I don’t know how many times I saw just those 2 words tweeted yesterday, even said them myself when the sheer enormity of what had transpired over a 3 minute period actually sunk in. “It’s a funny old game” they say – although I doubt there were many United fans thinking that last night to be honest. Not that I was laughing either.
Maybe I should have been, I certainly have enough reason to want to see them hurt but in a bizarre way, one of my reasons for hating them so much was the very reason I couldn’t find it within myself to celebrate their suffering yesterday. You see yesterday, their ‘City’ was my ‘Moscow’ – and as we get ever closer to another Champions League final, the memories of the pain I felt that night are hanging around again like an unwelcome aunt who won’t take the hint.
I’m sure they’d tell me it’s not the same thing, City are their direct rivals, their desperately despised and for so long, derided neighbours, but for me, those moments of pleasure, heart-rending hope followed by heartbreaking pain, brought back memories of the gamet of emotions we’d gone through ourselves that night four years ago.
I remember going into the game with my usual pessimistic ‘we haven’t got a hope’ suit on – but that’s just my armour, standard wear for a game to save me getting too badly bruised. And in the first half, our players could have done with suits like mine as well to be honest because they were having their arses soundly kicked. Second half though, we remembered that fighting spirit of ours and through sheer determination alone took it to penalties.
Now, I never expect us to win on penalties, and I genuinely mean never, but when Ronaldo missed, my subconscious must have been playing tricks on me because for the most fleeting of moments, I thought we might do it. Obviously all anyone else remembers is John Terry’s slip but I can barely remember that – I’ve watched no footage since, refuse to read anything from the time and flick quickly past any pictures, in fact, aside from one gutless and pretty bitter post, I buried that night where it couldn’t hurt me – what I do remember though is the utter look of defeat in every part of Anelka’s being, from his face to his hunched posture, as he trudged over to the spot. And I remember the gut-wrenching hurt as that split second of hope was ripped out of me.
In spite of my many disappointments through my years of supporting Chelsea, relegations included, that was the first time I’d been reduced to tears. And after I’d consoled both my heartbroken sons, telling them they should feel incredibly proud through the pain that will keep Chelsea at their very core, I cried some more. It was more painful than any other defeat I could remember – and not something I ever want to feel again, well not Saturday night anyway!
Of course, any arsehole reds who want to take a pop at me are fair game, I’d happily rub their sorry noses in it and take pleasure in their pain but for the rest, friends, family (yes, even I have some in the family by default!), they’ll get no grief from me because this ‘funny old game’ has a habit of reminding us just how thin that line is between success and failure, pleasure and pain – and to be perfectly honest, with the potential for disappointment always just a game away and our biggest game of the season just round the corner – I’m giving no fucker any more ammunition than they need.
Munich here we come!
Cheers to @badgerwolf for the inspiration