I WENT to two football games this weekend so I’m going to talk about both of them. Mainly because the Sunday one was absolutely rubbish and I’m still fuming.
Saturday I went to Marine FC. Lots of us involved in TAW try and get to non-league games when we can. Si Hughes, Mike Nevin and Andy Heaton will often be seen at Marine, or at least propping up the members’ bar. Jay McKenna and Johnny Milburn prefer the raucous nature of City of Liverpool, while Gareth Roberts, having lost his beloved Knowsley United, now speaks highly of an afternoon at Prescot Cables.
We’ve talked about it plenty of times, but it is very much a different side of football. Marine are only two years younger than Liverpool but have had very different fortunes on the pitch. Although I am assured that last season’s League Cup victory was every bit as exciting as Istanbul. This season they’ve experienced manager and player walk-outs and a battle with relegation. But a 3-0 victory at Skelmersdale in the week assured safety for The Mariners, meaning Saturday’s game against Buxton had the air of a celebration.
I’d been dragged along by Matty from the band The Shipbuilders who, having grown up an Everton fan, is now a season ticket holder at Marine along with his wife. He’s got the bug to the extent he’s now going on away buses and has even agreed to provide the post-match entertainment in the bar. On a sunny day in Crosby it’s not hard to see how.
The pricing and the fact you can just walk in and stand where you like makes it accessible to a different sort of fan. You have the wonderful cliches of the old directors in club shirt and tie, of course, but also big gangs of teenagers enjoying being together and being slightly badly behaved. A couple of old punks in NOFX T-shirts are stood next to a man and his two daughters, who sing songs about the opposition with the swear words taken out. If the Premier League has ended up with loads of fellas aged 30 to 60 — of whom I am very much one — then the non-league seems to have got a, albeit small, mix of everyone else.
My favourite fella is the one who celebrates every Marine goal by running the entire length of the stand swinging a carrier bag round his head. It’s a move he gets plenty of chance to perfect as it rains goals on College Road. Although, perfectly in keeping with how I have managed to watch Liverpool this season, I manage to miss a fair chunk of them.
In my defence, the game does not seem like it is about to explode into a goal fest when, approaching half time, Buxton lead 2-0. Marine have played alright, but not quite managed to convert territory into chances and Buxton, much higher up the table, have been happy to hit them on the break. On about 43 minutes we head to the bar to find Si Hughes and Mike Nevin, who have beat me there.
There is a rumour Marine might have got one back before half-time but we can’t check on Ceefax because it doesn’t exist any more and they didn’t cover the Northern Premier League when it did. I chat with Mike and Si over a pint about Simon Mignolet until we realise the second half has started so we go back up.
Now I swear there is no more than 50 minutes on the clock when we make it back up to the stand and immediately Marine score. It is announced as an equaliser so we presume the rumours of a late Marine goal are true and it is 2-2. Only to be told that it is actually 3-3 and we’ve missed three goals not one. I have no idea how we, or indeed they, managed that.
But we’re in now and fully absorbed. Marine look terrific going forward, but they are struggling to defend set-pieces as Buxton are absolutely massive. Wave after wave of Marine attacks are countered by massive grocks heading corners in for them. When Buxton take a 5-4 lead it looks like that might be that. But Marine forward Danny Mitchley, who is that good I would have brought him on for Divock Origi on 60 if he’d been available the next day, turned and fired in a 90th minute equaliser. The teenage ultras break into a moshpit. I nearly neck the fella with the carrier bag. Absolute scenes.
Marine even nearly won it, as a substitute with a fancy name jinked through and fired just wide. But, as I would probably still be out now if it had went in, it’s probably for the best. A breathless second half finishes with the game 5-5. So, if you’d paid full price to get in, a pound a goal or, if like me you took your LFC season ticket, 50p a goal. That is goal-based value, ladies and gentlemen.
Afterwards there was a beer festival in the clubhouse so we went and enjoyed that. I don’t really know what I’m doing at these things so just order the one that’s a bit suggestive. “I’ll have a Knowsley Blonde, please.” I got chatting to an old mate Nick who was at Marine for the first time and had thoroughly enjoyed it. Although you would with the sun out and 10 goals, wouldn’t you? We watched the Chelsea v Spurs game and talked about music and everything was right with the world.
When The Shipbuilders got up to play I got up as well because I’m a massive show-off who won’t let anyone else have too much attention. They did their own tunes and then the players started getting a bit boisterous and shouting for covers so Matty played them too. Although he drew the line at Justin Bieber. Wrongly, in my opinion.
I eventually stumbled off about 9pm and went to town for a bit to meet Alan Fletcher, aka Karl Kennedy, who was over filming. We went to see Chris McIntosh from Silent Sleep who was DJing at a party and we all talked about Australia and how mad that was for a while and then we went home and left Chris to ‘work’.
I wake up a bit hungover but glad I got in before 12am. My wife leaves to go to her parents’ house and I contemplate taking the opportunity of going back to sleep but get up and do things instead. Bit of washing, think about the Reds. Some washing up, think about the Reds. Hang the washing out, think about the Reds. All very useful stuff.
When it reaches afternoon, and is therefore more socially acceptable to get on the ale, I start making plans to leave. I get diddled a bit by the Sunday trains but I’m in town for 1.30pm. I meet Tizzer and his lad Charlie on the train and we meet Ronan, Andy and Neil in Boston Pool Loft to play shuffleboard.
I’m not 100 per cent convinced we are getting the rules right but I am enjoying shuffleboard. I am playing doubles with Charlie, however, which might be a mistake, given he’s eight. It is fair to say he’s a big fan of smashing the discs into other discs and very little else. He’s great if they are winning and you need someone to clear the table. Less so if a soft touch is required. Never mind, we put up a valiant effort.
Manchester United are winning on the TV which is very annoying indeed. Esben, who featured on the latest TAW Player Team Talk show, pops in to get his tickets. My word, he’s hungover. Him and his mate look like they’ve done a reasonable job of drinking Liverpool the day before. They order a pint, look at it for a while, and then mutter something about heading to the ground. Although I’m not convinced they didn’t actually go back to bed.
Soon we head up to the ground too. We find the Glenbuck positively bathed in sunshine. Walshy has brought his lad James for the first time. They end up going outside because apparently ‘some of us’ are a bit loud in the pub, Well la-di-da, your majesty. Kev is well more excited about the whole thing than James is. And why not. Mike Forbes and Lewis have their kids with them too. It’s lovely.
Shame the Reds are absolute wham for them, like. Although I’m quite pleased that James’s first game was rubbish, in a way. Far too many people seem to have suspiciously brilliant games as their first one, I’m looking at you Jay ‘4-3 against Newcastle’ McKenna or you Andy ‘9-0 against Palace’ Heaton. It’s like the people who say the first single they bought was Some Might Say by Oasis when it was really Achy Breaky Heart by Billy Ray Cyrus. They just mean the first one that sounds good.
In 20 years time when James is trying to blag his first game was when we beat Barcelona in the 2018 Champions League semi-final I’m totally going to blow him up. “Fuck off lad, it was Palace at home and it was fucking shite”. He’s going to love his uncle John.
So yeah, the game was rubbish. Even when we were winning we weren’t very good. We seem to be struggling to kick the ball at the goal enough at the moment. I believe they call that Xg. Or xG. Or ‘they could have had three-year-old James Walsh with his flag, that was bigger than him, in goal and still won’. It’s a worry whatever you want to call it.
They score twice, mainly because Dejan Lovren has been alright for a while so had one coming, and we get beat. A weekend that should have led to us gaining ground in the race for the top four sees us losing it. We’ve spent a month laughing at Arsenal and now they are in an FA Cup final and can go level with us on points. Stupid football.
Mamadou Sakho is on the bench with his current team-mates which is fair enough. Is there any need for that handshake, though? For a start, these handshakes are all dreadful. Imagine if you and a mate had a special handshake in school? You’d get battered in minutes. Anyone dabbing in our school would have been dropkicked. Yet these are grown men doing it! In front of loads of people! Unreal.
But aside from the absolute wool behaviour, hasn’t Sakho been telling anyone who will listen how much he would like to come back? If he thinks he might come back wouldn’t he rather Liverpool were in the Champions League when he does so? And, considering the main reason he isn’t here is the fact that the manager thinks he’s an absolute divvy, wouldn’t he have been better off keeping his head down? He might as well have worn a T-shirt with ‘Still Thick, Jürgen’ on it.
But maybe I’m just annoyed that he should be helping us and instead I’m worried we aren’t going to get there. Fifth would feel like a massive blow now, wouldn’t it? Neil ropes me in to do The Pink and I can’t really remember what I said but I remember being sad doing it. Then me and Neil went for a pint and watched Lionel Messi, which cheered me up a bit. Maybe we should sign him.
Ah what to do with these Reds. Keep supporting them, I suppose. It’s all we can do for a while at least. Watford next, Monday night after what is likely to be another heavy bank holiday weekend. By then our rivals will have played twice and we’ll have a much better idea of what is required.
Although I do believe the phrase is ‘just fucking win’.
Up the lovable, loathable Reds.