There has always been a place in my heart for Liverpool. Even when Gary McAllister stole that penalty, by launching himself into a dive from what seemed closer to the halfway line than to our penalty box, my affection for his then club survived.
Do not misunderstand me. There is no room for a second club in my life. Despite living in France, where such things are supposed to happen, I would never take a mistress; supporting anyone other than Sunderland, however slightly, would seem similarly disloyal.
So it’s a liking, not proper support.
I could say it was a reflection of my failure as a father – my younger daughter, Nathalie, herself a highly useful player, has been a Liverpool fan since she fell in love with John Barnes – but that wouldn’t be true; I have felt as I do since boyhood.
In any game that does not involve or affect us, I am happy to see Liverpool win. I like the city, I enjoy the company of the fans, I love their song.
Last night, I had French TV on my side. TF1’s commentary from Anfield was fair enough, but you had no doubt which team they wanted to win. L’Equipe this morning headlined one of its match reports “Red Magic” and enthused about the “exceptional atmosphere” in which Liverpool battled against Chelsea and won.
And there’s the other reason I was so pleased when José-Manuel Reina made his penalty shoot-out saves. The Reds were playing Chelsea.
Lots of people despise Man Utd. I don’t. I was in tears as a boy when my mother called me home, from playing football in what we called the hay field, with news of the Munich air disaster.
But I harbour irrational feelings of antipathy towards Chelsea. Too many of their fans are nasty and too much about the club smacks of arrogance. Yes, I know people say the same about other clubs, and I accept that many perfectly decent fans follow the Blues and did so even when they were rubbish. I have already admitted that my dislike owes nothing to rational thought.
The happiest 45 minutes I have ever watched at Sunderland were those in which we raced into a 4-0 lead against Chelsea in the first of of our seventh top Premiership seasons. Again, the happiness was elevated by the knowledge that we were hammering not just anyone, but Chelsea.
I wish I could add that my joy was made perfect by memories of their fans’ sneers when they trounced us on the opening game of the same season at Stamford Bridge. But I was in Sierra Leone at the time and could only imagine the sneers.
Having said all that, there is one sense in which I regard Liverpool and Chelsea as equals.
I want six points from each of them next season.