"I think," he says, "that the 25,000 people watching—even the Liverpool supporters—will probably agree with me that it looked like a very, very harsh decision and there was certainly no intention to foul the player or give away a penalty."
"First off," I say, "no, they won't. Second, since when is sticking your ass into a player and grabbing his shoulder as he tries to get around said ass within the rules of the game? Wait; no. I'm sorry—I didn't come here to fight."
To be honest, I don't know why I came. It feels like exes meeting up over coffee to talk about the old days, looking to put the past to rest, to resolve old issues. Hoping that somehow things will go differently this time around. Knowing full well that it can only end badly like it always does.
"I don't think we played well enough in the first half to cause Liverpool problems," he says. "And we were better in the second half. But we had conceded on the counterattack in the 46th minute so probably the crucial mistake in the game was that one."
"Oh," I say, and pause. "That's very mature of you. Still, doesn't this just feel odd? Forced? Even if it's going better than I would have expected. It still feels a bit like an unplanned fourth movie tacked on to a trilogy—an abomination that by all rights shouldn't exist yet with the press bringing it up, and the fans bringing it up, and even you bringing it up, well, it's not as though we really have a choice. This can't just not happen. Hell, we'll probably have to go through it all again in the spring unless you get that England job you keep talking about."
"I would rather hope if I was ever going to be offered the England job," he says, almost as though he's actually paying attention to what I'm saying, "it would have to be with the backing of the important people. Because, even if you've got the competence and you maybe are the 'right person,' you need to be perceived as the right person."
"I guess I can't blame you for wanting to think the only thing stopping you from being that 'right person' might be that some on the outside looking in might think that you aren't. You don't get to manage Malmo and Grasshopper without at least a touch of self-delusion."
Anyone who wasn't stuck with him for six months doesn't understand why his meandering ways can still be so infuriating. To them it only seems bitter when I sneer at some inoffensive rambling, especially now that I don't have to see him day in and day out. But they never did understand in the first place. And as always, nothing I say ever really seems to get through to him.
"Still," he says, returning from his mental excursion to Wembley, "the penalty didn’t help. I think the ref like the rest of us didn’t see anything—but the linesman did and the ref decided to take the linesman’s advice."
"Well, I'm pretty sure I saw something. But we already know what you think of how I see things. Especially when it's sat next to what you can discern through eyes with forty-odd years of managerial experience."
“Our defender is entitled to screen the ball to clear it and should be allowed to do so but it was awarded."
"Yeah, no, I'm pretty sure obstruction actually isn't allowed in football. You know, technically or something."
“Well," he says, "it did mean that a difficult task became that much more difficult."
"And there I was thinking you'd decided to take the high road for once when you admitted the crucial mistake—the one that decided the match—was entirely on your players having a defensive aneurysm in the 46th minute. Apparently I heard wrong and you're determined to make this harder on both of us than it needs to be."
“I don’t want to go bleating about it," he says. "Sometimes decisions go your way, sometimes they don’t."
"Right," I say, "except that you were just bleating about it. Almost as much as I used to bleat about what a poor manager you were."
"But decisions like that affect results."
"You're bleating again."
“But I’m not blaming the ref for our defeat because we didn’t do enough to win.”
"Do you seriously not hear the words coming out of your mouth?" I scream. "You contradict yourself each time you open your damn mouth! It never changes!"
"Well I think the people here, even your five Australian readers, will probably agree with me that I've been more than fair and honest, just like I've always been. But I wouldn't say that the troubles since we met were all down to you."
"I think you just did," I said. "Thank fuck I don't have to see you again until April. Oh, and in the meantime, maybe you can track down a defender who intentionally fouls opponents in the box with the intent of giving the other team penalties. Because I'd like to meet him."