Monday, 18 August 2008

The Stadium of Light at the end of the tunnel...

LATELY, I’d doubted myself. For the first time in my life, I actually thought I might be falling out of love with football. Seriously.
The Yanks and their failed promises, the Gareth Barry epic, crap pre-season games, inflated prices, glory supporters, bitter fans – all of that was boring me.
Add to that the birth of my son, Carragh, the prospect of the first campaign without a season ticket in 10 years and continuing doubts over my employment situation, and I was almost not arsed about the new season.
Then a couple of things happened to change all that. First, I read a couple of books – Brian Reade’s excellent 43 Years With The Same Bird and Here We Go Gathering Cups in May – Liverpool in Europe: The Fans’ Story.
Second, tickets for Sunderland came up.
The books were great medicine for my negative thinking. Instead of picturing suits like Rick Parry when I thought about the match, I started thinking positive. I thought about the laughs, the goals, the ales, the away trips and that buzz I used to get before games.
Back to the days when goals, saves, tackles, skill and songs were all that mattered.
So when Saturday came, I was buzzing again. Even my mate Jon said he hadn’t seen me like that for ages.
Not even a scan through the papers that morning could dampen my enthusiasm, although The Mirror tried their best with their ‘exclusive’ about Rafa Benitez almost quitting.
But the Yanks, Gareth Barry and the increasing likelihood that Rafa will leave were far from my mind.
A few pre-match bevvies and good banter with some Sunderland fans put me right in the mood as we headed for the Stadium of Light.
But once there I got the feeling I’m not the only Red who’s going through this kind of crisis. The Liverpool support was definitely muted - not helped of course by an average display.
So thank God for Fernando Torres. Players and fans alike breathed a collective sigh of relief for what was a great finish – and one that was vastly underrated judging by the lack of praise it received.
The goal wasn’t even a chance. But with no back lift and superb power and accuracy, the Spaniard had won it for us – again.
Cue jumping, hugging, bouncing, screaming and shouting. And that was just me.
Cue also a classic cliché: It’s a good sign if you win when you don’t play well.
And so the win was duly celebrated – my Monday morning sandpaper mouth and still fuzzy head is testimony to that.
So, it seems, I’m back in love with football. If only Parry, Hicks and Gillett could sort it out to make sure it stays that way…