YOU trudge out of Wembley. You have a face on. The face on. The face of yours that your loved ones know. It’s the football. It was more than that though, you know. It was the feeling you were part of an eternally losing battle. Against the system. Against the overbearing pound. Against a lottery Liverpool haven’t won. Walking out of Wembley. When you left you were defeated and depressed.
You walk up the stairs towards your seat. You walk up the stairs and suddenly this becomes the most serious of things. You walk and every pace doubles down your intensity. You walk and every pace, every look, means something.
You reach the seat and you see the Reds come out and you begin to sing You’ll Never Walk Alone and you see they don’t seem to have sold their end out and you double down again. You belt out You’ll Never Walk Alone. That slow baritone version that means business.
Since Sunday there has been this twitch, this limp. This phantom limb, adrift. You realise you’ve been grinding your teeth for three days. You realise that there has been something that needs to get sorted out. All day. Growing.
There’s been this thing where you don’t quite sleep properly. This thing where you sleep in pain. Wake dehydrated and disorientated. Snapping. Snarling.
You want this now you see them emerge from the tunnel. Two thems. Our them. Their them. You need it more than want it. And you’ve wanted it since Sunday.
The game kicks off and you start talking and you can’t stop. “Get back in. Get the fuck back in.” You can’t stop. “One more.” You can’t. “It goes.” You. “Step. Fucking step.”
Everything elicits a response. Sunday you watched. Sunday you feared. Sunday you were swallowed by it all, the facelessness. Today you kick every ball. Make every shout. Grit your teeth for every tackle.
And there were so many of them. Tackles. Shuttles. Reassertions. This is our space, our pitch. This is our gaff. Our manor.
You watch Flanagan assert early. Henderson never shutting up like you. You see two sides that aren’t settling. Aren’t allowed to settle. This isn’t gegenpressing. This is gegenthrottling. Foot on the throat. You watch your Reds decide that no-one is allowed to play football today. Your Reds match your grim intensity. Fucking ruin these, Reds. Fucking ruin them.
Lallana opens the scoring just as they don’t look ruined. Just as they look in control. Lallana opens the scoring and it doesn’t elicit a cheer as much as growl. There’s the first.
“Now massive 10, Liverpool. Massive 10.” Liverpool double down. Every stride means more. Is more. Liverpool double down and double their lead. Milner over extended and The Reds dominant.
But even then. Big five, Reds. “Big five.” Flanagan stops Sterling because he doesn’t switch off. Can’t switch off. Can’t stop talking and thinking, knows the threat is always just around the corner. Switching off is a luxury Liverpool cannot ever afford. You need their vigilance to be endless.
The half. And you are goosed. Language a disgrace. Teeth ground further. The half. The lead. The Reds.
City throw the kitchen sink. Big 15, lads. “Big 15.” You sit in your seat and all you think is “big 15.”
Sometimes you think football might drive you mad and you remember blubbing in your seat watching Joanna Newsom the night before because there are times and days when your relationship with reality and linear time might be fracturing because the days they become one and the feelings they become one and there is always something to do and think about and now these bastards have put you through this and so you can’t stop talking and shouting.
You can’t stop saying “win your battle” and “go one more” and “harry, harry, close him, Milner.”
The third. A blur. Snake hips. Swivel. Firmino and stick it up your jumper. And stick it. And stitch it.
Man City in ribbons. You in excelsis deo.
Three and you know they are vanquished. You know. Only half a football team. You talk less. You smile more. The tension leaves your shoulders. Your glare less intense.
Navas gets a response and a reminder that Manchester is full of shit and a reminder that the other half are coming next week but you know what at least they’ll have the decency to sell out and have some alright clobber.
That is next week’s problem. You’ve dealt with this week. You can enjoy the world again, get the tunes on again.
You can go to town again. Because when you left Wembley you were defeated and depressed. And when Firmino arrived you were ripping high.
The mountain can be clambered up. It won’t be easy but it can. Hard work and hard lads are a blueprint. Not the only one but one to start from. And until then you can say this:
“Stitch that, you pricks. Up the gnarly bastard Reds. Stitch that.”
You can say that.