Written by TTT Subscriber Saul Burman.
For many years, my wife has said that when I went to Anfield, she wanted to be with me (for background, see here). She has long maintained that the tiny fragments of my soul that are imbued with romanticism were devoted solely to Liverpool, a dogmatic position I find a bit harsh just because I don’t like Hallmark cards and refuse to buy roses on Valentine’s Day. I suspect she just likes to see those rare occasions when my ice-cool and unflappable facade is breached and wanted to bear witness to what would be an emotional visit for me. So I knew she would be disappointed when I informed her that she would have to share the moment with three other football fans – Pops, Gramps and The Farmer.
Now Zloty (that’s me – it’s a long story), Gramps, Pops and The Farmer may sound more like an Eastern European version of the Seven Dwarfs than a hardcore group of football fans, but we are all long-term supporters of football clubs. Except for The Farmer, of course, who is something of a neophyte, a bit of a Johnny-come-lately, who has supported Liverpool from the periphery with only a limited degree of fanaticism for a mere twenty years or so. But I’m a tolerant man and I welcomed the tepid nature of his Liverpool support – after all, I accepted Pops into the fold, a deluded life-long Manchester United fan, with an odd habit of referring to Alex Ferguson as Sir Alex, promoting the bizarre and oft refuted notion that a UK knighthood is some marker of superiority. Misguided loyalties aside, Pops also holds a number of unusual football views – until recently, this included being a staunch defender of José Mourinho, until even he could no longer put up with the portable misery-making machine that is José.
Gramps is a quieter supporter, a Tottenham fan who grows misty-eyed at any mention of Hoddle, Waddle, Archibald or Ardiles and becomes uncontrollably nostalgic if the name of Bill Nicholson pops up (despite Gramps’ obvious age, even I doubt if he was around for those glory years). Still, he’s probably the most level-headed fan of the four of us, his relative objectivity clouded only by his eerie obsession with Mousa Dembélé.
My travelling companions, whether it be for age, technical inability or rural residence reasons, were unable to deal with the complexity of organising the trip. The Farmer claimed he had to manage his annual Boran Cattle Auction which sounded like a likely story to me. What next? He couldn’t assist because the wheat wasn’t yet dry? So I booked tickets for five games, the timing of which had the advantage of allowing San-Marié to steer well clear of our laddish behaviour for most of the trip and only join us for one Liverpool game at the end.
I’ve made getting seats sound easy, but it really wasn’t. Football tickets are surprisingly difficult to get hold of if you’re not a season ticket holder and you want to purchase them legally. I suspect they’re cheaper but riskier if you want to buy them from a big bald guy called Vladimir in a black coat fanning tickets just outside the stadium on matchday. Early on, we decided to take no chances (even though I felt confident that I could get the measure of Big Vlad), pay up and only make bookings directly from the clubs involved or from Official Suppliers. So we decided to place ourselves in the safe hands of the Official Manchester United sponsor, Thomas Cook, and sent our hard-earned cash to their coffers in return for tickets and accommodation …
A few weeks later, Thomas Cook folded.
Fortunately, it was only our tickets to Old Trafford that were affected. I took this as some sort of sign from all the gods in all the worlds, so I was quite happy to skip that game entirely. After all, I wasn’t really expecting to see quality football there.
But I felt for Pops. Not only had his recent years supporting his club been filled with misery and doubt and diabolical football, but his lifelong dream of visiting Old Trafford was withering away. So, we caved in and repurchased tickets for Old Trafford. We had to jump through numerous hoops though. This included a phone call to a hotel that contained distinct Fawlty Towers overtones. I tried in vain to explain, with escalating levels of annoyance, to what I assume was a Polish immigrant, that Thomas Cook was a company that had taken our money and not some posh bloke that had booked our hotel rooms. No doubt Brexit supporters would have cackled gleefully had they obtained a recording – as San-Marié did listening to my side of the conversation.
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