Sunday, April 29, 2007

That Liverpool Trip

Weekend over, brother successfully married off, and chugging away at average chips in the Mansion $100k guaranteed, so time to do a quick catch up on that Liverpool weekend.

To catch up on the full weekend in detail would probably be more worthy of a Truckin episode than a blog post.

Friday was unmitigated drunkenness, both on the trip down, and once arrived in the city. I stayed sober for the first part, since my job was to do the organising and planning.

Once in Liverpool and ensconced in the first pub, I rapidly caught up, courtesy of double JD and coke chasers.

The whole night became a blur, though I can vaguely recall noting that my suitcase had been disturbed, before collapsing into bed at around 4am. It was only next morning, in a severely befuddled and hungover state, that it dawned on us that our apartment had been visited by a sneak thief.

We were now minus a couple of iPods, mobile phones, some cash, clothes, and other sundries.

Extremely pissed off as we were, it didn't stop us heading off to the Tranmere v Scunthorpe game. English football is very branding/marketing driven, which means that the English League One is really their League Three - the more senior two being labelled The Premiership and The Championship.

Consequently I wasn't expecting great football, even though Scunthorpe were league leaders and champions elect.

Sure enough the ball must have been black and blue by the end of 90 minutes, as Scunthorpe ran out deserved 2-0 winners.
Scunthorpe FansWhat amazed the Scottish contingent among our party was the amazingly lax policing of the game. Despite the party atmosphere, there was an element in the Scunthorpe support who were clearly bent on trouble.

The hardcore probably amounted to no more than about 15 'casuals', with their numbers swelled by hangers on, or less organised neds.

In Scotland any trouble in grounds is swiftly dealt with. Indeed disorder within the grounds is now almost non-existent.

Conversely at Tranmere there were numerous incidents in the first half that saw punches traded between stewards and fans, with the police response ineffective and generally confined to dragging a few miscreants to the nearest exit and chucking them out.

Still I wasn't too fussed as I waited outside the ground after the game, chatting to Joe, whilst we awaited the arrival of the rest of the group. Directly to my right was a police CCTV unit, a couple of mounties were nearby, as well as about a dozen uniformed police on foot spread over about 80 metres of the street.

My relaxed attitude changed, as totally out-of-the-blue I was knocked sideways by a blow square on the jaw.

wtf!? reeling from the shock I tried to get my guard up, expecting more punches to follow, but after a few seconds I realised the action was already over though I had no idea who had punched me.

Joe was staring in amazement. One of the guys we'd seen being chucked out of the game had smacked me on the jaw as he walked past. I hadn't seen him coming, and I had no idea where he'd gone.

With so many cops around I was expecting an immediate reaction, but they all seemed to have been struck blind, and the attacker and his mates had already disappeared into the small crowd around the supporter buses.

Still, I was fuming, and stomped over to one of the uniforms on foot patrol. The conversation went something along the lines:

'One of those idiots just walked up to me and smacked me in the face. What you gonna do about it?'
'Would you like to make a complaint sir?'
'Get him fuckin arrested!'

Which is how Joe and I found ourselves accompanying a couple of cops to the entrance of a Scunthorpe supporters bus, to pick out the guy who attacked me.

A few of the guys on the bus were giving us verbals, making crybaby gestures etc. and one guy was leaning off the bus and calling me a 'grass'. I wasn't for holding back and was giving plenty in return along the lines 'Does he think he's a hard man, sneaking up on someone and hitting them when they aren't even looking? Is that all he's got. He not even a good hooligan, he couldn't even knock me down. He's got nothing.'

About now it started to get comical. Everyone we spoke to was obviously a bit bamboozled by my Glaswegian accent, and from the look on his face Mr Grass clearly hadn't expected to get back more than he was giving on the verbals front, and certainly not from a Billy Connolly soundalike.

The local police obviously weren't expecting it either, and quickly ushered us away from the bus, but not before we'd pointed out the guy to the cops.

At this point there was quite a delay while a fairly young copper took a statement from me. It soon became apparent that the local police were not willing to make a stand.

The young cop - who had the decency to at least seem embarrassed by the ineptitude of the operation - explained the inspector in charge of policing wasn't willing to commit enough bodies to ferret the guy off the bus.

The other guys on board wouldn't co-operate and they didn't have the manpower to do it by force. So, we've got a crime, a witness, a suspect, but no will to arrest and prosecute.

I was mightily pissed off, and went off on one about how useless their tactics were. What's the point of being there if they can't maintain order, and can't arrest those who cause disorder, etc..

The cop seemed genuinely apologetic, and even mentioned they were short of cell space so even if they arrested him, they'd have nowhere to put him.

'Well, I suppose sending him back to Scunthorpe is punishment in itself', I responded.

Once I'd calmed down a bit, I was ready to head off alongside my brother and a few of the other guys from our group who'd appeared by now.

At which point I noticed the guys on the bus were watching, and there was some jeering and sarcastic waving going on.

Ding! I stomped over to the bus, and could see the assailant about 2/3 of the way back. The rest of his crew had opened the emergency door and were shouting abuse through the half opened exit.

If only there'd been a tape running at this point! I pointed at the attacker then pointed at my jaw. 'Is that all you've got? Get down here and try again!'

He went, as we say in Scotland, mental. Eyes bulging, nostrils flaring, trying to hurl himself at me as I stood beneath the door of the bus. His mates holding him back, whilst themselves frenziedly hurling abuse back at me. My brother mentioned later that they looked coked up to him.

I couldn't make out a word they were saying but the general sentiment was clear. From the corner of my eye I noticed a copper closing in on me. 'Get your CS gas ready', I told him, before returning to the serious business of giving the guys on the bus, and the one in particular, pelters. 'wankers, fucking morons, scum, etc...'

They were incandescent, like a baying pack of hounds, but none of them was willing to get off the bus. Which was maybe just as well for my general welfare, but in the heat of the moment I'd totally flipped and was ready for anything.

The local coppers were aghast, and eventually under threat of arrest I was ushered away by my brother and shoved into a taxi back to town.

The whole confrontation at the bus door probably lasted about 50 to 60 seconds maximum, but I was laughing about it for the rest of the weekend, and still am now.

These guys like to act the part, but in reality they are nothing. Hitting people without warning is hardly iron man stuff - to me, it's on a par with mugging old ladies - and when someone flips and squares up to them they are all piss-and-wind.

Not much else to add about the weekend, except to mention a bizarre occurrence on the way home.

The train had a 50 minute stop scheduled at Preston, which fortuitously coincided with the kick off time for the Kilmarnock v Celtic game. Someone suggested we might be able to find a pub with Setanta Sports, so we could watch part of the game.

Rather surreally, the first pub we found in Preston turned out to be a Celtic bar. Complete with hooped drinkers, Henrik Larsson and Pat Bonner posters on the wall, and a Wolfe Tones concert advertised for the next week.
Celtic Bar In PrestonSo it was that we got to see the first half of the game where Celtic formally - and belatedly - clinched the SPL, albeit the league has effectively been over for months.

Then it back to the train, where we were soon joined by a grungy student girl and her vile dog, which stank out the carriage for the remainder of the journey home.
Most Flatulent Dog in the WorldIf we weren't in such a good mood - having drained the onboard beer supplies as news of the late winner at Kilmarnock arrived - I might have been tempted to have a word, but decided to let it pass.

Partly because of my mood, and partly because I was at a loss for what to say. Somehow 'gonnae stop your dog farting' just didn't sound like a realistic request.

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