THERE’S an awful lot of strangeness when you reach your first Champions League final in 11 years.
It’s something to be happy about, right? Wrong, apparently. Social media is awash with other clubs’ fans telling us we’re going a bit overboard, along with that most back-handed of compliments “how the mighty have fallen”.
It’s not just outsiders either, bizarrely. Liverpool often gets judged through a nine-season prism built between 1976 and 1984. A period when the league title virtually belonged to us and half the time so did the European Cup.
Those times are treated as another competition altogether now because of the modern marathon money trough. Ah, back in the day when we only had parchment and quill.
After you’ve experienced such excess the only way can be down. Will anything ever really be enough? I’m guessing five European finals already in the 21st century are fine to be getting along with.
Where’s the moment? With good football and a trip to Kiev it’s quite a task to casually diminish both under a catchall heading of “progress”.
Fans of clubs who win league titles and other baubles nowadays would have you denouncing such satisfaction as rationalisation. Let them.
The Moment tends to dictate to everyone, the bigger picture really not interesting them. It’s understandable.
This final reminds me a bit of another in the ‘90s, when Cruyff’s Barcelona took on an AC Milan side that was dominant then.
They had the skills, the brash exuberance; time to knock somebody off their perch. Or so they thought; Milan stuffed them 4-0.
Flash forward and Milan are nowhere. Despite this season’s peculiar stumble Barca are one of the major forces. They were also in the UEFA Cup in 2001, getting knocked out by us.
We’re part of that cycle. Every absence and lapse has no effect. There’s no denying it now.
So yes, frown at Karius and howl uproariously at Lovren. Wonder if Alexander-Arnold will need his nappy changing. You got your left back from Hull — who they?
And so on; water off a duck’s back.
Humans don’t do perspective well. Why should they? Two decades is a quarter of your life (if you’re lucky); who’s got time to judge everything based on that length of time? The moment, baby!
Well, this is a moment. Embrace it and enjoy it, then. Worrying about what Real can do to us (and they could do plenty) is borderline lunacy.
Any Liverpool fan my age would have to be damn greedy and ungrateful to claim it hasn’t been a sensational ride.
What fills me with the joys of spring (OK, autumn then) is the ride never being over. Many’s the time I shrugged a shoulder, thought it was great while it lasted and bid a tear-stained adieu to it all.
Then someone new comes along, finds a few decent players and off we go again.
The scorn of others can still shatter the hardiest shell. I’ve spent this cup run in a testy state of unease.
It wasn’t the worry of defeat (balls to that) but of humiliation. When you’ve waltzed through the first leg, the thought of losing the second so badly that you’d be knocked out became mortifying.
This being Klopp’s Liverpool, there were times against City and Roma when they teetered on the brink of doing precisely that.
I’ve said it before but we’re a post-Gerrard generation. Every week some no-mark non-entities remember an obscure passing-through footballer called Demba Ba and taunt us about someone who’s not played for us in three years.
Bad enough to suggest that the next time Liverpool did something great I was going to be completely fucking insufferable about it.
Now, on the cusp of that greatness, I’m not sure I could be bothered anyway. Living in the same city as Everton makes you contemplate such trifles. Your metaphorical fists are up before the verbal haymaker’s been thrown.
The solution as always lies with your own team, your own feelings and your own success — when you’re lucky enough to get some.
“We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams”. Christ, quoting Willy Wonka now… The fear and loathing of others has been ratcheted up to infinity, which is amusing albeit double-edged. In a way it’s right and proper. This should matter to everyone.
Real are so good and their record so extraordinary. And then there’s “him”. Somebody should really tamper with that stadium’s giant screen so there’s just a 90-minute image of himself he can gawp at for the entire evening before turning into a flower. There’s still 10 other buggers to fret about.
We’re no one-man team either despite all the Salah hoopla but the depth isn’t really there, yet if there’s anyone that can casually claim “strange things happen” then it’s Liverpool.
Madrid showed signs of complacency in previous rounds, and that reminds you of Milan in Istanbul. I never watch Smicer’s shot without thinking “surely Dida’s saving this?” but he never does.
You can become paranoid. Football isn’t a sport now; it’s a massive entertainment business. Perhaps it’s not good for business for one team to keep winning all the time.
For the same reason it’s taking place all the way over in Ukraine, an ersatz sharing of The Experience before bringing it back to the great (western) capitals of Europe. Y’know, where it belongs.
So maybe it’s time for another underdog winner? The kind of miracle that makes the sport so appealing and profitable, or maybe that’s a bit too cynical even for me.
It will soon be over anyway. We’ll either be getting ripped to shreds by a nation almost blowing itself to the North Pole via sighs of relief, or we’ll be truly unbearable. The Circus of Bantz is coming to town once again.
Whatever happens, it’s been great watching the Reds this year. Tonnes of goals and excitement. If it has to end now, even ignominiously, it shouldn’t affect how we feel about them.
I’m rationalising again, aren’t I?