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Clemence the icing on the cake of derby experience

While news of a blanket MGBSFL postponement was filtering through, I was making my way up to Anfield for the latest instalment of the Merseyside derby. Of course, the snow and lousy Virgin train service only added to the experience.

    Travelling north with my 12-year-old son, whose match had also fallen victim to the weather, we were looking forward to seeing the “Fab four” —  Firmino, Coutinho, Salah and Mane. Sadly Jürgen Klopp had other ideas.

    Our train was cancelled less than 15 minutes before the scheduled departure. Panic stations as one poor Virgin employee was forced to answer a plethora of angry Liverpool fans. How would we get to Anfield? Fortunately we squeezed on to the 9.47am to Glasgow and changed at Crewe. We had hoped to go to Warrington but some yobs had put stones on the line and the train retired injured.

    We started talking to a sports-mad family on holiday from Queensland, Australia. They were doing a whistle-stop tour of Premier League grounds and had already seen Manchester United beat Arsenal and West Ham edge past Chelsea.

    Excitement was building as we changed at Crewe, with the clock ticking closer to kick-off. Then news came in that our two Brazilians were starting on the bench. Jürgen, what are you thinking? Eyebrows were also raised about the all-English midfield of Henderson, Milner and Oxlade-Chamberlain, with young Dominic Solanke thrust into the forward line. The general consensus was that we were missing the X-factor.

    Arriving at Anfield with time to spare is wise as you never know who you will bump into. Enter former England, Liverpool and Spurs legend Ray Clemence, a childhood heroes.

    I dragged Master Caro and instructed him to join the queue. As with all top goalkeepers, Ray has a real presence about him and was only too happy to pose for a selfie and an autograph. I was smiling like a Cheshire cat at this point and informed him that I had been a goalkeeper too. “What, playing five-a-side,” Ray quipped, towering over us before giving me a friendly hug.

    * The MGBSFL programme resumes this weekend before a three-week winter break. Division One leaders Faithfold A face a tough test against Redbridge at Fairlop.

    Avi Markiewicz’s team have the look and feel of champions but the big question is, can they do it on a cold, dark morning in Essex?

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