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Gile Smiths Midweek View


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Seven days after the disappointment of Moscow, Wednesday

columnist Giles Smith is beginning to get the feeling back, and

slowly but surely gaining some sense of perspective on the events at

the Luzhniki Stadium.

A week on now, and I'm still not back from Moscow. I mean,

obviously, in the most basic, literal sense, I'm back, and have been

for a while. I took a flight out late on Thursday afternoon, as it

happened, and got back to London at about 9.45.

But what I mean is that important bits of me didn't make the

journey on that occasion and have yet to return. Like the ability to

feel anything, for instance. That's still over there. I seem to have

left it in a yellow seat above a corner flag in the Luzhniki

Stadium, along with my appetite and around 86 percent of my will to

live. Some steward has probably swept them into a plastic sack by

now. Oh, well. Who needs them?

Fortunately, though, other key bits which didn't come back at

first have started to return in dribs and drabs. My ability to

speak, for instance, finally showed up on Sunday evening, more or

less intact, though it did seem to have got a bit smacked about on

the luggage carousel. I'm hoping the ability to think straight will

follow it shortly - assuming it clears immigration at the other end

- and that the ability to use my facial muscles again won't be far

behind.

And after that, given enough time, who knows? I may eventually be

able to have a conversation about something else. Remember

conversations about something else? They were quite good, sometimes.

The ability to consider watching another football match with any

serious level of engagement on my own part - well, that could be a

lot longer returning. There's a reason, one realises, why the

Champions League is the last game in the competing teams' season. If

you're a fan on the losing side, you're unlikely to fancy another

game of football any time soon after. Imagine coming back from that

night in Moscow and having to drum up some enthusiasm for, say,

Sunderland away in the league the following Sunday. It wouldn't be

happening, would it?

You've got to feel sorry for our England players, then - barely a

weekend to recover and they're straight back on Fabio Capello's

Magical Fun Bus. Then again, if you're a player, maybe you wouldn't

want it any other way - some other project to take your mind off

things and make you lift your head to the future. I wouldn't fancy

it myself, though. Where is my mind, anyway? In a Moscow taxi,

somewhere on the approach road to Domodedovo Airport, I'm hoping.

I'm still glad I went, though. 'All that way - and you lost!'

some people say, as if anticipating that your despair might have

some relation to the number of miles travelled. But they don't get

it, do they? Watching that match at home on the television must have

been intolerable - even less tolerable than watching it in the

stadium, where at least there was valuable work to be done

afterwards, in the form of applauding the players off at the end and

sending out some warmth to the utterly broken JT - who had nothing

to be ashamed of, of course. Being hundreds of miles away from that

shockingly unfortunate occurrence and powerless to intervene in any

way at all, would have been wretched beyond belief.

Hang on, though - what's this coming through the door with a

suitcase? A sense of perspective? Well, maybe something like one.

This season was, by any measure, extraordinary. We pushed the title

race to the last day and lost as many cup finals as we did managers.

We were one penalty and an Emile Heskey shot away from the most

glorious year in the club's history. Memorable enough for you?

But most important of all, in the context of our present misery,

we got to a Champions League final, for the first time. We went from

being a side that routinely falls in the semi-final of that

competition to being a side that makes it through, seeing off for

good, in the process, the extraordinary hex cast by Liverpool, of

all clubs. We were within a kick of winning the thing, too - but

let's leave that aside. The point is, having gone there once, there

are very few people out there betting that we won't go there again.

And next time, perhaps, the luck will be with us, rather than

against us, to the cosmic degree that it was in Moscow. Consider

Manchester United, for instance. Twice now, teams managed by Sir

Alex Ferguson have been comprehensively outplayed in a Champions

League final and ended up winning the thing. One day, perhaps, we

will live to be that fortunate. Or better still, we will go the

whole way and win it while really deserving to. It's a prospect to

gladden the heart, even now.

Heck, it's enough to make you start looking forward with eager

longing to next season. Give it until the publication of the fixture

list, at any rate.

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