One of the benefits of nobody reading these “second rate programme notes” (© My Brother) is that you can make comments about people without ever having to worry about them reading them.
Thus the wet and bedraggled American who I encountered the day before our clash with the Mancs is not to know that she has inspired the first deiseach column since, well, we were a good team.
And should she happen to be reading this . . . oops.
Actually, it’s not that bad a story, it just makes you wonder how people get tickets for games like Man U. I was working that Saturday, conducting the thankless task of surveying our companies properties in the Canning area of Liverpool. As if it weren’t bad enough listening to tiresome tenants complaining that their flat wasn’t like the Ritz, or feeling crap at finding some non-complaining tenant living in a property that was rejected by Adolf Eichmann as too grotty even for Jews, it was cold, wet and miserable. An average December day in the north-west.
It was while doing this that we bumped into the aforementioned American, who was huddling under her teeny umbrella while searching for her hostel. It was just around the corner and my colleague went away to confirm that she had reached her destination, leaving me to conduct small talk with her. After welcoming her to Liverpool, an ironic comment on the rotten weather which sailed clear over her immaculately-coiffured head, I asked her what brought her to Liverpool. “I’m here for the game,” says she, a comment which due to the American terminology (“the game” as opposed to “the match”) took a few seconds to register in my sodden brain. Reasoning that is was unlikely she was in town for Tranmere v Luton, and not even stopping to consider the notion that she might want to inflict a trip to the Pit on herself, there was only one “game” that she could have being referring to.
My flabber was well and truly gasted. A few more hasty enquiries unearthed the following:
- She was from Alabama although living in Dublin. Presumably not Dublin, Ohio. Still, a loooong way to travel to see a football, sorry, soccer match.
- She was cheering for Liverpool. Thank goodness for that.
- She had gotten the ticket by “being lucky, I guess”.
- She didn’t know which part of the ground she was sitting in, apart from the fact that it was in row 3.
Then she was off, with just enough time to explain my own, moving to Liverpool to follow the Reds, situation. It’s essential to squeeze that in because it always impresses the chicks. There’s no need to tell She Who Must Be Obeyed that either, thank you.
No matter how hard this Irish Red tries to suppress the hypocrisy of it all, you’ve got to wonder how she got a ticket. I’m not into conspiracy theories – Lee Harvey Oswald shot Kennedy! Get used to it! – and the simple truth is probably that a friend of hers offered her the ticket when they couldn’t go. Maybe she doesn’t understand the significance of the Kop grandstand (gah) but that doesn’t mean she’s not entitled to follow the ‘Pool, and someone from Alabama would really want to love the Reds to come over at such a foul time of the year, even if only from Dublin which on the day in question was in danger of becoming an Atlantis for the 21st century. For all of that, you can’t wondering . . . did she get the ticket on the proviso that she maxed out her AmEx in the club shop, I mean store? How many games had she been to before to get the privilege of being to watch us wallop Man Ure (ahem)? Would Dave Ussher, editor of The Liverpool Way, send her flying if she asked him whether his fanzine was the official programme? So many questions, so many made-up answers.
It should be noted at this stage that the hypocrisy on my part is not because I’m another foreigner taking the ticket of some poor scall who hasn’t missed a game since the days of Billy Liddell but couldn’t get a Man Utd ticket because the ticket office instituted a policy of only selling tickets to people from Waterford and Alabama. The Blackburn game on 26 December is the first home game I’ll have missed in 20 months, and if that sounds belligerent, it’s because it is, having being recently told by a work colleague to “f*** off and support Manchester United”. But I digress . . .
No, the hypocrisy on my part is questioning how random American woman can get a ticket while benefiting from the vagaries of the ticket office to the tune of (wait for it) FOUR tickets. Having secured my ticket and that of my regular match goer, I had enough stubs to get another ticket. In addition, another work colleague, who thinks that moving to Liverpool to follow the Reds is the greatest display of devotion since the fifty who went to war-torn Vladikavkaz, got me the use of a season ticket book for the match. Hence the four tickets.
I’m going to get a rocket for all this. “You had all those spares and you never told me you bastard I read your column once I can’t remember when but I did read it it was okay not as good as Paul Tompkins stuff I miss him you’re not as good as him but I did read it and I needed a ticket well I needed one for my girlfriend she’s not really my girlfriend but she would have been had I got her a Man U ticket have I called you a bastard yes I have you bastard…” Etc etc etc.
To make a long story even longer, I opted to use the season ticket on the basis that I didn’t want to be entrusting it to the two lads who were top of my ticket list. One is the type who would have a few beers and exchange it for a butty or a bag of magic beans. The other is the type who would have a few Jack Daniel’s and a curry then, while recycling the curry, decide that he must take a stand against the oppressive toilet roll manufacturers of this world and use voucher number 10 (Everton) as an emergency anus polisher. All told, it was better that I used it, banishing me from my beloved Kop into the bowels of the Lower Centenary Stand.
My previous experience of the Centenary was not a happy one. Quite apart from the grind of a 0-0 with Fulham in front of an embarrassingly small crowd, we were surrounded by the sound of silence. It was so bad that we were the only three in our section to sing You’ll Never Walk Alone. People didn’t even frown at our lame efforts to get a few chants going because that might have taken a bit too much effort. And these were the folk who could be arsed going out on that miserable December night. I was certain it wouldn’t be long before I yearned for the safety of the Kop.
As it turned out, it wasn’t at all bad. For a start, the view was superb. I’ve never had a seat on the halfway line before and could really appreciate the value of being there as everything was instantly understandable. So when a certain goalkeeper let a back header slip through his arms, I could instantly see whose fault it was. People who were on the Kop get a much less clear view and there was some doubt as to where to apportion blame. But from where I was, there was no doubt. This is a subject I’ll return to on a later date, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.
Another benefit of this particular seat was the presence of so many season ticket holders. Initially this looked like being a drawback as the fellas either side of me enquired as to the health of the usual incumbent. Oh dear, I thought, they may not appreciate some Mick taking their mates seat. But no, there was no problem. While there wasn’t much singing, there was plenty of opportunity to discuss what was going on on the pitch. One lad behind me never shut up, but for once this wasn’t a bad thing. Perhaps season ticket holders are mindful of having to sit beside the same people week in week out, but there was none of the usual “f***in’ hell, Reds!” stuff that goes for match analysis on the Kop. You didn’t have to agree, and some of the solutions offered struck me as so much blarney. But it was honestly held opinion which had some thought put into it, which made for a pleasant change.
I’ll still be going back to the Kop at the first opportunity, and the overriding memory of my stay in the Centenary Stand will have little to do with the fans and lots to do with the fans. So what about “the game”? Patience, grasshopper. We’ll get back to that at another time. For now, it’s time (at the time of writing) to go and watch Liverpool play Ipswich with an Ipswich fan. Oh dear . . .