SOME things I love and hate about weeks like this one:
1) I hate the waiting
I hate the way I put my life on hold. The treading water. The way the days just drag. The way my work suffers and my relationships become distractions. I force the time away, in the manner in you do as a child counting sleeps to Christmas.
This makes me guilty and full of self loathing. I’m a ‘top Red’ and a bit of an existentialist, too. I know the here and the now is the only truth I’ll know. There’s nothing in the great beyond for me. That’s for you fools in your churches and your temples. For me there’s just despair. And here I am wasting what precious little time I have left waiting. Waiting for Villarreal to come to town. To see the Mighty Reds line up. To make me whole again.
2) I hate the fear
The sense of foreboding. The feeling that you’re careering towards a miserable destiny. The intuitive irrational certainty that life just can’t get as good as you imagine it might be if Liverpool FC actually won this massively important football match. How happy I might be. How much greener the grass might seem. How much sweeter the birdsong. How perfect the new day. And yet how undeserving am I of such bliss. I’m not worthy. Just a wretch in a schemer’s scheme. Nothing as truly achingly beautifully perfect as a decent Liverpool win over Villareal will come my way. It can’t happen. It won’t happen.
3) I love that the superstitious pessimism may prove ill-founded
That there’s a possibility that this could be a week I remember for a very long time. That on Thursday night I may find myself punching air in unbridled ecstasy. Again and again and again. That I may end up hugging my kids tighter, friends and strangers harder. That everything may feel just right. Just perfect. That all that I think can’t be mine, can be mine. That I may enter the kingdom of Heaven.
4) I love that I might wake up Friday morning, and probably Saturday and Sunday morning, and that my first thought might be that Liverpool are in a European final
That I have that most enormous of treats to anticipate. Immediately plans will have to be made. I’ll be able to schedule every aspect of my life around the impending event. Like a wedding to prepare for but so much more important. The cycle will begin again. The knowledge that this will be it now. The moment of truth. A semi is a semi, but a final is the one in which all is revealed. And that’s what is so great about football. Its finals can never be anti-climatic if you care enough. There are only two outcomes. Win/lose. Joy/despair. Life/death.
5) I hate that we might actually win and then I’ll have to go through the anxiety of 1) and 2) once more
I don’t think I can take the strain. I wonder how I might handle these situations should I make it to my twilight years. Can old buggers deal with these stresses and dramas? Do their organs just fail them under this weight? Is victory actually a greater burden than defeat? With great power comes great responsibility. Or something like that. I think this was what Eric Fromm was on about in Escape From Freedom.
6) I love the sense of community
You know in weeks like this that you definitely not walking this one alone. That you can pass people in the street in your town, and know that they are part of a collective consciousness that is now overwhelming us all. This is best embodied in cup final weeks. I remember when I was younger, and Liverpool got to more finals, that the city was in a better rhythm of preparation for them.
Not long after the semis you’d start to see Liverpool flags in windows if you drove down the likes of Park Road or Smithdown Road. Church Street vendors would be all rigged out and stalls bedecked in red and white. That great big WHSmiths that used to be at the foot of Church Street would dedicate their window display to us. To the Reds. Something good was going to happen. Just saying it could even make it happen.
7) I love hyping up my boys
My two sons. They’re ages apart (Danny is 17, Rafa is 7) but at these times we all synchronise. We all feel we’re roughly the same age as each other. We talk about the game endlessly. We watch other football just to get ourselves match fit. We nudge each other as we pass in the hallway. Three days, Ill say. Manly punches to the arms. They’re going through what I’m going through. Every bit as much. The shredded nerves, the tingling spine, the fear/ecstasy paradox. I made them this way. It may be my most enduring legacy. They will surely go on to destroy the lives of their children and their childrens children. Good. Wouldn’t have it any other way.
I love that as I sit here now everything is still possible. All permutations. All outcomes. My misery. My happiness. I love that I’m fretting about Emre Can’s fitness for the fight (he’s fit, according to today’s press conference). That I’m having imaginary conversations in my head with Jürgen Klopp about Daniel Sturridge.
“You’re not seriously thinking of starting without him are you, gaffer? Don’t do that to me. Ok, I’m calm, I trust you. You know what you’re doing.”
But does he? What if he doesn’t? What if Jürgen actually hates me and is plotting to ruin my life by not doing enough to get Liverpool FC to win this semi final?
Stop doing this to yourself. It’ll be fine. The fella on the telly said we’d win. He’s right. We’re good. We’ll be fine. Be rational. The lads need you to be at your best. You in particular. You, embody all the hopes and dreams of Liverpool glory. You and your paranoias and superstitions. Don’t mess up now. You’re so close.
Make it stop. Make it start.
Destiny’s 11: Mignolet; Clyne, Toure, Lovren, Moreno; Can, Milner; Lallana, Coutinho, Firmino; Sturridge.
Listen: Villarreal v Liverpool Preview (Free Preview Clip Above)