There are more Irish in my constituency than in yours
Prime Minister Harold Wilson, talking to his Irish counterpart, Jack Lynch
Harold may well have been right in his assessment that he represented more Paddies than the Taoiseach, but Jack Lynch could always have countered that he had distinguished himself as one of the greatest players ever to wear red (the red of his home county of Cork) while Harold was a wool who supported Huddersfield Town. At least this particular wool is a diehard Red, so much so that he has moved to Liverpool to follow the mighty Reds for the season 2001/2.
I suppose some introductions are in order. Hi, I’m deiseach. You may remember me from such classic Far Side articles as Diary of a Teletext Junkie and Halleluiah! That’s pronounced “day-shock”, more or less. To those with a boredom threshold greater than the average MTV viewer, it’s a Gaelic term used to describe a native of County Waterford. Which is where I’m from. Obviously. In everyday life – no-one has EVER called me deiseach to my face – people refer to me as Niall Howard, a rather charming mix of a rock solid Irish Christian name with a stiff-upper-lip English toff surname.
I’d love to be able to say that moving to Liverpool was an agonising decision, one that required much soul-searching and weighing up of the various options available to me. But ultimately it was a spur of the moment thing, a combination of finding myself unemployed after talking myself out of a job and a chance meeting with a friend who had been plotting to move to Liverpool for years but could never find anyone bonkers enough to share in the risk.
Most of us ponder crazy lifestyle choices once in a while, whether it be hauling your carcass up Machu Pichu or treating victims of the Ebola virus in west Africa. Not that I’m saying moving to Liverpool is on a par with either of those. After all, Scousers speak the same lingo as me, or a very close approximation. But I doubt if I ever seriously considered anything beyond picking up a pay cheque at the end of the week as the limit of my ambition. Yet here I am, a resident of Liverpool and a regular viewer of the Reds for the first time in my life. Some people may call it a form of mid-life crisis, which is a bit disturbing seeing as I’m only 24. Others may focus on our rather patchy form since I’ve arrived and label me a Jonah. If I am a curse then you’re going to have to get used to us being crap, because you are stuck with me until May at the earliest.
“What are your earliest impressions of Liverpool?” I hear the disembodied persona of the Kop call to me. (And if anyone is afraid that future editions of this column are going to turn into an anthropological account of the people of this great city, rest assured that it will be like that only about half the time.) There’s no doubt that the reputation for friendliness is well earned. Everyone is quick to apologise for even the slightest potential infringement of politeness, which is a nice change from the get-out-of-my-way-pleb mentality that infests Dublin and is slowly creeping like the plague through the rest of Ireland. And I was only in my local pub five minutes before people started talking to me. Pity that friendliness can’t extend to offering a job. There’s not much for a computer-literate academic type in this town, and unless something comes along in the next few days you’ll probably be able to purchase a Big Mac and large fries off me in the McDonald’s on Paradise Street.
And before you think I’m being facetious – it wouldn’t be the first time – that is actually me being deadly serious. The things I’ll consider doing for the Reds…
Other initial thoughts? The propaganda of the Blueslime would have us believe that Liverpool is a Red-free zone, which the evidence of mine own eyes tells me is a streaming pile of Druncan Ferguson, with Kopites outnumbering Gwladys Street Enders by a factor of two-to-one. On the flip side, the renowned Scouse love of football doesn’t seem to be much in evidence. I had expected to have strident debates on football with everyone I met. Instead I had a Red in the pub telling me that he hadn’t been to Anfield since 1977 (?) and my landlord, after divining that we were off to the match against West Ham, asking me whether Liverpool were playing at home. And this only one hour before kick-off (!) Each to his own I suppose, although it does shatter one of my fondest illusions, namely the ability to talk football with just about anyone I meet in this city. I should have moved to Rio De Janeiro if I had wanted that, although not being able to speak Portuguese might have made that a bit problematic.
But one thing hasn’t let me down, and that’s the football. Okay, we’ve been pretty dire so far this season, with the Boavista result just the latest display of impotence to blight the football landscape like a Manchester textile factory. But at the time of writing, I’ve seen Liverpool as many times in the last four weeks as I had in the previous twenty years. Hitching to away games, scrabbling around looking for spares, European nights, singing the evening away in The Albert…these are joys that I always thought would be forever denied to me. Whatever happens this season, and indeed for the rest of my Liverpool career, I will know that for one precious season, I will have lived the dream of countless wools the world over.