Liverpool vs Arsenal: Robbo vs Mr Onion-Horse and the horror of mascots

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The horror of club mascots threatens Simon’s hipster sensibilities

In his first home match preview of the season, Simon Meakin predicted a 3-0 win over Norwich City. He was pretty close, as the Reds defeated the Canaries 4-1. Here, he turns his focus onto the upcoming game against Arsenal, at Anfield.  Brace yourselves though, this is not your average match preview.

Since we last spoke, we’ve won another European trophy at one in the morning, flown back from Istanbul, got another three points from a tricky away game and sit top of the league – so it’s all going pretty well so far.

But with all due respect to Norwich and Southampton, things step up a gear on Saturday when Arsenal roll into town.  And what’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Arsenal?  No, not the Wenger, foreign manager, football revolution or brown paper envelopes addressed to a Mr G.Graham c/o Watford Gap services. No, it’s Gunnersaurus – the big green dinosaur in an Arsenal kit.

I should point out that I actually support two clubs (don’t shoot me!).  I was born in Liverpool but partly grew up in Hereford. So I developed an attachment to the local team. Given that I supported Liverpool well before I even knew where Hereford was, a case could be made for me being the world’s most useless glory hunter. 

Anyway, Hereford United used to have a mascot called Billy the Bull (until someone stole his head one day). And that seemed right for a club that size.  You could bump into him at the burger van in Stevenage, busily devouring one of his mates.  Knockabout lower league, jumpers for goalposts stuff.  But mascots always seemed a bit beneath Liverpool to me.  Whether that made us feel like footballing purists, or more like some pretentious Shoreditch hipster with his craft beer, old vinyl jazz records and his artisan Y-fronts made out of quinoa, I’m not sure.

So, imagine my surprise when I spotted something red and mascotty, pitchside, at the Charity Shield the other week.  I was even more amazed when informed that we’d apparently had said mascot for a number of years.  How the hell had I managed to miss what appeared to be someone who failed the auditions for Finding Nemo, on my trips to Anfield? I’m guessing it’s meant to be some sort of Liver Bird?

 Are we operating the worlds first undercover mascot?  Does he work for MI6?  Shouldn’t he be getting into brawls with Fred the Red?  Maybe I’m just too late getting out of the pub on match days?  Not quite sure how I feel about this. But I guess I’m going to have to ditch the craft beer and vinyl, and embrace a new world of fizzy Carling and Ariana Grande. 

But, back to Gunners. And, the old days of Don Howe, George Graham and boring boring Arsenal. 

When I was a kid I thought it was the law that every game between us had to end in a low scoring draw or a dour 1-0 win – remember the FA Cup semi-final with what seemed like 17 replays? I remember being shocked at watching some footage of a game on Football Focus when we actually beat them 3-0 (think McDermott may have got at least one). 

And, speaking of Footy Focus I was also secretly quite impressed as a child that Bob Wilson once actually played in goal for Arsenal.  A TV presenter who also used to be a footballer! How could one man be so multi-talented?  Surely no other footballer would ever be able to do that (well apart from Saint and Greavsie obvs!).

There was also THAT game in 89.  I won’t dwell too much on that, other than to say that I once went to see Lofty out of Eastenders perform a one-man monologue of Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch at the old Neptune Theatre on Hanover Street. The whole centrepiece to the show unfortunately turned out to revolve around Michael Thomas’s goal that night, and what a life-changing event that was for Lofty/Nick Hornby (even putting marrying Michelle Fowler in the shade).

Performing it in Liverpool showed some bravery (or foolhardiness) on Lofty’s part at least. Or, that he’d just never bothered checked the tour dates before signing up.  What made it even more surreal was looking down the aisle and finding Michael Thomas himself, sitting about 3 seats down from me.

He was playing for us by this point but I did wonder whether he traipsed round the country watching every show, just to revel in hearing how he was the most important thing ever to happen in the life of Lofty/Nick Hornby.

On a more positive note, there was the 5-1 demolition under Rodgers.  I’d taken my son swimming and checked the score when leaving the baths. We’d just gone 1-0 up.  By the time we reached the car it was 2-0.  We’d gone three up before we left the car park and got the fourth by the time I’d reached the main road.  It was a slight anti-climax that by the time I actually got home for the second half everything was pretty much wrapped up.

So, on to this weekend’s game.  This will I suspect, be a real test for us, as I think Arsenal have bought well this summer.  Dani Cebollas (which if I remember rightly from my Spanish night classes means either horse or onion) looks to be a real find. Meanwhile, I heard somewhere recently that it was typical of the misfortune of Scottish football, that they had finally managed to produce two top class footballers in the same decade, only for them both to be left backs.  I can safely say that one definitely is top class. Arsenal have just signed the other one. So, if he’s only half as good as Robbo, they’ll have a hell of a player.

Andy Robbo: “They can take our lives, but they will never take our points.”

Not sure the rest of the defence is still up to much mind.  We’ve also – to my slight concern – looked less than water-tight at the back so far this season. So given this fixture has usually delivered goals galore (mostly ours) in the last few years, I’m going for another humdinger. 

4-2 to the Reds with a couple from Mane, one from Firmino and Robertson, who will be fired up by finding an upstart Bonnie Prince Charlie, Mel Gibson-style pretender to his Scottish left back throne, will grab the fourth. Mr Onion-Horse may or may not get a consolation goal.

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