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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Saturday, September 25, 2004
    Win or lose
    Outside, the post-match traffic flow. Today they're emerging from Anfield, a couple of miles away at the far end of this avenue. They slow down and stop here tailed-back from the lights and there's more of them than usual just now because of the diversion off the East Lancs Road.

    Red or blue, they all come this way week by week. Out to nearby Croxteth, Kirkby or the pie-eating hinterlands of East Lancs, or further: one of the fleet from Collingtree Coaches of Northampton just crept past my window.

    I always know the results, of course, by this stage, which is just as well because seldom would it be possible to discern how the team had done by looking for clues in the punters' faces or body language. Win or lose, there are clapped-out cars carrying overjuiced young men joshing each other, dropping fags and pie crusts from their windows as they go. Win or lose, there are replica-shirted individuals alone in long-distance salesmans vehicles intent on bullying their way through small gaps in the traffic. Win or lose, there are dads at the wheel hosting humourous dialogues with their chatty backseat daughters. Win or lose, there are taxi-drivers talking animatedly with their shaven-headed customers. Win or lose, by this stage in match-day the shouting is over and home (or a home-from-home, a bar somewhere) beckons.

    Some are sunk into the match programme - three quid, nothing in it we don't already know, but its glossy smell is the freshest thing about the day - fresher than the morning's tabloid transfer tattle, fresher than the time-worn shouts of ticket touts outside the ground, fresher than the pre-match beer, fresher than the replica shirt after three hours among thousands. Fresher than that feeble centre-half. The match programme engrosses the introverts who need to process the game and its aftermath alone. The extroverts and the children wind down the car windows and holler or converse across carriageways.

    And others stare blankly out of side-windows. If only we could see ourselves in vehicles: somewhere between sleep and utter boredom we look like the undead. Today the Red Undead goggle upwards, occasionally into this window but usually at next-door-but-one whose massive radio masts dominate the avenue. Our amateur radio hobbyist neighbour is probably hooked up to a ham in Belarus or Beirut; the passing car radios are set to Merseyside (for overexcited, biassed reporting) or Five (for the rest of the days news).

    You can tell the few non-footy travellers caught up in this stadium outflow at the wrong time of the week: they're listening to a music show oblivious to the events their fellow-travellers have just witnessed, alongside them in traffic, but completely out of communion.