RAWK Advent Calendar - #7 - Daniel Agger vs Chelsea 2007

Posted by Degs on November 28, 2014, 09:56:39 PM

I was born red, into a red family, raised red.

My family isn’t just red, it’s ardent red, avid red, amassed with generations of die-hard reds. When tales are told, family histories recounted and pasts resurrected they invariably come with come with a connection to Liverpool Football Club. If my parent’s wedding is mentioned it comes with the footnote that the mid-May nuptuals led to a postponed honeymoon so my dad could go to the 1984 European Cup final in Rome. 1 month after I was born I was being hoisted up by my dad on Park Road to welcome home the 1986 double winners, 1989 as my 7 month pregnant mum waited for news that her husband was alive and my first L.F.C memory of laying flowers for the dead. The red cord stretches deep throughout the family; my Grandad was a part of Liverpool’s highest ever attendance and not a geographical reference goes past without a mention from somebody of former glories, even a simple trip on the M62 can descend into a reminiscence over a coach breakdown after the final title-winning game of the season. The endemic success that came with Liverpool from the 60’s onwards has provided the basis for countless anecdotes, legends, and what has now become family folklore. This stretched from my parents generation backwards and any mention of Liverpool without also mentioning success was a chore, and then there was us, those born post 1985, the children wandering the desert hoping to see the promised land.

I was 4 when we last won the league and I wish I could remember it. There are tiny sporadic flashes. I know I loved John Barnes and I know I was there when the team paraded the trophy (again on Park Road). The memories of the F.A. Cup win that followed the next season have probably merged with that title-win, while the 4-3 loss to Leeds in the Charity Shield, which I attended as a 6 year old, consists almost entirely in my memory as a long coach ride, a Liverpool rosette, a packet of Minstrels, and a Wembley burger the size of my head. While almost any fan would trade their club’s history for that of a Liverpudlian’s it’s when you grow up without having seen any of this success that these honours are not seen as a relic of former glories but a burden, a weight of expectation, and worst of all a source of resentment at what was never ours.  We are Liverpool fans, as those before us, but we were cursed, robbed of our birth-right and sentenced to misery and the punishment to compare a 1995 League Cup win with those memories of our elders. For 10 years that seemed to be the case, until the flame was finally reignited.

The memory of Gerard Houllier’s time at Liverpool has almost been expunged by the glories that were to follow but to my generation they will never be forgotten. What Houllier planted inside us was the same sense as our forefathers had tasted; success. Not just success but regular appearances at the top table of success, what Houllier delivered to a ravenous generation would not satisfy the appetite of the reinvigorated youth. I remember the feeling when his team, our team, lost to Leverkusen in the Champions League Quarter Final -  utter desolation. There was an abject feeling of injustice and angst of of what could have been and to follow it up with a failure to win the league was as bad as I had felt in years as bad as any time spent in the wilderness could match. In my mind that was the chance, that was the chance to finally have our story, my story, the one chance at being able to offer a parallel with those before us, to hold our own, for something to be ours - the utter desolation was compounded by the feeling of regret that such an opportunity would never come again.

The old think we’re deluded, the younger don’t see the fuss. For those of us of the right age Rafa Benitez can be held in as high esteem as any man in the history of Liverpool Football Club. Words can do no justice to what achieving a Champions League victory did for my generation - the only experience it can be likened to is that of an exorcism. No longer did we live with the crushing weight of the past, cursing the age we were born, the experience we now had was shared by the old but owned entirely by us. Finally we had our moment and the strange feeling for me, as much as any enjoyment, was the sheer weight of relief that came with it. Relief, ravenous relief, all my life I waited for this moment and the hangover wouldn’t hit until when I was stood on the Kop and saw us bow out to Benfica. All at once it was gone, and as soon as it was gone I understood those who lived in the past - all they wanted was for that feeling again, that addictive unadulterated bliss that was all of a sudden a necessity. We collectively began to realise what had gone before, a once in a lifetime event we were privileged to be a part of - a moment we would be talking about for the rest of our lives, undoubtedly this experience would surely never come again - regular success was a part of Liverpool’s past, not present.

It would have been easy to pick a goal from this era as my favorite - Gerrard scoring against Olympiakos, Gerrard sparking that revival against Milan, Gerrard dragging the F.A. Cup out of the hands of West Ham - in all honesty I feel guilty for not picking a Gerrard goal - but he’ll have to settle for the assist.

The atmosphere for a Champions League game at Anfield is always electric, always intoxicating, but as your side reach the conclusion of the competition and the clocks change the cliché of a “magical” atmosphere suddenly becomes more real as the stakes rise with the angle of the sun and the Kop-end of Anfield becomes bathed in the setting sun - the cold dark days of winter have gone and the summer sun is approaching. In 2007 Chelsea had come away from Stamford Bridge with a 1-0 win, a vastly superior side there was one constant thought - that as Liverpool fans, as a new rabid generation hungry for success that on our night we could instil fear into any team - when Chelsea would visit Anfield it would be 11 men against 45,000.

As the time to kick off approached there was no coordinated effort to enter the ground early, to intimidate from the warm up on there was simply a sense that we would do what we had done 2 years early and as I stood there 30 minutes before kick-off already feeling the twangs of the inevitable laryngitis that would arrive the next day there was a fear, a fear that this time it might not work, this time they might be ready, this time for all of our years of preparing for this that we could soon face ignominy without even seeing a goal. Any fear was removed with the first kick of the ball, uncoordinated howls masquerading as songs, and a deafening chorus of boos were cycled through depending on the team currently in  possession then it happened - my favorite goal.

The funny thing about my favorite goal is that I hardly saw it. Attacking the Anfield Road end the ball was in the exact opposite corner from where I was standing, everybody expecting a floated cross in while Gerrard deftly passe along the deck to the unmarked Agger on the edge of the box, the centre half finding himself in acres of space and serenely placing it into the bottom corner. I was stunned to the spot for a second, and then, as a young 21 year old lad I did what young 21 year old lads who had just realised that this team was no fluke, that the top table called yet again, that the insatiable appetite was again to be quenched, as a young 21 year old lad who could turn round and say “THIS WAS MINE” would do. I went absolutely fucking nuts. I know what you’re thinking “I’ve gone nuts as well, I know what it’s like” maybe you do, but if you ended up in the same row that you started your celebration, if you weren’t held up by those around you because the damage the seats had caused your shins, if you managed to see all of the people who were around you after the goal then you may have celebrated but you’ve never felt this outpouring of emotion that came with a realisation that we were no fluke, the reds were back.

While the goal wasn’t a winner it was as good as, from that moment on there was no stopping us from winning that game, in that brief moment Liverpool were coming up the hill, for the 2nd time in 3 years we were at the very top table of European competition - our stories would rival our ancestors, we were off to Greece, we were bringing in new owners to challenge for the league.  In the fading ethereal light of that May night we were Kings, we were the team we’d only heard of in ghost stories - success was infecting us like those before us, we were peers of our ancestors.
I spent the next week in Barcelona modestly acknowledging those who we had dumped out of the competition before spending a week in Greece before the final. At 21 with the world t my feet Daniel Agger had provided me with the belief, pride, and even arrogance that I was genetically predisposed to crave.

For one night in May we were back, one night in May we were the Kings.

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