A few weeks ago, I popped round to the house of a mate of mine after work. I say mate – I’ll be completely honest, he’s a complete tool. He’s a Liverpool fan (despite never living outside London is his whole life), he looks a bit like a weasel, and he’s a tight b*****d as well.
But he’s got Sky Sports, so we’re mates. It’s just the way.
I was there to watch the Arsenal-Liverpool game, and before kick off my mate informed me that he’d had a dream the previous night. With glazed-over eyes and a faraway expression, he told me he’d spent the previous night’s reverie playing centre-half for Liverpool (obviously the poor guy doesn’t have the self-esteem to put himself up front, even in his own dreams). He didn’t remember too much about the game, other than the fact that – and this is in his own words – “I had an absolute ‘mare, we conceded a few”, and he also remembered ecstatically celebrating a goal with, of all people, Yossi Benayoun. He also described a feeling of elation at the end of the match – obviously that would be a win then?
Buoyed by his visions, he had dropped into Paddy Power on his way home from work and put a princely pound (told you he was tight) on Yossi Benayoun to score at any time and Liverpool to win 4-3. Obviously with very handsome odds (hardly Monte Carlo odds with a stake of a pound, but odds nonetheless).
And you know the rest. Lots of goals, two from Yossi and a relentlessly heart-stopping 4 all draw.
Now, you are probably thinking one of two things at this point:
1) My friend is some sort of mystic Oracle (‘there is no Yossi Benay-spoon”. Anyone? No?) Unfortunately on this occasion, he let his heart rule over his head, and had assumed a Liverpool win. Oooh, so close, right?
2) The whole thing was a complete coincidence and this article so far has wasted a couple of minutes of your busy life (you’ve got ironing to do, rubbish to sort out into appropriate recycling bins and – of course – global pandemics to go out and catch. I don’t blame you.)
All logic, age and experience would obviously point to the latter. But deep down, I think every football fan has something inside him (or her, we’re no sexists here at TANY) that thinks it has the capacity, no matter how small, to influence a game of football. Sometimes we have dreams that make no sense. Sometimes we wear the same boxer shorts for 8 matches running because Adam Le Fondre ALWAYS SCORES when we wear the blue stripy ones. I had a hardcore lower league-supporting mate who ended up looking like the evil lovechild of Charles Manson and Freddie Mercury because an astounding winning streak coincided with his outright refusal to shave.
And in a roundabout method, I bring you to the playoff semi finals. Albeit, the ones almost exactly 7 years ago.
As a child you see, my own superstition/party trick was to influence opposition players into making mistakes. Remember Kevin Pilkington? He was like my very own voodoo doll of crapness. Every time I gave that guy a frosty, Matilda-style glare, he would pull an absolute cracker of a balls-up out of the bag. Or so I began to believe.
So on a May evening at Spotland, with Dale proudly parading a 2-2 draw plundered from deepest darkest Irthlingborough, I decided to turn my attentions to another goalie. The match was beginning to look stale, and with proceedings goalless at half time, I took it upon myself to pull my party trick to the fore once more. Mark Peters rolled a backpass to the scallywag Turley, and I threw daggers with my eyes (not that Daggers). 3-2 to Dale, and we were on our way to Wembl….oh sh*t. The Jamaican (who wasn’t on a bobsled team) Onandi Lowe sent us packing with a goal and an assist. Dale hearts were split in two, and I think on some level I left my special skill in the Sandy that night, among the discarded pie crusts, coffee cups and broken dreams. Walking down Wilbutts Lane I heard an old fella remark; “if it isn’t disappointing, it isn’t Dale”. That was the evening I matured as a football fan.
So 7 years on, is it time for us to become children again? We’re not in great form. We suffered a crushing defeat at Wembley last year. It has been a strange season, where sniping in the ranks and unrealistic expectations have almost threatened to detract from what has actually been another very successful run. But this time, the playoffs feel different. The pressure feels like its off. I almost feel young again. So lets enjoy it. Let’s sing, shout, and stare at Simon Royce until he cacks himself.
Up The Dale!
Written by Ross Pennington on 7th May 2009