Another Friendly Derby

The Merseyside derby is a strange beast indeed. Since Sandy Brown achieved a certain kind of immortality with his own goal in 1969, the natural order of things, aided by cameos from Glenn Keeley Nicky Tanner and Graham Poll, is for Liverpool to have the upper hand and for Everton to win less often but more memorably. That's about the scale of things.
This one is a lunchtime kick-off, which means I'm up before the larks. Not that I see any larks of course. Presumably they're all asleep, unless they're extinct. I'm not sure if I'd recognise a lark anyway. Bit like sparrows are they?
The roads are clearish, the sky is blueish and the air is freshish. What can possibly go wrong. In truth, nothing. Tempting fate doesn't always have to end in tears.
I ignore the unseasonal heat and take my coat. I'm a fool. No matter, there's a traipse across sunny Stanley Park, a watch of the Liverpool team arriving on one of those Ellisons that looks like it's equipped for space travel and a “good morning” to and from everyone guarding the nice rooms where directors chew the cud (possibly literally) pre and post match as I clamber up the stairs up, up, up and away to the press room, with the loose-limbed alacrity of Tenzing Norgay gone to seed.
In there, it's ridiculously, uncomfortably hot, even though the windows are open. I hide my coat in a cloakroom, have a very hot pie (not bad actually), a hotter still cup of tea and feel better for both. There's a bucketload of nice people to swap horror stories with, I have a seat on the front row of the press box (built for dwarves of course), the wi-fi works a treat and I'm raring to go.
As it turns out are the teams. It's blood and thunder, hammer and tongs, muck and nettles, Hinge and Brackett and other meaningless phrases. And while it's hardly Millwalll/West Ham there's a bitter, spiteful edge on and off the field. As David Moyes later notes, referee Martin Atkinson – one of the better ones usually – spoils the game by sending off Jack Rodwell for a challenge on Luis Suarez that was neither fishy nor foul.
After that, Liverpool miss a penalty and take over without swamping the 10 men. The hitherto invisible Andy Carroll brilliantly peels off Leighton Baines to score their first with the sort of handsome finish that reminds you he's not just a big lummox. Parading his delight in front of the Everton fans proves to be one of his less good ideas – he really is no rocket scientist, unlike Iain Dowie – and he's pelted with various missiles for his trouble. At the same time, sporadic fighting breaks out – hardly Swansea/Cardiff to be fair – with the misplaced Liverpool fans discovering just how true the friendly derby myth is.
In the end, Liverpool deserve their win. Stewart Downing seems oddly off the pace, but Dirk Kuyt plays a blinder after missing a penalty and Lucas Leiva gets better with every game. Champions League? Possibly not, but it'll be close.
Everton, meanwhile, never recovered from Rodwell's expulsion. This isn't the moment to judge them, but they were infinitely less subdued than they were against Queens Park Rangers a few weeks ago. They won't go down, but they can moan all they like about financial straitjackets, but they have to recruit more astutely than Royston Drenthe.
Afterwards, Moyes only wants to talk about the sending off, but the heat is unbearable so he says his piece and goes. Meanwhile Kenny Dalglish is in one of those moods he last displayed at Celtic: mumbly, evasive and suspicious. He says he didn't see the red card, thus ensuring he doesn't have to talk about it properly. And so it goes.
I'm home in time for that Italian detective series I've never seen, but looks interesting. I forget to watch it.
Playlist
Leonard Cohen
Live In London (Columbia, 2009)
Magnificent of course. I wrote the sleevenotes. I didn't get paid. That's “didn't get paid” by very possibly the nicest man I've ever interviewed. Bah.