Adam Bird

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Thursday, 24 May 2007

Luck? What's that?

Growing up as a Gillingham supporter often caused me some ridicule and as a way of combating the abuse thrown my way it often became easier to say that I was also a Liverpool fan. Liverpool being the "fashionable" side of the mid-late 80's when I was growing up. Dad was also a Liverpool fan, often going to see Liverpool in cup finals at Wembley including the 85 final at Wembley stadium.

Last night, with Liverpool playing AC Milan in Athens I was keen to get back to Gravesend and head to Gareth's house and watch it on his newly installed cinema screen. I am not going to use the word television as the monster situated in his lounge is not a TV by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, if I was to look out the back window of my flat I would be able to watch the game quite comfortably without having to make the two mile journey to his new gaff.

Not only were the gods against Steven Gerrard and the millions of scousers whom travelled to Athens, they were well and truly sticking two fingers right up at me and blowing raspberries whilst doing it.

There had been a fire in the London Bridge area, the news of which was well publicised online and via email (thanks Will!), meaning all routes out of London would be via Victoria.

I anticipated carnage well in advance and left work at five thirty in order to give myself plenty of time for what I imagined would be an eventful journey home, but on arrival at Victoria station carnage was nowhere near it! There were literally twenty million people at Victoria, stuck in gridlock, not moving, not knowing what the hell was going on and not looking remotely like moving anytime soon.

Starting to panic I was desperately aware that I wasn't going to make it home via the train in time to watch the football, so made a quick, and rather rash decision to get a taxi back, knowing full well that it was going to cost me £80 or so!

Whilst walking away from Victoria, past Her Majesty's house, which is incidentally the sort of house that would be well suited to a TV of Gareth's size, it struck me that Reaso may also be in a similar predicament. As it was, he was in a worse state than I was, as he had left work at 4pm and was still nowhere near getting home and had also given up on Victoria station.

A new plan was hatched and ten minutes later a rendezvous at Hyde Park Corner with a red, sweaty and extremely angry Reaso was made.

We found a pub, decided to watch the game, drink some beer and worry about getting home later.

Which was all very well, but unlike Istanbul in 2005 the outcome of the European Cup was not going to go Liverpool's way.

Liverpool had by far the better of the first half and had the lions share of possession. A few half chances came their way. Conceding the free kick at the very end of the first half was a kick in the teeth, but hey, as Reaso commented "it's better than 3-0 at half time".

Both of us were surprised at how poor Milan were, they seemed to give the ball away fairly easily and were not as fearsome coming forward as two years ago.

As the game ticked down and Liverpool looked for an equaliser Kaka found some space to plant a perfect through ball and the rest is history. Even though Kuyt scored a consolation, I never really anticipated another famous Liverpool comeback.

Ultimately Liverpool failed to take their chances and it came back to haunt them. The luck that deserted me all day yesterday also hovered over the Olympic Stadium in Athens, but I cannot say that luck was responsible. Despite the defeat, the Liverpool fans, players and manager remained gracious and accepted it like true professionals. I cannot see that Mr Ferguson or Mr Mourinho would have been quite so humble and we would probably be hearing excuses and conspiracy theories galore.

Finally, congratulations must surely go to Paolo Maldini. In my mind, the greatest footballer that has ever been. Not for his footballing ability as that is easily surpassed by Pele, Maradonna etc, but for achievements in the game there cannot be any greater. 5 European Cup winners medals, 800+ appearances, 100 of which have been in the Champions League. All for the same team - all records which I wonder will ever be surpassed.

Tipsy, deflated and faced with the mercy of London transport we headed back to Victoria station. The crowds had gone and so we headed towards Ramsgate, stopping off at Chatham where we were rescued by Mr Reason Snr, who I would like to gratefully thank for a lift back to Gravesend, making the end of my day slightly easier to bare.

Although, writing this and grumbling about luck and travel chaos, pales into insignificance when reading in the paper this morning about the plane full of Liverpool fans, all of which had paid £600 for flights to Athens only to be stranded when the plane broke down on the runway.

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