Friday 11th February 2011, the day I realised that my marriage to the most wonderful woman I have ever had the good fortune to meet, might one day end in divorce.
Let me explain.........
It was 2 days after our 5th wedding anniversary and my wife had bought me tickets to the Theatre. We were going to see Beating Berlusconi!, whatever that was. She told me it was about football, which was a bit of a shock as she has no interest in football, but that in itself, was a big boost to my ego...... here is a woman who after 5 years, still loves me enough to sit through a play about football.
Between unwrapping the tickets on the Wednesday, to the start of the performance on the Friday, the only additional thing I found out from my wife, was that it was about a game Liverpool played in 2005 against Milan. 'A game'!!!!! That just shows you what little she knows about the great game. 2005, Liverpool versus Milan...... this was 'THE' Champions League Final to beat all others. The game where Liverpool came back from three - nil down to beat a Milan side including the likes of Shevchenko and Crespo.
I am not a Liverpool fan, but I still remembered watching the game, cheering on the Reds. As an Ipswich fan, I had little to cheer from my own team that season.
So I was intrigued as to how they had made a Theatre production of a football match. Quite simply they hadn't.
Beating Berlesconi is not about a football match, it's not about that great night in Istanbul, it's about the rollercoaster life of a football fan. The highs and the lows, the extreme emotions, the realisation that your team have taken over your life. The agony, the ecstasy, the tears of joy, the tears of sorrow. The anger, the frustrations, the screaming, the shouting the chanting and even the sobbing....... yes even as an Ipswich fan, I have experienced the very best of times and the very worst of times with my great club.
Beating Berlusconi! is a one man Theatre Performance that should be seen by any football fan, of any club, who has ever asked themselves 'Why?' when following their team. Kenny Noonan will prove to you all, that you are not alone. All around the country supporters of other teams go through the same emotions that you go through.
The performance tells the story of Kenny Noonan's life as a Liverpool fan from the Bill Shankly era, through to the end of the Penalty Shootout in Istanbul. A era which saw 5 European Cups but also a time which included fateful events in Heysel and Hillsborough where football took a back seat to events which resulted in tragic loss of life.
By the end of the performance Kenny has welcomed us into his world, sharing some of his closest friends and family members who have been with him throughout his journey. Some friends came and went, new relationships started, new generations of fans were born. Kenny is a great impersonator (or at least Paul Duckworth who plays Kenny) , so much so, despite being a one man show, I feel as though I would know his friend Minty if I ever bumped into him in the street........ in fact I'm fairly sure I have seen him around town in Ipswich before!
It is a story which is intended to help every football fan feel a little less guilty when you have to miss the birth of your child for that important cup tie at Old Trafford, or persuade your fiancee to move your wedding day back a week because the World Cup Finals are on. You are not alone. Kenny sacrificed a lot that year to be in Istanbul. I hear so often how childbirth is the most painful experience a person can go through, but how do you think Kenny would have felt if he hadn't got his ticket to the final? His wife must have understood how important it was to him, she was never really going to divorce him if he went......was she?
When the game was over and the chanting begun I could feel a tear forming in the corner of my eye as I remembered that day in 1978 when Roger Osborne scored for Ipswich against Arsenal in the FA Cup Final, and that day in 2000 as I sat high in the old Wembley Stadium watching Martin Reuser put the fourth goal past Barnsley in the play-off final.
I left the theatre feeling euphoric. It was great to be an Ipswich fan, it was great to be a football fan. It was fantastic to know my wife loved me enough to sit through 2 hours of a theatre performance based around football. As we pulled out of the car park and headed home, I was suddenly hit hard by my wife's words "If you ever left me alone with the kids to spend a fortune going half way across the world for a bloody football match, you would end up divorced, I can tell you"
Thankfully for me, the Champions League final is but a distant dream, and anyway, if we did ever make it, she would understand, wouldn't she???
Beating Berlusconi!, if you are a football fan go and see it, it's like watching your life being played out in front of you by a genius.