Can’t stand the tension? Take a stroll

by admin

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

When it all gets to much

If I don’t watch, then everything will turn out okay. And so it proved for the second year running as Chelsea edged past Liverpool in the Champions League. And for the second year running I spent the majority of the game in blissful ignorance of the drama that was unfolding.

The two rivals have now beaten each other twice as the competition draws them together year after year. Before Riise’s late own goal at Anfield last season I was beginning to think Liverpool were our European bogey team.

But as Chelsea went ahead in last year’s second leg thanks to Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba, I knew we could not be in a better position to end our jinx. What I did next was perhaps cowardly and pathetic. I got up from the sofa and walked out the front door leaving my brother and two friends bewildered as I told them “I’m just going for a walk.”

You see watching Chelsea is rarely enjoyable. Just when everything seems to be under control they can contrive to throw it away – and I do not mind turning my head the other way when it happens. I timed my walk to perfection and walked back threw the front door 15 minutes later to discover Chelsea had made it through. Do I regret not witnessing the dying minutes when Liverpool pulled a goal back? Absolutely not.

This year was even worse. After Chelsea did the unthinkable by winning comfortably at Anfield, neutrals said the tie was over. But us Chelsea supporters know our team much better than that. With Chelsea it is never over.

By winning 3 – 1 in the first leg, Chelsea had eliminated the edginess and cageyness of previous clashes. If they could win 3 – 1 at Liverpool, then why couldn’t Liverpool do exactly the same in London?

With Liverpool having nothing to lose I knew the chances of a boring goalless draw were, sadly for me, small. And my beloved Blues duly went about their business doing their best to make the tie exciting. Liverpool’s two goals and Clive Tyldesly harping on about ‘the spirit of Istanbul’ (come on ITV, a neutral commentary team is not too much to ask for!) made the first 45 minutes a horrible experience.

I decided to wait and see if Guus Hiddink could inspire an instant fightback. But once Drogba had squeezed a goal past Reina, I knew what I had to do. The next 40 minutes would be too much for me, and so I left my brother alone on the sofa and set off out the front door, without my phone.

First I went to the playing field, where I found a football and shot a few penalties into an empty net by moonlight, then I sat on the swings. I checked my watch and to my frustration there was still 30 more minutes to kill before full-time. So I continued on my walk to the end of the road, turned around and headed back. It started to rain so I spent five minutes at the bus shelter until 9.45pm. I strolled up the driveway knowing that the game must be over, unless of course it had gone into extra time. I would know the result just by the look on my brother’s face. He was on the phone, his voice was shaking but he was smiling. We were through!

As ITV replayed the goals I sat in astonishment as I now saw what I had missed. My brother hung up the phone and his next three words confirmed to me that my decision to go walkabout was the correct one: “That was horrible!” he rasped.

My team, my team, had just been involved in one of the most exciting matches in Champions League history and I had deliberately missed almost half of it. Again I admit it is cowardly on my part. But as I listened to Danny Baker’s phone-in on Radio Five Live, I realised I was not alone. Other supporters, both Liverpool and Chelsea, had suddenly felt the urge to take a shower during the second half, while others thought it would be a good idea to check the fence at the bottom of the garden was still there. My brother himself admitted he went to the toilet four times in the last 20 minutes.

You see for supporters like myself, seeing my team throw away what had looked like a stroll through to the semi finals is too unbearable to watch. I would like to say I will have the guts to watch every minute of the semi-final against Barcelona. But the last time Chelsea beat Barcelona I took a shower in the last 10 minutes. I think a pattern is emerging here…

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  • dexylongshot

    I can’t take my eyes of the box when it comes down to crucial games, especially when it’s extra time and penalties. I remember quite vividly every one of the the last 23 years of hurt England have suffered in those crucial matches. (Despite being a tad sozzled for a few of them). I usually go for the walk immediately after we get chucked out by a Portuguese, Argie or Scouse penalty (FA Cup 06). It’s straight home without saying a word to my tearful muckers as i bolt and keep silent for the next 48 hours. I know a few people who can’t stand the tension though. My old man had to take the dog for a walk when it went to pens at the last world cup. He said the he saw a dozen England top clad dog-walkers doing the same at the crucial time.

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