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FA Carling Premiership, 14/8/99
You're not very good....
By Martin Blanc

Ah, this is Anfield. This is what we came here for. To take in the stadiums, the crowds, the expensive baubles summoned, in this instance, to Gérard Houllier's international rescue....

But no! 'Thunderbirds are...stalled.' Certainly gave the lie to the old "if I hadn't seen such riches I could live with being poor" feeling that might have been creeping upon us had Fowler and the rest done what they're paid to do. But heck, you can only beat what's put in front of you, right? And boy, did we ever...this is truly what we came here for.

How many had you heard would be put past us? Three, without question. Six a distinct possibility. Even the god-awful M6 was conspiring to ease our pain, we must have reckoned - enabling us to miss their first goal, which would surely come after a couple of minutes, while plenty of our number were still being frisked at length by cheery stewards.

So it was a pleasant surprise to see Micah Hyde and Robbo locked back in place, and prospering with all those around them: the captain and his new supremely capable first mate, Mark Williams, staunch along the back line, Johnno and Palmer in sublime control in midfield, Des Lyttle finally paying attention, Chris Day in do-or-die-or-possibly-both form in his sodden box, and the rest just doing their thing as per instructions. And it was enervating, terrifying at times, and then - sweetly, messily, honestly - Tommy Boy slotting it in like a three-foot putt in front of the 18th hole grandstand. And the grandstand, the legendary Kop, couldn't believe their eyes. Or ears, once the greatest chant of the season was up and roaring: "One-nil, and we spent f*** all". This was the day we realised: we are Premier League. It wasn't just the result and everything that goes with that, it was the little things: the hilarious complacency that gave way to flustered desperation in the Reds' attacks as we gave no ground, and made our own luck; the insane refereeing and linesmen decisions - the richer the team, the dafter the calls; the programme-sellers sold out at our end after we started stockpiling them for souvenirs at was all like being invited to the party, stuffing as much free food as we could into our inside pockets as if we thought we'll never be asked back here again, and then still actually managing to wow the place with the unique stuff that got us on the list in the first place.

Almost makes you feel sorry for the slow-pokes still doing it the conventional way. The expensive way. Doesn't mean we don't need the last few missing pieces back in full health, because then, oh yes, then we can really go out and kick some ass, and change the chant to more than one-nil. But we did manage something special today, did what all the eighties heroes never did, and whatever it says about the wider state of the game, or the opposition, or the realities of the next nine months, that is what we should cherish.