SACK HOULLIER THE B*STARD – anonymous (name withheld) contributor to the message board at 16.37 on the day of the 2001 FA Cup final
Defeat today is a sacking offence – different anonymous (name withheld) contributor to the message board three days after the 2001 Uefa Cup final and hours before the game at Charlton last season. Which we won 4-0.
This particular entry in the canon of the Far/Near Side began life with the rather highbrow title of “The Politics Of Dissent”. It was intended to be a serious albeit typically cockeyed look at what is an acceptable level of criticism (such as “why didn’t you take off that defender with the broken leg, Ged?” or “come on Thommo, give Jari a game”) to unacceptable opinion (see above.)
But after the performance of a gimp at Pride Park last Saturday, any thoughts of it being an attempt to see both sides of the argument have been fired from a cannon atop the highest point on the Liver Building into the Mersey. Mere words cannot express how irritating it was to be sitting beside this tulip, but since I’m a crap artist I can’t draw you a picture of me beating him around the head with a bag of badges wrapped in a wet scarf.
That was my fantasy anyway. I’ll have to settle for making the observation that when Jerzy Dudek saved that winner – so to speak – and collected the rebound, I completely lost control, nearly poleaxing (pun unintended) the fellows sitting to my left, an over-the-top reaction that was returned with interest. When it was all done and dusted, I collapsed into my seat, tears bubbling up from within my tormented soul as I thanked multiple deities for delivering us from the hell that would have been a Derby equaliser.
But for all the stunning loss of control perpetrated that afternoon, I still had enough reason left in that raging vessel filled with the most animal-like emotions so that when I turned around and saw that quilt on my right, I thought “I’m not celebrating this moment with you, asshole.” That’s how much he had gotten on my wick, that even as every vestige of civilisation was cast off in the urge to bellow my delight, a small part of me coldly informed me that this moron was persona non grata.
I’ve seen people acting the eejit at games before, with their incessant carping and griping, but three things were different this time. To begin with, it was away from home. There is an onus on us to hang together, otherwise we will hang separately. Emile Heskey didn’t have his finest hour on Saturday, but the travelling Kop chanted his name at every opportunity. There was no way we were going to give the home support the satisfaction of seeing us give less than total support to a player who has received so much stick of late. Not the tulip beside me though. As far as he was concerned, if Heskey didn’t bicycle kick the ball into the net every time he touched the ball, then he was taking up space that could be more profitably used by some phantom player on the bench. Probably Robbie Fowler, although it might be assuming too much to think he knew who Robbie Fowler was.
A second factor was the pair sitting on my left. They complained mightily about bad play, and were a bit too quick about it, in my humble opinion. But they were also quick to applaud good play, and regularly joined in the chanting. Compare that to the triple A dipstick on my right, who sat with his arms folded throughout the entire game, although miraculously he applauded the goal and the penalty save, which was mighty big of him. I may not agree with dissing players who are having a stinker – and boy, there was more than one on the park last Saturday – but I’m the person who stuck by Roy Evans and (heaven help me) Graeme Souness right to the bitter end, and blind allegiance isn’t the best way to support a team either. So I’m willing to accept that this is merely a ‘different’ method of showing support rather than a worse one. Comparing and contrasting those lads with the quilt on my right was more instructive than spending a weekend with a shower of Mancs would be in teaching you that they are utterly clueless about football.
Did you know that Wes Brown is worth £20 million? That’s what a Manc told me recently. Which is good news, because no one will be able to afford him and he can carry on his stirring performances in the Moan U defence. Hurrah!
The third factor in making my blood reach an even 100 degrees Celsius at sea level was the stellar performance of a Red sitting in the row in front of me. Paul from Aintree, step forward and take a bow, because your unrelenting efforts to start songs at even the most inauspicious moments – ESPECIALLY for trying to start songs at inauspicious moments – was a joy to behold. I’m too much of a coward to start songs, but I pile straight in after anyone willing to kick things off, and the bould Paul didn’t care how well things were going on the pitch, as long as there was air in his lungs he was singing. It was wonderful to participate in, and it made the jerk beside look all the more objectionable.
Why do these people go to games? It’s meant to be an experience, not an opportunity to know the score before anyone else. Whatever about the level at which criticism become acceptable, surely it’s not too much to expect people to make a greater contribution than to applaud a goal or a penalty save, and spend the rest of the time performing the vital task of keeping your seat in the down position. Or maybe I expect too much. If I am, it’s enough to make one cry, and this time they’re not tears of joy and relief.