It’s funny building up to these things these days. It’s strange being a part of other people’s stories. It’s fascinating meeting you in person and hearing how this impacts your life when we’re all just normal fans doing what we can to add to the occasion.
The drama. The anticipation. The hope.
But more than anything else, for me and for many of you, the relief.
The overwhelming relief that Jordan Henderson is now a European Cup-winning captain. I’ll never debate him again. Say what you want about him. He’s done something only four other Liverpool captains in history have done. If you don’t rate him you can, quite frankly, fuck right off.
If you love to spend your time moaning and complaining and being negative about any of this, you can fuck right off.
That’s how I feel. I didn’t celebrate the goals like I usually would. I looked Rob Gutmann in the eyes and grabbed his shoulder. I watched Adam Melia watching his clock on his phone and told everyone around me to calm down. Just fucking win. I’ll celebrate properly when it’s over.
The overwhelming feeling of relief pouring out of every part of my body. The release. I could see it everywhere I looked and hear it from everyone I spoke to.
You can even see it in the slow motion video of the trophy lift that I can’t stop watching. Our captain’s entire body visibly shaking with the release of energy while his teammates go wild in a way I can’t remember another group of players doing when lifting the greatest of trophies.
Thank Christ for that.
I’ve never been happier to hear Liverpool players, coaches and pundits saying we played badly. And won. We just fucking won. And that’s what we needed to do. Because now we’re winners again.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe everything I’ve ever said to you here. I believe in never giving up. I believe in always trying one more time. But I also believe in winners and losers. I believe in stories and drama and adventure and excitement. I believe in fate. I believe in love and hope and dreams.
But you have to win. Sooner or later you have to win or it’s all a waste of time. Rocky movies don’t carry on after a heavy loss unless he comes back to win.
I’m not sure what we would have done if we’d lost. I had a song in my head for an article if I had to write something in that scenario. My mate played his playlist in our room in Ibiza on our way to Madrid and we sang our boy-band songs like the 1980s boys we are.
How do you get up from an all-time low?
A part of my brain started thinking about that piece. About what I’d say. About how I could lift myself and try to lift you.
What if we lost? After everything. What if we still didn’t win?
The unbearable pain. The agony. The despair.
Then I thought of the alternative. The article if we won. This piece. The imagery. The trophy lift. The stories and the parade.
I believe that we should always prepare for the worst but believe in the best. Focus on the positives. On the sunshine not the rain. Visualise your life the way you want it to be and sooner or later you’ll get there. Believe it or call it bullshit, but whether you believe you can or believe you can’t you’re right. You’ll always be right.
I believe we can. I believe you can. I believe in us and I believe in joy and hope and happiness.
I believe in love. I believe in serenity. I believe in fate taking us to where we want to be.
If you’ve been with me before you’ll know it will always come back to the same things eventually. It’s why I have to leave. Why a break is needed. Why it can’t go on forever. There are only so many messages. Only so many poems and articles and inspirational things to say.
Once you’ve learned them the only thing left is to follow them. You’d be amazed how rare it is. How rarely anyone just does the basics they need to do to change their lives.
Trent Alexander-Arnold is praised by his coaches for listening and learning and working hard. It has always amazed me that it’s enough to make him stand out from his peers. But I’ve seen it. I’ve witnessed first hand how just smiling at people and being polite is enough to separate you from the masses.
Just being nice to people changes your life. Just being positive. Just believing that things can be better and reminding other people of the fact.
Believe things can be better. Watch these lads and feel this joy and believe it can all be better.
Wherever you are, whatever you do, it’s never the end. It’s always just a story you’re telling yourself, so choose a good story. If it’s bad right now, tell yourself you’re in the middle of your own Rocky movie. Remind yourself you’re in Kiev, or Basel or Athens. Remember the day is darkest before the dawn.
Remember the clichés. They exist for a reason. They stand the test of time because they’re largely true.
If things have been hard in parts of your life away from this incredible football team over the past few months or years, let it inspire you to keep going. To get up. Stand up. Smile. Find someone less fortunate than you and help them. Give them a hug. Embrace the world and embrace the pain.
From your darkest tunnels comes the greatest light. We don’t get Madrid without Kiev. We don’t get redemption without deprivation. We don’t get light without dark. We don’t get to stand back up without first falling down.
These are the greatest moments in the greatest times, but we only have them because we have felt the pain. We have walked through the storms and felt the rain soak our souls. And we know there is always a golden sky. Sooner or later. If you dare to believe. If you are prepared to risk it all. If you can be prepared to feel heartbreak rolling the dice for love.
Whatever it is, believe in it. Believe you can be whoever you want to be and believe you can do whatever you want to do. Look at these lads. Read their stories. Look where they’ve come from. Every one of them a story to inspire us all.
To work hard, to carry on when others might stop. Believe that you can change things over time. Don’t overestimate what you can do in a week and underestimate what you can do in a year, or five years, or 10.
Be a European Cup winner in every aspect of your life.
I last won a European Cup 14 years ago at my first final. I watched the victory parade in Liverpool via still images being shown on a tiny hotel screen in Istanbul. Now I stream them live from a magical box I carry around in my pocket while wandering through the streets of Paris on my way home from my fourth European Cup final. My fourth.
I had an argument with my girlfriend before Athens. She didn’t want me to go because I’d been to one two years earlier. I said I might never see one again in my lifetime, yet now I’ve seen four of them in 14 years.
Where will I be in another 14? Where will you be? What will have changed? What will we have done?
Births, deaths, marriages, divorces. Whole lives. Yet we can decide. We can choose what happens. Where we want to be the next time. What we want to have done. To be.
Be you. Be the very best of you. Watch Jordan Henderson and let him inspire you to never give up. To prove time and time again that all things are possible for those who believe.
I say I won a European Cup in 2005 and I mean it. I won. You won. They won. My generation won. And now a new one has won. Another victory for all of us. To filter into whatever story we want to tell.
Make no mistake that’s all this is. Our lives are just a series of stories we tell ourselves. The beauty is we can decide what stories to tell. A person who shared my life for so long used to joke that we could both experience the same thing and I’d walk away telling a positive story and she would do the opposite.
The facts never changed, only the stories we told ourselves.
So, tell yourself a good story. Tell yourself when times are dark that it’s just a moment in time. The darkness needed so that you can feel the light. Don’t allow the world to convince you that it has to be this way, that you have to stay on the floor because that’s just the way it is. It isn’t. Believe in that.
And, just as importantly, when times are good remember to savour them. To soak them up and be grateful.
It’s where most of us go wrong. Be grateful for your wife doing the things she always does, or your husband doing the same. Be thankful for your kid giving you a hug or your parents fussing over you. Let the small moments be as joyous as the big. Hold the people you love. Whistle and sing and dance. Stare deeply into the eyes of your dearest friends and tell them you love them.
Savour it all, because you never know when it will be your last. Your last kiss, your last smile, the last time your kid holds your hand.
Soak it up. We live in the greatest of times and we allow people to convince us they’re the worst. People are generally good. Focus on the goodness. Look for what you want to see in life and you will find it. Believe in things getting better and they will.
We talked a year ago about it just being the start and we were right. Let that remind you every day of your life. A philosophy of one man who believes in everyone taking care of each other. Of community and friendship. Of joy and happiness.
Enjoy yourself. Whatever happens, find the silver lining. Find the best way to be the best of you. Don’t worry about the news telling you that the world is a bad place. The world will look after itself if we all just make sure we’re the best we can be, one at a time, and help others to be the best that they can be. Viral growth of peace and love and happiness. Imagine.
I love this journey. This adventure. We’ve reached the end of a truly great book and the sequel promises so much. A drama like no other. A love affair without compare.
Hold it all close. Cuddle the person next to you and let them feel your love. Be prepared to risk it all and be prepared to fall. And always be ready to stand up again. No matter what. Always remember Kiev. And Athens. And Basel.
And always remember Istanbul and Madrid.
The joy can never be the same without the sadness. So, enjoy the sadness for what it gives you. For what it represents. Opportunity. A chance to create the comeback story that everyone loves so much. The greatest stories of our times.
This is the end of this part of the story, but there’s always another part. I will leave again and begin another chapter with new places and new people. With fun and laughter and memories. With tears and pain. With life. Savouring what I already have and anticipating the unknown. Energy rippling through me as I dream my dreams and let the images of what has already been wash through my mind.
What will you do next? Where will you be in 12 months’ time? When I write to you on the way to Istanbul. On the way to number seven. What will have changed? How will your life have improved? Allow these boys to inspire you. To be your fire. Your catalyst. To convince you that it is all possible if you believe that it is.
Don’t allow this to just be a game of football, because it’s so much more than that. What we have is special. Watch those images of Liverpool during the victory parade and tell me this isn’t something mystical. Scenes from an epic movie, played out in real life.
Crushing lows followed by exhilarating highs. Fire and colours and magic. Make no mistake we live inside the greatest of all fairytales and we owe it to ourselves and to whoever or whatever put us here to make sure it means something more. To inspire others. To change our lives. To dream our biggest dreams and make them a reality.
We have witnessed miracles so we know they exist. Others aren’t so fortunate. Many don’t get to see with their own eyes what is possible if you truly believe. But we do. We get to see it so often I almost feel bad for the others. So for me it must mean something.
I go now to revel in being a European Cup winner again. Somewhere in the world. To be proud. To smile. To know. Even when others don’t. To appreciate what it means. To tell more stories that have been added to the collection.
To sit in a bar somewhere on the planet and Rotterdam by The Beautiful South to filter faintly through the speakers. For Saturday Night by Wigfield to play in a cheesy nightclub. For Sit Down by James to play in a cafe. For a gentle smile to spread across my face as the lyrics we have for those songs reverberate around my mind, and for someone sitting with me to ask what I’m grinning about.
It’s a long story, I’ll say. The greatest of stories. Maybe the greatest ever told. I’ll tell you all about it if you really want to know, but it will take some time to tell it properly and you might not believe it’s true.
I feel it now as I picture the scenes and tears come to my eyes. Again. My heart swells with pride and emotion. The images I find it impossible to describe. The photographs I’ll show to other people and they’ll ask where it was and what had happened. It doesn’t look real, but it is. It’s our magical reality and that’s all that matters. A life beyond compare.
I leave you again and I leave with an article that’s not really about football. I know you know they never really are. They’re about you and your life, and me and my life. That’s why they do what they do. We don’t cry at movies because of the people on the screen, we cry because we put ourselves in the story.
So I leave this time wanting to say that you should dream your biggest dream. Don’t be afraid. Don’t let them tell you it’s not possible. It is. It’s all possible, whatever it is.
You can be whoever you really want to be and do whatever you truly want to do. Let this maddest of things be your inspiration. Let this craziness drive you forward.
Someone dear to me who knew nothing of all of this before a few months ago has told me more than once how the look in my eyes is different when I talk about this. How it’s funny to watch.
I’m now a grown man and this magical thing still moves me like nothing else. I can feel it when I talk about it, when I write. The exhilaration in my voice, my quickening heartbeat. The joy rippling through my veins and my tingling skin.
I love this more than I ever really appreciated before. It stirs something in me that nothing else does. So I will be happy and, for once, completely unashamed of that happiness. It might be daft to many, many people, but it’s not to me. This is mine and this is yours and we can have our stories, together. This is our tribe and these are our people. So enjoy it for everything it is.
European Cup winners for the sixth time. Our boys. These Reds. This era. Maybe even the best one.
Sobered up? Stopped being ridiculously dehydrated? Stopped hugging friends? Smiling to random people on the street? Looking at videos of The Reds on Twitter and only stopping to look at The Reds on Instagram?
Same, mates. It’s a good job my job is largely talking about football because I’ve been wholly talking about football. Or more importantly Saturday. Saturday afternoon. Saturday night. A Saturday night that went well into Sunday.
You might have heard I had a day on Saturday. From rapping on stage with John Barnes to DJing at a party with Daniel Sturridge. But I’m not interested in my day, I’m interested in yours. What did you do? Where did you go? Was it boss, yeah?
I’ve loved hearing everyone’s stories since I got back.
“Watched it at Aintree Racecourse on a big screen with 2,000 people it felt like being there”.
“Watched it in town. After the game everyone piled onto the street from all the bars and had a big party. Was great.”
“Watched it in an ice cream parlour in Madrid. The TV cut off for the last 10 minutes. Best night of my life.”
You can’t always be in the ground. On Saturday afternoon, 50,000 people were in Plaza de Salvador Dalí at the Liverpool FC Fan Park. Over half of those people wouldn’t have had tickets for the game.
Not many seemed to care at that point, when they were singing and drinking with friends, old and very new, in the baking heat. They just wanted to be there.
You can’t always be in Madrid. Bars in Liverpool were jam packed across the city centre and beyond. Ticketed screenings sold out in minutes and TVs were ordered in for every corner of every boozer.
From around the country, even the world, people came to watch the game in Liverpool to be there if The Reds clinched number six. To be with people who understood what that meant.
You can’t always be in Liverpool. From New York City to Perth, Australia, Liverpool supporters’ clubs got in touch with us saying they were hosting huge events in their cities.
The Brighton Kop sold out not one venue, but two and had a third overspill venue. There was a weekend Liverpool FC convention in Las Vegas for US supporters, and bloody hell did you see the pyro in Indonesia? They’re mad them.
Not everyone could be at the parade, but blimey it felt like it from the footage.
So many came into town just for that. Shaking off hangovers and jumping on trains. The streets lined so heavily they were no longer visible. The bus somehow snaking through the city centre as the red sea in front parted to let them. It was carrying our heroes, after all. Along with the precious European Cup.
I was with some of you. I was with none of you. I was with all of you. That all felt true at various stages on Saturday. Football is a collective activity.
We all watched Liverpool play in a Champions League Final together, just in different parts of the world.
When the final whistle blew in the Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kiev, I collapsed into my seat, attempting to hold back tears of despair. When the final whistle went in the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid, I collapsed onto my knees, unable to hold back tears of joy.
In neither of those cases were those tears for me, or those around me for that matter. Those thoughts were saved for the following days when I could more readily process what I had just witnessed.
Instead, those immediate post-match tears were for these lads and this manager and his staff. For their stories that we have followed and become so invested in.
For Daniel Sturridge that story began in January 2013, when he signed for around £12m from Chelsea. He was one of the current ownership’s first examples of a “moneyball” signing – a low-risk, low-value but high-potential player.
He arrived at the club as a Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League winner who had not set the world alight with his former team. And he wasted little time in a Liverpool shirt.
Eleven goals in 16 appearances followed that season. We didn’t realise at the time, but we were witnessing a dress rehearsal for one of Liverpool’s most exciting seasons of recent times, and Sturridge would be right at the forefront.
It should have come as little surprise that he followed up his first half-season numbers with 24 goals in 33 appearances during the 2013-14 season. We came away from that season with little to show but the memories of being swept off our feet by an exciting group of players.
Daniel was right at the top of that list. A record breaker and a more complete forward than we could ever have imagined. So much so that Luis Suarez’s departure made Sturridge Liverpool’s main man for the following season.
Steven Gerrard appeared to have given the rest of what he had left in the tank. Raheem Sterling was clearly talented but still so young and raw. A few others showed flashes but were a little rough around the edges.
Daniel Sturridge became our polished diamond.
But the pressure we as a club placed on our diamond caused flaws to appear, a relatively benign injury to intensify and a promising career to change course dramatically.
It wasn’t until Jürgen Klopp replaced Brendan Rodgers that we started to see the Daniel Sturridge that we had felt we were missing for so long. His return of 13 goals during the German’s first season saw The Reds reach two finals but ultimately leave with nothing to show for it once again.
It felt as though it may never happen and that the Sturridge we were seeing was still just a shadow of the one that had fired his way into our hearts throughout his first 18 months at the club. The pressure appeared to have told.
A fairly fruitless campaign followed as Roberto Firmino started to make the number nine role his own, and the Daniel Sturridge story seemed destined to continue beyond the boundaries of Anfield.
Then came the chance for him to try a taste of that world outside Liverpool with a loan move to West Brom.
After experiencing relegation from the Premier League and perhaps a sense that the grass is not always greener, Sturridge decided to stay and fight for his place.
And he got us off to a flyer once again. A goal in the opening game against West Ham was the starting post of a 97-point run for Liverpool in the Premier League. The opener against PSG at Anfield was the green light to a spot at the top of the European podium.
As stories go, Sturridge’s is one I’ve fought with time and again. A player with clear genius who never quite recovered from the weight of physical pressure. Every time I thought I was out and he was done, he pulled me back in and made me invest it all once again.
The goals, the smiles, the arms. I can safely say that Daniel Sturridge has been one of my favourite Red men of the 21st century. A player who has given me moments I will never forget. A man who has inspired and passed on his knowledge to those whose chapters are still to be written at this club.
But finally Daniel Sturridge’s Liverpool story is set to come to an end. A story of so much promise, so much emotional and physical investment, and one that now ends as a European champion.
I’m pleased for everybody involved with the club – from the players, to the staff, to the supporters – that we can walk away from another sensational campaign with something to show for it.
There are a number of people I’m especially pleased for, though. Sturridge sits among those at the top of that list. For the memories, for the moments, for what could have been, and for what has been.
I hope he can write another chapter in his career and find a place that will take to him as quickly as Liverpool did. I hope he can look back on his time at our club with immense pride. He deserves that much.
Nice one, Daniel. European champion. The arms are forever.
For every moonwalking Neil Armstrong there’s a Michael Collins hidden away in the lunar module. For every John, Paul, George and Ringo there’s a George Martin staying behind to patch it altogether with just a mug of Horlicks and a biscuit for company.
These are people who played a huge part in a series of life-changing events but, for some reason, took a back seat when the plaudits were handed out. Some people just don’t get their day on stage.
The same is true of football history. Every Red will know about the 1986 double and Kenny’s goal at Stamford Bridge to seal the title, but fewer speak of Oxford United’s Les Phillips — the man who scored the goal against Everton which made that possible. No Les, no title.
The same is true today. In years to come, fans of the 2019 European Champions will look back and consider Mo Salah’s back-to-back ying and yang finals. They’ll nod at Alisson Becker’s saves in the Madrid heat and they’ll point at Virgil van Dijk and argue that he is the club’s most significant signing since Bob Paisley liked the look of that skinny lad from Chester City.
After all, those are the names — the legends who will be painted into the mural of Liverpool folklore. Jordan Henderson now stands alongside Emlyn, Thommo, Souness and Gerrard. His manager joins Bob, Joe and Rafa in a very select group.
But what about the other lads? The ones who appear lower down on the agenda? They’re as much a part of this as them.
First Item: Joel Matip.
He wasn’t even in the manager’s opening 11 of the season nor was he on the bench. Relegated to fourth-choice centre back, his only role was to be brought on in the dying seconds of the wins at the King Power Stadium and Wembley when Liverpool defended narrow leads. It took him till the sixth league game, Southampton at home, for him to make his first start. He scored.
It was only when Joe Gomez broke his leg at Burnley that Matip was properly introduced and even that comeback was thwarted by a broken collarbone sustained against Napoli. After that you would have expected Jürgen Klopp to pick Dejan Lovren as van Dijk’s companion, but it was Matip who got the nod and he was pretty much a mainstay from January onwards.
Always consistent if occasionally maddening (see “the Matip confusing exploratory run”). Not an immediate hero, but a man you could rely on. It was no shock to see him line up in the final.
It was in the latter stages of that match where he produced the most Joel Matip act ever. You’ll have watched Origi’s goal a thousand times already, but I ask you to look at what happens around it. It’s wonderful and I can’t stop watching it.
Virgil van Dijk swings a leg at Milner’s corner, there’s a weak header from Eric Dier which is nodded back to him by Vertonghen to prevent van Dijk from stealing it. Matip sees his chance, steps up and shins it first time to Divock. You know the rest, but look at Matip’s celebration.
He doesn’t go mad in the aftermath. He doesn’t really do anything.
Instead he orbits Kieran Trippier and nonchalantly trots off to the corner flag behind his mates.
He’s just laid on the most important pass of the last 14 years with no little skill and he’s not sprinting anywhere. He moves like a kid sluggishly walking to school. There’s laid back and then there’s that.
Oh, and it’s his first ever Liverpool assist. Obviously.
I love that understated approach. It’s not McManaman being all cool after a goal. That was all rehearsed and feigned something else. This was just genuine calmness while the world goes mad. He’s happy for his teammates to hog the cameras and maybe pat them on the back if he gets a chance. My new hero.
Next Item: Divock Origi
It’s December and the man once dubbed “the worst player in Ligue 1” by L’Equipe meanders onto the pitch with the Derby ebbing out to a draw. The ground hasn’t seen him for over a year and he’s hardly expected to rescue this.
Wins the Derby, scores a vital late winner at Newcastle, knocks two past Barcelona and secures number six by recreating Gary Lineker’s 1990 World Cup semi-final goal.
He could have gone to Wolves, Palace or Everton earlier this season, but didn’t fancy it so stayed behind to get better. Now he’s a T-shirt, a meme, a cult hero, a hero.
A bit-part player? Certainly. He only started four league games all season and, let’s be honest, he hardly set them alight, but now he’s the Belgian Ronnie Rosenthal. Ostend’s David Fairclough.
After the game he told the press that he wasn’t a hero. The team were.
Go back in time and tell yourself that Divock Origi scored the goal which won the European Cup. You’ll wonder where your mental faculties started to slip.
I also like that his Dad’s name is Mike. Mike Origi. Nice to meet you.
Final Items: Xherdan Shaqiri et al.
The man got us through December when the pressure was really building. He beat Man United on his own and then wrapped up the points against Burnley when we’d gone behind. He doesn’t do much after that save for crossing the ball for Gini’s second at Barcelona, but it’s that donation to the cause when we most needed it that makes this squad so special.
Successful teams need someone unexpected to pop up and sort out a problem when the bigger names are blowing a bit.
Daniel Sturridge? A man with little to offer now? Sure.
Scores the goal that starts the entire European Cup run as well as calmly knocking in the goal of the season when it looked like we’d finally lose a game against a rival.
Adam Lallana? One game, really. Burnley at home. People went nuts when he was included in such a must-win game and talked of us starting with 10 men. He was man of the match. He came, he saw, he went back to the bench. Cheers. Just doing my bit.
They’ve all done so much and at different times. They all have European Cup winners’ medals. Every single one of them.
There was a sense that our more successful earlier incarnations were one-man teams — Gerrard from 2005-7, Michael Owen in 2001 — but this feels different. There’s no sense of just giving the ball to the most talented man on the field and letting him win the game. The tiniest bit part now all goes to the whole unit.
Fabinho slotting in at centre back during an injury crisis and no one mentioning it again. Even the two lads who came into the back four for the FA Cup game just to give the others a night off. They all added to this. Even Nathaniel Clyne turning up to play against Man United like he was on day release from his college. Heroes all.
We’ll always sing the names of the blessed but our adoration is no longer confined to just the chosen few. This is a team now. This is a squad. This is a club.
I mean, I was up at 6.45am, not a mark on me. No hangover, no nothing. Mine was an unusual Champions League final day. Friday night, you see, got a smidgen out of hand. European Cup nerves and that, the ale flew, bevied twice in a day. Shapes were thrown.
Saturday morning breaks and I’m a mess. A fat baldy mess of a man, with no ticket, no plan and no hope of either.
Oh yer, and me body decided to choose June 1, 2019, the Champions League final day, the greatest day of our lives, to try a new experiment which involved me being sick on the hour, every hour, regular as clockwork, like the news on the radio. You are listening to Ben Johno’s digestive system. It was a nice touch.
I particularly like how it waited to spring this on me until I was in a taxi on the way to the fan park. I’ll get out here, lads. Being sick in the street, Spanish people tutting at me and that. I know, love. I’m a disgrace to my family.
I went for a lovely, big, long walk while the lads had a lovely, big, long meal, stopping to be sick in between cars, like a dying dog. Opening me mouth like a coughing cat, half my head of hair in its throat. Well you don’t need it anymore, dickhead.
All hope of a ticket long gone, the lads go to a boozer and I decide to have a kip under a tree in the park. Parque de El Retiro. Honestly, it was idyllic. Locals having a little siesta under trees. People in rowing boats. Young lovers canoodling in the shade, a lovely Spanish lady playing the ukulele to her fella, singing Queen in English.
A fat, bald, horrible, English pig lying on his back occasionally rolling on his front to impart some orange substance, which I’m saying tasted like it had come straight from hell. Think battery acid, mixed with the devil’s undie juice, onto the grounds of this pristine park before rolling back, inches away to doze.
I mean, I’m not sure if I was upsetting the mood and that, but when I looked up occasionally the canoodling seemed to have stopped. Better than nodders, lad.
Couple of hours before kick off I went to meet the lads in what can only really be described as a fucking butty shop with the ale in, a fucking subway, to watch the biggest game of our lives. A fucking butty shop. Think about that.
I spent the hours leading up to kick off with my head in the sink. Like at The National when a horse is sweating that much they have to lash water on it. There was salt crystals forming in my beard. There was an unusually big queue for the bogs but no one was having a piss. Weird that, init?
The telly went off. There was nearly a riot. The telly come back on. The Reds had a pen. What the fuck. The Reds were shite. The Reds were shite. The Reds were Shite. We score the second. Nothing else matters. Mayhem. The leccy goes in the gaff. Mayhem. We watch the last five minutes on a phone. Nothing else matters.
With love from the bottom of my heart.
We don’t win that game if he isn’t in goal. He was just so good. His footwork. His fucking saves. His positional sense. His fucking sense. His frame, his everything. Best I’ve ever seen and I seen Westerveld, mind you. The save from the freekick is unbelievable. The save from Son when he pure twatted it then the one right again from Lucas Moura. Unreal.
Holding the European Cup with one hand. Souness.
What can you say about him that hasn’t already been said? Twenty years of age and he’s winning European Cups. Imagine that one goes in when he did his best Ste Gerard impression, there. Gave it away with some mad decisions first 20 but fuck me, it’s the European Cup final. I’d be trying to score with every touch.
Was great defensively. But honestly we won, nothing else fucking matters.
Big Joel The Leccy Conqueror: 9
Mad the way he was fourth choice, everyone is binning him in the summer and a couple of lads get injured and he turns into a really, really, really good player, and ends up better than van Dijk for a bit.
Still does mad shit with his body now and again, like has involuntary twitches and that. Scousecharms has got a mate who got struck by lightning while he was stood under a tree. Two of his mates exploded. Literally exploded. He lost 40 per cent of his body weight, and can now turn the telly on and that without touching it, like a fucking X-Man.
Reckon it might be Joel, you know. Zapping his way to glory.
I have heard a rumour that he cried before we lifted the cup. I mean, Jesus Christ that would have broken me. I’m glad the telly went off. His recovery run when Son was in was incredible. He looked for the first time in his life like he weren’t getting back and then he just lashed the burners on and boxed it. An unbelievable footballer.
Made up for him that his decision to sign for us has been vindicated. What a hero.
Andy Robbo: 9
Cope was obsessed about his body shape. It was pretty fucking good, to be fair. Some of them balls he put in were unreal. Great effort. Didn’t stop running and that takes some doing in that heat. A fabulous footballer. One of the best.
Struggled to have an impact really, but then in fairness he fucking got us here. The right sub to take him off, but so fucking what? Nothing else matters. Harder job than it looks that midfield shuffler. Shows how good Henderson is that he could keep going.
Jordan Henderson: 10
I’m not even rating his performance. I’m rating him as a man. I reckon I’m happier for him than I am for me. A wonderful, wonderful human being. The video with his auld fella was pretty cry-y, wasn’t it?
What a tremendous signing. Absolutely steel. As in as hard as steel and a bargain. Seriously impressive in them little holes, isn’t he?
Sadio Mane: 10
Unbelievable, wasn’t he? We had a really big discussion yesterday about what we would do if our birds get sick of us and fuck us off. It was decided that I was moving to Senegal. Heavy that, isn’t it? I mean I would miss my wife and family and that because, you know, I love them, but Senegal would be pretty nice, I reckon.
Unbelievable ability to kill time/take fellas on, get The Reds up the pitch and nearly set up a goal in one move. Just pipped to man of the match by me and Alisson.
Mo Salah: 9
Redemption song. I mean, it was pretty nice, wasn’t it? I hope Sergio Ramos was watching it in his gaff with a bit of a cob on. He twats that pen in fairness and it’s a fucking good job cause it’s only the speed that beats the ‘keeper. Made some poor decisions really, and wasn’t at his best, but he’s sat in his gaff with a big gold medal round his neck.
Nothing. Else. Matters.
Bobby Firmino: 7
Was nowhere near fit, was he? Couldn’t press, couldn’t control it, couldn’t really do much, in fairness. The right decision to sub him obvs, but so fucking what? We won. Nothing else matters.
Made up for him, you know. Absolutely come on and got The Reds through. What a fella.
Was absolutely shite for 20 minutes there, wasn’t he? Shite. But then, that little shift onto his left, bang, the only place it could go in. Want to watch that again for all eternity. Wish I was in that end for it but never mind.
I got to watch Adam Melia, sat down, watching his timer on his phone instead of the match, unable to see the telly, look up with little hopeful eyes, as all hell broke loose around him, look straight into my eyes for confirmation, with a little smile on his face, start laughing and crying and celebrating all at the same time. I will never forget that.
It’s 11am in Paris as I write this and he still hasn’t seen the goal.
I don’t think I have ever been happier for anyone in my life. He is a remarkable man. A true leader of men. Unbelievable what he has pretty much done single handed for this club. He wouldn’t have a word of it being just him, though. That’s the marker of him.
I hope to meet him some day, maybe on a plane, on the way back from a European final, and I can tell him how much he means to me and maybe say thanks.