So I was looking forward to the Champions League Final. Liverpool, bit of an underdog, but capable of great football; Real Madrid, been there, done it all going for three in a row. The Jordan Henderson connection of course - perfect Saturday night TV.
I made all the arrangements in advance. Made sure everyone knew my plans; there were to be no interruptions, no distractions. I had the telly, the room, all lined up – what could go wrong? Come kick-off it was all in place as the two teams walked out – each player got a free child for the occasion which was a nice touch, I poured myself a glass of wine, put the feet up and...
... Nothing. Woke up two hours later to a picture of the Liverpool keeper prostrate like a penitent on the Ukrainian turf, and an increasingly simian-like Gareth Bale grinning like he’d just freed his people from the lab in Planet of the Apes.
Obviously I’d missed quite a game, so it was with interest that I settled into the analysis. First off, Sergio Ramos and that foul. I knew it must have been bad because Gary was upset. Gary doesn’t do upset, Gary ranks close to the top of the David Attenborough scale of unflappability, but he wasn’t happy with Sergio. When I saw it, I could see why. That wasn’t a foul, that was a police technique to disable a suspect before handcuffing him.
And then the first goal. Incredulity, amazement, disbelief – all of these things, but what I did as soon as I had time, I looked up the definition of ‘stress testing’.
Stress testing is a form of deliberately intense or thorough testing used to determine the stability of a given system or entity. It involves testing beyond normal operational capacity, often to a breaking point, in order to observe the results.
This is the closest I can come to explaining Karius’ performance on Saturday. He was tested beyond normal operational capacity - to breaking point.
But then, salvation, and an equaliser from Sadio Mané, and it was all back on again – Mané, Mané, Mané, must be fané, in a rich man’s world.
Just then, probably one of the richest men on the park took to the field - he’s apparently paid £400k per week after tax and can’t get in the starting line-up. But when you saw his first goal you could almost understand why he’s paid such obscene amounts. Personally, I thought it was a fluke, but more experienced and knowledgeable people than I thought otherwise, so I’m happy to defer.
When the third goal went in, it coincided with the nail going in the coffin of Karius’ Liverpool career. From the time Bale struck it to the time it reached the net I’d been to the loo, checked on the family, poured another drink and read half of ‘War and Peace’.
For a goalkeeper to fail to get in the way of that shot was extraordinary, but then when you take his likely state of mind into consideration, anything was possible.
So you can’t help feeling sorry for Karius because this one match will stay with him forever, and he’ll probably need help to cope. I also feel sorry for Mignolet, who must have been sitting there thinking ‘what if...’
It was Real Madrid who dominated the post-match headlines as well, as Ronaldo and Bale sought to out-do each other as to how quickly they could leave the club. Ronaldo felt unloved, he’d been spurned by all but the fans - he was offski pretty sharpish, but couldn’t say any more just now.
This seemed like complete bullsh*t and was a pathetic attempt to grab the headlines after an indifferent game. Where’s he going to go? There’s only a couple of clubs that could afford him, and Bale’s probably heading to one of those, which is probably part of the problem anyway.
Bale does have more of a case for moving. He’s been on the bench for most of the season, and if he’s going to make the sort of impact in the game that Messi and Ronaldo have then he needs to be playing. I think he craves greatness, the sort of recognition that the other two have achieved. Personally, I think he wants an airport named after him.
Ronaldo already has one - albeit a small one, and they’re probably going to name a country after Messi - they could call it Messipotamia. Bale already has property and golf clubs in his name, but a public utility bearing his name would see him elevated to the sort of status he must feel he deserves for earning an absolute fortune for not playing football in Spain.
It would have to be in Wales of course, and I bet he’s got his eyes on Cardiff Airport, but I can’t see it unless he signs for Neil Warnock in the next couple of weeks. He’s more likely to get a reservoir perhaps, or they could rename the Port Talbot Steelworks, or a section of motorway. There’s a section of the A52 between Derby and Nottingham called ‘The Brian Clough Way’. I don’t think many would object to the ‘Gareth Bale By-Pass’ between Cardiff and Newport?
Almost lost in the excitement was the ‘richest game in football’ – the play-off final between Villa and Fulham. Even if we didn’t have previous, Steve Bruce would annoy me. He plays the sympathy card far too often for a man in his position. He’s in a high-paid, high-profile job, why does he continually make himself out to be a victim?
In fact, you could argue he’s lucky to still be in a job, second place and automatic promotion was theirs for the taking one month out, and they blew it. When the going gets tough, you want someone at the helm who’s meeting the challenges head-on, not making excuses.
So, nice one Fulham, I look forward to seeing them in the Premier League next season, and their win led to one of the best football jokes this week... which I’ll have to paraphrase.
Ryan Sessegnon had a routine drugs test after a match and missed the kit man taking his strip away for cleaning. So he took it home and washed and ironed it himself – a story held up as an example of what an amazing kid he really is.
One of the papers got hold of it and said Spielberg was so inspired, he was going to make a movie of it – called ‘Saving Ryan’s Privates’... or something like that.