I’ve written a few unpublished articles in my time, rambling dissertations that looked good enough at the time but were overtaken by events before they could be put on the ‘net. I’ve kept them for posterity and will pass them on to the grandchildren on my deathbed, in the slightly optimistic hope that they will be able to reveal to them to an unsuspecting world, a world which would be less stunned had they produced a previously unknown Bach cantata or found a lost Inca city in Maghull.
There are two more realistic reasons for hoarding these relics. They act as a warning not to say anything too rash in case the real world jumps up and bites you on the arse. Did I really confidently predict in March 1999 that Liverpool would qualify for the Champions League only days before the beginning of a run of two points from our last five games? Yes I did, and thank goodness that problems with email meant that by the time I had a chance to send it to the Holy of Holies in Liverpool, the Reds had dropped points to the likes of Leicester and Everton and I was able to quietly shelve the article under L for Letusneverspeakofthisagain.
The other reason for keeping these masterpieces of mendacity is to raid them for a few half-decent quotes when inspiration fails – as it often does. So a more recent unpublished column wasted a few hundred perfectly serviceable words about how football clubs were benign dictatorships and that this was the right way to go, for it would be folly to allow the ignorant masses to decide the fate of our beloved football club. There was also a lot of guff about pre-Weimar Germany and the baleful influence of an interfering Kaiser, but that will be saved until inspiration fails me again, er, saved until a more appropriate date.
All this came to mind in a few dramatic(ish) hours on Sunday morning. Surfacing after a night of much revelry, still wearing the clothes from the night before, the first order of the day was to see if anything important had happened in the world by watching the news. Sky Sports News, of course. The Dirty Digger was parading the usual twoball, the chipmunk-grin male clown – on this occasion it was the original of the species, Matthew Lorenzo – and the female sidekick with her beautiful blonde hair inexplicably marred by someone dying her roots black. Amidst all the ticker tape and details of the top scorer in the League of Wales, the story that Rivaldo wanted to join ‘the Reds’ managed to reach my eardrum. Yeah, yeah. How often do we hear stories of every which player being linked to Old Trafford? I took a few seconds out to mentally curse the journalistic retardation that means that ‘the Reds’ has become shorthand for Manchester United when everyone knows the Reds are Liverpool
And Nottingham Forest
By the time I had made a cup of coffee, the full story emerged on screen. Rivaldo wanted to join THE Reds; he wanted to join Liverpool! Eagerly I devoured the news, my enthusiasm emerging battered but unbowed by the source of this nugget, the dreaded News of the Screws, sister paper to The Putrid Rag That Dare Not Speak Its Name. Blimey, Rivaldo at Anfield. The thought was enough to get one fantasising about Liverpool conquering the world once again. With Rivaldo taking huge bites out of defences with his very expensive set of false teeth (true), what could stop us?
What could stop the fantasising was the aforementioned benign dictator. Quicker than Michael Owen getting to the poker table, Ged poured a Niagara of cold water on the speculation. Nope, he said, Rivaldo was not part of his plans, Rivaldo would be a short-term signing, too short-term for his vision and he didn’t represent good value for money.
Which is fine and dandy, as George W Bush said when Donald Rumsfeld told him that they was going to up ‘n’ invade Iraq, yahoo! All perfectly valid reasons for not signing Rivaldo. Subsequent events have also suggested that the tale was fishier than Grimsby. Digging deeper into the motivation of the story, it looks likely that Rivaldo may have said to someone some time ago that he was a Liverpool fan, not that unusual for someone of his generation which also happens to be my generation. That’s about all I share with Rivaldo, not having ever suffered from malnutrition or won a World Cup medal. This reaches the ears of the relevant journalist who cheerfully files the story on the day when denunciations of England’s performance against Liechtenstein can fill only so many column centimetres left vacant by the absence Premiership match reports. Does anyone seriously think that Rivaldo would want to swap the allure of one of the world’s grooviest cities for the inclement weather and vomit-soaked nightlife of Liverpool?
Well, for a few hours on Sunday morning I did think it was possible. Living in Liverpool has made me appreciate that there are attractions for a footballer living in the north of England. Recently I spied Sami Hyypia strolling through Liverpool city centre, completely unmolested by the masses. Can you imagine if Rivaldo were to try the same in Milan? One half of the people would want to kiss his feet while the other half would want to knock seven bells out of him. If he wanted to par-tay down in London, the West End isn’t that far away by private jet and chauffeured limousine. As for the weather, he’d only be here for a couple of years and one look at the beautiful tangerine complexions of the ladies of Liverpool would give him that Copocobana feeling.
All these plaintive attempts to justify the impending arrival of Rivaldo, open top bus along Queens Drive and all, were to be in vain. Even if he does want to join, and he surely would after all the reasons outlined above, Le Boss doesn’t want him. This is his entitlement. The only one who would have to worry if we were to shell out £10 million and a six figure weekly pay packet on a Brazil nut would be Houllier. But there’s a part of me – a significant part – that choked back bitter tears of disappointment when it became clear that this story was a complete non-starter. The sheer energy that a signing as gargantuan as Rivaldo would have transmitted to the club would have made the possibility worth investigating, and a player of his stature would flog so many replica strips and buy so much television exposure for Carlsberg et al that he might seem a bargain at twice the price. Speaking of price, he’ll never be cheap but he might not be politician-caught-having-an-affair expensive either. He really loves Liverpool? Maybe that affection could be factored into his pay packet. There are certain things that money can’t buy, and he might be convinced to accept that in lieu of less money. Hell, he might even take less money than he was offered, for the good of the club!
It’s all irrelevant now since he’s not coming but the vitality of those few hours still lingers in the mind. Dictator is a nasty word, unquestionably a pejorative term nowadays even if that’s not how it was originally meant to be used. Modern dictators are nasty and cruel, but they do a good line in grand gestures, whether it be mile-high statues of themselves made out of solid gold or driving a banana-flavoured Rolls Royce. Would it be too much for us downtrodden peons to see a similar gesture of impudence from our Great Leader?