SOMETIMES in life you decide you have to be sensible. Things just pile up you have to deal with and the bank balance isn’t looking terrific and, against all the instincts inside you telling you to just go out and get battered ’cause the Reds, you remain steadfast and decide today is one to miss.
Not the match, obviously, this column doesn’t work otherwise. But everything else. The only problem is that no one else is playing the game. Mike Girling is texting me to go for a boozy breakfast and I’m saying I can’t because I have to go to the house. At 11:30am Neil Atkinson is sending me a picture of a pint and I send him back one of a full wheelbarrow. Mick Clarke is doing a roll call for The Stanley at 12 for the early kick-off and I’m at the tip. Stupid mates.
I leave my wife and her father arguing over plug sockets and head back to the flat for a quick change. My dad is already there waiting to take me up to the ground so I ask him to hang on two minutes whilst I ‘quickly’ get changed. I just get a familiar nod from my dad in return. He’s had years of waiting outside my flat because I’m not ready. He even brings a newspaper to read now.
Much longer than two minutes later and we are on our way. My dad is in a good mood. He must have been to a million football games (give or take) but he still gets excited about the Reds. He wants to know if I’ve heard anything about the team. About how they are all feeling. If they reckon we are going to win the league.
I used to have an old boss, incidentally a Chelsea fan, who was born in Northern Ireland. He was well into his 50s but used to go to prog rock gigs whenever he could. He’d travel all round the North to see his favourite bands. When people asked him why he still bothered, he’d seen most of the bands dozens of times already, he’d always say that when he was younger he could never go and watch them. Bands just didn’t go to Northern Ireland in the 70s, and certainly not the part he was from. There wasn’t even any clubs to go to, music was just a thing that happened in his bedroom. So when he moved to Liverpool and had brilliant bands playing on his doorstep he couldn’t believe his luck, and that excitement never left him. That buzz.
I think it is the same for my dad. My dad was born in Cheltenham, which is largely a rugby town, with only recently a remotely successful football team. He fell in love with Liverpool FC for reasons he doesn’t quite know. But football was something that largely took place in his living room. Watching Match Of The Day hoping for the Liverpool game with his own dad, who would give the final score away by going to bed after the last goal had been scored.
As soon as he could, my dad moved to Liverpool to be nearer his football team. That very first Saturday he went to watch the Reds. He remembers asking the bus driver, in a thick Gloucestershire accent, which stop he needed for Anfield. The bus driver took one look at the small town lad in front of him, who looked like he was in Jethro Tull, one look at the rest of the bus decked out in red scarves, and just said “where everyone else gets off lad, where do you think?”
Growing up, my mum would occasionally talk about moving away. When we were younger it wouldn’t be far, as I got older and more ‘grown up’ it would be further afield. My dad would listen to the arguments, take everything on board and say something like “that sounds great, but how do I get to Anfield on a Saturday?”
For my dad, he’d moved his life for football and couldn’t now imagine giving it up. We’ve had the same season tickets, give or take a few row shifts, since I was 10. However this was one of the first times this season we had actually sat together because my dad had been on holiday and I had spent a couple of games, to quote my dad, “being a bad Tory in that executive box with your own chef.” But today we are together.
The gladiators enter the arena, the field of praise. Saturday’s weather brisk for a historic Scouse occasion. Liverpool, donning red shirts, were playing in front of their own supporters for the sixth occasion this season. The desire to win was an agonising one. They would be top of the league in England, and they wanted their own people to see them become so.
My dad’s spirit is good humoured and generous when they are winning, but not necessarily when they’re losing. On Saturday they were certainly winning. His mood is improved further by the news that Callum, who sits next to him, had a terrible hangover. Callum is a walking advert for the Preston nightlife. If you think there is only so much trouble you can get into in Preston, you should see Callum on a usual match day. My dad finds out he got in at 5:30 the previous morning and pesters him for the rest of the game. He even makes him get him a Bovril at half-time.
Callum is normally with his dad, but isn’t today which is a great shame. They are a great double act, not least because one can’t hear properly and the other one can’t see properly. Callum has his sister with him today, who my dad claims is much nicer to look at, but I think that’s very harsh on Callum’s dad who is very handsome indeed – so he should be given that he spends three months a year sat on a sun lounger in Spain.
The eyesight of the men behind me is no better. They spend 10 minutes thinking Divock Origi has come on instead of Gini Wijnaldum. I wonder how many footballers have been unfairly judged over the years because football stadiums are big and fellas refuse to wear their glasses. Someone, somewhere is probably blaming Fabio Aurelio for Liverpool not making the Champions League Final in 2008.
Liverpool win and I go home. Our Ten From The Terrace WhatsApp group is buzzing with activity but I’ve committed in my head to doing some work. Rachael Biggs, of AFQ fame, works for a wonderful marketing agency and she asked me to do some writing for her about 17 years ago and I have committed to finally having it done by the end of the week.
Do you know what? I have a great night though. I’m loving the mad videos coming through of Paul Cope drinking wine out of an LFC flask. I’m laughing my head off at stories of a nameless mate on his own in a pub declaring his love for a barmaid. A very drunk Neil Atkinson pops up on Facebook Live and I feel like I’m there, in the pub with everyone.
You told me you are gonna teach your dog how to send emails. they don't have thumbs pic.twitter.com/OlhneCqyba
— Craig Hannan (@C_Hannan7) November 7, 2016
For a night I feel like an out of town fan. Liverpool is having a party and I am three miles away, but it might as well be 3,000. But I’m still buzzing off everything. My dad never had this in Cheltenham, but we do now. Go ‘ed technology. I go and get a can of Stella and carry on with my work. Safe in the knowledge that drunken top of the table Reds are only a click away.
I’m not sure I’m going to make a habit of it. It turns out not having a hangover on a Monday morning in work is terribly overrated. I’ll be back in a big way for Sunderland. But for one night I’m happy enough being part of millions of Liverpool fans all round the world. Looking at the table, looking again and daring to dream.
Up the World Wide Web Reds.