Tomorrow will be quite a watershed day for me. Liverpool play United at Anfield and it’ll be the first time I’ve not been at that particular game for, well, a long, long time. Money, money, money, not always funny. But it’s not just the game I’ll miss, it’s the inevitable craic that comes with it. Matches against United don’t start and finish on a referee’s whistle, they start days before, when you can’t concentrate on work, when you can’t sleep, when you start walking into lamp posts because you’re daydreaming, or worrying, or just wanting it to be Saturday, on your way to the ground, dreaming of giving that shower of absolute bastards a good, hard spanking, to wipe that arrogant, gum-chewing, open sore of a smile off his very ugly chops.
You get up on United-Matchday morning, like a kid at Christmas, waiting until it’s actually a bit light outside before daring to get dressed. You’ve already been commentating to yourself in the shower, as Gerrard blasts a 40-yarder past de Gea’s weasily gob, taking the back of the net off right in front of the away end in the Lower Annie, to make it seven-nil with still half the match to go…loads of time for Kuyt to score another Kop hat-trick, from a total tap-in distance of half a yard.
If I was going, I’d be ready by 9am, then I’d stride into town to meet the gang for a spot of “brekkie”, on the second pint before the bacon buttie even reaches the table. We’ll all fight about whether Kenny should start Gerrard, or wait until Vidic has been sent off (again) before risking it, as the bastards will all be out to break Stevie’s legs as usual, anyway. Then we’ll have a few bets, usually on how long it takes Carra to get his first yellow (12 mins); when Rooney will self-destruct (78 mins, after Carroll twats him on the sly); and, inevitably, what the score will be. Then Andy (not that one) will spend a solid hour telling us why Andre Marriner is absolutely the worst person in the world to be refereeing this match (Andy thinks EVERY referee is shagging Alex Ferguson), and Jon will utter the immortal line “can we go somewhere that serves proper f***king ale, now?”. So we’ll jump some cabs nice and early, up to the King Charles, for some more lubrication and a bit of verbal abusage at the Sky knobheads who are just as crap at punditry as they were at football.
A few Evertonians will come in; the same old faces who never go and watch their own team, but don’t mind spending the equivalent of a match ticket sitting in a Red pub, telling us, bitterly, just what a gang of gobshites we all are. Which really upsets us, obviously, but doesn’t upset Tammy, the landlady, who’ll be more than happy to take their blue-tinged money as they spew bile across the pub, standing next to a huge picture of Shankly and a replica of the European Cup, neither of which they’re familiar with.
About 12.15pm, we’ll wander down Oakfield Road, through the sea of chip papers and dog shit, maybe drop by the Hillsborough Justice Campaign Shop, where Gerry will chastise me for not coming by during the week “cos you’re only down the road, gearrlll!”, then we’ll make sure we’re in the ground early enough for some light hearted banter with the visiting Mancs, most of whom will still be supping from their Costa cups, having hopped off the 0907 from Euston.
The cauldron will reach optimum boiling point at 12.39pm, when the final chorus of YNWA bleeds red from our ears, then Kenny and Fergie will pretend to shake hands, whispering various, indecipherable, Scottish obscenities to each other, as they retire to their respective benches, and Marriner stands on the half way line, ushering a silent prayer skyward, something along the lines of “for f**k’s sake, Lord, let me get through this in one piece…”
90 + whatever-Fergie-wants-adding-on minutes later, and we’ll be marching back to the K.C., and cramming into the tiny bar to see all ten of our goals being replayed on the telly, while a few token Scandinavians (who’ve suddenly acquired Molby-esque Scouse accents), get totally carried away with the “cheap beer”, and the still-present Blueshite try convincing us, even more bitterly, that we were “lucky”. Andy will still be moaning about Marriner being in Fergie’s pocket (“we would have had 14 if it wasn’t for that cheating bastard…”), and Jon will be switching soon to gin and tonics, because “the beer’s still shite”.
But I’m not going.
While it’s true that I will be striding into town around about 9am, it’ll be to jump on the 86 over to the folks’ plasma in Mossley Hill. It won’t be the same, obviously, but I’ll still get some authentic match day atmosphere, mainly thanks to mum, who can’t see Alex Ferguson without swearing at him, copiously, and who thinks Pepe and Carra were stolen from her at birth. My mother was once asked to leave the British Legion on Rose Lane, for getting “over-animated” during a game once. I think we were only playing Wrexham. In a friendly.
Dad, the one-time fanatic who, like so many others, hasn’t really been to a match since Hillsborough, will sit quietly in his armchair throughout the game, trusty pint of Boddie’s by his side, watching and analysing every single kick, flick, pass and move, whispering clever tactics to Kenny through the television ether, tactics which Kenny will intuitively act on, without fail, on precisely 79 minutes, after which Dad will point knowingly to the screen, nod smugly in my general direction and announce “Told yer…”, before settling, Solomon-like, back into his chair.
Despite Everton being the traditional “enemy”, playing the Mancs is easily my favourite fixture of the season. I think it’s because I’ve always looked upon the former with pity, pathos, maybe just a little contempt. They’ve never bothered us, competitively, not really. Even in the Eighties, when they laughingly reckoned they were heading for a European Cup, were it not for the ban on British clubs after Heysel, they weren’t a patch on us. I’ve always felt sorry for them, truth be told. Not sorry in a “oh never mind, at least you tried…” way, more a “oh never mind, you’ll always be just a shower of twats” kind of way. But with United, I just hate them. It’s that simple. And while I know that “hate” is a very strong word, and should be used sparingly at best, especially by someone who claims to love language as much as I do, someone who really doesn’t like it when words are thrown away, willy-nilly, on crass sentimentalisation and poor empathy, someone who likes to choose words very, very carefully…it’s just no use. I hate them, I really, really, f***ing hate them.
So I’m gutted to not be there, tomorrow, for all of it, particularly the 3am lock-in that’s bound to happen, whatever the score. But I’ll be there in spirit, as the Redmen march towards another three points, as Gerrard gets his 50th Anfield Premier League goal, and as Vidic gets sent off for the fourth time against us. I adore going to any game, whether it’s a pre-season kickabout at Total Network Solutions, or the European Cup Final, but there’s something about stuffing the Mancs, at home, that leaves me feeling all warm, fuzzy, and extremely hungover the next day. Kenny, don’t even think about easing up on them, just because I’m not there to heckle.