Going to the game always has the shadow of jams and delays
Now I’m a man who likes to take his seat in plenty of time for the kick-off.
Not for me the last-minute dash from the pub, grabbing a goo pie from the refreshment bar and trampling over my fellow spectators’ feet as I shuffle to my seat.
No, I like to be in place a good 15 minutes before the start, getting my bearings, soaking up the atmosphere and feeling the tension mount, having already observed the 53 rituals which I call my footie superstitions and my doctor calls OCD.
For me, ‘going the match’ is a thing to be savoured, an all-encompassing experience to be relished like a gourmet meal rather than gulped down like some crude alco-pop.
I mention this so that you can feel the pain I have experienced following the Reds over the last week, where my carefully-crafted pre-march ritual has taken the sort of beating that Mr Quelch used to hand out to Billy Bunter in the days before anyone had even thought of political correctness.
As an exile imprisoned in deepest Surrey, the threat of travel disruption is an ever-present shadow over most of my journeys, but there seemed no danger as we sailed up the M6 towards the Theatre of Screams.
And then came the A556.
Solid traffic all the way to the ground. One and three-quarter hours to do the last 13 miles at speeds that would have made Bjorn Tore Kvarme look pacy.
Dump the car, a brisk hike to the stadium, into our seats with a minute to spare. Close; too close.
The first half goes past in a blur, before a reassuring Kit-Kat restores mental order at the break.
And yet this proved merely the appetiser for the horrors we would endure on the trip to Sunderland on Sunday.
Eschewing the motorways for the relative certainty and comfort of rail, we hopped on the 11.13 from King’s Cross for the marathon trip to the North East. Our fine disposition lasted as far as Peterborough, where Network Rail (Motto: Overrunning Engineering Works) introduced a 45-minute delay that shredded our nerves for the rest of the journey.
There was to be no reprieve this time. There is nothing more soul-destroying than arriving at a ground with everybody inside bar you. Even the programme-sellers had deserted their post to go where the action was.
Fifteen minutes late for the kick-off, we slid into position like latecomers at the opera, though it’s doubtful those watching Turandot have to climb 200 stairs to reach their seats.
We’d just about got over the climb when the fun started, and we’d commenced our ascent to second place in the league.
The games? Well you know all about them by now. Played reasonably well at OT, but messed up our chances and some bad decisions prevented others being created.
Made hard work of it against the very average Black Cats, but at least we rode the storm when we had to and retained the ball reasonably well. Jordan Henderson proved he’s no wing-back, likewise Moses no ‘No 10’. And, of course, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and Sturridge are going to rip defences to pieces for the rest of the season, especially when Coutinho returns.
Now, if you don’t mind, I’m setting off for Newcastle now to make sure I’m there in good time.