I don’t know how I can write about last night. I’ve sat down on a couple of occasions this morning and every time, words have failed me.
Those who know me, know that doesn’t happen. Words are something I have plenty of, often too many. Why describe something in one word when you can get a paragraph out of it, right? Last night, the reigning champions of England brought a very strong team to Sincil Bank and that should be the catalyst for me to start spewing words incessantly.
The problem is this: I don’t like seeing Lincoln City get beaten. I recall a few years ago, I went to watch my nephew, who was seven at the time, enter a kickboxing tournament in Bardney. He was so proud, all the family were there to watch, but he was pitched against this kid who was about 11 and pretty handy. My nephew fought hard, but he did get a bit of a kicking. Did I enjoy watching that? Obviously not. Last night was a lot like that.
Then there is the guilt. Look, I’m not looking for comments or anything here, but as you know I was honoured to be at the game. I didn’t ask for it, I didn’t once mention to anyone at the club that I’d like to go. I was approached, asked if I could do the show from a box. What would you say? I know it was a huge privilege, but I spent much of the game feel almost ashamed. One comment I got back on Twitter when I voiced this, meant kindly of course, is that it was fitting for what I do for the club. The truth is I do what I can with the skills I have, but it doesn’t make me any better than anyone else, old fan or new. I do what I can and I never expected to be allowed into the ground last night. Obviously, I appreciated it, but I was careful not to mention it, not to post on social media about it, because I just felt bad for all the loyal fans who couldn’t be there.
The final element which makes last night beyond tough was the lack of supporters, not from a guilt point of view. Liverpool put the sort of team out that doubtless had Shrewsbury punching walls and crying. They get fans in the game and a handful of kids, we get banners in the stands and Virgil van Dijk (although we were both undone in part by the wonderous talents of young Curtis Jones). That, Alanis Morrisette, is irony. It also made the game feel hollow, empty, maybe even soulless. Sure, Jurgen Klopp was there, sure they had a strong side out, and it was great to see, but it was also a sad reflection of the times in which we live when the only way people could see it was on TV, or in my case through the glass.
I usually analyse the game here, but what is the point? You all saw it, you all know what happened. Yes, we played Liverpool and yes, we made a few errors that led to goals. Shaqiri’s free-kick was world-class, Lewis Montsma played one bad ball and was punished, but in the first half, I bet we had single-figure possession. We stuck to our game plan when we could, but I could relate it back to my nephew. It felt like the first time him and I played FIFA, him aged five, me aged 36. He tried, he got the ball and ran with it a couple of times, but much of the game was me controlling play, scoring when I felt like it. The only difference was Liverpool were being utterly ruthless, whereas I did stop at four. The tears wouldn’t have been worth the effort.
Tears could easily have flowed down my face at half time. The intensity with which Liverpool came at us was ferocious and incessant. We did bravely stick to our gameplan, but it just meant that the visitors could stick to theirs. I guess we could have gone defensive, stuck ten men behind the ball and looked to hit Hopper long, but admirably we stuck to our principles. It felt, at times, like the band playing on deck as the Titanic went down. Yes, we’re sinking. Yes, it looks bad. Still, play on boys, let us go down doing what we do best.
The team selection was seemingly partly forced by circumstance, partly by assessing the importance of the fixture. Connor McGrandles, Tom Hopper and Adam Jackson sitting out would have been with one eye on the league match this weekend, whilst Alex Bradley, Tayo Edun and Anthony Scully coming in, giving them a chance to shine. In the light of news Callum Morton is maybe injured for a while, Scully is going to get his run at nine, or at least as the backup nine, so this was a good chance for him. Tayo is the fourth man in a three-man midfield right now and Alex Bradley is someone benefitting from another’s misfortune. I thought Tayo Edun looked very assured and Anthony Scully just played the game as though he was against Accrington or Oxford, for better or for worse.
The halftime whistle brought a surge of messages asking me if I was enjoying the game. The honest answer only adds to my guilt, because I wasn’t. I didn’t enjoy our trip to the Emirates, I haven’t watched it back and I never will. Ditto last night. I have zero interest in seeing the goals back, even ours, not right now. Maybe, for this weekend’s Matchday Live, I’ll be forced to see them and maybe I’ll not hate it as much as I fear I do now, but we’ll see.
The first twenty seconds of the second half was even worse, 5-0 down before the absent fans would have been back from the toilet and half time pint. All I was left wondering was if the scoreboard had a facility to put up double figures, or if they’d have to just turn it off. I am a pessimist at times, but the way Liverpool played had me sitting in the luxury of a box, but feeling as though I was one of the kids I’d seen trying to peer over the fence before the match, cold and in the rain.