Oops, we did it again.
Just when it looks like it might be safe to re-enter the Red kitchen, the stove erupts, spraying a cascade of noxious goo all over all Kopites. You get up in the morning, look at your self in the mirror, scratch yourself in several unmentionable places, and you think “what a great opportunity for the Reds today!” Everybody screwed up yesterday, so we can show our renewed sense of vigour by stuffing a team of overachieving journeymen, has-beens and never-will-be’s like Ipswich.
Ah, but you can’t shake the habits of a decade. You recall the friend whose first trip to Anfield was to see Liverpool play Ipswich, and who saw the might of Adam Tanner (who he?) send the ‘Pool down to defeat. So how can you avoid the game? No problem. You’re going to be heading home on the train. You’ll be incommunicado for the length of the match, your flash new personal stereo being perfectly suited to constructing acoustic nirvana from billions of holes on a CD, but unable to pick up medium wave radio signals. Or any other kind of output from that obscure, century old invention, for that matter.
You sit on the train, munching your way through an overpriced ham sandwich. The butter has been spread so thin on the bread that you wonder whether it’s actually milk. You read through a Terry Pratchett novel. God, that Rincewind! What a craven excuse for a wizard he is! You flick idly to the potted biography at the beginning of the book. You see – for the seven hundredth and forty-fifth time – that Pratchett lives in Wiltshire. Swindon is in Wiltshire, is it not? Swindon…Swindon Town…football…Liverpool. No matter how hard you try, you can’t forget.
How can you find out the score? It must be nearing half time at this stage. You look around. The man sitting opposite you, reading such intellectual tomes as FHM and OK! is oblivious to your plight. Think man, think. Your headphones fill with what sounds like the song of a whale with a speech impediment. REM’s Losing My Religion is lost amidst the din. Of course! Your mobile phone, as well as giving you cancer, also gives out football scores. Okay, you push all the appropriate buttons and wait for a reply. Here it is. Deep breath as you prepare for the news…it’s 0-0. But this is after only thirty-six minutes of the first half. They haven’t updated the scores for half time yet. Wait a few minutes and try again. Let’s see what the half time score is…
You see it and yet your brain doesn’t register the awful reality for a second. What you see is but light reflected off a surface falling onto cones and rods in your retina. You need your brain to interpret what you have just seen, and for a split second your brain, conditioned by around seventeen years of Red fanaticism, refuses to accept what it sees. But your logic centres reassert themselves and the truth is revealed. Your cerebellum sends electrical pulses to your body, and you shiver with fear. With the certainty of some latter day Nostradamus who actually can see the future rather than garbled gobbledegook that can be interpreted any which way, you know that this is the final score. It could be the precursor to a frenzied second half performance of Wagnerian proportions, a thunderous declamation of intent that will reverberate throughout the ages…but you know that this is the final score. Liverpool will huff and puff, but you know they wouldn’t blow down a matchstick house with an inter-continental ballistic missile.
You know, and yet you periodically check the scoreline anyway. Perhaps they’ll get a jammy deflected goal. Perhaps Emile Heskey will hit a screamer from the halfway line. Perhaps some fearsome deus ex machina will intervene to save the day, like floodlight failure, a monsoon hitting Liverpool or the commentary booth keeling over from the weight of Andy Gray’s fat head. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. The train pulls into the station. You grip the phone ever tighter, hoping that it will bleep salvation to you any moment. Instead it rings. You answer it, expecting the cackle of Madame Le Guillotine; what you get is much worse. It’s your brother curtly informing what you already knew. They lost. No need to elaborate on who they are. You say your goodbyes, and you suppress hot tears of anger and rage.
And as the train pulls into the station, you dwell on the worst thing about the whole darn shooting match. It’s the feeling of uselessness, of not being able to do anything about it. If mental gymnastics and emotional contortions were enough, you know Liverpool would win everything in sight. You have spent two hours in purgatory, you will be unable to read a newspaper, surf the Internet or turn on the television for a week without being reminded about what just happened. And there is absolutely sweet Fanny Adams you can do about it. The names, the times and the places will change but the overwhelming feeling of impotency will remain. Impotency squared.