Friday, April 15, 2011

Archive: Leppings Lane

Given the anniversary, I decided to post this again...

= = =

Before drink, before the Jesuits, before failing to talk to girls, long before The Wire, before almost everything I formed a deep and unforgiving attachment to football.

A Panini sticker album did for me.

Prior to the European Championships I had no interest in it, when the kids in Scoil Mobhí asked me who I supported I just bleated out 'Liverpool' because that, to me, was the codeword for getting out of these awkward situations.

My eight-year-old me hadn't a clue who played for them or what the First Division was or even where Liverpool was located. It could have been in Sligo.

Then the sticker album, and the collecting, and the learning of names like Dave Langan, John Aldridge, Niall Quinn, John Anderson and Kevin Moran, and then Ronnie Whelan's spinkick against the Russians and then sweet, sweet addiction. Child heroin.

The following season was my first as a proper Liverpool supporter. I knew the players, the dates of birth, the former clubs, the positions, the nationalities (mostly British at that time, with a hint of Zimbabwe and Jamaica) and the form.

Videotapes caught me up on past achievements, and having four Irish lads in the team was the badge of honour against those nasty Manchester United supporters, with their Peter Davenports and their Ralph Milnes.

We were good back then, very good. The previous season, when I was still ignorant of the game, we had won the league but lost the FA Cup Final to Wimbledon. The Cup was the top of the game because English teams couldn't compete in Europe. We were used to winning the First Division title but to win the Cup was the pinnacle, at least to my mind.

I used to watch the matches in my granny's sitting room. They lived next door, herself and Finghín, I'd just go around the back and through the kitchen, ignore them completely, walk into the room and switch on the television. Squatter's rights.

An FA Cup semi-final was a big fucking deal. A huge deal, but I said that already. I imagine myself in that green armchair with a smuggled glass of coke and some Rolos, switching between the RTE and BBC coverage. Liverpool v Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough in Sheffield.

The teamsheets came up. The Irish lads were in, including my favourite player Steve Staunton (no sniggering). Happy days. I'd been building up to this all week.

My da was working as a jeweller at the time and he operated from a workshop in the back garden. He saw me coming out of my granny's and asked me what was wrong. He tells me now I had a face like thunder.

"There are supporters on the pitch and they had to call the match off."

I was almost in tears, cursing those fuckers, those supporters who couldn't behave themselves so I could see Staunton rampage up the wing (like he ever rampaged, I know, but I was ten) and throw over a cross for Aldridge or Ian Rush to head home.

Those supporters who ruined my day by spilling on the grass and just sitting there, those ambulances that would tear up the surface something rotten if they decided to just delay the kick off for an hour, those policemen on horses where Steve McMahon should be scything into Steve Hodge.

A face like thunder, until the count went up and up and up and never seemed like stopping.


Niamho said...

I still remember seeing the pictures and just being confused.

Radge said...

You've good recall, you were only young.

Holemaster said...

Reeling in the Radge.

Jayhaitch said...

I was in Galway when it happened (at the all Ireland Scout table quiz.) I remember thinking it was terrible that the fans caused the game to be off. Only later did I realise the horror of what actually happened and every time I hear someone talk about it I well up.

Oddly enough I was in Galway yesterday and was remembering my feeling back then...this post pretty much summed it up.