SATURDAY night I was DJing with Steve Graves for The Cheap Thrills EP Launch at The Shipping Forecast. It was a brilliant night, not least because of the wonderful DJs on show. It was rammed and boisterous and everyone wanted to celebrate after. I was encouraged by others and my shoulder angel, who rarely wins, to call it early though. I got the last bus home.
I woke up feeling fairly fresh and glad I did. I already had a text off a friend saying “what time are we out, I’m thirsty.” I texted around to see what others were doing, with surprisingly little response. It is Manchester United away, isn’t it? My mate came on again: “Come on, Gibbo, I want a pint in my hand at 12.” I stirred, showered and got going.
We were in Wetherspoons in time to get breakfast. Very unnecessary jagerbombs were ordered. It was FULL of Manchester City supporters, which I hadn’t anticipated at all, perhaps naively. It’s funny, you’d never get that with Manchester United, which shows the rivalry levels are still nowhere near. Or are Everton not as bothered? Anyway, they were loud and very much there.
City started heading up to L4 which was our signal to do similar. Outside, a load of very young City fans piled out of The Blob Shop. One of them was holding a bottle of Peroni and stumbled backwards into the road, nearly getting hit by a taxi. Not unlike the famous “FFS Ally” video his friends acted like it wasn’t his first time. Given it was 12:45pm, I wondered how early he got up to start drinking, or if he had even been to bed. They walked past us with his mate telling him to get a grip.
We were at the Twelfth Man in no time and it was full, with a few buses leaving from there to go to Old Trafford. We were on The Irregulars Bus, a fine group of men as dedicated as any. It’s always a laugh on there, and you’ll even sometimes get an ex-Liverpool player coming to join the fun. Although this time it was just the usual selection of alcoholics.
My mates blamed the lack of early texts on either staying up late to watch the boxing or getting up to watch it and not wanting phone spoilers. I then saw Callum, from The Cheap Thrills, and his dad who were on another bus, it is fair to say Callum did NOT get the last bus home. He muttered something about six in the morning to me and forced a smile. He looked like I did on Monday morning.
We watched the first half of The Ev before we went. They were winning and playing well. I wondered if the lad with the Peroni bottle had even noticed. Or if he had even made it in. There are some narrow roads around Goodison Park, he’d have to have been a bit more careful where he walked.
The bus to Old Trafford had to be “dry”. No worries, it was quick enough and we had plenty of Fanta Lemon to get us through. As we approached the ground the songs started going in earnest. Outside I saw a fanzine seller I recognised from Ste Armstrong’s Twitter. He was raising money for Dementia UK by dressing in pink pyjamas. I mentioned it to the lads and we threw a tenner out the window. Fair play, really. He looked an absolute twat.
What was funny, though, is that he started clapping our bus. But the lads at the middle and the back hadn’t got the memo so they gave him the Vs. He just lapped it up. Sure he wouldn’t have had it any other way. We still hate each other after all.
Anyway, we were in the ground and, because they trusted us like actual humans, they were serving alcohol. All the lads from TAW seemed to be about. A fair few had braved the train, where Johnny Milburn ended up doing an impromptu gig on a piano. Wonderfully surreal. Everyone was buzzing for Trent Alexander-Arnold. No-one seemed worried.
Before the game there was a minute’s applause for Graham Taylor. I like the move from minutes silences to applause. Obviously it is not appropriate in every case, but it just makes more sense to me. Not only should life be celebrated, but it allows people to choose to join in. If someone didn’t like Graham Taylor, for whatever reason, they can choose to not clap or go and do something else. Silence almost forces moments of solemn on you when you just might not have any.
For reasons of fate, I once ended up doing three minutes of silence for The Queen Mother. Three! Now I didn’t wish any harm to her, but nor did I feel the need to mark the occasion with quiet reflection on three different occasions at various sporting events. By the third I just felt daft. Anyway, everyone clapped Graham Taylor because he was great.
The footy started and Liverpool looked pretty good. Then Manchester United got into it. Then Paul Pogba, possibly because it was a game against Liverpool and their manager had told his players to channel their inner Gary Neville, punched the ball and gave us a goal.
Half-time talk consisted of whether we were going to win. In fact, a fair amount of the second half talk was exactly the same. Every time they looked threatening Josh told me they were going to score. I told him they wouldn’t and we’d be fine. On some occasions, I believed what I was saying more than others.
Just as even Josh was starting to believe they wouldn’t score, they scored. Well I assumed they did. We couldn’t really see what happened from our end but they all started cheering so they must have. But then Liverpool played great again and I thought we were going to win. But we didn’t.
Afterwards they decided to keep us in, even though they hadn’t for the last few years. It’s the inconsistency and lack of information that annoys you, really. They seem to make the decisions on the day on the whim of an individual. They don’t even know whether you are allowed to go the toilet. In the end they decided to let people go two at a time. In a crowd of 3,000.
Finally we were out and we managed to battle through the highly dangerous territory of a walkway surrounded by police to our bus. Glad it wasn’t 20 minutes earlier, who knows what would have happened. I was gasping for a beer but the best we had was a big bottle of Fanta. Never mind. Liverpool soon…
We got back to The Twelfth Man but Josh was itching to get to town. I understood, it felt we needed new energy. We got a taxi to Pogues and Walshy, JP and Barry were there, propping up the bar as per. I didn’t plan on staying that long but at some point my shoulder angel got off and my shoulder devil flexed his muscles. I stayed that long. And then longer. Stupid shoulder devil.
Up the Fanta Lemon Reds.