On my travels abroad I often find myself chatting drunkenly with the natives. When they ask where I’m from I need never worry that they won’t have heard of either my hometown Blackpool (‘Aha! The rollah coastah, ey?’) or my adopted hometown of Manchester (‘Aha! Manchistah Oonited, ey?’) Particularly with the latter they are wont to shake my hand and sometimes to cheer and one time to put their arms about me and make me bounce up and down on the spot in a sort of a jig. After they’ve bought me a drink I cautiously explain that I don’t really do football and I watch them wondering why else anyone would live here. In fact, it’s perfectly possible to live a football-free life in this football-obsessed city, most of my friends do it with ease, and I do it too. I am after all the man who found himself in a crowded pub one Derby Day wondering when horse-racing got so popular.
Needless to say I was not prepared for the round-the-clock chanting that began outside my window Tuesday night followed by a sea of royal blue man-made fibres and more colours of puke than I’ve ever witnessed on our fair streets. Imagine my horror when I discovered this was the day before the match! One hundred thousand fans in the city filled every pub, bar and public space from here to Salford and back. That’s a whole lot of bladders. In truth, lack of sleep and traffic jams aside, I loved the drama of it all!
‘I saw one doing a poo in the middle of the pavement! In daylight!’
‘One of them climbed up the front of the Town Hall!’
‘The girls have painted their tits blue!’
‘The trams are cancelled, the motorway’s closed, there’s a police helicopter landing in Sackville Park!’
I think that last one was untrue. But it’s all so exciting! Sirens all night, people hanging out of windows, the singing, the sunshine, the News, the helicopters going round and round and round …
And then it’s morning, and there actually is vomit all over your doorstep and human excrement in the park and a bloke knifed, in the back for God’s sake, and a thousand thousand Spar bags clogging up the trees, gutters and doorways and you realise that football will always find you in the end.