European Champions

Was driving to work this morning doing a “good speed” (not too fast) down the motorway in the fast lane overtaking a middle lane white van driver. Then some moron in a BMW 5 series estate undertakes everything on the motorway in the first lane. I won’t say anymore. Yesterday I got asked how long I was with Heinz for and effectively got asked if I wanted to stay for longer. My problem is that I’m not a business person, my head just isn’t in it. I have no interest in making money for a company. We’ll see how things pan out over the next few months. LIVERPOOL ARE EUROPEAN CHAMPIONS! Still can’t quite believe and it’s over a week later. I said after AC scored their first two that it was over and then the third I thought confirmed it. No-one I watched the game with will believe me but even at three down at half time there was still that lingering thought that we were supposed to win it. They’d been talking it up properly, there was all the coincidences and we never lost when I was wearing black socks, my Teddy Smith jeans, grey pants, yellow Liverpool shirt and Livestrong wristband. So why were we three down? It just shouldn’t have been that way! I sent a message to Mr. Ellis at half time that just read “Damage limitation”. Even when Gerrard scored our first with a looping header from the penalty spot into the far top corner my head still said we’d lost. No team scores three past AC Milan in the second half a European Cup Final. Then Vladi scored… Could it be? Pleased for Vlad by the way. I always like players who try to be creative even if it doesn’t come off cause it’s those players who change games. Could he have changed this one? Spirits were lifted after a very quiet half time. Then when Stevie went charging through and was brought down by Gattuso we were all on our feet screaming for a penalty. We couldn’t hear the commentator say it was until we saw Stevie get up and hug Milan. Then the shouts turned to “Send ‘im off – last man! Come on ref!” He wasn’t even booked. To be fair Cafu was coming round but at least a booking would have been good given the fact Baros got booked cause he was stronger than the AC defence put together. We were all name dropping for who would take it but we agreed thay Xabi Alonso was a good decision. His penalty was good but Dida made a great save low to his right. There was no emotion cause by the time my brain could work out what it wanted to feel Xabi had lofted a great finish into the roof of the net off the rebound. Oh my word… Only one team was going to win it now and it wasn’t Milan, but to their credit they showed why they are a great team by taking control again. Extra time was largely a none event apart from Jerzy Dudek writing his name into goalkeeping folklore. Shevchenko rose and fired a powerful header down. Jerzy made a great reaction save but the ball fell straight to the feet of Schevkenko again. It was one of those where when you play you think “Just touch this and it’s in”. So how the hell Jerzy got to his feet and got his hands in front of that ball I don’t know. And then how the ball defied gravity in looping up over the bar, I don’t know. It went in slow motion but when you saw the players just stop you knew it was over. I had another head v heart moment. Head reckoned that that was just prolonging the evening cause if Dida could stop Xabi’s penalty in normal time he could stop any. Heart said our name was on the trophy. When Didi, who’d put in a man of the match display after coming on for the second half and pormptly putting Kaka in his back pocket and actually passing the ball, strode up to take the first kick I was worried. He doesn’t do pens for crying out loud! Great finish, stuttered run up didn’t inspire confidence though. Serghino high wide and very handsome to Liverpool fans. Cisse, easy as you like, Dida went right again. Pirlo against the bouncing Jerzy. Saved. 2-0, penalties, European Cup Final, AC Milan, 3-0 down at half time. Riise. Was a good penalty. Hit firm, not too hard but well struck, perfect placement right in the corner. Stunning save by Dida. No blame to John. Kaka against Dudek’s spaghetti legs. Slightly more controlled than Grobelaar’s were but there was more movement there! Good penalty, 2-1. Vlad. Seen him take good pens before. Same as Cisse’s. Vlad turned to the fans and kissed the shirt. Well played Vladi, thank you and good bye. Shevchenko. “Andriy Shevchenko doesn’t miss penalties” I said as he put the ball on the spot. It was the most unconfident penalty from a European Player of the Year. Chipped straight down the middle they normally go in though. Jerzy got something on it, whether it was foot or hand who cares? But it looked like it would spin in. Only when Shevchenko blasted it high over the bar did I realise we’d won. I stood there for a while in disbelief that such an erratic team could be European Champions. The team of Igor Biscan and Djimi Traore are European Champions. I think the tourament for Liverpool was about the fringe and the less well known to stand-up and make Europe take notice. Of course there was Steven Gerrard in the final who was immense. But thinking back to Olympiacos. Yes, Gerrard got the headlines for the fantastic strike. But without Sinama and Mellor he wouldn’t have been in the position to score the crucial one. Who can forget Igor’s Man of the Match display in La Coruna? Even Nunez and Kewell running the clock down so expertly against Chelsea before Gudjohnson’s wonder miss. Luis Garcia from the fringes of Barcelona to European Champion courtesy of some spectacular goals. Djibril Cisse’s completed rehabilitation versus Juventus at Anfiled and Alonso likewise in Turin. The quiet effectiveness of Finnan, Hyypia, Traore and Hamann. The work of Riise and Baros. Even Scott Carson played his part with a magnificent save from Del Piero in the first half at Anfield. And at last Jerzy Dudek and Vladimir Smicer can write themselves into the legend that is Liverpool Football Club. The hero of the final was Gerrard who, when paired with Hamann the Destroyer and King Xabi could go forward and carry the team. But the true hero of the tournament is Jamie Carragher. Stretching for a ball in the closing stages of extra time he got cramp. He stretched it off, came back on and withing seconds had made the same tackle. Who can forget the “Hit him” remark to Traore when Robben came on in the semi? Immense in every way. He summed up the desire that won the trophy. We went into Liverpool after the final whistle with James. We would spot random fans and either wind down the windows to cheer or beep the horn. There was one car, a new Focus, without about three people in the boot and more stuffed on the back seat with two on the front passenger seat. A guy rang up the radio and they said to him “What do you think of Benitez?” In his broad scouse accent the guy says “Aw mate, I’d like to take into the showers with a bar of soap!” They laughed hysterically, as did we all, and then they cut him off sharpish. Bars wouldn’t let us in and some were closed but the atmosphere was great. We saw a TV camera at the bottom of Bold Street so we all started jumping in front of it singing “Are you watching Manchester?” and then breaking off into random renditions of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and various other songs. Concert Square was pretty much the same. We were walking back down past into Williamson Square I think it was when someone thought I was Xabi Alonso and wanted to shake my hand. Same arguments apply to below where someone thought James was Pavel Nedved during Euro 2004. I even had a kebab in the taxi queue and then we started walking out of town cause no taxis were forthcoming. My throat was killing me. We crossed a road where my brother nearly got run over and then Mum picked us up. I got to bed about 4.30am cause I went in t’internet to find out when the team were getting back cause we were going to go the airport. I couldn’t find out so we didn’t go. Instead I got up early and located a red Liverpool shirt in Southport which I bought along with every newspaper I could find except for the S*n. I then embarked on treacherous expedition to get the soddin’ shirt printed! The first JJB told me the 2nd JJB could do it. The second said the third could but they said they couldn’t and neither could the first or second. Neither could the fourth but thankfully the fifth could so I ended up driving to Robin Park where there was a girl infront of me getting the same print done. Istanbul 05 – quality! Then I rushed to pick James up, get home and rendezvous with Matt and David to take the train into Liverpool for the homecoming parade. The atmosphere on the train was great until we discussed the coincidences and David, perhaps too loudly said that he hoped the Pope dies every year. We think the couple next to us were probably Catholic so he quickly changed it to hoping that Wales forever win the Grand Slam. Not sure which is worse. We got off the train at Central and walked past St.John’s which had the big screen showing the enormous crowds at Anfield. We walked down to Williamson Square where, depsite me giving him £1, my brother didn’t realise I wanted him to get me a drink when he went to Iceland. I went and got my own and two bags of mint Poppets and David and James bought some Carlsberg (what else) in addition to their other drinks. We walked up to St George’s Hall for about 18.15 and perched ourselves around a tree which was useful to hang our shopping on so we didn’t lose it. And we drank. And waited. The atmosphere was amazing. There was a kid sat on top of the car park spraying multiple fire extinguishers at the crowds below. At one stage the car park people broke into song and it echoed around, it sounded amazing. Then there was the bus that couldn’t get through so was abandoned. If only the driver had have realised that it only presented another vantage point when all the traffic lights and road signs were full. Seriously, how can someone sit on a road sign for two hours without being sore or not being able to walk afterwards? There were people on top of the station as well as students sitting on the plinth outside their seventh storie flat. Inflatable European Cups drifted high over the station. We were hoping that to complete the night they ended up somewhere near the Theatre of Wet and Broken Dreams in Manchester. The bus was supposed to get to us around 20.30 but in the phone calls we could take or make we found that the bus was still in Anfield at about 8 o’clock and the estimates were that it would only get to us around 10 if at all. David and James had had one drink to many and went to use the toilet facilties at Yates’. They came back and myself and Matt did the same. While we were there we heard someone on the TV say 15 minutes so we legged it back up to where we were. My back had started hurting so that wasn’t a very fast leggin’. There really was a buzz in the air and finally the bus got to us. The lights lighting up the hall I think added to the sense of occasion. I’ve never heard cheers like it. 300,000 Scousers cheering. Just to think Chelsea got 150,000 down the Kings Road to see the Premiership trophy and Liverpool had 3/4 million fans to see them! Luis Garcia had custody of the trophy at the front of the bus and was like a kid with a toy. When he held it up and started shaking it in the air it finally kicked in what we’d won. Arms were raised and you could see phone after phone with people trying to take pictures. I think between four of us we got about three decent pictures. I took some video but someone had a handful of my shirt (my newly printed printng bit of my shirt too!) and was pulling me back. I turned round and retrieved it and could actually then stay still. Igor stood up and our bit of the crowd just started singing “EEEgor, EEEgor!” What a legend. Cisse was sat on the back of the bus with his boxers pulled up a la Cowell and his jeans around his knees, no t-shirt but a gold chain and his medal round his neck. Harry was stood there clapping the crowd and derogatory comments were made but I think he was just taken back and was still miffed with the night before. I really want Harry to do well in a Liverpool shirt. We escaped the surge forward as the bus went round the corner and made our way round also. The singing started again and then it was over. The atmosphere still in the air as we walked away, cars with radios blaring and horns blowing as we made our way out of town the same way as the night before. What the kid was going to do with the light fitting he took from St. George’s I have no idea. He looked so proud too. We were recreating the goals and penalties with a drinks bottle footy in between cheering at cars who cheered at us when we were in the outskirts of the city. We got home at about midnight. Very tired, very hoarse and I had work in the morning so went straight to bed. What the victory did for the team it also did for this generation of supporters. We never thought we’d see Liverpool as European Champions. The team of Gerrard and Carragher is now “our team” in the same way as the teams of Kennedy, Thompson, Souness, Hughes et al is the team of our parents. We can say that the team we support has won the European Cup as opposed to the club we support having won it four times. And the monkey is also off the players’ backs too. They don’t have to be compared to the teams of the past but will forever be their equals. The players did the club and the supporters proud to show what they did, so, incase any of them stumble across this, thank you. And we get to keep the pinacle of Ferguson’s United career in our trophy room forever… Sweet.

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