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IT’S a full Anfield Wrap day out to Derby. Although we are all going in different ways with different people. Me and Heaton are going with Mick Clarke International Tours (from the Dominican to Derby in less than 48 hours), Neil is getting a lift with Phil Blundell’s mate, while Gareth has somehow been roped into driving Josh, Shaun and Rob Gutmann.

It is funny watching Rob “Gutmann” someone when it isn’t you. On away days being “Gutmanned” is the process of him convincing you it is somehow your idea to leave earlier and earlier in the day as whatever road you need to go on is famously a nightmare. Then he says he and his family need picking up from his house. Then he suggests half an hour earlier. He does get the small wines in, though. So it’s one of them.

They are halfway down the M6 before me and Andy make our way to Rigby’s in town to meet Tizzer, Mick and Josh (not the TAW one), who is also back from a fancy holiday with a fancy tan. Life of Riley these boys.

Far too quickly Hogan is outside to pick us up and we are on our way. Hogan is driving again. He really needs to get someone to have a look at the rota.

With Hogan’s mate, Jay, we now have seven of our nine-strong squad relatively easily, but the last two are the divas. We still have to drive north through the traffic to pick Andy Clarke up from his house in “Aintree” (Norris Green) and then Brad from a girl’s in Huyton — “THAT DEFO ISN’T HIS GIRLFRIEND, ALRIGHT?!”

After a lovely tour of Merseyside we are on a motorway and on our way. We’ve learned from our Burton trip and this time there are three different people giving Hogan directions. Admittedly, they are very rarely the same directions as lads compete for the maddest shortcut but he certainly can’t complain he hasn’t got directions this time.

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Just as it looks like we are going to miss kick-off, the traffic eases and we somehow persuade a car-park attendant to allow us to park right at the front on the grass facing the entrance. We bounce down to the ground via a burger van and I meet Tom from “Go The Game With Gibbo” fame who apparently I now just supply with tickets forever. What a competition.

In the ground it is great to see my old mate Gray, who used to go everywhere with Liverpool but packed it in to be a responsible adult. However, an away game in his hometown of Derby was too much to resist, and he was there with his brother. Gray is the best of wools, from an old Scouse family who moved away because of life.

Lads like Gray, and James Cutler, who is more Essex than a pair of white stilettos, are proof that the Locals v Wools argument is over exaggerated. It should be called Boss Lads v Teds.

If you are committed, knowledgeable and passionate you will fit in no problem. If you turn up with a half-and-half scarf and a selfie stick, you’ll be given short shrift, no matter your accent.

Gray went to more games than anyone I know in that 2001 season in particular and only a moron would have doubted him as a Red. Everyone knew and liked him. Still do, in fact. He’s not dead. Just swerved the match (the wool).

The boys in red kick the ball around the pitch a lot, and on three occasions into the goal. At half-time two wonderful humans buy me a pint and I still would have managed to see Phil Coutinho’s goal had I not stopped on the way back up to congratulate my mate Andy Kenwright, who had a baby last week but has still managed, rather brilliantly, to go to both Derby and Chelsea away. I’ve got absolutely no chance, I would imagine.

The end is generally great and loud all night, although there is still the strange desire to sing songs about footballers who don’t play for us any more. We sing the song about Steven Gerrard being dead big and dead hard, which obviously results in the Derby fans singing the one about him slipping on his arse and then we get all weird about it even though we brought it up. We then sing the other Steven Gerrard song which has the following inaccuracies:

  • He isn’t our captain. It’s Jordan Henderson.
  • He isn’t a Red. LA Galaxy play in white.
  • He doesn’t play for Liverpool.
  • He was born in Whiston (the wool).

Then Derby sing that he doesn’t play for us any more. Then we sing about Luis Garcia. Who wasn’t as good as any of the attacking midfielders who we have playing for us now. And then Maxi Rodriguez.

Then Dejan Lovren looked at the crowd and pointed at himself shouting “Any hopes, lads? I scored against Chelsea, too!” (he didn’t really, but he should).

Because we are top Reds we leave early to beat the traffic. This tactic seems rather pointless when we stopped five minutes later to go to an offy and the chippy. And then again 10 minutes later so Tizzer could go the toilet.

Tizzer going the toilet was a common theme on the way home. He had what can politely be described as an upset stomach,, which led to him needing to stop at several service stations and one hard shoulder, where his concerns were doubled by his worry about us filming him on our phones. Seriously, why on earth would you want to film that? You’re safe, mate.

At one point he announced that he was worried he had caught Scarlet Fever from his son. Now it turns out that his son didn’t actually have Scarlet Fever, and that the need to shit in bushes isn’t a symptom of it anyway.

However, at the time, it was gently pointed out to him that maybe he should have informed us his son had a highly contagious disease before he got in the car with us for four hours. Certainly before I shared a battered sausage with him (not a euphemism).

However, despite the constant stopping and threat of illness, Hogan still managed to get me home before midnight. What a wonderful man. Fancy driving to Swansea, mate?

Up the Scarlet Fever Reds.

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