28 February 2011

Smelly Armpits and Fallen Angels

I was going to put a Shaolin/kung fu-esque spin on the end of Liverpool's 8-match unbeaten run to West Ham on Sunday (something to do wth overcoming suffering and bitterness which nurtures success and what not) but then, remembering that my only exposure to anything remotely connected to the Shaolin monks was through watching movies like Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle, I decided to stick to matters which I understood in a bit more depth.

I accidentally came across a series of ads and short videos on YouTube which I enjoyed (Volkswagen's mini Darth Vader ad has to be one of the best in recent times) so, while still glued to the sofa, I decided to turn my attention from the telly to the computer. I had seen Lynx's latest ads on billboards around town and was curious as to what the deodorant company was up to this time. A quick search on YouTube revealed their latest TV ad...

I've always liked Lynx's ads especially since its ads constantly push the boundaries of PC-ness (and the odd time, even go way past it). This particular ad though, I'm not too fond of. But why? Isn't it the same as all the other witty male chauvinistic ads?

Well, yes and no. While Lynx ads have always (ever so slightly) exaggerated the effect their products have on the opposite sex, they've never actually lied in their ads, until this one that is. Watch closely and you'll notice that the protagonist's vehicle of choice: a white Vespa PX complete with Utah side panel trim (very much like yours truly's Green Vespa). In truth, it is the Vespa that attracts the supermodel-like angels here (the smell of Putoline's Strawberry scented 2-stroke oil probably helps) and NOT the Lynx.

Anyway, while I was on YouTube, here's another Vespa-related clip:

Hmmm...wonder whether I could pull off Clooney's stab at imitating Tokyo Drift on a Vespa? Oh, and that white Vespa that Clooney's riding. Isn't that the same one as in the Lynx ad?

26 February 2011

The Wrong Motor Show

Nope, there was no real mistake. The Irish Motorbike and Scooter Show is still due to be on next week but oddly enough, I found myself at the RDS a whole week earlier than expected.

It all began on Friday morning. While in the process of getting my gear off at my workstation (sort of a dodgy-looking morning routine if someone passing by wasn't too familiar with it), I noticed something strange on my keyboard. I ignored it at first thinking that it was just another piece of work, soon to join the organised piles of paper around my desk. Some instructions from the boss or plane tickets for an assignment in Inner Mongolia, just to liven up the weekend. Not being able to simply ignore the A5-size cards on the keyboard, I quickly picked it up. They were tickets. Free tickets to the Irish Times Motor Show this weekend. Ah well, one of the few perks of the job.

So, not having any plans for the day, I managed to convince myself and the wife that it would be a good day out for the kids. Yes, unlike the Motorbike Show, the Motor Show was marketed as a family friendly event with lots of things to keep the kids occupied the highlight being something called My First Licence. The thing was basically an indoor track on which the kids could cycle their kiddie cars (red Audis) around and sort of learn the rules of the road. I could already see the potential in some kids - dangerous overtaking, road-hogging and my absolute favourite, idiotic parking. Anyway, the scary bit to me was the fact that having received their "licences" for completing the course, some kids were utterly convinced that they were able to drive their mommy's and daddy's cars on actual roads! Well, good luck to them...

Unfortunately, other than the goodie bag and some other freebies (ice scraper, reflective vest, stickers, etc.), that was as exciting as it got at the show. A friend of mine pointed out that even the normally sexy, scantily clad women that could be found in abundance at these type of shows were sadly nowhere to be seen around the cars (these things need to be pointed out to me, of course). Maybe they'd only come out at night when the kids were asleep. Or, when the wives and girlfriends are nowhere to be seen. Hmmm...

Anyway, here's my pick of some of the more interesting cars at the show...

A Maserati in red, probably to blend in with all the Ferraris around the place?

This horse certainly beats all the Mitsubishi, Subaru and Honda Civics of the world...

...and keeping it all-Italian, here's an Abarth-tuned Fiat 500. Very nice this. A shame the tuning company don't do stuff for Vespa any more. Oh, and gotta love that scorpion logo.

I would've taken more pics but I really struggled to find anything else of interest. Hopefully, next week's Motorbike Show is a hell lot better.

24 February 2011

Kuyt Puts Sparta Out

We had to wait 86 minutes for the first (and only) goal of the night but it eventually came, courtesy of Dirk Kuyt. As Sergio Ramos would've put it, it would've been a shame if we let the "three points" go (thanks for that one E). It definitely wasn't plain sailing as the game had its very nervy moments. Twice Liverpool were down to 10 men (or less) for a little more than a few minutes with Kyrgiakos having to come off at one stage with blood gushing above his eyebrow from head-banging with Tomáš Řepka (Mr. "Popular" with the Kop for the night of course)  while Agger was pretty much a passenger after getting a nasty knock from Sparta's Leony Kweuke. Hopefully, Agger recovers quickly from whatever injury he has.

It was good to see Joe Cole getting a full 90 minutes and some much needed confidence back. Hopefully, not too much confidence now lest it starts to get to his head. On the other hand, David N'Gog looks a shadow of his former self and to to be brutally honest, he didn't have much to start off with in the first place. Don't get me wrong though, I like N'Gog and any striker that can play alone upfront in a derby match at his young age deserves all the respect that he can get. Maybe a bit more waving of the King's magical wand and a few more games wouldn't do any harm to get rid of the lad's rustiness in front of goal. If that doesn't work, there's always Andy Carroll supposedly coming back from injury this weekend. Woohoo!

Anyway, not forgetting the Europa League just yet, I looked up who our opponents would be in the next round as matters would have only come to a start an hour later over in  Braga. The home team do look to be in control by half-time though. So, if things stay the way they are by the end of that fixture, it looks like we'll be paying a visit to the northwest of Portugal in mid-March. And, whisper it...one more step closer to Dublin.

22 February 2011

February Folly and the Months Ahead

Right, the month of February. Along with the ever-hanging threat that snow might just re-visit Dublin for a last hurrah of sorts, the month is also known to me as one of the busiest in terms of work. But, all work and no play makes yours truly an awfully grumpy fella so, a bit of entertainment wouldn’t do any harm.

First up, there’s KNUKE’s 2011 UK and Eire Tour with a certain Altimet headlining supported by former Butterfingers’ guitarist gone solo, monoloQue. That’s on tomorrow night at the Twisted Pepper in Dublin. While I’d be all for supporting Malaysian acts especially when they’ve travelled halfway across the globe, I can foresee myself feeling slightly lost at the gig. Having grown-up on guitar music with only a dash of the odd Cypress Hill and House of Pain, I wouldn’t know how to enjoy a live hip-hop gig. My worst fear is that I end up going with the flow but because of my lack of hip-hop coolness, end up embarrassing myself with some dad dancing routine that even Bolo Zenden would be proud of!

Cue monoloQue to the rescue. So, if monoloQue was meant to balance out Altimet’s hip-hop, I certainly didn’t get any assurance from his more popular efforts – his duet thingy for a Malaysian TV drama can only be described as cringe worthy and that’s me being polite. Of course, that’s not being fair on the man because this sentimental fool’s expectations of monoloQue would be more circa 1996 (I think) at the height of grunge (in Malaysia at least) in a very smoky, yellow Pyramid near Pusat Bandar Damansara where I watched Butterfingers play live for the first time. As far as I can remember, they weren’t that great but they were as close as most in attendance would get to Seattle.

At the time of writing this, there was still some uncertainty as to whether I should spend my hard-earned €12 for the gig. Hmmm...

Anyway, if that doesn’t go well, I could always consider February a write-off and focus on the months ahead. There’s always the 2011 edition of the Irish Motorcycle and Scooter Show at the start of March. And, if I get depressed after looking at all the loud, bright, and shiny things that I won't be able to afford any time soon, Bo's Egg Run (or the re-labelled Our Ladys Hospital Crumlin Easter Egg Run 2011) would just be around the corner on 16 April 2011. If I don't get to cheer myself up, at least there'll be a few more happy kids after the day.

Then, at the risk of tempting fate, the Europa League Final 2011 will actually be held in Dublin. Some might say I'm over-confident while some might also say that I'm depriving some regular match-going fan a chance to attend the final but being from Malaysia, it's not every day I get a chance to watch a major (OK, maybe not that major) European cup final literally, at my doorstep. So, even if the final consist of Aris Thessaloniki FC and FC BATE Borisov, I won't mind and if all goes well with the draw, I'll actually be there on the night.

I just wouldn't be able to able to forgive myself if I had missed out on a final of Istanbul or Dortmund proportions while I was only a stone's throw away from all the action.

20 February 2011

Coffee Break

It must've been a couple of weeks ago when I had planned to meet up with my wife in the city centre. I remember having work to do at the office that weekend while she had a prior commitment with the kids and her friends. Thankfully, we had two modes of transportation one of which I preferred more than the other so, that arrangement was sorted out as soon as it was brought up.

Later that day, I headed over to Grafton Street where we had planned to meet up but my wife was delayed. It wasn't her fault. One of her friends had delayed her. I just don't understand people who aren't punctual. No, actually I hate people who aren't punctual. It not only proves that a person is incapable of keeping their promises but also shows a deep lack of respect to the other person.

The good thing is, the delay allowed me to take it easy and get away from the hustle and bustle of Grafton Street. Leaving the Vespa parked near the Dublin Tourism office on Suffolk Street, I walked towards Dawson Street with either Hodges Figgis or Waterstones as my destination. Waterstones unfortunately, is now closed. It's quite sad when a book store closes down but it's even sadder when the stores are closed and then replaced by yet another mindless "fashion" retail outlet. A real insult. I remember when Borders closed down in Blanchardstown's West End, it actually felt like all form of intelligence around the area went away with it as well. With Trinity College close by, the same shouldn't happen to the area I was visiting but, you never know...

A nice, relaxing mug of Caramel Macchiato later, the mobile rang. My wife was already in the city centre with three kids asleep in the car that needed to be moved, one way or another.There was no way she was going to be able to do it by herself. It was time I left my little quiet spot and headed back out into the big, bad world. 

If only all delays could end up this way.

18 February 2011

LFC? Not Exactly

Snapped in the middle of Liverpool city centre. Obviously, not the LFC's official superstore. Ian Ayre pushing it too far perhaps?

Anway, I'd like to apologise for this lame attempt at an entry. I was going to write about some sort of correlation between the unpopular David N'Gog and the now-so-popular Lucas. Like the young Brazilian, I believe N'Gog doesn't deserve some of the harsh criticism that he gets from pundits, "experts" and a significant number of Liverpool fans.

But, not tonight.

Tonight, I feel sick. No, not because I've got some sort of viral infection or have the dreaded flu. Nor is it because, of some dodgy chicken tandoori that was served at an acquaintance's party. I feel sick because of my own doing.

I spun my kids around. For a couple of minutes between the three of them. Not a good idea when I've just had quite a heavy dinner. The kids had fun though. The youngest could barely walk around the room properly for a while. And now, I can barely look at my laptop's screen without feeling dizzy and nauseous.

Sorry, David. Your defence will just have to wait.

16 February 2011

The King's Return to the Continent

After an absence of over 25 years, Kenny Dalglish makes a return to European competition tomorrow night away, against AC Sparta Praha. It’s a pity that Dalglish’s first reign as Liverpool manager coincided with a lengthy period of absence from European competition (via a UEFA ban which followed the tragic deaths of Juventus fans in the 1985 European Cup Final in Heysel) as it would have been interesting to see how Dalglish’s Liverpool matched- up against the football giants of the era, the likes of Arrigo Sacchi’s AC Milan or a Maradona-led Napoli. But, that’s in the past and on Thursday night, Liverpool face an opponent it has yet to meet in European competition. Strange, considering the domestic success both clubs have had in the past.

Speaking of the past, if the initial, main worry about Dalglish’s apointment was his more recent management experience, taking into account his lengthy absence from the game, the secondary worry has to be his lack of experience in Europe. Of course, as a player he has been involved in Liverpool's achievements in Europe but as a manager, he has none. It goes without saying that I’d be hoping for the best possible outcome and that like in the League, Dalglish once again proves his doubters wrong with a strong performance against Sparta Praha, as a start.

Then again, if there is anything lacking from Dalglish during these first few matches on the continent, I’m sure the coaching staff, especially Steve Clarke would have some very good input for Dalglish. And, if we do get to go further and further into the competition, I’d like to think that Dalglish’s relationship with Rafa Benitez is good enough that Dalglish could always pick up the phone and get some tips off our old European master tactician. Some managerial Galactico set-up that would be, wouldn’t it?

Oddly enough, that’s what Benitez had in mind when he brought Dalglish back to the club (get the video of his recent interview with BBC’s Dan walker here). It’s a shame that it’s obviously too late now (maybe not?), but it’s still pleasing to know that Benitez knew that he lacked the patience and softer skills like PR, politicking or diplomacy to deal with the more horrible members of the press, the FA, the owners, etc. so, he sought to remedy that aspect by bringing Dalglish back in. Ah well, even the best laid out plans can go wrong, eh?

Anyway, this blog was recently featured in Ian-ything Goes as part of an interview with Liverpool legend, John Barnes. Ian was kind enough to include a question I had for "Digger" relating to the recent managerial merry-go-round at Liverpool. Maybe Barnes should have a word with some of the club's senior players and sort them out. Hmmm...You can read the full interview here

Pic: Taken by Phillip Chambers and edited by Alistair Hart. An original version can be seen at flickr

14 February 2011

Beauty and the Beast

But which one's which?

I snapped the above picture just yesterday afternoon when the weather was absolutely brilliant. It was still around 10-12 degrees celcius but the fact that the sun was shining (oh, that's what that orange orb in the sky is...) and it wasn't wet made all the difference.

But, rather than enjoy the good weather doing something enjoyable, I spent half the day cleaning up the car which was beginning to look (and smell) like a toxic waste dump after being savagedly assaulted by three sweet kids and almost a year of neglect. At the end of the task, I had filled a medium-size garbage bag with God only knows what and a vacuum cleaner that was on the verge of choking itself to death with the amount of dust that had accumulated in the car.

The Vespa was up next for a little bit of TLC. Although entirely kid-free, it has had its fair share of neglect as well. Dust, grit and salt was now even more visible on the Vespa especially on the underside of the frame. Scary, when there's already a hint of surface rust there that could easily eat away at the metal body. Other than some recently sprayed parts, the scooter's frame still has its original paint on so, being more than a decade old, that might need a re-spray soon. But, as finances don't allow for such a relatively grandiose project at the moment,  a quick, short-term solution would be the best way to go.

Thankfully, some aviation-grade corrosion protection called ACF 50 seems to be all the rage in the scootering world these days. Scootering magazine, in its latest issue has given the spray a thumbs up. It's little experiment on the spray, using a wire brush as a test subject was certainly impressive. Quoted at GBP£14 on various online sites (probably double that in local shops!), it certainly isn't cheap but if it does what it says on the aerosol can, it would certainly be worth it.

In the meantime, I'll invest a couple of Euro first to get my hands on a nearby jetwash for the Vespa.

12 February 2011

Delays and Detours

After almost soiling my pants last Friday night, I decided to leave the Vespa at home on Monday and get the bus instead. The weather was still bad that morning (the rain appeared to be “falling” horizontally) but was expected to get better later in the day. Having earned much respect as a reliable and viable transport option during the horrible period of snow and ice, Dublin Bus appears to have gone back to its normal, unreliable self.

All the usual symptoms were there that Monday morning and I could see from a mile away that there were problems - a sizeable crowd had gathered at the bus stop. The bus was late. 45 minutes later, two arrived within milliseconds of each other and to top it off, the bus that I got on stopped short of its normal destination because....you guessed it – it was late and playing catch-up on its own timetable.

You know when you come across something that’s a bit off your normal route (be it to work or some other place) and think that it might be a good idea to take a detour to have a closer look at it? I definitely have a few of those and it ranges from this old red Mustang (with white go faster stripes) parked in someone’s driveway to the quirky little cafe that looks so warm and welcoming. Well, the only positive that could be taken from my incomplete bus journey that morning was that it gave me an opportunity to take a closer look at a black P-series scooter that I’ve been eyeing for a while now.

On closer inspection, the scooter's actually a brand new (2011 reg) LML Star complete with what looked to me like chunky Faco side panel crash bars. Very nice.

I’ve never owned a brand-new scooter before and as much as would love to get myself a new and shiny LML or for that matter any other scooter, I just can’t justify the price I’d have to pay to for one. Nothing wrong with all things new, it’s just that I’d rather pay to save an old Vespa frame from rotting away in someone’s shed and then put in all the effort humanly possible to get it back to its former glory. It’s not that I’ve personally done it before but if I had the chance, I definitely would.

Maybe it’s just me or maybe it is human nature that attracts people to seeing old and ugly things (or people) being transformed into something bright and shiny. I suppose, that’s probably why shows like Pimp My Ride, the X Factor and the hundreds of makeover shows where women are transformed from butt ugly beings to a little less ugly, are so popular.

In any case, if you or anyone you know has a Vespa (the older the better) lying around the house that’s just sitting there and on the verge of rotting away, let me know. Maybe we could do a deal. If you have an old and ugly person lying around the house and on the verge of rotting away, please drop them off at your nearest TV station.

10 February 2011

Sixth in the League. Eighth in the World

Before becoming the slightly more enlightened Liverpool supporter (a legacy of Messrs. Hicks and Gillett’s time at the club) that I am at present, I’ve always wondered why the powers that be at Liverpool have always been obsessed with either a new ground or increasing Anfield’s capacity. At a maximum capacity of 45,362, it’s not the largest of grounds in the country but with an average attendance not exceeding 44,000 in even the best of recent seasons, it just didn’t make sense to increase capacity any further. So, I conveniently brush it aside as more of a mine’s-bigger-than-yours ego type thing between clubs.

Well, the latest financial results certainly provide a different picture. According to the newly released Football Monely League 2011 report (you can download the full report here), although Liverpool are still part of English football's so-called Big 4 in terms of revenue earned, if one were to dig deeper into the figures, some worrying facts are revealed.

Note: All figures quoted in millions (just in case there was any confusion!)

One of those facts is Liverpool's Matchday takings which fall well short of the other three rival clubs. Even Chelsea, whose ground is more comparable to that of Anfield in terms of capacity generate £24.3m per annum more than Liverpool. Of course, that's ignoring the fact their fanbase is completely different to that of Liverpool's which allows the London club to charge exhorbitant amounts for its tickets. As an increase in ticket prices is never going to be viable permanent option, Liverpool need to look into different ways to increasing Matchday revenue. That's the root of the new ground/increased capacity obsession.

I hate to admit this but the reality of it is, the aim for the current management team must be to achieve the type of numbers United are currently getting (it probably is as John Henry can't seem to stop going on about it). At a whopping £57.3m more than that of Liverpool, it's not surprising why United are so strong in the transfer market, when they need to be. Ignoring the interest payments on their debt (thankfully no longer a problem at Anfield these days), United can basically acquire an additional Suarez-Carroll combo every single season. Scary thought isn't it?

But why expand capacity or build a bigger stadium when we won't have anyone to fill it (see average attendance above)?

Well, to start off, averages are just that. They don't reflect the periods of high demand for seats. Imagine a European night at Anfield or a derby match or even a match against our rivals. Surely, demand for those games exceed Anfield's current capacity. And then, if I took an educated guess at the whole issue, I'd say Liverpool are losing out on millions from the corporate, prawn-sandwich eating and glory-hunter brigade (loads of those over at Old Trafford by the way).

Yes, in an ideal world, we wouldn't need to fill our ground with the type of "fans" mentioned above and turn Anfield into a library but that's the reality of football these days. Who knows, those not-so-ideal fans might just get converted and come good one of these days. If they don't, I'd be happy to take their money off them anyway...

08 February 2011

High Winds and Hantu-Hantu!

Arriving at work on Friday, I overheard my colleagues at work discussing the latest piece of news on the horrible weather. As I had missed the morning's paper, I went online to see what they were all talking about and found a report on the incident in the Irish Independent. "Tragic" was my first reaction, then "freakish once-off" but then it dawned on me and my colleagues (at pretty much the same time), that the woman could have easily been any one of us.

A female colleague actually lives on the street where the woman was killed. The route she takes home would've been the same. Another, drives on the road on a regular basis. I live on the other side out of town but my journey home on the Vespa takes me through tree-lined Phoenix Park which in this weather, was akin to playing Russian Roulette except that the bullet was being replaced with humungous oak trees.

Of course, it's not like I've never been through this type of situation before but this time, it just seemed a bit more real. That Friday evening, gale warning still in effect, I started up my Vespa and joined the mad rush home. It was more than a bit shaky for most of the way but it got worse when I reached Phoenix Park. The wind was howling and the rain pelted my face every time I opened up my helmet's visor to avoid it from fogging up.

It must've been the fact that it seemed darker than usual that evening as the lights in the park weren't lit up or it could've been the howling 100kmh winds but whatever the reason, my thoughts that Friday evening kept drifting away from the road ahead of me to conversations with my brother-in-law and friends who found themselves in a position not too dissimilar to the one I faced that evening.

My brother-in-law, who is as enthusiastic about Vespa and all other metal-bodied classic scooters as I am, often recounts tales of his solo night journeys between Johor Bahru and Kuala Lumpur on his own classic ride. The one that I just happened to remember that evening was the one where he could sense a pillion passenger behind him on his Vespa when he had started the journey alone. Jangan Pandang Belakang type of thing.

I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up but gathered enough courage to look in my Vespa's side mirror...

Two lights. That was all. The car that was previously right up my rear, was now keeping a more safe distance behind me. The car's driver must've realised that my Vespa and I were struggling to keep on the straight and narrow with the wind blowing so strongly and eventually did the sensible thing. Another gust of wind appeared. I could feel it sweep my back, unimpeded. No phantom pillion tonight anyway.

But just as my heart rate was returning to normal, I recalled my friend's story. This one was about the Hantu Penanggal which he had encountered on an equally stormy night back home (yes, we Malaysians are superstitious bunch). The Hantu Penanggal is basically a vampiric flying head (normally female) with entrails intact (presumably to help with its flight?) and like most hantu-hantu, its favourite victims are virgins, pregnant women and young children. Falling into none of those categories (as far as I know), I felt a bit safer, until something up ahead caught my attention. Being the good rider that I was, my eyes were glued on the road ahead of me but that evening, I kept one eye on the tree branches on both sides of road.

The idea was simple. Should one of those branches snap off, I should be able to see it as soon as it happened and (theoretically) be more prepared to avoid the danger. Unfortunately, it wasn't branches and twigs that I saw that Friday evening.

Coming out of the park and into Castleknock, I thought I saw a flash of white amongst the branches. I wrote that one off as a figment of my imagination. Then, as I turned into a downhill corner, my Vespa's headlamp shone on something else. I couldn't figure out what it was but as far as I knew, it was the colour of skin. Pale human skin. Up in the trees.


This time, I knew it wasn't just my mind playing tricks on me. I had actually seen something lurking in the trees. Still travelling at speed on my Vespa, I took a quick look around me. The roads were empty. I was alone to face whatever horror that was coming my way...

I was less than five minutes away from the safety of home where I could slam the door shut and hide under the blankets. So, without thinking twice, I gave the throttle an added twist. As soon as my Vespa picked up speed, right there in front of me was the abomination flying at speed towards me, only a few yards away.

Instinctively, I pulled/stepped on the brakes and swerved to the left and managed to stop the scooter safely at the side of the road. Still shivering and barely holding back the pee, I scanned the tree branches and noticed this stuck on a lamp post...

Yes, my Hantu Penanggal was nothing more than an election poster gone astray in the wind.

06 February 2011

Note to Fernando: Good Things Come To Those Who Wait

The game was on at 4pm earlier this afternoon. Like most people, the only way I could watch the match was on the telly, via Sky. Normally, I'd skip the pre-match hype and hogwash (especially when Andy Gray was still around) and flick on the match as close as possible to kick-off. But this time, it was just that bit more than just the football. It was in a way, quite personal. Dion Fanning (once again) gets it spot on in his latest article in today's Independent:

Torres' mistake was to leave Liverpool when the club were feeling good again and put in jeopardy the supporters' fragile sense of hope.

So today, at just around 3.30, the Nickolodeon channel (or was it Playhouse Disney?) became Sky Sports earlier than usual. Ray Wilkins was being interviewed and then to give a so-called balanced view, it was former Liverpool player and perma-crocked Spice Boy, Jamie Redknapp's turn. Blah...blah...blah...

Then, came the bit I was waiting for. The players' reaction to Liverpool's former number 9. The cameras were focused on the players lining-up in the tunnel. As expected, there were the usual suspects. Terry was upfront along with Gerrard and right behind him, a fit again Jamie Carragher. Further behind were the other nine Liverpool players and as if right on cue, up pops Torres offering his hand to the players at the back of the line. His handshakes appeared more like those of a seasoned politician (on a once in a blue moon visit to his constituency) rather than of a football player. I didn't see Reina but Kelly, Lucas and Kuyt didn't appear too keen on returning the gesture, not bothering to make any sort of proper eye contact with the Spaniard. Planned or not, it was probably just as well that Torres only made it up to Meireles (whose reaction was warmer compared to the other Liverpool players) because if he made it to the front, it would be interesting to see the reaction he would've received from messrs Gerrard and Carragher.

At the end of the day, after all the hype and the Chelsea fans' copy-paste Torres banner (seriously, could they not come up with something more original???) it was the players' reaction after Meireles scored that was the best reaction. The players lined-up, arm in arm in celebration with their backs to the bench in a sign of unity. I don't have a picture of the celebration but djphal's Photoshop job from the previous match (against Stoke) sums it all up.

Like the saying goes...Form is Temporary. Class is Permanent. Liverpool certainly showed which club had which today.

04 February 2011

Anfield: How We Got There (Part II)

Moments after I had clicked on "Publish Post" after completing my previous entry, Luis Suarez walked on to the pitch at Anfield. 16 minutes later, he'd scored his debut goal and Liverpool's second of the night. I was delighted and so were many, many others.

But if we reversed back into time to just over a week ago, there would be a lot less happy faces and it was all because of Liverpool. Well, the journey to Liverpool to be more precise. You see, although the ferry we were in was arguably one of the largest car ferries on the Irish Sea, the seas were so bad that morning that even this large vessel was effected along with the people in it. My friends and I didn't do too badly but you could see a few people literally turning green with nausea and another few permanently located in the gents throughout the trip.

By noon, we were back on solid ground in Holyhead, got past immigration (who don't ask a lot of questions if you make it obvious that you're over in the UK to watch a match - glaring red jersey helps), continued to follow the Red crowd (the travel agent's rep wasn't actually great in communicating things) to our bus and were well on our way towards Liverpool. We weren't expecting much out of the journey but all three of us agreed that the scenery was quite breathtaking. On certain stretches, you'd have snow-capped mountains to your right while the raging sea was just a road barrier away on the left side of the motorway.

Two hours later and we were in the middle of Liverpool. The bus dropped us off a stone's throw away from the imposing Royal Liver Buildings with a reminder to return to the same spot in four hours to head to Anfield. I'd say if a match was on at 3 pm, the bus would have driven us straight to Anfield and we would get to explore Liverpool city centre after the match instead. Having been to Liverpool a couple of times before, I was appointed our little group's guide for the day. Thankfully, I didn't get us lost and we made it to our first intended destination, the Liverpool ONE Superstore.

Having hoped to get some bargains at the official store, we were fairly disappointed with the expensive prices as well as the merchandise on offer. The kids' stuff weren't the best quality (there's a Disney store nearby with far better quality stuff) while there wasn't much difference between the price of replica jerseys sold in Dublin sports stores and the official store. Nevertheless, as my old Liverpool scarf was buried somewhere in the attic, I still came out of the store with £21 less in my wallet. Here's what caused the damage:

- European Cup Scarf: £8
- Gym Bag with Towel: £5 (originally £17 and was one of the few items that was on sale. It's the same bag that I got free when I bought my jersey online)
- Stationery Set: £5 (for my 4 year-old son as he's been pestering me to get him one for ages)
- Match Programme: £3

Having completed our shopping spree, our tummies reminded us that we had to get some food before the match. Stadium food was expected to be tasteless and grossly overpriced so, we opted for a very early dinner in town. Before we knew it, between the meal and some quick sightseeing, the four hours had almost gone by. So, off we headed to the Famous Pig and Whistle to catch our bus to Anfield.

Traffic was surprisingly good that evening and we arrived at Anfield about half an hour later. The bus brought us right past the stadium itself but continued towards the other side of Stanley Park. At that stage, we were actually closer to Goodison Park than we were to Anfield. A short uphill walk across the park and we had arrived at the Shankly Gates where we were greeted by policemen on horseback, the continuous flash from cameras from wide-eyed fans like ourselves and a sea of Red. Sam made his way to the Main Stand whereas E and I eagerly made our way towards the heart of the stadium, the Kop.

We were finally at Anfield.

02 February 2011

Anfield: How We Got There (Part I)

OK, all the denial followed by frustration followed by acceptance followed by even more frustration and once again acceptance aside, life at Liverpool Football Club goes on. Out with the old, in with the new. Patah tumbuh hilang berganti and all that good stuff to keep you going.

It is with this attitude that the three of us (initially five but they weren't enough tickets), decided to head to a Liverpool home match, dodgy manager or no dodgy manager. We were advised by some that the weather would be too bad to travel (which turned out to be so awfully true) and told by others that we were wasting our time and money to watch a Roy Hodgson-led Liverpool.

Our perseverance was rewarded when we eventually made it to Anfield this very day last week to watch a rejuvenated Kenny Dalglish-led Liverpool win against Fulham. Strangely enough, the way things turned out, we could also say that we actually watched a once sainted Spaniard play his last game in a Red shirt. Anway, this entry isn't about back-stabbing former players or out of depth former managers. It's about how we got to Anfield (from Dublin) and hopefully, this re-telling of our journey would come in handy to those out there looking to do the same in the near future...

To start off, we booked the whole journey via a specialist sports travel agent, Marathon Sports Travel. I'm sure there are cheaper and better ways to do this but since our time was at a premium, we decided to go with Marathon as they offered the most convenient package: ferry, coach travel (directly to Anfield) and match tickets. All for €159 per person. Marathon do offer their own travel insurance (€18 per person at the time of booking) but I did a search online and went with a cheaper option that provided better cover. Travel insurance with Multitrip cost just under €23 for all three of us.

Ferry travel that was included with the Marathon package was with Irish Ferries which departs from Dublin Port. We were informed that we had to be at the port terminal an hour before departure so, we left our respective houses sometime after 6 in the morning to be on the safe side. The first time we headed to the port, we took a taxi all the way from Tyrrellstown, Dublin 15 which cost us over €40. We learnt our lesson then and Sam "Meireles" Zamen drove his car instead and left it in the long-term car park which was located just to the left of the terminal entrance. That only cost us a more acceptable sum of €9 in total, for just under 24 hours of parking time.

If you haven't been on a ferry crossing on the Irish Sea, the seating arrangements (or non-existence of one) can seem a bit weird. Cue a mad rush from the kiasu brigade to grab what they see as the best seats in the ferry. But, remain calm and do not join in the kiasuness. There are more than enough seats, which are arranged in the manner of lounges across the designated decks. The green seats were in the pub/casino area at the front of the boat whereas the blue seats were located in the more family-oriented area at the back. Being non-drinkers and temporarily child-less, we decided to stick with the red seats in the middle of the ferry. As a tip, you might want to bring along some hard-looking buddies and hog a whole lounge area to yourself, converting the various armchairs and sofas into makeshift beds.

Unfortunately, our attempt at this tactic failed miserably as instead of looking hard and mean, we most probably ended-up looking like a bunch of accountants on holiday which explains why some backpacker with a bit too much body odour squeezed in between the three of us and plonked himself on the best sofa. Dammit.

To be continued...(can't wait to see Suarez in action tonight)

Update: Continued at Anfield: How We Got There (Part II)

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