Where were you when Liverpool won the Prem? Their supporters will remember as long as they live, or longer, but all football fans must have taken it in. What’s the point of living if you don’t have a personal memory of remarkable moments?
VE Day, 8 May 1945: this was the first big national event in my long-legged life. I was nine and living in Dumfries, so it must have registered. Can I remember the street party? Can I heckers. Perhaps we were not invited. Damn cheek.
The Queen’s coronation on 2 June 1953: I do remember the day, but not watching it. We didn’t have a telly, very few people did. But a woman in the next street was said to have won some money on the pools and had bought one. My mother and two sisters went and gaped over her front hedge, straining to spot some flickering frocks. I thought they were potty.
John F Kennedy’s death on 22 November 1963 is one of those moments constantly recalled by those who were alive at the time. I was with my wife having supper in the Arts Club in Soho with Melvyn Bragg and his first wife, Lisa. Melvyn, my wife and I had grown up ten miles apart in Cumbria. We knew of each other, but that was the first time we had met. The supper was rather overshadowed by a waiter shouting Kennedy was dead.
Churchill’s funeral on 30 January 1965: I remember that well. I sat through it in a warm, luxurious room surrounded by posh young women, looking out of a back window of the Savoy Hotel as the barge carrying Churchill’s coffin sailed down the Thames. The Sunday Times staff had been sent out to different vantage points to report on the procession. Most had to stand in the cold beside the river. I had talked the Savoy’s PR girls into letting me sit in their office. I did an emotional first-hand report, while being plied with endless free drinks.
Wembley Stadium, 30 July 1966: I was there, I still have the ticket, watching Ingerland win the World Cup. I remember thinking this is just the beginning, we will dominate world football from now on, oh yes.
I settled down at home in London NW5 – the best part – on 25 June 2020 to watch Chelsea vs Man City, knowing if City did not get a point, Liverpool would win the title.
It was on BT Sport, with two of my fave commentators, both of whom make me laugh when they come out with their banalities. I always clap when Glenn Hoddle pronounces “triffic” as two syllables and when Steve McManaman praises a “very nice ball”. I sat watching on my own, in my swimming costume. It was so hot that day, 33 degrees in London. My girlfriend, Claire, had been staying with me for two days but she had gone home. Illegally, yes I know, don’t you start. Bad enough having my kids constantly telling me off.
At half-time I went down for a cold beer and spotted a letter lying on the mat. It was four pages long, from Matt Hancock and Robert Jenrick. Matt just signed himself “Matt”, as if I had met him. Robert Jenrick signed his full name, which was helpful.
It was a government letter to me as one of those in the most vulnerable group. Because of my great age and various medications, I had been told to shield myself these past 14 weeks – stay inside my room, do nothing, if ill, just die quietly, don’t bother the NHS. Now they were informing me about the latest precautions, blah blah. I didn’t finish it. Had to get back to the footer.
God, it was a brilliant game, end-to-end stuff, the best since the restart. The lack of a crowd did not annoy me this time. Both teams created so many chances, the overall skill was incredible, the desire and effort enormous, despite the heat.
Chelsea beat Man City 2-1. Liverpool could not now be overtaken. What a team, what a manager, what an achievement. It would have been criminal if the season had been abandoned.
I went to bed thinking how lucky to be alive at this time, to have such excellent teams clustered at the top of the Prem. A night to remember.
This article appears in the 01 Jul 2020 issue of the New Statesman, Anatomy of a crisis