FOUR am alarm clock. Four am. This is a time to get in, not a time to go out. In fact, as I leave my building a fella is coming in and he looks very surprised to see anyone, not least someone dressed to go out for the day. I just say “Bournemouth, mate” and he nods and goes to bed.
Bournemouth, mate. A far away seaside town relatively new to the Premier League that were, until Sunday afternoon, most welcome. Last year we stayed over, had a night out, and enjoyed ourselves. This year, Gareth Roberts has gone for the weekend. Me? We’re flying in and out.
Flying. That’s a new one for me for a league game. But trains aren’t easy to Bournemouth for a 1:30 kick off on a Sunday, and no one wants to drive, so flying it is. It’s cheap enough too. Return flights for £72 before you all accuse me of getting all Hollywood on you. It is early, though. Out of Manchester by 7:15. Hence the ridiculous alarm clock.
Five of us have got tickets and are braving the early start. It is fair to say we’ve had mixed levels of sleep. I was playing trumpet with the wonderful Amsterdam the night before so finally got to bed about 12. Josh decided to stay in Ben’s to make it easier for the taxi but they hadn’t exactly had an early night as planned. I don’t want to tell tales so let’s just say they got less than my four hours. Considerably less. Mick Clarke was sensible and went to bed early. Ronan went out in the afternoon, got smashed and got a solid five hours on the floor of his kitchen.
We think we’ve lost Ronan. He’s not answering his phone and he’s sorted the taxi. We just start to make alternative arrangements when he rings and says he’s on his way. He hadn’t set an alarm (why would he?) but he’d been woken up by the taxi driver banging on his door. All part of the service.
We manage a swift two in the airport and then we are in the air. The plane is one of those you want to be slightly bigger so it doesn’t move 10 feet in the air every time there is a gust of wind, but we get to Southampton without too much bother. And by that I mean the flight, minus take off and landing, is about 10 minutes. Fans of cruising at an altitude of 35,000 feet should not fly from Manchester to Southampton.
When we arrive at Southampton we have a pint in the airport for reasons I can’t quite remember and then jump the 40 minute train to Bournemouth. It’s funny how the train journey is as long as the flight but it’s a lovely route through a gorgeous part of the world. I happily look out the window as my mates chat absolute wham around me.
On arrival to Bournemouth we find a lovely little pub called Wetherspoons and settle in. Some of the lads from The Irregulars bus are in there. I also meet Phil Blundell as I’ve sorted tickets out for a few of his mates after some of our lot pulled out. I try and get them to chant my name in tribute but they look at me blankly. Ungrateful bastards.
Phil is impressed by how drunk we’ve managed to get. We are very drunk for morning. Suddenly the pub is empty and we remember we need to go and watch a game of football. A nice, old Pakistani man drives us in his taxi. The nice thing about small grounds is that there are less people to battle with. We are there in no time at all.
I meet Robbo and his mates outside and probe them for stories of Bournemouth debauchery. One of the lads was apparently making good progress with a girl until he pulled out a “jazz hands” move on the dance floor and she got off. I won’t name him, although he might be getting a new name now anyway. “Now then, jazz hands,” has quite a nice ring to it.
The football. Liverpool are good until they aren’t. We’re coasting at 3-1. So much so I start talking to people around me. I meet a fella who went to his first game in 1963. He’s great at swearing. I find old people do it with much more style. I see James Cutler who is still going to the footy even though his leg has fallen off. Mad bastard. It’s all great fun. Until it isn’t.
I’m very sad after the game. Can’t shake it. I storm around a bit and moan about the goalie on Twitter. Me and Josh dive into a pub which says home fans only but we ignore it. Need a drink. I talk to Bournemouth fans just to try and get my head around what went on. They don’t really know either.
One fella says to me “strange day for me, I support Bournemouth and Liverpool”. I say “what, both?” His mate goes: “Yeah, most Bournemouth fans support other teams too. It’s back from when we were rubbish. You’ll hate me. I support Bournemouth and Chelsea.”
I don’t hate him, of course, he’s a nice fella. But it’s all very odd. Although it does explain the strange atmosphere at Bournemouth. There is no edge at all, everyone is just having quite a nice time. They don’t get on their backs when they are struggling. They don’t go that mad when they score a last minute winner. They don’t even join the rest of the country and sing about the poverty in Liverpool. It just seems to be a load of people who want to do something of a weekend and think garden centres are shit. Which is fair play, really. Because they are.
We locate the rest of our friends in another branch of Wetherspoons. They must be quite popular down there. Kim Gordon is in there with friends. Second game in a row I’ve seen Kim which is great. My mate Ronan tries to get off with her which is a bold move for 5pm on a Sunday. Although we had been drinking for 12 hours by that point, so it’s one of them I suppose. One of Kim’s friends is Canadian, which allows me to get onto my current favourite topic of how it is never that cold in England. He calls you all wimps.
Another of Kim’s friends is local and kindly rings us a taxi to the station. The train is there right away and we’re at the airport in no time. Ronan is quite noticeably smashed at this point and a friendly man at security kindly suggests he has a coffee before flying. He goes to the bar and orders a Magners. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. Unless it’s more than 4%, like.
I remember very little about the flight home apart from harassing some nice fellas from LFC TV. On landing we discover our taxi has gone to Liverpool airport, not Manchester. However someone manages to sort something and we get home in one piece. I try and tell my wife how good I am for coming straight home. She calls me drunk. I watch Match of the Day and moan about the goalie on Twitter.
Now I’m on the train to the FSF Awards. Drinking seems like the last thing I want to do. But Ste Armstrong is going. All the best.
Up the jazz hands Reds.
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