OK, so after DN and I finished our lunch, we headed off to his flat at the University of Liverpool to discuss how to go about this fraud business, seeing that neither of us were quite familiar with committing crimes and all that.
At DN’s flat, I was introduced to his flatmates – guys who gave me the impression that crime was something they routinely indulged in between meals and classes.
Naturally, I asked their opinion and they provided plenty of suggestions. One of them even asked to see the credit card, and honestly, I was about to turn it over, but fortunately DN stopped me by joking that I might never see the card again if I did that.
At least, I think he was joking.
Anyway, taking on board all their ideas, DN and I then went off on our pilgrimage to Anfield.
Along the way, DN stopped in front of a small betting shop, and suggested we go in to practise my signature forgery skills. We went in and found a bunch of old men huddled around several tellys cheering on greyhounds. Dog racing – cool. Anyway, we huddled around at the back of the shop, got a bunch of betting slips and hurriedly started to attempt copying the signature on the credit card. Especially since kickoff time was only about half-an-hour away.
After about 10 minutes of frantic signing on hundreds of tiny little betting slips, I felt like I finally got the hang of it, and we decided to move on. As we exited the shop, DN remarked to an elderly gentleman who had been observing us from a distance that we decided to not make any bets because none of the dogs looked fast enough. The old fella then made a snort, as if to say, “Damned kids! Wouldn’t know a champion dog if it came and bit them in their arse!”
So we hurried off to Anfield, although I did occasionally pause to snap some shots of the neighbourhood. One thing about British homes – they all look alike. Everywhere.
When we finally got to Anfield via the Anfield Road End, we noticed the long queue at the ticket office. We queued up, and began planning our strategy.
Speaking in low voices, we decided that when I get to the counter, I would explain the situation, at which point they’d probably ask me to show the credit card for verification as well as asking me to sign something. Now, I wasn’t confident enough to sign the paper immediately, and I knew that I would at least need to glance at the credit card while penning the signature. So the plan was that at this point, DN would distract the person at the counter for just a few seconds while I commit this illegal deed of mine.
Well, after a while, we finally got to the counter and, sticking to the plan, I informed the people at the counter about my tickets that never arrived in the mail. They too seemed to have read the same script, for the nice lady at the counter asked me for my credit card – which I duly offered to them – and then she placed a piece of blank paper in front of me and asked me for a sample signature. Right, now I just needed to have one quick glance at the credit card –
– the card currently being held by the nice lady who looked like the type who could turn very un-nice at the slightest hint of a credit card fraud in progress..
Right on cue, DN starts chatting up the woman, asking her about the crowd and the game and lo and behold! She’s a diehard Red! Now I know what you’re thinking: “Of course she’s a Liverpool supporter, cos she works at Anfield, innit?” Not everyone who works at Anfield supports Liverpool kan? She could have been a football-atheist, not caring about a game where eleven grown men fight with another eleven grown men in order to kick a ball into a net-enclosed area. Fortunately, she was not a football-atheist, but a football devotee. She started talking about how Fowler’s going to mark his comeback (“He’s going to score a hattrick, mark my words!”), which gave me just enough time to compose myself, dredge the image of the signature on the credit card from the recesses of my memory and faithfully reproduce what I hoped was a near-exact replica on the paper.
She took one look at the paper and the signature on it, compared it with the signature on the card, and then returned to card to me while asking me to wait for a minute.
That was it. No “Outstanding penmanship!“, or “I love the way you dotted the i and crossed the t!“… I mean, after all the practice and effort, the least someone could have done was to compliment my exceptional skill at copying someone else’s signature. Sigh, such are the disadvantages of being a counterfeiter.
Anyway, a couple of minutes later, she returned and handed me the two tickets to the game. Oh, how I savoured the texture of the tickets! The sweet, sweet smell of a newly created ticket, the sharp, bright images of the club logo and the Reebok insignia…
“Let’s go, man, you’re starting to attract stares…”
DN’s admonishment quickly brought me back to reality, and we headed off to the turnstiles, where we were subjected to a strip search by a shapely Page 3 girl….
OK, there was no strip search. The guard merely checked my bag (where I kept my camera) and asked me and DN to show the contents of our pockets. This is part of the reason why today’s football stadiums in England are much, much, much safer than during the Eighties hooligan-crazy era. I completely respect and understand steps like these that have been undertaken by many of the football clubs in England in order to improve security, steps that have yet to be taken by many other European clubs, especially certain Italian clubs.
But a strip search by a Page 3 girl would have been really cool too…
We found our seats – with the help of a stewart – and waited patiently for the start of the game.
The stadium was full, and the fans were in full voice. Everyone was expecting a cracker of a match, and I was in full agreement.
By the time of the kickoff, I discovered that my camera was running out of film, and as I was quick to learn as I rummaged around in my bag, I had no replacement. DOH!
And so, with the last few shots available to me, I took a couple of pictures of the kickoff (above) and then some random shots of the game. Most of them came out blurred because I couldn’t simply compose myself and stand still to focus on the shot – how could I? I WAS AT ANFIELD WATCHING A FOOTBALL MATCH!
Anyway, it was a good thing too. I was able to absorb the entire match, and this was what I saw on the day.
We had a very good strikeforce, and Owen and Fowler were individually excellent that day. Fowler scored twice (including a penalty), and Berger scored a screamer that had the whole ground rocking. Our defence, though, was a disgrace.
Our starting lineup consisted of Brad Friedel in goal, along with Phil Babb, Steve Harkness, Steve Staunton, Jamie Carragher, Veggard Heggem, Steve McManaman, Patrik Berger, Jamie Redknapp, Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler. Subs included Jason McAteer, Dominic Matteo, David Thompson, Danny Murphy and David James.
It’s interesting to think after 6 years, Carragher is the only one among the first-team players that day to remain at the club today.
Chalrton scored the first goal by exploiting what was Liverpool’s biggest weakness of the time – our vulnerability in dealing with balls flighted in via crosses. It was a basic move, freekick flighted in, a Chalrton player then heads it into goal.
It was frustrating as hell. Since we didn’t have Ince available, we were completely outfought by Charlton in midfield, and it was only due to the zippiness of Owen that we managed to equalise. His pace saw him fouled in Charlton’s penalty box, and up stepped Fowler who scored with precision and power in front of the Anfield Road End stand.
Both Babb and Harkness had on occasion given the ball away to a Charlton player in their own area, and in Harkness’ case, the mistake proved fatal as the Charlton players surged on and scored the second goal.
We fought back again and Berger scored the absolute scorcher of a goal that I can still remember in full Technicolor detail. For those of you wondering what the big deal is in watching a game in a stadium instead of on telly, well, it’s moments like these that make it all worthwhile…. I could do a Mastercard-like promo about how watching a player score a great goal surrounded by thousands of like-minded supporters is priceless, but I won’t… 😀
Anyway, towards the end of the match, Owen crossed for Fowler to score his second, and really, all we needed to do then was to defend the lead for the last few minutes – and we couldn’t even do that.
Within a few minutes, Charlton equalised again, and they could have snatched a winner right at the death, if not for some sloppy finishing.
When the ref blew the whistle for full-time, the players trooped off, and some sections of the crowd were jeering the Liverpool players. Regardless of what you may think of this behaviour, the fact is that the players let themselves – and us, the supporters – down with a poor performance. And I believe the supporters had every right to voice their displeasure that day.
It was this discontent among the supporters that would eventually lead to Roy Evans’ resignation as manager, leaving Houllier in sole charge and with the mandate to begin his French Revolution in earnest.
Anyway, afterwards, DN and I returned to the railway station, we shook hands, promised to keep in touch (we never did) and I returned on the evening train back to Nottingham.
I rushed to my flat, just in time to catch MotD. It was interesting to compare my own recollections of the match with what I saw on TV, and folks, they’re not always alike. Especially, of course, the goals scored at the far end of the ground from where you’re seated.
Anyway, next morning, I returned the credit card to my buddy, along with sincere words of gratefulness, and vowed that I would never abuse my powers of credit-card forgery for evil.
And that wraps up this poor-excuse-for-a-tale. If you like this story, please e-mail me with your name, address, e-mail address and credit card number.