A.J. Walker

writerer

Football

Eng-er-land

Very much enjoyed the England v Ukraine match on Saturday. Had a brilliant table at the Head of Steam, on Hanover Street, for the match. On Tuesday there had just been the two of us watching the Germany match in there (i.e. I was with a mate, not that there were just two of us in the place). This time, for the Quarter Final against Ukraine, there were the maximum of six of us sat together. Seeing England score early goals in both halves was great - and highly unusual. So roll on Wednesday and the semifinal vs Denmark. The other semi on Tuesday between Spain and Italy will be fascinating too.

I have a strange relationship with England. I mean I’d rather they won than lost but ultimately it would be water off a duck’s back when they lose too. Basically I think the correct term is ‘
not that arsed.’ Some people around here wear it as a badge of honour not to support England - the “we’re not English, we’re Scouse” thing - but it’s not a Liverpool thing for me - at least I don’t think it is. I think it is a mixture of growing up as a kid in the 70s and 80s and seeing so many dire (or just uninspiring) performances under Don Revie and Ron Greenwood years (especially when compared to the mighty Reds of course); and seemingly a generation of players not showing that much pride in pulling on that shirt. It's also all the friendlies. I mean who cares? A player may be happy winning a cap, but ultimately what does the result in a friendly matter to anyone? - and if you can't get excited why even tune in to watch it. At least we did have the British Championship back then which gave players some fear of losing - and desire to win. It was a shame when that had to go. The feeling is exacerbated by the whole hooligan and associated nonsense vibe too particularly back in the day. Football violence and racism and all that doesn’t really get me all gooey inside.

I understand jingoism but it’s not a nice thing when it’s channelled as it is towards anti-this and anti-that. I mean at the same time as not being that arsed by England football team I'm mad for England cricketers winning in the Ashes. And winning the World Cup against New Zealand a few years ago was one of the best things that I’ve seen on TV. Sport at its very best. I love the Brits doing well in the Olympics or when Murray won Wimbledon. And the Brits doing well in the Tour de France. So yeah, it’s not the supporting England thing (or Britain or UK) it’s the way jingoism in relation to the national sport has been corrupted for years by people who actually love the shit that goes with it more than the football itself.

I’ve never seen England play - and I don’t really have the desire to. I had tickets for an International match once: Italy v Russia at Euro 96 at Anfield, but ended up working on a project in Mexico so missed it (as excuses go that’s a fine one ). On our first night in Villahermosa (Tabasco) we went to a night club (we’d been told to keep a low profile prior to going - and we did) but the locals all knew about us and rumours spread like wildfire; it says it all about our nation’s sport and how we are viewed overseas (or were in 96) that on the giant screen in the club it suddenly flashed up “Villahermosa Welcomes Los Hooligans.” I mean FFS. It transpired that the limited view of the UK at the time involved three main things: The Beatles; Lady Di; and Mad Cow Disease. I am only remotely interested in the band. We were presented with a wind-up dancing plastic cow - or La Vaca Loca - as an apparently funny and sympathetic joke. It was good job
Los Hooligans were thick skinned. In the nightclub they obviously also knew about football hooliganism as a famous export to rank alongside these luminaries.

At least if we can play a few decent matches now, and win something, then the years of bore draw nil-nils can fade a little into the distance of my youth. Maybe we can bring back the British Championship too and not play so many pointless friendlies (which is another thing that puts me off England - I mean I have no interest in watching any team play friendlies!). Ultimately it would be nice if they won something in my lifetime and they can get that 1966 monkey of the back.

So come on England. I'll shout at the screen if you score. I'll probably just shrug if you lose.
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A Kilo of Beer and The Auld Enemy

Watched the England v Scotland match at home last night. Usually with a big game like that there would be a few of us out in town to watch the match. But with the current situation we were of the opinion not to go in as there was too big a risk of getting into town and then not finding anywhere to watch it. The current restrictions mean that all customers have to be seated and it’s table service etc. So most pubs were anticipating quite a high demand for the game (let’s face it, in normal times they would have been packed - especially on a Friday night) and they therefore operated a system where many, if not all, tables were bookable from earlier in the week. A few had ‘some’ walk-in availability too. But it’s a Friday night and the walk-ins could easily fill up quickly from people coming out of their offices and making a decision on the night to stay out.

I did consider popping into town and going with the flow, then coming back home if I hadn’t found at place to watch it by 7:30. But going into town for 2 hours only to come back with 30-40 minutes each way waiting for buses didn’t make sense to me. So i was that the England v Scotland match became another victim of the Covid-19 situation for me. At least all the Euro games in the UK are on terrestrial TV - that makes such a difference. That said it was on ITV, not BBC. But beggars can’t be choosers.

2 pints

As it transpired a) The Fly were calling out for ‘walk-ins’ at 7pm, so I could have got a seat to watch it, and b) it was a shite game. I was simultaneously disappointed I hadn’t gone into town for the game and happy that I hadn’t gone into town for the game. Oh, yeah... it finished 0-0. And the Scots celebrated the 0-0 like Everton would do against Liverpool.

I had a couple of beers at home including a mega (1000ml) can of
Faxe Royal (5.6%) beer I’d picked up from B&M, which I drank from my dad’s old 1 litre German glass. Dad was a Scot and he’d have been up for the match against the Auld Enemy, of course. And on a Friday night he'd have been watching it down 'the club' with his usual posse. Though I suspect my dad never actually drank anything out of this glass. He must have picked it up in one of the trips he had with my mum over to that neck of the woods. He was more likely to drink a pint of mild than two pints of lager. A litre of mild sounds a bit heavy in all respects. Not sure he’d have been too happy about the result (or the game itself). But I suppose being a Scotland fan is like supporting Everton: it’s not about winning anything, it’s about taking two points of your biggest enemy.

Faxe

There's been a few good games in the Euros so far, but personally I can’t wait for the Premier League and Champion’s League to be back. Also I need to do some work on my arms if I’m going to be drinking a kilo of beer again. It's Father's Day today, so maybe I'll drink out of his old glass again; then again I also have his old tankard too - a much more manageable size.
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All Day Football: Or Not

On Saturday it was 50:50 whether I’d be off. They are usually short on weekends which meant they may have needed me, but as I’d done five consecutive days anyway it would mean I would be off on Sunday anyway (not permitted to work seven consecutive days). I was easy about being off on Saturday or Sunday either way. In normal times (sorry) I’d always take the day off that the Liverpool match fell on so I could watch the game down the pub with a few mates. But the city is in Tier 3 currently, meaning the only pubs open are foody ones, where you need to buy a ‘main’ meal with a drink - in addition you can’t meet with anyone not in your household (or bubble).

So on Friday night I looked into getting the football in the event I was ‘spared’.  I mean it was quite attractive to be off. I could get a few beers and maybe a pizza in and make it a whole day of football with:

West Ham v Man City
Barcelona v Real Madrid
Man Utd v Chelski
Liverpool v Sheffield Utd

It’d be great.

I don’t have Sky Sports though - too bloody expensive (and normally I’d be watching the game with friends in a local hostelry). I do have BT for this month, which I only got on Tuesday to be able to watch the Liverpool European games during our Tier 3 lockdown - it's £25 for a month. First off I thought I could get a Day Pass and watch the Liverpool game, but no. It was on Sky Box Office i.e. it’s one of the additional matches not originally taken up by the TV companies - which is dearer to get than one that was chosen: go figure. 

At lunch time the Man City game was on BT Sport, which was okay for me, this one month. Then there was El Classico on at 3pm. I thought maybe that was on BT, but no, it’s on a Premier Sport package just showing the Spanish League - which costs £5.99

The Man Utd match was on ‘normal’  Sky Sports. I could get a day pass for Now TV.... however (as someone who hasn’t looked into getting the footy before) I discovered that you cant watch NowTV via Sky or on an Amazon Firestick, so I’d end up having to  watch it on an iPad. I was not going to  pay £10 to watch a match on my iPad in front of a perfectly good, but ultimately useless, TV. Then there was that Liverpool match on Box Office.  FFS.

On Friday evening I had initially been quite looking forward to having Saturday off and watching four games in a day for the first time in many a year. However I would have to spend over £55 to watch these matches (would have been over £40 if I hadn’t already succumbed to BT Sport for the Euro games)  - and I’d have had to watch one of the games on a bloody mobile device. Ridiculous.

Roll on the end of Tier 3 restrictions when we can spend time with some mates and have a few beers in a nice friendly environment - and spend less than £55* in the process. 


Incidentally as it happened I ended up working on Saturday, but was given a really short route and got back mid afternoon (in time for El Classico). Sod’s Law dictated that the only game I could have watched without paying more for was the City game at lunchtime.  That’s life. Oh and the results as a Liverpool fan were great; Liverpool winning (2-1), and City, Man Utd, Chelski all dropping points. 

* Of course if you weren't in a lockdown you could invite someone around and share the burden. But if you weren't in a tiered lockdown you'd be watching it down the pub.
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Strange Weekend, Again

Another strange weekend, but aren't they all? At work on Friday I went from having work, to not having work (euphemistically called being 'spared' in the gig economy), then being told I could have have a route - due to drivers not being given all their parcels, to then being told just to deliver to the drivers that didn't have them. So I nipped out to Queensferry, Neston and Great Sutton to deliver the bags of to three unsuspecting drivers - who hadn't been informed that they didn't have the bags and they were on the way (grrr).

On the positive side it allowed me to get to Neptune brewery to pick up some beer for the weekend. You've got to support your locals during these difficult times - and it helps that the locals these days are so damn good. I'd asked for Saturday off as I had a lot on: judging with @voimaoy on FFF, watching the derby at lunchtime, and Open Mic in the evening. Picked up the last mini-keg (5l) of 'Abyss', which was a result and two pints of Equinox for the Friday. Roll on Saturday!

Um… Then I got a text asking me to confirm for Saturday. I rang and told them I was off for the judging (and footy). They said they had no record of me being off and that they had me down as in. Argh! You can't turn down the work really though. And it's not like I could go out to watch the game with Liverpool being in a Tier 3 lockdown. Said if they were short I'd work but asked them to put me down as first to be spared if there was a volume cut overnight.

Then a call. 'Can you help out with a driver who was sent out late? Take 40 drops off him and you'll get a full day pay.' Two to three hours work by the time I got from Maghull to Warrington. Then it was thrown in that they could 'almost guarantee' if I did it that I could have Saturday off. That was the clincher. So after waking up to find I had work then didn't, then did. Well I got home at the same time as usual - around 7:30pm after a messy day.

On Friday evening I looked into getting a pass for my TV on Saturday to watch the Everton v Liverpool game. Unfortunately it was on BT not Sky, and they don't do Day Passes. I'd have to buy a Month Pass. But I realised that on the plus side BT have the European games so with the lockdown meaning I wouldn't be able to catch them any other way (legally) £25 for a month of football wasn't so bad (3 Liverpool European matches in the month). I didn't get it though: just in case the unlikely event of me working on the Saturday came to pass.

LandlockedYT

Well surprise! Saturday came and so did the text asking me to confirm I was in. So much for the promise; was never going to happen. Anyway I confirmed but asked for as small a route as they could find so I could get back and read the stories for Flash Friday. To be fair they did give me a short route. Got back for around 2:30pm.

Meanwhile Liverpool seemingly lost to Everton the way their fans celebrated. But on checking all the press it was a 2-2 draw. Henderson scored a perfectly good goal in injury time ruled out by VAR because presumably someone pressed the wrong one of two buttons (we've all done it). And worse still the Everton keeper, T-Rex, had nobbled our serene man mountain, Virgil van Dijk. It turned out by Sunday that he may well miss the entire season as a result of that unpunished assault. Breathe in. Breathe out.

So I missed the game. And it was a good derby in many ways, but awful in others.

FFF photo1
Fire & Ice Prompt: Sol 10/19

In the afternoon it was time to get on and read tehstories that 35 people had written for FFF. The remit was a tough one. Using the photo prompt and the Ice or Fire inclusion the story needed to be exactly 89 words. Tough. I picked my top ten after a couple of passes and my co-conspirator did. From there by Sunday we sorted our winners, honourable and special mentions out. I still don't know who has won and will wait until the Dragons put up the results later. Wondering how many Flash Dogs make the cut again after a good showing last time.

Later on Saturday I discovered that the Open Mic, which I'd been told would be regularly every fortnight (and our last one was two weeks ago), wasn't happening. Argghhh! All in all my Saturday's plans were in tatters.

But at least I still had my Neptune 'Abyss'.

On Sunday in lieu of the Open Mic I played a song I haven't done before, 'Landlocked Blues' by Bright Eyes. I recorded a version of it and put it up on YouTube. Hoping it will prove the start of me doing new songs to me; maybe a couple more Bright Eyes and a Frank Turner or two. We shall see.

Anyway all in all the weekend proved to be very different from that planned. How could it not with the lockdown - and the gig economy - being what it is? Probably still get the BT Pass so I can watch the European games whilst we are tied to our homes. And I've no idea who our centre back pairing will be.
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A Very Good Evening

Last night was Open Mic #4 of the Sanctuary Zoom Open Mics. It was the oddest one. Lots of people couldn't be there due to life commitments and/or watching Chelski v Man City. So as it was there were only three of us online rather than the usual nine or so. In addition to myself there was Matt Holland (.author.com) and Rebecca. Matt does stories and Rebecca does audience–and does it very well. Yeah, I was the only 'musician'. At least until the end of the night.

It was almost nine when I logged in. Despite the low attendance there was never the question of cancelling it and we had a good night. Matt read a couple of old stories and gave us a trial run of a new one he's working on. And I did at least eight songs, which I'll list below. Other than that we reminisced about pubs and drunken exploits and talked about if and when we'd go back to the pub again.

All this with one eye on our phones to see how the footy was going. When I left the commentary after twenty odd minutes City had been on top. But football is a funny old game and if they failed to win Liverpool, after their 4-0 thrashing of Palace the day before, would be Champions for the first time in thirty years. As the designated old git at Open Mic I'm one of the only ones who was alive and going to watch Liverpool back in the 1980's when we won all that came before us. I could understand the excitement of the youngsters not there at the evening's possibilities.

As it was, of course, Chelski scored first and it was 1-0 at half time. City equalised with a worldy free kick… and then a sending off and a penalty gave Chelski the game. Liverpool were fucking Champions of absolutely everything (currently holding the European Cup, the Super Cup, the World Club Cup and now the Premier League Champions): it's not been a bad year. If you discount the coronavirus (or indeed only count the footy).

At this point the Zoomers all left to go to their doors or windows to hear the singing, watch the fireworks and hear the street noise. It was brilliant. I just wish my dad was here to have shared in it. A day so long in the waiting. Back in the early 80s before I had a Season Ticket myself my mum and dad would take it turns to take me to the game with the parent and child ticket. As well as going to several games with both mum and dad. Mum was a red, dad was a fans of the Sons (Dumbarton to you). He'd have enjoyed the day and celebrations immensely.

Getting back onto Zoom it was time for another bottle of beer (I was drinking Platform 6.1 and Oakham Citra) and I played another song or two.

Niall came on from Dublin looking suitably very happy and gave us a rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone–which the rest of us did our utter best not to wreck, but probably failed. The night ended after much talk about football, beer, celebrations, fireworks, car horns and the wish to be able to celebrate it properly at some point.

Open Mic 4

We all decided 1:30am was late enough and called it quits. We'll probably change the day next week as next Thursday it is the Man City game–guard of honour and all that. So maybe it'll be on Wednesday or Friday. Either way I'm sure there will be more than three of us (with a late a guest appearance). We shall see.

My setlist (for it must be as set once you're over five songs, surely?) comprised:

  • Homeward Boud
  • You Ain't Going Nowhere
  • Down By the Water
  • Congratulations
  • N17
  • Hotel California
  • Somewhere Down the Road
  • Sweet Carolina
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Footy is Back (and I need to watch some)

Well hello, it’s 17th June and it’s been so many long days since the last Premier League game (they say it’s been only three months but bloody hell it seems much longer). This morning I was thinking I’ll get Sky Sports for the month. Liverpool are on Sky a minimum of three times and at the moment just the first one - the derby on Sunday - is Free to View. 

Assuming that there will be at least four Liverpool matches on Sky over the month and then there are other interesting matches so I may end up watching six to ten games for £18 not bad; so £2-3 is a no brainier really. I’m not one for using dodgy streaming sites unless I’m full on desperate.

It’ll be strange to watch without an atmosphere from the fans. But we are in a strange place in all walks of life. I’d rather the league continued this way than  it be sorted by Points Per Game.  

We’re going to win the league one way or another but not being able to celebrate it like we did last year for the Champion’s League will be the strangest thing. Having a parade when it is safe to do so will be well weird. Can you postpone euphoria?

So it’s not going to be normal but boy I can’t wait for the build up, the matches and the post match autopsies of every game. Bring it on.

FirmSal

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Update: looked up offer and it’s £18 for Sky Sports and then
another £18 for the football. And the website is so damn unclear about it all. Grrr. Maybe I’ll just for for a Now TV pass when I want one instead. Umm,,, then again that’s £10 for a day pass, or £25 a month, but for that you need a three month subscription. Grrr… Maybe I’ll go for the NowTV mobile phone option, which is £6. Can only watch on phone - and not cast it anywhere.
______

Decision made. Went for the phone option. Went smoothly enough adding the pass and app to my phone, so I'm good to go. It'll be just like being there… not. Better than nowt and all for the price of a pint and a half. Wonder whether the sound will play through my bluetooth speaker. That'd be a bonus.

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Neptune Saturday: Beer & Footy

Saturday was a nice day weather-wise, beer-wise and footy-wise. First up I went up to the Neptune Brewery Tap in Maghull, for the first time since going on the opening weekend, for a couple of beers with my good mate, Tony. It was Tony's first visit.

King Jester
'Jester' and 'King of the Sea' in the Neptune Brewer Tap

Started with a couple of cask ales, which were 'Jester' and 'King of the Sea' (they have two cask lines and then the rest in keg) and then I went for their collaboration beer with Brass Castle 'Bozza Don't Surf'. So that's why there's a rare pic of me with a half pint glass. The ale (7.3%) is gorgeous and I thoroughly recommend getting your mitts on some if you see it around.

Neptune_Tap_B4
A rare event for me… a half AND it's a KEG! (don't tell anyone)

Neptune_Pumpclips
Pump clips for some of the many beers Neptune brew - one of each please…

Neptune_Tap1
Merchandise, branding and snacks in the Neptune Brewery Tap

As it was a Bank Holiday weekend they had food on from The Great British Chip Shop on the Sunday and Monday - not on the Saturday. Nice to see companies working off each other that way. Les and Julie and the rest of the crew have done a fab job creating the tap and I'm sure it will be a brilliant success. If you are ever in the Maghull area over a weekend you should check if the Tap is open and get your chops around a few of these guys beers. You won't be disappointed. The brewery is at Unit 1, Sefton Lane Industrial Estate, Maghull, L31 8BX. Easiest way of getting there is usually just to get the train to Maghull Station and from there get a taxi - Blueline taxis have an office opposite the railway station.

Neptune_Map1

Had a problem waiting for a taxi to return back to Maghull Station (should have booked it earlier: I blame the taste of the beer making us want to stay longer). Julie very kindly volunteered to run us down to the station. A star!

Got the train back to town and went to meet Ste in Fly in the Loaf where we watched the Liverpool v Arsenal match. Well, what can I say. Another nice ale or two in the Fly and a fab win from Liverpool (3-1). Happy Days!

Like I say, it was nice weather wise too. But largely it was spent indoors. Enjoyable nonetheless.

If you wanna check out these guys on Twitter they are:
Neptune Brewery - @neptunebrewery and neptunebrewery.com
Brass Castle Brewery - @BrassCastleBeer

Fly in the Loaf - @FlyintheLoaf

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Fantasy Footy's Nearly Back

The football season is almost upon us–I know, it already is for some none Premiership footy fans, but I'm talking Liverpool. Anyway, I'm also talking Fantasy Footy. I've done it the last few years. Generally the better Liverpool do, the better my team does. Stands to reason with the reliance on three players from Liverpool every time. Just put up my provisional team and the most difficult thing was picking which Liverpool players to pick (on the Fantasy Footy League I'm in you can only pick a maximum of three from any one club; I do the fantasy.premierleague.com one).

How could I not pick Robertson or Allison? I ended up going for Salah, Firmino and Keita. I wanted Mane but couldn't afford him, and maybe Origi is worth a punt or Ox; this football management lark is quite difficult.



It asks you to select colours for a kit. Of course you could ignore it. But then again you could just select: red, red, red, red.

Kit


May set up a league for VSSers. But not sure how many would be interested. Need at least eight to make the league look like a league and not just a match.

I've selected a crap team name. And defo need to change that before the season starts–now that's not a problem a manager usually has (unless he's at Hull). Something based around Six probably.
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