I stayed at home. Memories of a man not in Istanbul.

Posted by Hinesy on September 12, 2005, 09:13:36 PM

Note: yes it has taken me this long to get over it.

It's 7am and the wind blows cold at Edinburgh Airport. In my hand but a second ago were 2 pieces of paper. Make that 2 pieces of gold etched with diamonds. On them bore the markings “Champions League Final”. And I had just handed them over to my regular Champions League travelling companion Michael. The final trip he’d have to do with his brother and others. I couldn’t go.

It is only after 3 and half months that I feel I can finally put away the counselling books and face up to the reality. I didn’t go to the final. And yes I had a ticket. Or two to be precise. Michael has elsewhere superbly detailed his travels to the final and as his companion in all the home games and one away, he and I both knew that the final was to be a touchy and delicate subject.

But now, fortified by a 12 yr old Glenmorangie, I can face up and on behalf of us left behind, remember my evening at home. Watching the CL Final on a tiny 14” screen in a rented flat not 100 yards from St James’ Park of all bloody places.

Armin, Michael and a variety of other RAWKites had texted and rang and multimedia’d their way around Europe. I on the other hand had spent all day making an episode of Byker bloody Grove.

For months this contract had meant that if we beat Juventus, and if we beat Chelsea then I would be left with a horrible decision. Turn down 3 months work so I’d be free, only to see some jammy twat from Chelsea tuck one away in the last minute and deprive us of a final place and me of work, or take the work and somehow get out of it for the day.

I was in the Kop sucking in Garcia’s goal v Chelsea, heart lifted to the heavens but also knowing that there was no way I was gonna make it to Turkey - it was sinking like that big ship near that iceberg. I tried, believe me I tried; perhaps in Liverpool the film crew would’ve been more amenable. But the Newcastle crew, as lovely as they were, were sympathetic in that way that says bless but hard lines Mr Hines.

So there I was handing over the tickets to Michael and with all true honesty I was dead chuffed for him but gutted as a cod in Iceland on National Cod Day.

So the evening came. The build up had been as everyone's ... banter, jokes, bravado. But as the time drew near, I fell kinda silent. I was, as always, worried. I’m not a fan who is universally optimistic, I sweat til the fat lady has not only sung, but packed her sarnies and headed off for the next gig.

Filming couldn’t finish quick enough. Take 1 suited me fine. If an actor said roughly what was on the script, sounded vaguely Geordie and didn’t knock over a little ‘un, I was satisfied.

Drove to the rented flat in a hurry. No plans to go to the pub, I wanted silence and peace and quiet, not half of Newcastle jeering or cheering. This was my team, not anyone else's.

My girlfriend and I sat down to watch the coverage. On the tiny telly. You know when your mum told yer not to sit too close to the telly cos you’d hurt your eyes, well she’d be laughing at how close I managed to get without getting radiation sickness or actually being sat on the tube itself.

Beer was taken. I was shifting around, like a kid the night before Christmas but terrified at the same time. Kewell? Not Didi? Ok, take the game to Milan Rafa by all means. But via Australia not Germany? That worried me. It didn’t help my nerves when I saw that Traore looked more nervous than the cod I mentioned earlier.

We all know what happened that night. At half time, me and my uncle both agreed we were glad not to be there but we couldn’t believe our eyes. We were both rubbish and unlucky. My girlfriend then says “Ah, you’ll win it ... don’t worry” She's a Sunderland fan. So that'll explain the Hope Springs Eternal perhaps...

I am superstitious. If we score, however I'm sat, whatever I'm doing (within reason, chainsaws, nudity and live electricity excepted), I’ll stay like that not daring to breathe in case I should sway the odds and Gods the wrong way again. Of course I know I’m daft but be honest, can any of us passionate, rational, intelligent but utterly prejudiced Reds, claim to be calm and ritual free?

Thought not.

Gerrard scores. I can’t quite grasp it but my breathing gets hard (my breathing I said) and when Smicer scores (still my favourite moment in that whole game) I was incapable of making any noise. I was going to be sick. I was now pressed up against the screen both eyes ruined permanently by radiation and bright light. And to this day a nose shaped smudge just where Lincoln is on the weather map.

Smicer’s goal was my favourite cherished moment of that night. For me, it was the moment when the score changed from consolation to comeback. It made anything possible. It made them stop and think. It made us believe. And by us, I mean you in the stadium. Me at home. Traore on the pitch. Bob n Bill up there.

Also it was a vindication of my fondness for Smicer’s talent, rarely shining but always there. The sheer joy on his face showed a man truly a Red. A footballer often maligned but when it really came down to it, his reaction, his nerve to shoot, his sheer joy at scoring all demonstrated where his heart really lay.

The penalties I didn’t see. I was behind the sofa. That’s when I wasn’t pacing up and down like a caged tiger at Billy Smart's Big Top on a pound of gazelle per pace.

I do recall mentioning that I’d strip naked, bang my knob off the neighbour's Golf and shout GET IN til someone’s cows came home if we won. Suffice to say part of that deal was done. (But the paint work’s come up a treat).

I have to pay tribute to those there. As galling at it was to be not-there, when I could’ve been, I was truly made up to be part of a tribe that truly had passion and love and never say die attitude. Despite ITV’s best plans to keep the noise down, I could hear us singing all the time. All the time. I was proud to be a Red.

Apparently there was a penalty shootout. Some people tell me there was extra-time or something. Of these I have no memory, except in the endless repeats on videos, mpegs and ‘after’ the event recordings.

I had ace reports, programmes brought back, phone calls, texts and softly treading mates and for all that I thank them. I had a great night at home watching with my girl and cheering and jumping around and drinking and for that I’m grateful.

But one thing's for sure, the feeling, the “Shit wish I was there bugger I’m not and I’m jealous as Captain Jealous from Jealous Town in the Envy Valley, County Peeved” feeling stayed with me for a long, long, long time.

I am happy to report though, dear reader, it went. I moved on, grew up and let it go.

It finally disappeared in late August. 2012.

© hinesy 2005

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