Today our bus finally arrives in Madrid. After a lot of miles, countless motorway service stations and not nearly enough sleep we will pull in to the host city of the 2019 Champions League Final fatigued, but very happy.
I can’t quite believe we get to do it all again. How lucky we are to have been born in Liverpool and been given a red scarf as a kid instead of a blue one. Blessed.
It wasn’t another final we were expecting so quickly. Largely because we spent most of the season ignoring the competition entirely.
Sure, we went to the games, and there were some great nights, PSG and Napoli at home were brilliant, but once they were over it was back focusing on the important business of trying to win the Premier League.
It didn’t help that it felt like the title race started in September. That we were in a sprint finish almost straight away. Both Liverpool and Manchester City were relentless in winning league matches and such was the pace we barely had time to breathe never mind think about anything else.
Liverpool went out both domestic cups early and that was largely fine, bigger things to worry about. Winning that league title for the first time in nearly 30 years.
Spoiler: We didn’t win the league. We got loads of points but Manchester City got one more.
It was tough to take. But suddenly, and very unexpectedly given the result in Barcelona, we were in the Champions League final. The last day of the season was devastating as news of Manchester City goals came through, but then we spent the last 10 minutes singing about going to Madrid.
Defiance in the face of disappointment.
But in the agonising three-week gap between the last league game and the final I’ve realised we were wrong all along.
Living in our Liverpool bubble we forgot how big this competition was. We think the Premier League is big round the world, but it’s nothing compared to the Champions League. Where true heroes are made and the eyes of the world are watching.
I went to Jurgen Klopp’s press conference on Tuesday and every question seemed to come from a different nationality. Brazilian and Chinese journalists being sent thousands of miles just to ask Jurgen Klopp how he was going to approach the game.
You just don’t get that for Wolves at home, no matter what is riding on it.
It’s the one the players want too. They want to win the league of course, and they know how much it means to supporters, but they know for their own careers winning a league title is one thing but winning the Champions League is something that really puts you on the map.
That gets people talking from Aberdeen to Adelaide.
In our obsession with the holy grail, we forgot about the greatest trophy of all. I will never do it again.
This is no second prize. It’s the one they all want and Liverpool have a great chance to win it for the sixth time. How lucky we are!