The life of the itinerant fan can be an exciting one, but I will be glad to sit in the stands at Cardiff today as Liverpool win the FA Cup. I watched the 1984 European Cup final in Australia, the 1996 FA Cup Final in the Mad Dog in a Fog in San Francisco and the recent match in Barcelona in an Ethiopian bar full of soldiers. You can find English football on TV at the strangest times in the strangest places, but it will be good to be there in the flesh.
There are plenty of memories of Liverpool v Arsenal. I can still remember 1989 because I was playing a little hall in Glasgow that night. I had one of the backstage guys holding up two cards with the score on. It was 1-0 to Arsenal for ages and then, right at the end, he held up 2-0 and we had lost the title with the last kick of the season. The only good thing was that I was right near the end of the set.
Arsenal are a good side, but they don’t seem to fit together and their defence is vulnerable, which you could never say before. They have a terrifically fast team and could be very dangerous in extra time. You saw that in the final of Euro 2000, which Italy should have won but France had other players to come on when the legs were tired and Wenger has got exactly those players, in Henry, Pires and Wiltord, who did it then.
But I have a feeling Liverpool are going to do the treble, especially if they play with the discipline they showed against Barcelona and Roma. We have such riches when everybody is fit and the manager seems to understand who to use when. It was very noticeable in the FA Cup against Tranmere that he played the Liverpudlians like young Wright and Murphy. There was just a chance that experienced internationals would have thought “we should beat these easy”, which is what happened to Everton. That is why he made Fowler captain. It focuses the identity. There is something vulnerable about Fowler. He always looks like he is struggling with something, but he is easily the best striker Liverpool have when he is on form. It would be a tragedy if he left and proved it elsewhere.
I was out for Sunday lunch with my mum once and we bumped into Robbie and Steve McManaman. Robbie was kind of sullen. He was just coming back from injury and my ma got onto him saying “are you all right, are you looking after yourself?” He was all shy and taking it. It was like a double act, with Macca having the lip. I am sure it was McManaman’s idea to have the T-shirts supporting the dockers under their shirts. He was the one with the lip who can talk his way out of it and always gets the quiet one in trouble. Macca probably knew Robbie was more likely to score.
Carragher has had a great season playing out of position and now they have put some strength in Smicer’s upper body, we are seeing the best of him because he is not brushed off every ball. But the real battle will be between Gerrard and Vieira. That will be quite a confrontation because Keane bottled it against Gerrard at Anfield, he really did.
McAllister has to be the greatest signing of the season and, even at his age, he seems to have more stamina than Hamann. They have got the strong line down the centre of the team, which the great Liverpool teams always had, and you feel like this is a team that has better things ahead of it.
I hope so because I will be going to my first European final in Dortmund next week after years of watching them in bars at dawn on the other side of the world.