¶ 1 Leave a comment on verse 1 0 I leave the safe Saturday sounds of washer spinning, drier tumbling, fridge’s empty stomach rumbling. Outside in the street the men from Scottish Power are drilling, filling the air with clatter, shattering the peace to pieces. Hey, you are a going to the match? shouts the Italian pensioner from over the road: I never see a nothing like. So many polices, drunks everywhere. He shakes his head and coughs away, cupping his dog end in yellow fingers against the January wind.
¶ 2 Leave a comment on verse 2 0 I cycle past straggles of fans in Richmond Park Road, turn into Queen’s Park Southdrive, where the straggles turn into lines, filings being drawn towards the Goldsands magnet, sporting Cherries scarves and Cherries bags with bananas and flasks poking out for half time, tickets in their pockets and extra cash to invest in special commemorative programmes. At Fitness First the first of the scarf sellers holds up scarves, half Cherries, half Liverpool, half frozen his shaven head catches the sun as it breaks through the cloud and a ray of hope lights up his face as a possible punter is pulled in by the smile then put off by the price.
¶ 3 Leave a comment on verse 3 0 I squeak through the subway, emerge into sunshine recalling the time when I too played at Dean Court, coming out to echoes of support from the handful of family and friends in the empty stands and terraces. And today every inch will be taken and the noise will be deafening and banners will be flying and scarves will be waving and I almost push my bike into a trader who says in broad scouse, Aw-rite? Yous was miles away der, and I was, and I think, how friendly, and with an accent like that, so are you, and I almost put my hand in my pocket, then think better of it.
¶ 4 Leave a comment on verse 4 0 I push on past the car park full sign and the young man whose job is to let through the posh cars with permits to park in a car park that’s full. Like ants to the sugar they cross King’s Park cricket pitch, Bournemouth fans wearing false wigs and taches saying aw-rite, aw-rite, in comical accents and doing funny things with their arms well away from the fans in the away end. And a bloke in a suit, who looks like a bible basher, speaks through a hand-held loud-speaker to advertise programmes, and a scouser says, hey mate, how much the programmes? You’ve got to be joking!
¶ 5 Leave a comment on verse 5 0 And the Men United team wearing prostate cancer t-shirts and scarves tell male fans to start feeling themselves; and a male fan from Merseyside who’s not feeling himself is relying on support, but the police won’t let him into the stand unless he can stand unassisted and there’s no chance of that. My guess is he’ll never walk alone today. ‘The reds are coming’ reads the back page of the Echo, a scary thought for Bournemouth. Away fans this way please, can you have your tickets ready,
¶ 6 Leave a comment on verse 6 0 Over and over I hear this announcement, but the red who is comatose doesn’t hear nothing, he’s propped against the wall like a penny for the guy and the stewards go over to check he’s OK as his mates try to offload his ticket to an overseas student for two hundred nicker.
¶ 7 Leave a comment on verse 7 0 A police van draws up and in the back the agonized screams of a prisoner drowns out the chants from inside; ‘Li-ver-pool, Li-ver-pool, Bor-muf, Bor-muf. Things are hotting up at the old Dean Court and a Bormuf fan says some scousers are wearing suits and ties because they heard the word Court, then looks around nervously to see who’s listening. And the prisoner bangs on the windowless panels and rocks the box till the back door’s slung open and he’s dragged to the floor and restrained by two heavy policemen with five reinforcements in support and his hands are cuffed behind his back and his feet are tied with a Velcro strap and another four officers arrive and he disappears in a scrummage of viz-lite and helmets and I muse about how many Dorset police it takes to bundle a body back into a van as they bundle his body back into the van and the doors close and there’s more banging and slanging and knocking and rocking as it pulls away. Away fans this way please, can you have your tickets ready.
¶ 8 Leave a comment on verse 8 0 And the left over officers brush themselves down and straighten their hats, the chaos slows, expectation grows, the whistle blows and the match kicks off . The stewards relax in their high-viz tangerine, the police relax in their viz-lite lemon and the late-comers rush to the gates flashing their tickets, leaving the ticketless to wonder and wander the face of the earth, disappointed and dazed. Some watch on phones, listen through ear-pieces and Men United feel pleased with themselves having done their bit for their bits and the armchair supporters are switching on at home, and I cycle away past the empty plastic pint pots pushed in the bushes and the cans of Carling crushed in the gutters, and the wind blows freely through the King’s Park conifers.1