Not so very long ago, Marine and Tottenham Hotspur would have seemed impossible to relate to one another; the two clubs existed in two completely different spheres and seemed unlikely to ever meet.
Yet, in the dark recesses of my past, in a village just outside Huddersfield, I had always consciously linked the two because of two experiences in 2005.
Incident number one
The first happened one Tuesday. Back when I lived in the North of England, I’d spent my lunchtime emailing a mate of mine, and we’d decided to go watch Marine that night. He’d pick me up at home, and we’d go straight over the M62.
Now, I worked in a school in Dewsbury at this point, and lived in Huddersfield, so I had to get a train home before he met me. I left at 3.20, as you do, but on my way to the station, was accosted by two men who threatened me with a big length of chain — demanding my phone and wallet. I went back to school, called my bank and phone network, and they advised me to call the police, too, which I did. They then asked me to call in at the station, which I did as it was in town, and I had no way of getting home.
I looked through a few e-fit photos at the police station, and picked out a couple of faces, before they asked if they might be able to take my clothes off for DNA testing. I said yes, but I needed a lift home so I could change, and could we call my mate as he’d be waiting for me outside the house.
Of course, I didn’t know his number, so the only thing I could think to do was call my neighbour and tell her to keep an eye out, and let him know when he arrived. I’d be in a police car, so it shouldn’t take long to get through.
Then we pulled out of Dewsbury onto the A62. We’d travelled about 50 metres when the traffic ground us to a halt, and as we sat still, a car came from across the road and smashed into the side of the police car. I learned then that you can’t open the back door of a police car, and also that, despite how resilient they look, they don’t all carry spare wheels.
Within about ten minutes, the woman who had hit us had been dealt with (she was mortified, but it was an accident) but the car needed a new wheel. I was recruited to cross the road to get it from another police car that had appeared, but was stuck in the traffic. I brought the wheel, it was fixed, and we sped through to my house in Huddersfield.
Fortunately, my mate was still waiting outside, so I ran inside, changed, gave the police my clothes (it was a Jerome Bettis Steelers shirt and a pair of trousers that had cost me £5 but were lovely), thanked them, and got in my mate’s car and we headed off to Liverpool.
We made decent time, as the rush hour traffic had dissipated a little, but only just arrived before kickoff. It’s a merry ground, Marine, Reds and Blues mingling together with no issue, so we wandered about enjoying the atmosphere, though as only one of us had any money, not spending much.
We did go in for a drink at half time, though, and saw a familiar figure in the queue at the bar. My mate’s giant friend was there, having travelled down from Scotland to do some (I think electrical) work on a building over the road.
Such a coincidence you never heard of – though I once happened upon one of my best friends, totally by chance, in a coffee shop in Bucharest. I learned a lot that day. Firstly, everything that happens is just a story to tell later.
Secondly, that oil degrades DNA, so don’t carry wheels resting on clothes you might need to test. Thirdly, you never know who you’re going to meet and where. And finally, there is nobody more embarrassed than a woman who has just driven into the side of a police car. It was quite a day, and I’ve had a soft spot for Marine ever since.
Incident number two
Having learned that every experience is a story brings me to Tottenham, who hold a dubious part to the tale.
I was drinking in my village one evening, in a pub that is now an award-winning Indian restaurant. Time was called, and I set off home with my friends. It is a hilly area, up to Fixby and Cowcliffe, and when it’s nighttime it’s dark. We had got to the top of the first hill and heard voices from behind, presumably having been in the pub.
As they approached, we recognised one of them as a fellow resident of our village, and I waved down the road to him and we waited for him to approach. When he did, instead of walking home us, he started to punch me in the face. He punched me repeatedly, while I tried to talk him out of it. He continued to punch me, while I continued to talk to him, until his friend pulled him away, calming him down.
His friend reasoned with him, saying he wasn’t doing anything, and I wasn’t hitting him back, and they needed to get out of there. They turned heel and fled, and I was left bleeding, swollen and walking home. There is a photograph of my face on an old phone of mine, and it looks cruder than those of a battered boxer.
My first thought was to get in touch with the captain of the six-a-side football team I played for. I was due to keep goal for him early on Sunday and, but with my eye already closing up, it was obvious that I would not be able to do so. The second thought was whether I’d be able to hide the injuries from my mother, so I hurried home to clean myself up and I slept soundly through the night.
When I woke, having explained to my captain what had happened, I settled in for a fairly painful day at home. Before lunch, there was a knock at the door, and a familiar face was there, in tears, with bruised knuckles and his father behind him. He was sorry, he said, he’d taken some drugs, he said, and he thought I was mocking him because Tottenham had won that night, that I was holding two fingers in the air.
His dad was horrified, and apologised too, wanting to know if I was going to press charges (I didn’t and I wouldn’t tell this story if it ended this way). It was wholly bizarre, but I was healed enough within a couple of weeks.
As for this young man, I have seen him a number of times since in the pub that remains open in our village. The first few times, he was petrified of me, and pinned his back to the wall every time he passed me. I didn’t hit him.
He has stopped, it seems, with the drugs, and remains (to my knowledge) in the village. He has a wife and child now, and though he obviously made some mistakes in his past, has grown up to be a respectable and responsible adult.
There is a happy ending here, and if a few cuts and bruises on my face was all that it took, then I’m happy to have worn them for a bit.
So, when Marine and Tottenham were drawn together in the FA Cup, I had a flash of memories: two incidents in my life that might have rather been forgotten. I don’t hold either club responsible, and I’m not harmed by either.
Maybe I have one wish. Tottenham gave me a bloody nose that night. Could Marine give Tottenham one when they meet, please?