A note to all future newly-weds, international breaks are a perfect time for a wedding…
It was the 1pm sports news on Radio 5 Live that truly stuck the boot in: ‘Still early in the campaign, but tonight’s 5.30 kick-off between Liverpool and Chelsea is the biggest game of the season, so far’.
Sat behind the wheel of my car, travelling in a direction that wasn’t taking me towards Anfield, I mumbled something indecipherable, yet laden with swear words.
Instead of to the football, I was heading towards that hotel where Liverpool’s players had celebrated clinching the 2019/20 Premier League title.
Very nice people called Heather and Chris were getting married, something that was meant to happen last year, before it got cancelled due to a global pandemic. The rearranged matrimonial fixture finally landed on Saturday afternoon, and Sky hadn’t had the good grace to shift the football to Sunday.
Of course, this meant phones positioned on tables, broadcasting the game, propped up by wine glasses, while the speeches took place.
We went 1-0 down to a percentage-playing near-post flick-on, just as the best man was doing his bit, with what was an excellent poem to be fair. Any groans from around the room over the goal conceded, blended in nicely with the responses to the smattering of corny jokes.
As proceedings erupted at Anfield just before halftime, it was a different matter entirely, as the groom’s sister was midway through an emotional tribute to her brother, just as VAR based drama unfolded, a penalty was awarded, a red card was flashed, Mohamed Salah drove in the equaliser, and an almighty kick off ensued.
I thumped the table and let out a ‘get in’ that was as restrained as possible, yet still audible enough to startle everyone sat within a five-table radius who didn’t have one eye fixed on developments at Anfield.
From a distance, you could see the best man was watching the game too.
Meal, speeches, and toasts over, we were asked by hotel staff to move downstairs for 30 minutes, while the room was rearranged for the disco. I asked if they could make it 45 instead so that we could watch the second half in the bar. The clearly stressed wedding coordinator laughed but seemed quite happy to grab the extra quarter of an hour.
Love conquers all… so too does football
Love conquers all, but so too does football. Frustration can also kick in though, and the second half meandered to its drawn conclusion, as Liverpool seemed to run out of ideas, against opponents that will prove to be a stubborn proposal for most teams, yet conversely, perhaps too uptight to win the Premier League.
At least there was some Abba to dance to, and a hotpot to round out the day. Over at Anfield, it sounded like yet more unsatisfactory delays at the turnstiles, as the teething problems of the new ticketing system become more and more like a punch to the face.
Heather and Chris haven’t been the first, and nor will they be the last couple to unite on a matchday. Even my own sister did such a thing, with her wedding cataclysmically landing on FA Cup final day, 1992.
Marrying a man from the north-east, it made for a potent cocktail at the reception, as the high quotient of Liverpool supporters in attendance were joined in their desire for a victory for the team from Anfield, by the groom’s Newcastle United supporting hoards.
Three Sunderland supporters of an understandably nervous disposition found themselves a quiet corner for the afternoon.
An era before smartphones, at a venue where televisions were banned, me and my late uncle Dave circulated our way around the function room in opposite directions, before meeting at the door, from where we would sneak out to listen to ten minutes or so of the game.
Back in we would go, to spread the latest updates, the room spontaneously erupting to the news of goals.
On Saturday, the comfort was that I wasn’t alone. The best man was the individual who is responsible for the Kop mosaics, while the photographer was another season ticket holder. A pain shared, is a pain halved.
Of course, we now go into the abomination that is the first international break of the season. While the other international breaks are not much better, the one that halts the new club season after just three games is the worst of the lot.
Rather than disrupting the club season four times, it is high time that international football was given its own set season for qualifiers, where they are all played out over the course of one month. They might be worth watching that way.
International breaks are perfect for weddings though… just sayin’ like.