Today is Cup Final day, Ian’s first: Chelsea v Liverpool. He is 19 days younger than I was when I watched my first, in 1971: Liverpool 1 Arsenal 2, with Steve Heighway, in flaming red, scoring from near the corner flag, and Charlie George flat on his back in his sunny yellow shirt in the Wembley sunshine after hitting the winner, thus completing Arsenal’s League and Cup double (at that time the fourth double in 72 seasons, though since then it has been won seven times in 41 seasons – testament to the growing power of money in the game).
I remember watching this in bright colour on our fourth day in our newly bought suburban Wimpey home (ten months after my mother walked out of my parents’ house, two months after I lost him for good, and two months before their divorce became absolute, itself two months short of 25 years of marriage) even though for the first few years we only had a black and white TV. I also clearly remember Heighway scoring from the right, though in fact he did so from the left…
In the Yorkshire circumstances of the day I was bound to follow Leeds United – I had missed their Cup Final replay loss to Chelsea the year before (although my mate Simon Webb, himself a Leeds fan, was not slow to point out that his namesake had scored the winning goal), but in 1972 I was sat on the floor among a crowd of boys gaping at the neighbour’s big colour screen as Sniffer Clarke thumped the winning header past Geoff Barnett, and Mick Jones limped up in agony to collect his winner’s medal after dislocating his shoulder in the final minutes.
Two days after that Leeds went to Wolves needing a point to win the double themselves; in those days they didn’t broadcast league games in full, and I watched in dismay the brief report on the late-night Yorkshire news as Derek Dougan (of the massive sideboards) sank my exhausted heroes 2-1.
That was in black and white all right – doubly awful as it meant Derby County, and the bitterly hated Brian Clough, winning their first title.
I was a Leeds fan for 19 years, until the aura of racism and violence that dogged the club got to be too much. The final straw came in May 1990, when Leeds beat Bournemouth on the final day of the season to ensure that they won the second division championship while Bournemouth were relegated to Division 3. These things happen in football, but what came afterwards didn’t have to: the thugs of Yorkshire smashed Bournemouth town centre to pieces. That disgraceful performance was enough for me; since then I’ve been strictly neutral.
Ian’s not; he’s a Liverpool fan. So far from a local context, I’m not sure what that means, but he has his kit and all (more than I ever did; my mother’s paltry income wouldn’t stretch to such indulgences back in the early ‘70s). So we’ll be on the sofa tonight at 8.15 (for some reason the game is no longer the traditional 3.00 kick-off, but 5.15, plus three hours for the time difference). Will he stay awake?