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I made the 500-mile round trip in a storm to watch Liverpool FC – twice!

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For the second time this season, I headed to the south coast to watch the Reds do the business in testing conditions against Bournemouth. Here’s a look at how the day went.

It was another early start for the 1,300 who made the trip to the Vitality Stadium for what was set to be another huge game in the context of the title race.

Sometimes it takes explaining the itinerary to a non-football fan to realise just how daft it is to make a 500-mile, 10-hour round trip to watch 90 minutes of action.

Doing it as recently as November I justified it to myself as wanting to tick off a stadium I’d not visited before, but making the decision to go again proved to me that the reality was purely that the football club consumed me too much to miss out.

It started with a 9am pick-up at The Rocket pub on Queens Drive in Liverpool – with kickoff still seven-and-a-half hours away the match itself is barely on the brain at this point.

 

The journey down

A quick pitstop at the services roughly an hour-and-a-half into the journey followed, before heading all the way through to Bournemouth and making good time.

It quickly became apparent that the weather was going to be a factor again, as was the case for the 2-1 victory in the League Cup.

I vividly recall seeing Caoimhin Kelleher take a goal kick into the wind that began to come back towards him in mid-air on that occasion, but thankfully the conditions weren’t quite as brutal for the league encounter.

Mello Mello was the drop-off point when we arrived in Bournemouth, a pub situated around a 15-minute walk away from the ground.

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 21, 2024: Liverpool's Harvey Elliott before the FA Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Liverpool FC at Dean Court. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

We watched most of West Ham‘s 2-2 draw with Sheffield United in there, although it sounded very much like we missed the majority of the drama by leaving with around five minutes of normal time to go.

Two stoppage-time red cards and the latest goal in Premier League history, it must have been an eventful finale, and it was a point which was joked about as a good one as far as the bigger picture of Everton‘s safety is concerned.

As is often the case, when we arrived there were faces you recognise and only ever see at the match, people who will give you a nod when you walk past them even though neither of you know each other’s name.

 

Winning in style

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 21, 2024: Liverpool's Diogo Jota (L) celebrates after scoring the third goal during the FA Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Liverpool FC at Dean Court. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Everyone was in good spirits and with good reason: Liverpool are top of the league and even the worst-case scenario couldn’t change that at the Vitality Stadium.

The Reds weren’t able to get out of the blocks and it ended up being a quite frustrating first half, with little happening at either end.

Last season that would have worried us, the away end would have become edgy and those anxieties would often translate across to the pitch.

Only 12 months ago we were subjected to a dismal 1-0 defeat at the same stadium, where a Mohamed Salah missed penalty added to the anguish and it became apparent that hopes of a top-four finish were slipping away.

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 21, 2024: Liverpool's two-goal hero Darwin Núñez (R) celebrates after the FA Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Liverpool FC at Dean Court.Liverpool won 4-0. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Now there is an almost unanimous sense that this team can navigate their way through different matches, and find ways to win that they were unable to produce last season.

The opener was a joyous experience, even though we always felt confident that it was coming. Darwin Nunez goals always seem to elicit that bit more vigour in the celebrations among supporters

It was the best possible way to start the second half and you sensed that it was going to cause the game to open up, which is exactly how it transpired.

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 21, 2024: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp celebrates after the FA Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Liverpool FC at Dean Court.Liverpool won 4-0. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Diogo Jota put the game beyond doubt with two brilliant finishes, the second of which I’m choosing to believe was set up by a dummy as he failed to make contact with his first attempt.

Nunez rounded off the scoring with a goal which took it from a win to a statement win.

It was the second time he’d silenced the Bournemouth crowd this season, scoring a superb goal from distance seconds after being mocked for miscontrolling the ball in the wind.

The subsequent ironic rendition of “just a shit Andy Carroll” from the away end was the icing on the cake, after the home supporters had given the Uruguayan plenty of stick during the second half.

 

Embracing the process

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 21, 2024: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp celebrates after the FA Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Liverpool FC at Dean Court.Liverpool won 4-0. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It sent us all home with smiles on our faces, it reminded us of why we do it and why we invest so much of ourselves in willing this team to win, be that from the stadium or around the world.

As you might expect, the journey home was a jubilant one.

There were plenty of beers, laughs and songs as we soaked up the feeling of being on top of the Premier League pile.

We might not win the league this season, but as supporters, we have to try to embrace the journey and see where it takes us.

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 21, 2024: Liverpool's Cody Gakpo during the FA Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Liverpool FC at Dean Court. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

We would have killed to have been in this position a year ago, and the stresses that come with trying to topple Man City are something our rivals are looking on at with envy.

A lot can change in a year and our away form demonstrates that perfectly, with the Reds now top of the away table with six wins from their 11 trips so far.

The coach got back to The Rocket shortly before midnight and the discussions were all about when we’ll get to watch this side again.

The answer to that is at Craven Cottage on Wednesday night, where we’ll be looking to book ourselves another date at Wembley.

There is quite simply no better team to support on this earth.