Liverpool – The night of forgotten allegiances

Champions League Trophy

As part of our HITC Sport 92 series, Vincent Ralph looks back to a great night in Liverpool's history.

Liverpool have such a rich history it is difficult to pick a single defining moment. But there is one occasion that perfectly illustrates what this project is all about.

On Wednesday 25 May 2005 – at least in my footballing world – all allegiances were forgotten.

When Liverpool and AC Milan kicked off that season’s Champions League final, I was days away from completing my post-graduate Journalism course.

The next morning I had a shorthand exam – something of an Olympic event in writing circles. And as the Italians built up a three-goal lead, I frantically transformed the commentary into a language akin to children’s doodles.

I watched the first half alone, eager to be primed for the following day and with no affinity to either team.

Only one of my housemates was in, and when we spoke at half-time he wasn’t even watching it.

But after 60 minutes we were transfixed, my exam forgotten, the two of us willing every Liverpool effort to be the one that put them ahead, after 10 minutes in which Steven Gerrard, Vladimir Smicer and Xabi Alonso inexplicably drew them level.

As the final 30 minutes of normal time ticked down, the lounge began to fill – not only with my three other housemates, but with those they had brought with them and those they had called to join the party.

Soon we were crammed around the TV like this was England’s World Cup final. And as much as it was clear we all wanted Liverpool to triumph, not one of us supported them…not even a little bit.

An unspoken agreement was in place – we were here to will a Reds’ triumph into being. No matter which club we supported, for one night only it was enough to be English.

By the time of the penalty shoot-out it was obvious this was one of those nights, like Republic of Ireland versus Italy in USA ’94 or Charlton versus Sunderland in the play-off final of ’98.

Sometimes a side you have no connection to whatsoever can bring you one of your greatest memories of the game.

As Jerzy Dudek paid homage to Bruce Grobbelaar once last time – before saving Andriy Shevchenko’s spot-kick and sending everyone into raptures – my lounge was full of hope for no other reason than to be hopeful.

And the joy that followed was not for us, but for a team that, for one evening at least, reminded us all why we love the game.

It may be corny, and it may have been temporary, but it is also true.

In the days and weeks that followed we all re-embraced the rivalries. We all pretended we hadn’t been quite so happy to see a club other than ours succeed so dramatically. But we were happy, and as much as neutrals can be, we were also proud.

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images: © andyjakeman, © Vincent Teeuwen

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