clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Sweet Charity?

As international fortnight inches painfully onward, Liverpool fans were glad of the happy distraction afforded by a host of familiar faces for Steven Gerrard's All-Star charity match. But what happened behind the scenes, as the egos landed?

PEPE: 'Wow, Luis is carrying a few pounds, isn't he lads? 'NANDO: 'Seriously, mate?' PEPE: "What?!"
PEPE: 'Wow, Luis is carrying a few pounds, isn't he lads? 'NANDO: 'Seriously, mate?' PEPE: "What?!"
Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

EXT: Melwood, morning.

The Liverpool squad members not involved with their international teams run through their paces with Colin Pascoe on the whistle. There is a noticeably giddy atmosphere, as the assistant coach struggles like a student teacher with a boisterous class. The topic of conversation is the next day's All-Star charity match. José Enrique, however, is trying to gather a posse for a spa day and seems even more distracted than usual, with every exercise breaking down during his contribution.

Colin Pascoe: José! It's a simple drill. Just roll the ball to the next man, do the shuttle run, and walk back. What's the problem?

José Enrique: Sorry, Colin Boss. I am so tired from working. It's has been days since my last holiday. What is the 'shuttle?' (Approaching Pascoe conspiratorially, speaking in his endearing but grammatically askew English) You know, you are to seem very upset, Colin Boss, why don't you come with us for spa day? We can make selfies for the Twitter...

Pascoe: (Irascible) It's the bloody Stevie Charity thingy tomorrow, José, you incredible twonk. I'm on the sideline with Brendan. He'll be relying on me to keep those big stars in line. (Momentarily wistful) Such a modest, shy fella, Brendan. A prince amongst men, really. Back at Swansea, we used to...(he is interrupted by an enthusiastic Enrique, who has clearly not been listening.)

Enrique: So you and the Brendan Boss will come for pedicures?

Pascoe: (Utterly exasperated) No we bloody won't! What is actually wrong with you? Now finish the drill and for the love of all that's holy, put a top on, you numbskull. It's minus one and raining!

Alberto Moreno, who has never left Enrique's side throughout the exchange, casts a withering look at Pascoe's bare legs as he ushers his wounded and confused teammate away. The younger man whispers soothingly in his shirtless compadre's ear, something about lotion in a basket, and Pascoe returns to the session, clearly rattled and irritated. Mario Balotelli, who has wandered off to practice penalties, becomes the focus of the Welshman's ire.

Pascoe: Balotelli! What are you playing at? Get back here and join in.

The whole exercise comes to a halt, and Jon Flanagan smiles excitedly at Lucas Leiva as both men know what is coming next.

Mario Balotelli: (Face set in a glower, and standing nose-to-nose with the chubby-kneed coach, having stalked directly over to Pascoe, pauses, and then...) Do you know me? Did you ever talk to me, personally? Do you know what I've been through in my life? You just saw me play football in the pitch,, shut up!

Pascoe: (Stunned, shaken) Listen Mario, I...I mean, that seems a bit...I didn't intend to...

Balotelli: Gotcha Colly...

Pascoe is rushed by the all the players who, jokingly pile-on, laughing uproariously and telling him to get an Instagram account. All semblance of order is quite lost when Lucas looks to the sky, where a helicopter hovers over the Melwood complex.

Lucas: It's the Babelcopter, Colly. Ryan is here! I called him! He is my good friend!

Pascoe: Erm, Lucas, no offence to your mate, but are you sure he's of the standard Stevie wants for this match?

Lucas: (Uncharacteristically sardonic in tone) Colly, he's asked Kevin bloody Nolan to play...

Pascoe: Haha! Yeah, I suppose...Even Glen's getting a game

Glen Johnson: (Shattered by his coach's assessment) I'm standing right here, lads.

Fade to black

INT: Anfield dressing room, evening.

The All-Star match has just concluded in a 2-2 draw in front of a packed and sentimental Anfield. Songs have been sung, burnt bridges mended and old wounds salved. The room is awash with bonhomie, as John Terry, in full kit, photobombs every selfie he can. Steven Gerrard is quietly explaining to Mario Balotelli that it would not have been appropriate for the young Italian to take the penalties, given that they were not on the same team and Brendan Rodgers is reassuring an emotional Fernando Torres that he is, in fact, a "wonderful young man and an outstanding technician." Only in one corner is there tension, as Jamie Carragher directs puce-faced, whispered fury towards Luis Suárez.

Carragher: (Still seething from a soft penalty decision which led to the equaliser) You've made a mug of me out there, Luis lad.

Suarez: (A little nonplussed, the Uruguayan goes into a well-rehearsed line.) I only want to win...for the fans and the Stebie. As a child on the streets of Montevideo, I...

Carragher: (Interrupting, outraged, in his trademark Scouse tones.) But you've dived, lad! There's no place for that in the English game. That's just wrong, that...

Suarez: (Taken aback, shocked by his old teammate's vitriol.) But...the fans...the Stebie...

Carragher: Don't give me all that old guff, lad. (He calls over his shoulder.) Neville? Where's that Manc when you want him? Neville, wheel over that replay monitor.

Gary Neville, besuited and earnest, rolls over a mobile electronic tactics board and proceeds to bring up the penalty incident as a slow-motion replay, commentating as he goes.

Neville: You can just see...there...I'll just pause it can see there's clearly no contact and the foreign lad has conned the ref. It's a scandalous decision, that. No place for that type of cheating in the English game, Jamie.

Carragher: Outrageous. Should be havin' a word with himself, there. That's awful, that.

Thierry Henry, who has been watching from the far side of the dressing room, ambles over with a louche insouciance.

Henry: For me this is a penalty. All day. If we pause it...there...we can see Jamie basically assaults Luis.

Carragher: What?! You're off yer game, lad. Rewind that again....

As the three analysts work themselves into a frenzy of indignation whilst utilising the full functionality of their Sky-funded toy, Suarez slowly steps backwards and goes to help Gerrard with the Balotelli situation, which has escalated. Ryan Babel, in a flight jacket and aviator shades has sidled up to Brendan Rodgers.

Babel: Mr. Rodgers, you are a really excellent coach. The best, in my opinion. You deserve the most loyal players. This Sterling situation...terrible stuff.

Brendan Rodgers: Eh? Oh...erm, thanks Ryan, I...I mean Raheem is...well, he's a good boy, and I'm sure he...

Babel: (Interrupting) But you should have nothing but loyalty. I mean, I'D play for you for a fraction of what Sterling wants...say, a third?

Rodgers: You? Well I mean...

Babel: (Interrupting again, playfully placing a finger on the Antrim man's lips and an arm around his shoulder.) Shhh...let's not talk about it now. I have my helicopter out front. You fancy Monaco for the night? Of course you do. A man like you? Let's go.

Silently, the Dutchman escorts Rodgers from the dressing room. In the corner, an abandoned Lucas, who was changed and ready for his Babelcopter adventure, looks on, a solitary tear of rejection staining his cheek.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Liverpool Offside Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Liverpool FC news from Liverpool Offside