moment, my opinion has done an about turn. If we are famous enough for me to consider shouting one of our player’s names to a random, then I have accept the other side of the equation and appreciate the fact that I will be asked regularly on what I think of, for example, the price tag of Andy Carroll. Its part and parcel of the history and reputation we have earned. I guess the same has to be said for out-of-towners. Yes, it can be frustrating to hear their cockney accents knowing they’ve probably got the full replica kit and matching duvet/curtain set at home. All along however, I’ve been viewing this the wrong way; it’s a measure of success that we should be proud of, not shy away from. And do you know what – some of them show more passion than home-grown fans. We are now a global brand and like it or not, it’s something that we need to take on the chin and if that means I have to entertain the odd whopper in a bar in London, then so be it; we’d certainly miss the recognition if we were to ever slide into obscurity. So from now on, I’m going to entertain the notion that a large part of who I am, who we are, is Liverpool FC. It always will be that way and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
And the time I finished the marathon in? Four hours and six minutes.