I’VE seen this movie before, Reds, and it was shit the first three times.
For those of you who have read the nonsense I’ve written on these pages for a while now, you might agree that it’s probably fair to say I’m generally at the upper end of the optimistic supporter demographic. I have my doubts like everyone else, but more often than not I’ll find a glimmer of hope and something that we can cling onto in troubling times.
I have to be honest with you though, I’ve been really struggling after that game. The problem with the usual stuff I write about having hope, daring to dream and never giving up on love means that those of us who buy into that philosophy inevitably have to deal with these crushing lows sooner or later. We’re all basically crack addicts swinging from wild highs to soul destroying lows in between trying to convince people in the normal world that we’re fully functioning members of society.
The fallout from the Swansea debacle was funny to watch as a middle-aged man sitting with his wife in their new house (I say middle aged because I’m 37 this year and have no intention of doing this shit past 74, I’ll have well had enough of it by then, and I use “funny” in the blackest of black comedies sense).
I was sharing my suffering after the game via various messaging services with several mates, some of whom you know from these shores and some you don’t. Heartbreak was a general theme. Not anger, just soul-crushing heartbreak. I’ve always said that being angry isn’t the worst emotion you can feel. Anger can inspire you to do great things. Next time you go to the gym, wind yourself up about something that gets you really angry before you go and watch how much harder you can work if you channel that anger. Heartbreak is a completely different animal though. Heartbreak sucks all of the energy from your being and makes you want to drink and eat yourself into oblivion even though you’re not enjoying a single thing passing your lips.
I could have gone out for drinks after the match. It would have been a bit of a struggle because I’m going away next weekend with mates and thought it would have been a bit of a piss take to go out all day on Saturday as well. In fairness to my wife she’d pre-approved a drinking session if I’d been so inclined, but I’m also skint so really should save my money for next weekend in the knowledge that Dublin was expensive enough before various things happened that meant our money isn’t worth anything in Euro territories now.
All that aside, my wife has known me long enough to know that once I’d left the match and had a couple of drinks, the template text message saved in my phone of “Hi babe, do you mind if I stay out for a bit longer because [insert relevant excuse here]” would soon be delivered to her phone.
But as I left the match I just couldn’t face it. I couldn’t face standing in pubs talking to people about football and debating how bad we were, why it had gone wrong or, even worse, listening to people tell me that finishing in the top four and winning the “we couldn’t even get someone to sponsor this shitty competition this season” cup would be a good season. I get that winning trophies is nice and we haven’t done it for a while, but I’m just not that arsed. I think Wembley is shite and I can’t imagine dancing in the streets after the final.
So I went home and wallowed in my misery. I sat and watched Manchester City and Spurs on my laptop while my wife was watching Gary Barlow watch auditions from loads of knobs on BBC One in yet another TV show where people who think they can sing make a show of themselves in front of a national audience. When did these people stop being satisfied with karaoke in their local pub? That’s what’s wrong with this world – not enough people telling other people that they’re pretty good at singing, but should just stick to pulling out their Saturday night show stoppers in front of their mates and a few pissed punters in the Rose and Crown.
The problem with results like Saturday’s is that they trigger a horrible depression. That thing your partner does that you sometimes find funny but often find irritating now becomes something that you want to punch them in the face for doing. The people in the local shop who you might nod cordially towards on your best days are now absolute gobshites who are always in your way, wasting time chatting to the lad behind the counter about tonight’s lottery draw, leaving you muttering “hurry up, you stupid bellend” under your breath.
I heard someone say a few months ago that if you go through your day and you find yourself calling one person an idiot, the chances are that person is an idiot. But if you find yourself calling everyone you encounter an idiot from the moment you leave your front door, the chances are you’re the idiot.
That’s us after leaving Anfield on Saturday afternoon. One mate causing havoc in Centre Parcs, another on the verge of killing someone in town for trying to cheer them up by chatting nonsense about winning the League Cup. Me, sat at home absolutely furious with Gary Barlow for being Gary Barlow (who I usually quite like), and almost throwing my laptop through the window when a player I’d sold last week in the TAW fantasy football competition nearly scored. As my wife asked me what was wrong after witnessing my huffing, puffing and downright fury, I found myself laughing at the ridiculousness of the entire situation as I was forced to say it out loud.
We’re all just idiots really, but that doesn’t help much. I tried to explain to my wife why I was in such a bad mood, explaining the heartbreak of yet another faltering league title push. She was understanding in the best way that non-football fans can be, but I could see in her eyes she just thought I was a 36-year-old fool, and she’s right. It’s hard to argue against, isn’t it? She tried to comfort me with a line about the players being just as upset as we are and for once I cracked and came out with the clichéd “but at least they’re all minted and being comforted in their boss houses, the absolute twats. If they didn’t want to be miserable they should have done more to win the fucking game”.
I’ve been working on not swearing in these pieces for the past few weeks, but I’ve taken on too many other challenges lately so the swearing one is going out the window for this week, I’m just too upset and need to let it out somewhere.
Regular readers and listeners might know that I’ve recently given up beer in an attempt to get healthier. I’ve followed that in the past 10 days by giving up refined sugar, wheat and dairy. Some of you reading this will already be in the über healthy group who know about the benefits of giving up all of those food categories, but to us novices it’s a bit of a shock to the system not being able to eat 80 per cent of your favourite foods. I can’t even have the chocolate bar that Paul Johnson brings to the match for me every week.
The problem I’ve always found when trying to turn my body into a temple is that none of the literature you’ll read on any of the healthy lifestyle stuff gives any information on what you should do when you enter the depths of depression that greet you after your football team has been beaten at home by the gang of lads rooted to the bottom of the league, when a win would have kept you in the hunt for the holy grail.
Maybe that’s where I’ll end up making my millions. I’ll invent a secret recipe that will satisfy people in these circumstances which means they don’t have to turn to drink, drugs, Chinese food and buckets of ice cream and chocolate to numb the pain of defeat. Until then I’m with everyone else falling off wagons and waking the next day to an even darker depression, the part where you start calling yourself an idiot for tumbling from the truck just because a football team lost a game.
I was asked last week by TAW to write a short article to be given to eight-year-old kids in Utah to tell them what it’s like supporting Liverpool with the aim of encouraging them along the way. I wrote a piece about the emotion and the highs and lows of the past 34 years since I first went to Anfield. I was almost in tears as I recollected half-time at Istanbul and all of the unbelievable highs I’ve had supporting this mad club, and I was at pains to explain to them that there will be sad moments, just like in life, but the high points make up for them.
But even as I was writing it I was thinking to myself there’s a decent argument for just writing a 100-word article telling these unsuspecting kids that they should just give it a miss and spend their lives doing something more productive instead of wasting half of it on this nonsense — shouting at rich lads kicking a ball around then getting into fights with everyone when they don’t win. I often wonder what we’re all doing, but then I realise that the so-called real world is even more ridiculous than the football world so we might as well just carry on and see where it takes us. At least it distracts me from tweets by insane politicians of all denominations chatting shit all around the world.
All we can do is take comfort from the fact that we’ve been here before and have developed our own coping strategies for getting back on the horse. My personal depression-destroying cocktail includes a saved playlist on my phone of uplifting songs, a range of books to read and podcasts to listen to and a few comedies and comedians to which and whom I turn to in the darkest of moments, to drag me back into the light and begin to function in the non-football world again.
Cold showers and intense exercise really get the blood pumping and the positivity flowing and, last but not least, I fall back on my favourite motivational quotes from some of the greatest philosophers of our time to complete the transformation from slovenly depression to raging positivity.
On that note, I’ll end this week sharing a couple of personal favourites with you in the hope that you can use the words to help you get through today and tomorrow before we beat Southampton and Wolves in readiness for the biggest clash Anfield has seen since 2013-14 against Chelsea next Tuesday:
“Let me tell you something you already know.
The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows.
It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it.
You, me or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life.
But it ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward.
That’s how winning is done.”
That’s how winning is done. Champions get hit in the face and keep moving forward. Warriors keep walking when the also-rans have given up, blood dripping from their wounds, sweat dripping from their pores. We will not give in, the brutal world will not make us bend to its will. It’s at our lowest moments that we show how much we deserve to succeed. The good times are easy, it’s the bad times that make us who we are.
So, together, we’ll drag ourselves up, dust ourselves down and keep putting one foot in front of the other. We’ll put Tubthumping by Chumbawamba on the wireless and scream as loud as we can “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never going to keep me down.” We’ll put warpaint on our faces and devour Southampton before swatting Wolves away. Then we’ll unleash hell on Chelsea the likes of which they haven’t seen since 2005, when Anfield was at its most vicious and vocal and selfies were nowhere to be seen.
We will be champions again someday and we won’t give up on being champions this season until maths forces us to accept it’s no longer possible. We’ll chip away at Chelsea, we’ll cling onto the edge of the cliff even when the world stomps on our fingers. We’ll deal with falling if it happens but, until then, we’ll make ourselves the nastiest of nuisances that will not accept defeat.
Stay strong, Reds, it’s not over yet.
“Remember, the night is always darkest just before the dawn. And I promise you, the dawn is coming.”
(Harvey Dent, Batman – The Dark Knight)