RAWK Advent Calendar 2014 #6 - Paul Ince v Blackburn, Nov '98

Posted by Lfsea on December 6, 2014, 12:42:38 AM

1998/99 was as indifferent and as forgettable a season as a club can have; especially for a club as storied as Liverpool. 7th in the league. Knocked out of the FA Cup in the Fourth Round by United. Knocked out of the Worthington Cup in the Fourth Round following an abject performance at Anfield against Spurs. Hammered in the Third Round of the UEFA Cup 4-1 on aggregate by Celta Vigo. Sean Dundee and Jean Michel Ferri making 5 league appearances between them. Pick the bones out of that, as they say.

Up until the 27th of October there were reasons for great hope (more fool us). We'd put 8 past Košice in the UEFA Cup and we were sitting 4th in the league after 10 games. We'd just completed a memorable 5-1 victory against Forest with four of the goals coming from Owen. And then, for some inexplicable reason, began one of the most grotesque periods of football and results in recent memory. In the eleven games between October the 31st and December 13th, Liverpool's record was P 11  W2  D1  L8.

A goal from one of those wins though, is the focus of this article. Given this is a series of favourite Liverpool goals, you would rightly question my sanity. I also appreciate that, so far, this Advent Calendar post has as much Christmas cheer as this article, seen in the South Wales Evening Post, a couple of days ago:

However, during that horror-run, there was one match. One match which gave us two things - an amazing goal from Paul Ince and the dawn of one the greatest players Liverpool has seen. If you're still with me, read on...

There's a specific set of theatrics a supporter has to deliver having procured a ticket for the away end when your team is playing at home. Accompanying every great Reds pass is a meek boo. Every foul by the opposition, greeted with a whimper of discontent and a gentle chunter, intimating that the referee is quite the bastard whilst thinking entirely the opposite.

My powers to control and channel this ability were tested like no other day, on the 29th of November 1998.

I remember little about the day. I was 16 and we'd bought some cans of Skol to drink on the train from Wrexham (someone has to come from there). With youthful enthusiasm I necked all 4 in the hour and a bit it takes to get between Wales and Lime Street. We'd procured some moody tickets from a mate of a mate of a mate of a mate of a girlfriend. Apparently they needed to be got rid of. Ł10 each, no questions asked.

Given we were shepherded into the Blackburn end, we probably should have asked a few questions beforehand.

The conservative (small c) part of me was terrified. I wondered if this might be an initiation into the football supporter's dark arts. But that was farthest from my mind, as I was trying to control the overwhelming feeling of wanting to wee and be sick at the same time. I've never since drunk Skol.

Through double, triple, vision though I managed to focus on the game for a moment, about 20 minutes into the game. I recall - very loosely - that Ince picked the ball up about 35 yards out. He took a couple of thumping steps. Then he hit the ball with astonishing power. The sort of strike that, if it hits your thigh on a cold Sunday morning, would likely render you completely incapacitated for a week. In my mind the ball was gliding through the air for minutes. Clearly the Skol also had some kind of time-altering effect. After what seemed like a lifetime the ball - still rising - thundered past the hapless John Filan in the Rovers goal. It took all my earthly will not to explode with joy and delight.

It was a beautiful moment sandwiched between a teenage haze of alcohol, passion and a day's freedom from overbearing parents. But it's not the goal particularly that sticks in my mind.

Moments after Ince scored there was this incredible bang at the back of the Annie Road stand. A quick turn of the head and there appears a slightly more conspicuous Liverpool fan who, by some freak coincidence, had bashed his head (I assume) at the back of the stand. As he comes into focus, he's staggering around a bit like this poor chap:

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/slMV971KHNM" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/slMV971KHNM</a>

He's stumbling down the steps, half celebrating, half coming to terms with his almost inevitable concussion. The haplessness of a chap, the beer and the glow of the goal made it one of the most comic, surreal moments I've ever had the pleasure to see in all my years of going to the game.

The second moment from the match was one I only realised a few years ago. A pubescent Steven Gerrard made his Liverpool debut, late on in that particular game. I could wax lyrical about his achievements and what he means to the club and to the supporters. But instead, I urge you to grab a brew and watch some videos of one of the players who truly shook the Kop.

I also want to take this moment to urge us all not to forget for the sake of convenience. Over the past couple of months there has bee a litany of abuse aimed at the captain and footballing soul of this club. There have been questions about his mentality; his fading skills. Whilst some of the inquiries have been legitimate, others have been outrageous; downright scandalous.

The videos below are a mere microcosm of what he's achieved for us. Today seems as good a day as any to remind ourselves of just how precious Steven Gerrard is.

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/3_fk-otM2fI" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/3_fk-otM2fI</a>

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/OiYkr6WSa4g" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/OiYkr6WSa4g</a>

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/UH6xY01jp5A" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/UH6xY01jp5A</a>

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