YOU turn up vaguely unsure. Because it is a football match and it is an occasion. Football matches are occasions you believe but this is different. The occasion and the match are separate entities. The occasion will be the occasion regardless. Despite not because.
You spent the night before at Light Night. You heard choral music at the Anglican Cathedral and while the faith you don’t have lives at the other end of Bold Street, you are touched. You are beyond touched. You are transcendent, you have a sudden feeling of grace while carrying and drinking a crate of Stella Artois. You reflect upon that grace and you think of the day to follow. The occasion to follow. You drink.
You board a bus around this city on that Friday night. See space amazons and drink in a library. You are silly and possibly, hopefully sexy and certainly a gobshite with your hair high because you did some telly and you are adopting a position like the gobshite you always are. You’re the worst.
Everywhere you go you think about Steven. Steven not sleeping. Steven stressing. You realise you have spent a great deal of your life thinking about Steven. You have friends, close friends, you think of less than Steven. Worry about less than Steven. And Steven is alright. He’s got a few bob. He has a lovely family and daughters while you are a tit, dry shampooing his hair 10 minutes before doing some telly. You are more worried about Steven than you are about you. That’s fucking mad.
You approach the ground and the size of the whole thing makes you always feel dwarfed. The ground is huge. Liverpool are huge. They have a weight they don’t punch. Steven knows this. He has been asking for them to punch it for a week. He has been needing them to punch it since 1998. You know this. It is too hard. Too unfair. You hate that he leaves without a league winners’ medal. Steven has the biggest prize but you have this gnawing gap where the second biggest prize should be. You think he has that too. You know he should have it. He should. We all should.
This is it. The crux of Steven. The crux of Steven is that Steven was never quite surrounded with enough good footballers at any one time. Steven is Roy where the Rovers have never quite had 38 games in them. The Rovers aren’t enough of the business but Roy has been so often remarkable.
You know, hair like a tit, you keep banging this drum. The legacy of Steven needs to be no player ever leaves the club again without a league winners’ medal if they deserve it. You know how hard it is to win. What winning takes. Devoting everything to that one goal. Sacrificing everything. You know it isn’t a barrel of laughs.
You watch them. The Reds. Heads akimbo. Everything not, never sacrificed. You’d die for it. You’d kill for it. And you know that Steven, brilliant, astonishing, devilish would die and kill for it too. That was always the whole point. That was what he always was. An energy. A force. Always Steven. Everywhere Steven. Too much Steven. Steven would die for it. He would kill for it. He would give up his thumbs.
This Liverpool, the Liverpool shorn of Steven you will be watching looks short of goals and short of character. This Liverpool, the Liverpool shorn of Steven you will be watching looks short of pace. Someone needs to do something.
The final whistle sounds and you see his shoulders hunched. You hear the crowd and for the first time in too long a time you think what a gang of lads these lads are. You hear the crowd and think my god. You hear the crowd and you are the crowd and you feel that grace. Gilded grace. Gorgeous gilded grace golden. You know football is always silly and always has just dry shampooed its hair and always soppy. Drippy. Geeky. You know the lads are the lads and there will be tears in the ground because you know our worst and our best and someone decided to represent both or had that representing thrust upon them and he did both brilliantly and you know soz abar that and you know all the best and you know we’re a crew of dopes so Steven soz abar that but all the best.
You know Steven isn’t one of your mates. You know Steven has an existence you can’t conceive of. You know you can now never be mates. You know Steven is the business. Walk around him. Fulham away will always be the one, the moment for you. Arms whirring. Shirt helicoptering. You know you and him aren’t mates and you know that in that moment when he went yeah you aren’t a bellend you know what we can do you know that these lads are the business and you are the business and we win and we win and we win and we win. You know. The business.
Anyway the football match finishes and the occasion begins. You want to cuddle everyone. You are belting it out. Steven is our captain. Steven is a Red. You are belting it out.
Steven says to have played for Liverpool once. Steven says everything else a bonus. You know he’s right. Steven also says lots of sensible things even when asked a fucking daft question.
You know you are the same age as Steven. You and Steven have lived through the same time. You know human emotional scales are the same and you know you and Steven have been touched by grace. Grace is everywhere. Because to be human. Because to be here now. Because to be. Whatever else was the point?
You know this: It was a joy to be alive that day. It was a joy to be alive for a load of days. You know he made it a joy. He did that. For you. Because you.
You know this: Stoke will be fucking brilliant. Yes.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda-Photo