While walking from the Leigh Arms to Goodison Park Pete Sixsmith and I discovered we shared a tenuous connection through the Willy Russell play “Our Day Out”. Written in the seventies, it’s the story of a group of inner city Liverpool kids who are taken to Conway castle by their teacher. Some of the people they meet along the way form some harsh opinions. Perhaps it has a message for Mr. Halfon that one shouldn’t be too judgmental when meeting people from elsewhere.
I wanted to meet the Salut contingent before the game but more importantly I hadn’t picked up my ticket. The resulting paranoia required an early start on the Sunday morning, despite the very convivial evening on the Saturday; not Covent Garden, just four of us in a Lebanese restaurant south of the river. Bring your own wine, they said, so we did….
And thus it was that some time shortly after 9.00am I found myself on a bus to Brixton and thence to Green Park where I and some early fans, presumably from King’s Cross, picked up the Jubilee Line. They got out at Wembley Park, I stayed on for Stanmore, but before the train pulled out I heard the announcer chanting “Haway the lads”. Ten o’clock on a Sunday morning and the London Underground is announcing “Haway the lads”, it’s a strange world.
So on to Stanmore with no time to jump off and visit my brother, who lives a couple of stops up the line. Nor could I ring him because neither of my mobiles (remember, I’m paranoid) had his number in the memory. Sorry, Greg, maybe next month.
The Man in the Moon served excellent beer and we had a convivial chat with a City fan who’d flown over from Galway, I think. Everyone M Salut had to meet turned up, meaning we didn’t need to rendezvous with anyone at the Wembley Tavern, which was just as well as it was ticket only, and I could try to find Brother-in-law Ed and the Stanley contingent. (It didn’t happen, of course, but I ended up only one gate away from him, making a post-game meet an easy task.)
M Salut has already posted some pictures of the day but they don’t do the atmosphere justice. A chance to shrug off the bottom three blues was being exploited to the hilt. Scarves, flags, Viking hats, Bob Stokoe lookalikes, you name it, they were there.
Of the match itself what is there to say? I had opined, and Pete had agreed, that we could win but whatever the result we didn’t want the team to let us down. We’d been blown apart by Arsenal and City had put nine past the Hammers in getting here so it was a reasonable concern but we needn’t have worried. They did us proud, except Fletch perhaps, but I can forgive him if his time on the pitch means he gains just that little bit of match fitness that secures our safety. Borini was tremendous and Catts was on top form. Don Vito and the back four never stopped – Alonso in particular proving to be an excellent buy, with a big match temperament. AJ seemed to fade a bit before his substitution and maybe Gus got that one wrong. If I were taking off AJ I’d have put on Giaccherini as his replacement, and I’d have left Larsson on altogether, but we were chasing the game and what do I know about football?
Just as the players gave everything, so did we fans. Sometimes, however, everything’s not enough. City can afford the best and in a few short minutes we were undone. Perhaps the ref played a part in the first; no-one could have complained had he stopped play beforehand, but the two top class City goals that came in just I was thinking we’d weathered the restart would have torn the guts out of any team and any fans. It hurt, how much it hurt, but we battled on until that final killing goal and the whistle that ended the dream.
After the game, as we supped a few pints in a sports bar whose name I can’t remember, the youth contingent gave vent to their feelings. In great peace and humour they sang their hearts out. Mr Halfon might not have liked it had he been there, he might not find it acceptable even now, but it was honest, it was genuine and it was heartfelt. I suggest Mr Halfon doesn’t click the link, and nor should anyone who doesn’t like football or Sunderland. All they need to know is that the Capital One Cup can be placed in a warm dark place because we’re going to win a different and more important trophy.
Roll on Hull and keep the faith.