Let’s Talk About Six, Baby

Saturday, June 1st 2019, just after 7am. We get the Skytrain from Surrey to downtown Vancouver, arriving at the Butcher and Bullock shortly before 8am. We knew there would be a fair sized queue well before doors opened at 9am, in spite of it being priority entry for members. Even so, we were surprised by how many were there ahead of us, some of whom said they’d been there for a couple of hours already. Amazingly, as we were still waiting outside, on the corner of Pender and Hornby, we could see the queue for The Blackbird Public House already around the corner and down Hornby. We managed to entertain ourselves by booing both a Vancouver Police Wagon, who gave us a blast as he went by, and staring at drivers stopped at the traffic lights who were staring at us wondering what’s going on? A couple of lone Spurs fans walked by on the other side of the street, to a loud chorus of boos from us, the first one passed by as if we weren’t there, and the second one gave us the single finger salute. 9am came and as the doors opened, we were let in a few at a time to keep it more restrained than a mad rush, and as we went in we found a good spot at a table and took our seats.

The staff were well prepared and came around to take our orders for the complimentary breakfast as we tried to contain the excitement building inside, while also hoping the next few hours would pass quickly so we could get on with the big game itself. Thankfully, the club had arranged some video entertainment for us, and then around 11 am Jamie Wright began leading us in a sing-along that we all joined in enthusiastically and put us all in a great mood ready for kick-off.

Moments of Madness and Mayhem

Not even 30 seconds in, we get a penalty. Cue the cheers and the tension as Mo Salah steps up and … blasts it home. Bedlam ensues as we all start yelling, jumping, and hugging anyone within reach. A big guy at the next table to me started to give me a bear hug, then lifted me off my feet to the point that I thought he was going to toss me in the air! Fortunately not, with me landing safely on my feet, and then sitting down again to continue watching as calmly as I could after the great start. The game was fairly dull after that, other than an intruder on the pitch who was dealt with swiftly by stadium security. Not too many great attacking moves and even fewer clear chances, but we went in at half time with the 1-0 lead intact. The second half wasn’t much of an improvement, but there was a nervy 15 minutes or so as Spurs starting to pile on the pressure as the clock was ticking down, but never really looked too dangerous. Alisson was needed to stop a few shots, making them look pretty much routine by his standards, and then with only 3 minutes to go a poor clearance by Spurs in their own penalty area allowed Matip (what’s a centre back doing way up there?) to knock it over to Origi (on as sub. for Firmino) to his left in the box, who calmly took the ball and placed it low and just inside the far post, beyond the reach of Lloris, 2-0 and surely it’s ours now. The place goes mental, with even more screaming, yelling, jumping and hugging, then it was just a matter of trying to patiently wait out the last few minutes of added time, and then at the final whistle there was even more madness and mayhem before we watched the boys get their medals and of course lift the big one to roars from all of us. I admit that I was in tears at the end, and not surprisingly I wasn’t not the only one.

The game itself has been described as one of the least entertaining UCL finals ever, but not one of us will care about that. What mattered was that we won on the day and picked up Ol’ Big Ears for the sixth time in the club’s history. We knew that there were several “official” LFC pubs in town showing the final, and many more unofficial ones, with estimates of somewhere around 2,000 Reds going mental all over the city, which I thought might be an exaggeration.

After we left the B&B a while later, we were walking to the Skytrain station at Waterfront when we saw a group of lads in Liverpool shirts coming towards us. We immediately yelled over and stopped to talk to them. They were a group of Irish lads who had been at one of the unofficial pubs, and one of them asks me “how do you feel?” so I answered that I didn’t think it had really sunk in yet, but surely it would soon. As we travelled home we saw quite a few more people in Liverpool shirts, worn by people with happy faces, so maybe that estimate of 2,000 is pretty accurate.

The Morning After

Early Sunday morning I opened up my e-mail and read a message from a relative in London, who was not a Red but really happy that we’d won. As he said, after the season we had it would have been a massive disappointment not to finish with a major trophy, and while I would have wished for the Premier League then this was a pretty good consolation prize. Personally I was so pleased for Klopp who had the dark cloud hanging over him as a manager who lost six finals in a row. That can now be forgotten, with Klopp joining an elite group as one of only four Liverpool managers to have achieved Europe’s biggest prize.

The Fab Four

Later in the day, my same relative e-mailed about the victory parade in Liverpool, which reminded me that it was available via YouTube so I sat in front of the computer monitor and watched it unfold. The route was along some of the streets that I’ve walked up and down many times, from Queen’s Drive, West Derby Road, Low Hill, and Erskine Street, then to the city centre. It was a bit strange to see how much the city has changed since those days, but then so much else has changed, with one notable exception being success for Liverpool FC. As the open-topped buses slowly made their way around town through a sea of red, we could see the back of the bus showing the six cups we’d won over the years -1977, 1978, 1981, 1984, 2005, and now 2019. That’s when it all really sank in. This was not just a measure of our success for one season, but shows that we continue to be a force in Europe having won twice as many as the next highest for any English club. Only four other English clubs have won the trophy, claiming seven between all of them to our six. We’re now the third highest in Champions League history, ahead of some of the big names like Barcelona (5), Bayern Munich (5), Ajax (4) Inter Milan (3), Juventus (2), and Manchester City (0). We can truly call ourselves European Royalty with our impressive record.

The Shape of Things to Come

So what next? Liverpool have a tradition of success that relies on a few simple practices, including the idea that next season starts the day after the last season ends. I’m sure this is happening behind the scenes now, even though the players are surely off for a well-deserved break over the summer before being called back for training. That’s only a few weeks away, with dates already confirmed for a pre-season tour in the States in mid-July, along with other warm up matches ahead of the 2019-2020 season. Between now and then, the club need to look at the squad and see where we need strengthening. For me, I’d like to see a few players brought in, but I’ll leave it to the management to decide who they need, who’s available, and at what cost. Surely FSG will back up the manager with the needed funds as he identifies his targets. For this transfer window, we’re not desperate, but if the right players are available then we should go after them. We spent huge amounts on players like Van Dijk and Alisson, which we know was well worth it, after achieving success.

One thing that puts us in an enviable position is that we’re now defending European Champions for next season’s campaign, and we have a charismatic manager who is building a club that so many players will want to be a part of. More than that, if any prospective player was to see that victory parade, and see how the city came out with estimates of 750,000 lining the route, who would not want to be a part of a club with supporters like that? Let’s enjoy the summer, keep calm, and look forward to next season – it’s not that far off, and we’re in great shape for more success to come.

In Other News…

Our first competitive match for next season will be the Community Shield, with us as runners up in the Premier League facing League and FA Cup winners Manchester City at Wembley on August 3rd or 4th. We’ve won this trophy ten times, and shared it five times, so one more would be welcome.

In Istanbul, we’ll win it four times – okay so it doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, but as Champions League winners we’ll be facing Europa League winners Chelsea, in Istanbul on August 14th for the UEFA Super Cup which we’ve won three times so far (1977, 2001, 2005).

After some confusing reports, Liverpool will be playing in the Club World Cup later this year, which will take place in December in Qatar. No firm dates yet, but an announcement will come soon enough. We have yet to win this one, so here’s hoping this time around.

The above three events mean that all together we’ll be playing in seven competitions for the 2019-2020 season. A lot to look forward to, with the Premier League fixtures to be released on June 13th – less than two weeks from now!

Final comment: a huge thanks to the staff at the Butcher and Bullock. They’ve been fantastic all season, working hard to look after us, even when it’s for a 4:30am kick off – we really appreciate it. I just hope they enjoy having us there as much as we enjoy being there for every game. Cheers all, YNWA.

© Keith Perkins, 2019-06-03