Friday, 18 March 2011

The Real thing

Right up to the draw itself I was desperate for us to get Schalke. The second the draw was made I was absolutely fucking delighted we didn't get fucking Schalke. What a dull-arse waste of time that would have been.

(Plus, I fear, there'll be plenty of time to play them over the coming years in 'The Scottish Cup'. No, not the actual Scottish Cup you idiot. Oh, never mind.)

When I saw that Sky had devoted a 90 minute show and three studio pundits to the draw, I have to admit I thought it was a tad overblown. But, well, it was seriously fucking exciting, wasn't it?

My heart actually beat a little faster when Lineker pulled out Real Madrid and then, as he undid that second little Kinder surprise, pulled a face. Was it a grimace? He made a noise. He definitely made a noise. A semi-suppressed incredulous chuckle, would you say? It could only mean one of two things: Either he'd pulled out Barcelona and the world was about to go ape shit, or he'd pulled out Spurs and we were about to go ape shit.

He'd pulled out Spurs. We went ape shit.

"Real fucking Madrid! We've drawn Real fucking Madrid!", I shouted to the cat. Sky could extend their programme for another 90 minutes, they wouldn't be topping that sort of analysis.

It's worth admitting at this point that the draw proved one thing to me: I've fallen for the Champions League. And I've fallen hard.

When we're not in it any more I'll probably buy the theme tune and play it over and over whilst looking at pictures of Bale tearing up Inter; Joe Jordan going head-to-head with The Little Dog; hell, even Pav cracking that second goal against Young Boys that made us realise everything was going to be all right. Look, I don't want to be playing sad music, alone in my room, crying and thinking of Young Boys, but I think it will happen.

The Europa Cup will be the scabby prostitute with whom we go through the motions, all the while thinking of and weeping for our true love...

Sorry, right, yes, Real Madrid. The perfect draw. It ticks all the boxes, as 12 year old marketing types like to say.

They're a big club - arguably the biggest. But they're not the best.

And the other runners and riders? They just don't fit the bill:

Barcelona - Nope, not just yet. Plus, genuine risk of utter degradation.

Man Utd - Didn't want an English side, plus our record against them's not what you'd call sparkling.

Chelsea - Hell no.

Shakhtar Donetsk - Had to look up how to spell their name. Dull. And dangerous.

Schalke - Dull. Just dull.

Inter - Played them twice, three times would have been overkill. Plus, after reveling so joyously in that victory at White Hart Lane, it might have been tempting fate to invite them back so soon.

Which leaves Real. Like I say, perfect.

We're the tie of the round. We're the main fucking event. We're battling a European giant for the right to face the greatest team in the world.

Chelsea and Man Utd are playing a Premier League fixture for the right to... oh who cares: Real Fucking Madrid.

It has to be hoped, of course, that the players aren't quite as giddy as we are. Or, that if they are, they hide it rather better.

We don't want them taking pictures during the warm-up, or asking for autographs at set-pieces.

The one downside of the tie for me is the Mourhino factor. For a start, his teams are hellishly hard to beat. Plus he's got that Chelsea stain running through him, and their fans will be gormlessly willing him on to 'do it for the Blues' - conveniently glossing over the fact that he coldly and expertly stood on their neck till it snapped like a dry twig in last season's competition. They remain, however, so gay for him that it's frankly embarrassing.

There is also one outrageous, horrific downside to what we shall call the extended draw; the potential route to the final. What if we beat Real Madrid? What if we then beat Barcelona? What if, after 129 years we pulled off the two greatest results in our history back to back? This team, in our time, achieving the impossible...

And what if that team then lost to Chelsea in the final? Exactly. We'd be in Revelations territory. Unbearable. Unthinkable.

But, for now, for all sorts of reasons, fuck Chelsea. Forget everything, in fact, accept Real Madrid in the Bernabeu on April 5th.

Oh, shit, apart from West Ham tomorrow, of course. COYS.


  1. You're right. Last year during the draw, I hoped we'd get Barca. And I did the same this year. Went to both games at the Emirates and although we got comprehensively beaten over two legs twice, I wouldn't change a thing. Felt priviliged to see one of the greatest football teams ever. Who wants to see Shalke (04) or Shakhtar Donetsk? Not me.

  2. With Barcelona there would have been some genuine, visceral fear about taking the most fearsome hiding. But it's like getting the chance to be hit by Ali in his prime; you kind of feel privileged, even as you hit the deck.

  3. Couldn't agree more. Let's go out there and fuckin run at them. If we go out, let's go out 10-9 on aggregate. Huzzah!