Perhaps the largest roadblock to having a good Saturday morning is enjoying a good Friday night which extends much later, and several drinks longer, than intended. Getting out of bed at 7.45am for a three-hour train journey is a chore when you only went to bed around six hours earlier; your mouth feels and tastes like a desert where several creatures have died and to make matters worse you forget to pick up your banana before you leave home. You try and eat a roll on the way to the station but your internal organs have all curled up into the foetal position and snort in derision at your ridiculous attempt to appease them for the damage done. Reading the newspaper is an act in trying to fend off your body’s patent desire to both vomit and fall asleep simultaneously. Eventually you give in and sleep.
You arrive in Glasgow and foolishly believe that a sandwich and some soup might help matters, give the body the substance that it has been craving all along. But it turns out that your body was pulling an elaborate practical joke all along and what it really, truly wanted was a beer. It has known you for thirty-two years, after all. It knows what you need. So you go to The Raven for a couple of pints of Caesar Augustus and everything feels better, the equilibrium of the world has been restored. You are no longer drunk/hungover from the night before. Your mouth doesn’t taste like several animals have died in the desert, rather it has the fragrant tang of a lager/IPA hybrid. Tiredness has given way to the excitement of your first match as a season ticket holder at Celtic Park.
There was only one question prominent on my mind when I took the short walk from Dalmarnock train station up the Celtic Way: should I sate my hunger for a pie now or at half-time? (I checked the team news before I left The Raven and Brendan Rodgers had answered the other question on my mind by dropping Craig Gordon.) It was around 2.50pm by the time I made it through the fairly lengthy turnstyle queues and into the stadium, probably cutting it a little fine to buy a pie and eat it before kick-off I thought, so I decided to save that treat for the interval. But I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t thinking about that pie for large periods of the first-half, especially during those lengthy spells where it felt that Celtic were simply passing the ball around their own 18-yard box with little intention of going forward, almost as though goading the ten Aberdeen men camped inside their own-half to come out. Thank goodness I was no longer hungover, because those passages of play would surely have sent me to sleep earlier in the day.
Celtic enjoyed 69% possession in that opening forty-five minutes.
Three first-half goals – two of them for Celtic (two very fine finishes from Leigh Griffiths and James Forrest) – meant that I could look forward to my pie without having to worry too much about the football. The lines at the various food outlets were long and disorganised, presumably because many folk worried even less about the game than I and had retreated to the pie stalls before the whistle. Standing at the back of this line, with the front about as far away as it had ever been, my craving for that meat and pastry intensified. There is no finer hangover food than a good stodgy pie. Maybe a sausage roll (links, not pastry) with the right kind of mustard, but it’s debateable. I wanted that pie terribly; I dare say that I needed it. I had forgotten my banana, my body rejected the bacon roll and the soup and sandwich were laughed off as a cruel joke. It was a pie at the football that I was craving all along,
When I finally made my way through the long and disorganised pie line and exchanged my £2.50 for a steak pie and returned to a safe location from which to enjoy said pie it crumbled immediately as I tried to free it from its foil container. The “lid”, the top, lifted right off, leaving the base and all of the meat sitting in the foil. If I wasn’t crying literal tears then I was certainly on the brink. I attempted to make the best of a relentlessly terrible situation, but the internal elements of the pie were piping hot and not conducive to scooping up with fingertips. It was quite the ordeal. I eventually managed to manipulate the foil enough to allow me to consume the vast majority of the pie, but it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t nearly enough. All that anticipation, all that hunger, all that need and it came apart like cheap discount retailer tissue paper.
Sometimes you have to overcome hurdles in life, though. You have to learn to deal with disappointing situations such as pies falling apart in your hand. There were still forty-five minutes of football to get through here and although Aberdeen had spent almost as much time in possession of the ball as I had enjoying a half-time pie they were still very much in the game. There were times where Celtic were careless with the ball and the crowd would become tense. They were looking for that killer punch but all they were getting was pastry stuck to foil. Some of the guys around me in 140 were keen for the ball to be “booted up the park”, but any time that happened it invariably landed with a red shirt. Others felt that howling their support for the IRA might spur their heroes onto victory. There was the oft shouted critique that any Aberdeen player was “a sheep shagging wanker” which, to me anyway, seems like a contradiction in terms. If he’s shagging sheep then why the need to masturbate?
As it was Celtic added a further two late goals – through a Scott Sinclair penalty and the man of the match, Tom Rogic – and everybody inside Celtic Park went home happy. Everybody except me. I was still pretty disappointed about that pie.
Final scores: Celtic 4-1 Aberdeen
Steak pie 1-0 JJ
Playlist: Bob Mould – Workbook
Ron Sexmith – Long Player Late Bloomer
The New Pornographers – Twin Cinema
Dinosaur Jr – Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not
Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires in the City