ON February 28, 2016 Liverpool played Manchester City in the League Cup final. Not being a season ticket holder it was only the third final I had managed to get a ticket for. I had never seen Liverpool lift any silverware in the flesh, after witnessing us get beat by Chelsea in the League Cup final in 2005, and then in the FA Cup final in 2012, writes PHILIPPA SMALLWOOD.
After leaving my bluenose husband (Neil) in the centre of London I made my way to Wembley on the underground and on route I got talking to a City fan. He was from Portsmouth, where he had moved to after retiring. He was supremely confident of winning, and reeled off how every player in a City shirt was twice the player of their opposite number in red. Even Kelechi Iheanacho was heralded as some world star who we wouldn’t be able to live with when he comes off the bench.
I have to say, I admired the way he had such confidence in his team that they could just turn up and beat us. I hoped we would prove him wrong and do what we did to them at the Etihad just a couple of months earlier.
It didn’t quite turn out as I had hoped. Liverpool somehow managed to lose a penalty shootout in a cup final and I was distraught.
After the match I made my way down Wembley Way only to find myself surrounded by Manchester City fans. There I was, devastated that for the third time, my trip to watch my team play in a final had resulted in a defeat, and while Blue Moon was blasting out inside Wembley these lads were treating it like any other game.
I often find myself getting emotional just thinking about Liverpool lifting a trophy in front of my eyes. I would have still been inside Wembley lapping it up and soaking it all in long after the last piece of confetti had hit the turf and the last sip of champagne had been drunk. Security would have to kick me out. Instead, there I was, miserable and seething that it doesn’t mean the same to them.
I met back up with Neil at Stanmore station. He gave me a hug to try and make things better, and then proceeded to tell me how he too had seen numerous Manchester City fans on the train who didn’t look bothered that they had won, and how he couldn’t believe it. He, like me, would need dragging out of Wembley and you wouldn’t be able to wipe the smile off his face for weeks.
I made a decision on my way back to the car that I couldn’t go through this again. It’s too painful. To get so close, but to ultimately fall at the final hurdle is hard to take.
While wiping away the tears, I asked Neil if I would ever witness us win a trophy. In these moments it is great that he is an Everton supporter because he often speaks sense. He just looked at me and said that what I need to remember is that in all three finals we were the underdogs. That there is no shame in losing to those teams and eventually, if you keep getting to finals, the result you want will come.
There is a famous saying that summed up how I felt at the time — it’s the hope that kills you. That’s what they say. That I would rather not have any hopes or expectations because my dreams can therefore not be destroyed. I was broken. I was a mess. I was angry. If there is a God, how he can let a team whose fans aren’t arsed win a trophy on three occasions, over me who it means the world to?
And yet, here I am — excited for Wednesday and what it might bring. Another potential trip to Wembley. Another chance to win a trophy. Another opportunity to change my record of three defeats from three finals.
And do you know what – I don’t believe in that saying any more. It’s utter shite. It’s not the hope that kills you, it is the fear. The fear of your dreams never coming true and being destroyed. It’s the hope that keeps you going. The hope that one day I will be crying tears of joy while watching Jordan Henderson lift a trophy above his head.
Many Liverpool fans have probably seen the boys in red lift a trophy in the flesh. Many of you may have seen it several times. But I am still waiting. Waiting for that moment of pure ecstasy.
But, I am ready. I will not be consumed by fear of failure, but filled with hope. The hope that I will be walking up Wembley Way on February 26. The hope that Henderson will be raising that trophy aloft.
So bring on Southampton. Bring on the Anfield roar. Bring on another great night under the Anfield lights.
Let’s make this possible. Up the trophy winning Reds!