Miracles Big and Small
There are moments in your life you’ll never forget.
I’ll never forget the Friday between the first and second leg of last year’s Champions League semifinal against Barcelona. My wife walked down the stairs, eyes glued to a pregnancy test. She’s not someone known for her patience; I chided her a bit to give it a few minutes like the package says. In a daze, she showed me the test, hands shaking, voice uneven “there’s a line, right?”
After years of trying, there it was.
My concerns about Liverpool Football Club, and whether we would win anything with this incredible team, faded. Or rather, temporarily faded. It all came rushing back when we kicked off against Newcastle in the league the next day, and intensified when Barcelona came to town for that memorable night.
For a short time, everything seemed possible.
A late winner against Newcastle, and that comeback against Barcelona. Surely we’d win the league? For a few glorious minutes on the final day of the Premier League season it seemed like we might just pull it off. It seemed like anything was possible, until it wasn’t. Because the happiness of two parents-to-be has nothing to do with the success of a football club they support several hundred miles away. Nor does your lucky shirt, I’m sorry to report.
Liverpool in Norway
We had to make due with our consolation prize: a European Cup.
That summer was a blur. Telling friends and family The Big News, and trying to do so in a way that was personal and not reliant on social media.
At some point shortly after the final, I ordered a 2019/20 kit. For myself...and for a 3-6 month old, figuring he or she would be just about the right age if Liverpool played their way to another Champions League final. You know, just in case.
By August, a new season approached and a noticeable baby bump started to appear. Our time as a family of two was drawing to a close. We decided to make the most of our remaining time as not parents.
For years we talked about taking the ferry from Denmark to Norway. It was just two hours and change by boat. It was right there. Suddenly, it seemed like the right time to go. Everything was about to get more complicated and expensive. We really couldn’t afford to put this off any longer.
And this is how we came to watch Liverpool open their 2019/20 campaign: in a bar in Stavanger, Norway. Liverpool flags proudly flew in front of the establishment, and the Reds got off to a flying start, trotting out 4-1 winners on the day.
It was a promising start. The win put us top of the pile for the night, but 4-0 and 5-0 wins by the Manchester clubs bumped Liverpool down to third on goal differential.
We had no way of knowing, but that was the last weekend where Liverpool were not leading the way. After City and United drew the next week, the Reds never looked back.
Liverpool in Liverpool
Of course there was another matter that I had put off for far too long: seeing Liverpool in Liverpool. At Anfield. It was never the right time. I was either on the wrong continent. Or didn’t have time off. Or didn’t have money. Or tickets were impossible to buy. Or all of the above.
In my decade and a half of Liverpool fandom, I never got the chance to make the pilgrimage. I put my foot down. We needed to go to Anfield.
My wife, understandably, didn’t want to go to the match heavily pregnant. So our options were limited. An early kickoff against Newcastle? Not ideal, but it was the best we could manage.
I didn’t think I could love Liverpool—the team or city—more, but I was wrong. I loved every minute of our stay.
A Newcastle strike just 7 minutes into the match left the crowd feeling a touch anxious. But a pair of Sadio Mané strikes before halftime gave Liverpool the lead. And then Roberto Firmino produced some absolute filth in setting up Mohamed Salah’s goal to make it 3-1.
As we walked through town after the match, we could hear sporadic cheers coming from the bars. Norwich City were beating Manchester City, and Liverpool were extending their lead at the top of the table.
No one said anything, but everyone was thinking it.
A Red is Born
My daughter must have heard that Jurgen Klopp would be playing the kids against Everton in the FA Cup. So she made an early arrival to have a shot of making the squad. Disappointed as she was not to get the call up at two-days-old, she watched as another, only slightly-older kid, Curtis Jones, curled one into the top corner past Jordan Pickford’s outstretched arms.
In her first two and a half weeks of life, she saw Liverpool beat Everton, Spurs, and Manchester United, all without conceding a goal. She heard the Kop belt out “We’re going to win the league!” And she saw the Reds grow their lead to a staggering 16 points.
Of course these good times wouldn’t last, and it all came to a sudden stop in the most unexpected of ways. By the time she was two months old, the world was watching in horror as the coronavirus pandemic swept across the world. Football leagues were shutting down everywhere, and the Premier League quickly followed suit.
Worth the Wait
Remember when I told you about the kit I bought her? My daughter almost didn’t get a chance to wear that kit at all while the Reds played. They grow fast at this age. At two months it looked like a tent. At six months it barely fits her.
But there’s something beautiful about the unexpected. Man plans and Fowler laughs.
After years of trying to get pregnant, it happened suddenly and unexpectedly. In retrospect, we wouldn’t change anything. After decades of the season predictably beginning and ending around more or less the same date, it didn’t. Of course Liverpool’s long-sought title had to come in the most spectacular, unexpected, and unprecedented fashion. Of course it did.
No other club does spectacular, unexpected, and unprecedented like Liverpool.
No one could have foreseen a 30-year title drought after the Reds brought home their 11th title in 17 years. And at the darkest of times, no one could have foreseen it ending, either.
Every close call, every frustration, every heartbreak and false dawn makes this season all the more special. This season doesn’t erase the pain, but it substantially dulls it.
With the responsibility of raising a new generation of Reds, there’s nothing more that I want than to go to Liverpool and celebrate this feat (and maybe catch a game, while I’m at it). But of course this isn’t the moment for that. That too will have to wait. We’ll enjoy it when we can, and appreciate it even more in the end.
There are moments in your life you’ll never forget. This year (and a bit) has given us all plenty.