All the comrades e’er I had
My mate Liam came with me to my final ever United game – the derby when Vassell missed a penalty, which effectively handed the reds the title.
We met a blue mate of mine afterwards. Typically, Liam’s language was inappropriate.
With it being derby day, the nearest place we could get a drink in town was Atlas and we walked there all the way from Beswick, flowing in and out of conversation about the team that brought us together.
Atlas was full of middle class Saturday drinkers including said blue mate and his rather posh wife, who was meeting Liam for the first time.
Liam inhaled his first pint and went on an expletive-laden rant explaining why Sam Allardyce had left Bolton, much to the disapproval of the snots surrounding us.
He covered Wanderers for the Bolton News and through them had managed to get a press pass for most United games.
We both gave up paying in at Old Trafford after the Glazer takeover – me for FC United and him for the free nosebag in press areas across the country. Although he followed FC too and wrote for the programme.
He once disappeared during a piss stop by the hard shoulder on the way back from Newcastle. He’d overbalanced while pissing and fallen down a roadside ravine.
He came back with a blooded head. Those who’d just met him were shocked. He won them over, though. As he always did, despite often making a bad first impression.
I’m not selling him well, but he was one of the nicest, funniest lads I’ve had the privilege to know, as long as he wasn’t too drunk.
He was ridiculously honest and had a reputation at our work dos for telling the DJ to sling it for putting on Boyzone.
It crushed me when I found out he’d died at Christmas, this time last year. It was a Monday morning and as I sat at my desk an email came through from a friend. ‘Are you sitting down?’ It read.
I prepared myself for a joke or a funny story, which was to be expected as the Bolton News had been on their Christmas do the previous Friday. ‘Have you heard about Liam?’ the next line said. ‘Shite,’ I thought, ‘…the DJ must have played Words…’
‘Seriously, it is really bad news,’ came the reply and I started to shake before reading the next email, the words of which I will never recall.
Almost paralysed, my legs buckled as I walked into the next office to tell another mutual friend the awful news. I fell three times. I sat a while in the near-empty office as our mutual friend stared at the wall in disbelief.
It transpired that Liam had been to United on the Saturday and gone home early as he was covering Amir Khan’s late night fight for the paper. It was on a satellite TV channel, so he could watch it from home and file his copy before bed.
Except he never made it to bed. No one had heard from him for hours, his missus was away and work couldn’t get hold of him when his copy failed to drop.
His dad was alerted and after rushing round he found Liam seemingly asleep on the sofa, with notepad and pen next to his peaceful body.
He’d become the latest victim of SADS, or sudden adult death syndrome, and seemingly died sat upright doing the job he loved.
There is never a fitting end for a 33-year-old, but Liam loved being a journalist and he was fucking good at it.
His funeral was a sad affair – my wife commented that she had never seen so many people under the age of 40 in mourning.
A mate of his read The Parting Glass. A lovely poem, put to song by many performers including Ronnie Drew. Liam’s parents loved the poem so much, they named their children after one of its most famous performers – Liam Clancy.
Sadly, Liam was the fourth good mate I have lost in my young life, and now The Parting Glass is added to the list of songs featured at my friends’ funerals that I can no longer listen to.
If anything can come from such sadness, it is the belief that we should appreciate every second we have, corny as that sounds.
We should live the life described in The Parting Glass, as my mate Liam did.
Good night and joy be with you.