Marseille Midweek Melee
Funny thing about match days, I always wake up at about 5 in the morning. Last week for the Marseille game was no different.
As usual we had decided to stay overnight the day before and on the night of the game. The only difference on this occasion was booking a room with Sara instead of the missus Lynn. Booking a room with a mate has its advantages i.e. cost but it also has its pitfalls.
When you wake up at FIVE with yer belly like a balloon, if you're with the wife you can just let rip and hope you don’t follow through. With a mate the 50/50 chance is not worth taking the risk.
So up I got. Sitting on the lav trying to let the trapped air out slowly and quietly DOES NOT WORK. I successfully turned a three second blow out into something that sounded like "Amazing Grace" with both verses and the chorus in between. You can cough all you like, you cannot cover the tune from start to finish.
Fully embarrassed, I decided to hit reception for the newspapers and a coffee. At the desk I raised a smile, after all, the night porter was unaware of my early morning anal aria. Although he looked the type who would be interested. Any chance of a coffee? "Too early" he said. I suppose he was right, how could I expect anyone in a hotel to provide coffee for breakfast.
5.15am I headed off for Lime Street Station. "Limey" has some colourful characters first thing in the morning. My first port of call was the coffee stall. Large coffee, three sugars please. "Three?” said the vendor. Now I know I've lived away for a few years now, but surely my accent wasn't that bad. He grunted and groaned while putting in every spoonful. I can only assume that the price of sugar has surpassed gold on the stock exchange overnight.
Fully armed with my hot brew I headed for WH Smiths. IT WAS CLOSED, but there was movement that suggested opening was not hours away so I took a seat outside. After a couple of minutes I was approached by a train station "dosser". "Got a spare fag lad"? Sure, no problem I said, but I only have menthol ones. "Yuck," came the reply, "I don't do menthol". As he walked off all I could think about was that even our tramps in Liverpool had standards. As I sat thinking about it I realised that perhaps the menthol flavour of my ciggies would cock up his early morning joint. Coffee finished, I decided to stretch the legs and stand leaning against WHS's window. Then came Lilly, "Looking for anything special darling"? She offered. Only the Daily Post, I replied. Thank goodness before the conversation went any further Smith's opened. 5-45am and fully armed with another coffee, The Post and Express, I headed back to the hotel.
By 7.00am I was stood at the Gyratory, waiting to get a bus to my Dad's. Now I know it's been ages since I got on a Liverpool bus, but things can't have changed that much surely?
The buses for me had always been the 4, 5 and 78. All stop at the bottom shops in Hunts Cross Avenue. A look at the list confirmed there was no number 4 or 73 so off I headed to the 5 stop. Within minutes it came round the corner. I put my hand out and noticed "Kirkby" as the bus came to a halt and the doors opened. I said to the driver "It says Kirkby on the front". "Well done" he said before tutting and closing his door. Even I giggled as he drove off.
The 78 took me as far as Woolton Village and after sitting in front of my Dad for the customary two hour Spanish Inquisition on the current plight of our beloved club, I was exhausted. The sadness in his eyes was there for all to see. He just cannot get used to Liverpool being anything other than Champions. I parted with "Houllier Out" ringing in my ears.
Back down town the Marseille fans, dressed in orange donkey jackets, were trouping around Williamson square. They walked up to the gyratory crossing, crossed the road, turned around, crossed again and back into Williamson square. After watching this three times, I came to the conclusion that travelling Marseille fans made no plans about what to do when they "hit" a Euro destination. Obviously scared of getting lost, they ventured no further in Liverpool City Centre. What d'ya make of Liverpool then? "Nice bus gyratory" could be their only answer.
On the way to meet Peter (Rigby's) I called in a few bars. Finally I met an English speaking Marseille fan. He spent most of the time telling me about Drogba and their hope for a 1-1 draw (how prophetic). I offered 2-0 for us which was met with disdain (oracle I'm not). Quick quiz in the pub in which I got every question wrong and off to the Sandon we headed in a cab.
Meeting mates in the pub before and after games is what going to the match is all about in my eyes (due to current performances) and this was no different. All the usual scallies were dotted around the Sandon offering their opinion on how the game was going to go. I love the optimism before a game - it's only matched by the pessimism afterwards.
The only highlight of the first 45 mins was watching Block 202 trying to get the Kop going. A great shame that nearly every song was halted by the majority who were more interested in "Bartez baiting". Watching Steven Gerrard is one of the few pleasures we have left nowadays, and through his gritty determination to get to a ball first, Baros opened the scoring.
It must have been five minutes before Drogba did what the French fans told us he was going to do and we all started looking at each other. A goal was on the cards, it looked inevitable. Then it came, no one even looked surprised. Liverpool then started playing like we know they can, why do they seem to wait until they have conceded? Towards the end a one-two between Gerrard and Kewell was nearly worth the entrance fee alone but Bartez was equal to anything that came his way.
As the final whistle went, I looked around at all the faces that surrounded me. There was an acceptance on their faces. Once again, we had let a lead slip. As it sunk in that the away goal could be very costly, most left the ground with their chins on their chests. Realisation that we would have to score in the return leg, set in. Listening to comments in the pub after the game, I came to the conclusion that the majority were firm in the belief that we played better away from home anyway. "Just watch us at Southampton" offered one (hmmm, I wonder what he thinks now).
Back down town, we decided on a night cap. A look at my watch confirmed that once again a matchday experience is 20 hours long, not a couple of hours. And as I drifted off to sleep, thoughts of the Marseille away trip put me away with a smile on my face. Thoughts of Portsmouth and Wolves may well have given me nightmares.
Copyright - Wooltonian