April 22, 1914
Phyllis laid down my “Courier,” and leant across the breakfast table, “Isn’t it simply magnificent?” she said thrillingly.
“Yes, thank you, it’s quite a good egg,” I assured her, and I went on with my breakfast.
“It’s the first time in twenty-two years!”
“Come, come,” I said, “things are not so bad as that. Only the morning before last I remember —-“
“I’m not talking about your silly egg,” Phyllis interrupted impatiently, “I have been reading about Liverpool in training. Do you know what they’ve done? They’ve beaten — er — er —“
“Aston Villa,” I put in helpfully.
“Yes, Aston Villa, and now they are going to meet — er —“
“Burnley,” I prompted.
“Yes, Burnley, in the English Cup Final, at the Crystal Palace!”
With almost perfect composure I made a request for some more coffee. I was determined to show Phyllis that I at any rate was not suffering from football fever. Liverpool might be in the final, but I could still eat my meals and go to my business in the usual way.
“Phyllis,” I said, “your information is interesting, but it is not new. Read me something about the political situation.”
I assumed the expression that I always employ when I am about to hear of Lloyd George.
“But aren’t you very proud of Liverpool?”
“Oh, yes, of course I’m very proud of them. As a Liverpool man I hope they will play a fine game and win the Cup.”
“And of course you will go up to London and see them do it?” suggested Phyllis enthusiastically.
I paused in my breakfasting and looked at her closely.
“No,” I said firmly, “I won’t do that. I was going to see them in the semi-final at Tottenham, but the London press assured me it was not worth while, and although I was robbed of the pleasure witnessing a fine game and a great triumph for my native city, I saved money over it.”
“Do you mean to say,” asked Phyllis scornfully, “that after Liverpool reaching the final you are not going to raise a finger to help them to win the Cup?”
“My dear girl, you don’t suggest that I should go to Mr. Tom Watson – or whoever it is that arranges these matters – and offer to play instead of Campbell or Nicholl, or Lacey, or somebody, do you?”
“I thought you considered yourself a supporter of the club,” said Phyllis cuttingly.
“So I am.”
“And yet you will not go to cheer them in the greatest encounter of their glorious history?”
I began to feel slightly ashamed of myself.
“I thought you went every Saturday that they played at home and shouted ‘Play up the Reds;’ and ‘dirty;’ and “Shoot, shoot;’ and ‘Chunk him off, referee.’”
“So I do,” I said proudly.
“And yet, now that they have reached the height of their ambition; now that they are about to enter the Crystal Palace you refuse to go and do your part!”
“When you put it like that,” I admitted, “it does sound a bit mean, doesn’t it?”
“I’m very disappointed in your,” said Phyllis sorrowfully. “When I married you I believed I was marrying a man who had an intense love for his native city. I believed I was marrying a sportsman and an enthusiast.”
“Don’t,” I pleaded.
“Then think of what you are doing before it is too late. Imagine the great battle being fought out to the bitter end and you not there to see. Imagine the teams on equal terms and two minutes to go. Imagine one last despairing effort by the Liverpool forwards, and a lightning shot and a might roar of ‘Goal!’ Imagine fifty thousand hats flung high into the air, and your hat – miserable deserter – your hat not amongst them!”
Strong and silent man as I am, I was moved. I held up my hand. “Phyllis,” I said sternly, “enough. You are right. I will go to the English Cup Final. You must busy yourself about the house whilst I am away, and try not to miss me too much.”
Phyllis got up from the table with a sight of relief.
“I thought you’d go in the end,” she said contentedly. “I’ve got it all arranged in my mind. You see, as long as you are going up to London I may as well go with you. I find I have some really serious shopping to do, and if we went up on Friday we could have a look at Bond-street. Then on Saturday afternoon, whilst you are doing your duty to your native city at the Crystal Palace and are shouting ‘Play up the Reds;’ and ‘Dirty;’ and ‘Shoot! Shoot;’ and ‘Chuck him off referee,” I will go and call on cousin Clare at Maida Vale, and afterwards we can meet somewhere and go to a theatre. Liverpool are not in the final every day, you know!”
“No,” I said thoughtfully, “that’s true. It’s the first time in twenty-two years. . . Perhaps it’s just as well when you come to think about it.”
by Stanley Salvidge
(Evening Express: April 22, 1914)