IT’S beginning to rock along a lot like Christmas. Games coming thick and fast. Away trips to towns in the dark with cosy pubs with fires. Freezing your bollocks off at places like Stoke. Never feeling warmly dressed enough but not giving a fuck because The Reds are winning.
Christmas is a romantic time, and Christmas football remains enduringly romantic and sentimental. I get moist-eyed just thinking of the years, and the running down steps in grounds the length and breadth of England, and nearly tumbling, but laughing and punching the air, and bursting out into the elements, your breath immediately a fog in front of you. Probably still a bit pissed from the pub beforehand, but happy — really unambiguously happy. The Reds have won. Everything right. The world — just for a moment — a perfect place.
I remember that feeling at Villa Park in 2009. We had gone to Villa under Rafa and been awful all night but in the very last minute Fernando Torres is clean through, but from an angle. He finishes though. The perfect shot, the perfect goal, and suddenly it’s the perfect night.
We burst out the stadium into the Birmingham night and it’s started to snow. But really snow. Where the fuck did it all come from? And we’re running in the snow. It’s a fantastic feeling. It’s like God is a Red.
That memory sticks out but there are many more. Wednesday evening at Stoke was one of them. Liverpool battling, Liverpool fighting, holding on at times, but ultimately winning. Salah scoring. Mane scoring. We’re singing his Christmas song. We’re having fun. Even an hour stuck in a leisure centre car park in immobile traffic afterwards does not dampen spirits.
And now I’m feeling like a junkie for it. Going to Brighton at the crack of dawn on Saturday morning. It will be pitch-black freezing again, but the sun will be up in an hour. McDonald’s at Sandbach service by eight. Breakfast then back on the road. Debates about team selections, Simon Mignolet and about when it’s dignified to start on the ale picnic in the boot. It will take forever to get there but who cares. It’s just delaying the gratification. In this frame of mind only the match itself can spoil things.
We’re kipping over in Brighton. That’s not a return journey you want to be doing in a car in one day. I’d give everything for another win on Saturday afternoon. And not just because I’m an addict for Liverpool getting three points, but because I want it to be perfect again. I love the perfect. I live for the perfect that only the match and all that surrounds it can deliver.
On days that Liverpool win away we always talk about the ‘textbook’ day. What constitutes perfection? Our standards aren’t high.
Get to where you’re going to seamlessly. Locate the perfect boozer (one where you can actually get served and find a seat is what constitutes perfection). Drink and eat well. Find a parking spec that facilitates both a swift walk to the ground and a reasonably easy traffic light getaway after the game. Oh and Liverpool winning the match. The only truly essential ingredient.
It would be great if Brighton could just be rubbish. Just lay down like dogs for us. Make my day.
They aren’t crap though and they won’t make life easy for me or Liverpool. They’re 10th in the league and only been beaten once in their last six league games (and then just a 1-0 reverse at Manchester United). The selfish Seagulls haven’t been beaten at home since City did them on the opening day of the season. Let’s be under no illusions — this is a tough game.
Still, Liverpool are better than them and Jürgen Klopp can complete the quietening of the dissenters by sending out a full-strength side to overcome Brighton.
The squad has been used fully and wisely and the reward for this may be the luxury of the manager feeling able to unleash the full-throttle version of Liverpool this weekend.
Oh Mane Mane! 1-0 Reds pic.twitter.com/IY4hL3eZ8w
— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) November 29, 2017
Despite nagging doubts and doubting Thomases abounding, I cant help feeling very optimistic about Liverpool’s prospects this campaign.
I walk around the Liverpool FC dressing room in my mind and I see big players in every corner. It seems like a while since we’ve been this blessed. Barcelona were going to pay us best part of £150m in the summer for Phil Coutinho. He hasn’t even been one of our best three players this season. I sense that a special Liverpool team is emerging.
It’s full metamorphosis from inconsistent chrysalis into a beautiful red butterfly may still be a while off but the process of change is in motion. It cannot be stopped. The Reds are about to make more memories for us.
Predicted 11: Mignolet, Gomez, Matip, Lovren, Moreno; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Coutinho; Salah, Firmino, Mane.
Kick off: Saturday, 3pm.
Referee: Graham Stott
Odds: Liverpool 4-9, Draw 7-2, Brighton 11-2