In Part Two of the Anfield reminisces, here’s my buddy Jamie’s account of the night. For those who haven’t followed the blog for long, Jamie is a Chelsea fan originally but decided one day to accompany me to Underhill to watch the Cobblers take on Barnet. Somehow that trip made him thirsty for more and since then he’s been as much an honorary Cobbler as anyone despite witnessing only minimla victories in our trips to watch the Town together!
So here’s Jamie’s thoughts on that night…
The Greatest Night as told by The Honourary Cobbler
I still make a point of keeping my old Chelsea shirts. The ones with Coors or Autoglass sponsors on them. I may be a young(ish) man, but I’m of the pre-Abramovich stock of Blues supporters. I was there during the days when our most glamorous foreign signing was Norway’s ginger hardman Erland Johnson and Stamford Bridge was still a half-finished abomination of a stadium. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not embarrassed now Chelsea is in to its halcyon era, but the world loves an underdog and I pine for the days where the only thing my supported team were consistent at was being inconsistent. We’d beat United and lose to Bolton in the same week.
But when Chelsea scooped their first title in 40 years, enter stage right Daniel George Brothers: third year flatmate and class of ’06 Media Writing at Southampton Solent University, and best friend ever since. And of course the glue that holds pretty much all matey friendships together is the shared love of footy. It was with some surprise to discover Danny had shunned the Premiership bandwagon and stuck with Northampton Town, his local childhood team. It was admirable to find a local-team supporter, so much so that he easily cajoled me into trekking up to Barnet on a chilly December afternoon to get a taste of life in The Football League. Four pints, a questionable half-time burger and a Scott McGleish spot-kick winner later, I was in love. This was real football.
I recall in Danny’s closing thoughts of his Liverpool match report, he said:
This is why we stay so loyal – through all the trips to Carlisle, Yeovil, Rochdale and Morecambe, through years of “Cobblers” jokes and through nights of despair when we questioned why we do it.
Prior to the game I was in that place too. I’d put in the hours and clocked up hundreds upon hundreds of accumulated miles journeying up to Sixfields or wherever it was possible to catch an away game. And boy, did we pick ‘em. I felt the agony of injury-time defeats at Torquay and Yeovil. I was there when we went down to Posh at London Road, and when we squandered the points not once, but TWICE in consecutive seasons against Aldershot. I was there when we were hammered by Leeds at Elland Road and felt the pain of relegation. In fact, I have living proof of that last one, as my hands-behind-the-head despondency was handily photographed and printed in the Chronicle & Echo’s relegation pull-out special. But then one afternoon I watched the League Cup fourth round draw in incredulity as we were paired with the mighty Liverpool. I grabbed the phone and moments later Danny and I were making plans. It had to be done.
I went ripe bananas – everyone did – when Abdul Osman slotted home from 12 yards to claim the Liverpool scalp. What a moment, what a night. But more than that, I felt the pride of seeing a club I’d adopted as my own play so incredibly well against a team of top quality players (and Ryan Babel). Earlier on when Milan Jovanovic had opened the scoring inside 10 minutes I sat back in my seat and smiled at the familiar sound of thousands of home fans celebrating in the face of our inevitable dejection. If we’re in for a drubbing, I thought, at least we can sing our hearts out and not care too much for the fact that we’re here and we’ve had a go at it. It’s always nice to take comfort from that. But it was evident very shortly after the restart we were doing much more than just having a go at it. We were playing with inspired tactics to boss the game with clever passing. Liverpool are always a proud club, and there’s nothing more brutal for them to have to face up to the fact that they were outfoxed, outplayed, outpassed and outclassed as the game wore on. It’s tough for them to admit it, but this was without a doubt not some fluke; this was a proper upset. From Billy McKay’s equaliser to Cracker’s finish in front of the Kop to send Northampton Town into the lead and the faithful into raptures, it was all about believing in the underdog. Even after Liverpool snatched their equaliser late into stoppage time in extra time, Danny and I knew we were favoured team to win the penalty shoot-out. No more jinxing it, no more ‘kiss of death’ moments. For one blissful night Northampton Town of League Two looked pretty darn close to invincible.
Danny’s got many reasons to be proud: it’s his club, his family’s club, his patch, his lifelong support. But I’m happy doing my bit as The Honourary Cobbler. I still pull on the claret shirt just as often as I’ll wear the blue. I’ve learned along the travels that League Two football is about going along, clicking the turnstiles to help your club pay the bills and adding your voice to the clutch of hardy supporters. And what’s more, your own voice can be heard by all your comrades, the players and the opposition if you sing and shout loud enough. You don’t get that benefit when you go to a Premiership match.
It’s terribly corny and sentimental, but whether it’s a pathetic 4-1 drubbing at Underhill or a dream victory on one incredible night at Anfield, I’m just as proud either way to be able to say “I was there”. Aren’t you?