Simon Parry isn’t giving up on his dreams, despite the odds.
Four thousand four hundred and seventy seventh: That’s the position me and my son James currently hold in the queue for a season ticket at Liverpool Football Club. I know this because I got an automated email from the club a week before the Europa League Final telling me why we wouldn’t be getting tickets for the 2016-7 season. Only those in the top 2,000 can afford to have hope in their hearts, apparently.
I was more relieved than disappointed. I thought they’d forgotten us altogether. It was 15 years ago when I applied for a father-and- son season ticket in the famous Kop stand at Anfield, giddy with the excitement of the UEFA Cup win under manager Gerard Houllier. We were living in Hong Kong with little prospect of ever moving back to within a thousand miles of Anfield but who knew then what the future would hold?
As it happened, it held years more disappointment and false dawns lifted by one night of intoxicating, unbelievable drama in 2005 when Liverpool came from 3-0 down at half-time to AC Milan to win the European Cup. Since then there’s been an FA Cup and a League Cup, the agony of coming so close to their first league title in more than 20 years two seasons ago – and now another new dawn under the brilliant Jurgen Klopp that might just prove to be the real thing.
And still our wait for a season ticket goes on. Or at least it does for me. Because despite all my efforts, neither James nor his younger brother Will have the slightest interest in football or the Shakespearean ebb and flow of Liverpool’s fortunes. Force-feeding them Match of the Day and videos of Liverpool’s greatest European triumphs in their formative years seem to have backfired spectacularly. When football comes on TV, their eyes roll and slouch out of the room, muttering ‘Saddo’.
“James may never share my love for Liverpool. Still, I won’t give up my 4,477th place on the wait list” – Simon Parry
When he was smaller and more pliable, I dragged a three-year-old James along to Anfield with me and his maternal grandfather where he sat wearing a red and white scarf and clutching a Michael Owen football as the Mighty Reds in one of their many not-so-mighty spells lost 1-2 at home to Southampton.
That outing was inspired by my childhood in the Midlands where my father took me to watch Liverpool away games. He was no football fan, but I remember him spending a big chunk of his vicar’s salary and driving for hours to get me to a dreary 0-0 midweek draw at Coventry where a man in front of us spent the entire game swearing at the linesman and calling him a Baby Elephant.
Most vividly, I remember the day in 1978 when my dad leapt out of his seat in such excitement that he accidentally tore up his match programme as Kenny Dalglish slot a sumptuous back-heel into the net right in front of us in a 3-0 Liverpool victory at Villa Park. The game wasn’t televised (most weren’t back then) but 40 years on I still have it on video replay in my mind’s eye.
Liverpool seemed invincible then and football grounds were scary places in an age of hooliganism. As we left the ground, our Vauxhall Chevette was surrounded by a mob of Aston Villa fans and rocked for 20 unnerving seconds after they spotted my Liverpool scarf in the back window.
Maybe I was hoping to relive those thrilling childhood days by taking James to Anfield. But every child chooses his or her own enthusiasms and my dad had been indulging mine, not foisting his own upon me. James’s enthusiasms and obsessions (which are plentiful and intense) lie elsewhere. A few months after that Southampton defeat, as a precocious pop-obsessed three-year-old, he sat on my shoulders in the front row of an Avril Lavigne concert in Hong Kong singing along to every song.
My star-struck toddler made such an impression on the singer she got a stagehand to give him her drum sticks at the end of the gig. Thinking about it, maybe that was our Kenny Dalglish moment. James may never share my love for Liverpool. Still, I won’t give up our 4,477th place on the waiting list. It might take another 10 years and if James is otherwise engaged on the opening day of the season, I’ll take my old dad along instead. Only, this time, I’ll look after the match programme.