Humour is the healer for Reds

It's like a funeral. No one is entirely sure what to say.

Sad souls are sitting around stirring their tea. The silence is deafening. There are some muffled sobs in the background.

And then someone giggles nervously and says: "Eh, I didn't see Dwight Gayle scoring two goals, did you?"

And he is immediately battered to a pulp.

That's how it is right now for Liverpool supporters. They feel like we're consoling grieving relatives.

They're sitting at a void deck, nibbling the nuts, playing mahjong and refusing to look up at that colourful display in the distance; a coffee shop TV replaying highlights of Liverpool's inexplicable 3-3 draw at Crystal Palace.

How does one prepare for such a calamitous tragedy? How does one break the news to a naive fan who foolishly went to bed when the rampant Reds were leading 3-0 yesterday morning (Singapore time)?


Trained counsellors would struggle with the fallout. There is a controversial technique known as a "counter-worry", where bad news is diluted by the inclusion of even worse news elsewhere.

Imagine a counsellor and a couple of police officers knocking on the door and saying: "Sorry to wake you, Mr Chia, but you might want to sit down and take off the Liverpool hat, scarf, gloves and full kit.

"We have some bad news I'm afraid, sir. The polar ice caps have entirely melted overnight and the world is threatened by a global tsunami. There is anarchy in the streets and people are fleeing with only loved ones, whatever personal possessions they can carry and the latest edition of Farm Heroes.

"Scientists have calculated that Singapore has less than six hours to move all its residents to the top of Bukit Timah Hill. Oh, and Crystal Palace came back to earn an unlikely 3-3 draw.

"No, no, don't scream, sir. Don't break down. Liverpool can still mathematically win the title. No, that wasn't the tsunami. That was just a pig flying past the window."

Like a death in the family, Liverpool fans are all wondering when it's OK to lighten the mood, to bring a little levity to the sombre occasion and make a joke. No one wants to be the drunken uncle at the wake who slurs: "Well, I'm actually glad he's dead. I owed him $50."

Is it too early to make jokes? Some at Selhurst Park didn't think so, particularly Glen Johnson who kicked off his comedy routine with 10 minutes still to play. As Yannick Bolasie pulled away from him, Johnson appeared to be pulling a truck.

He's still Roy "Jurassic" Hodgson's preferred right back for the World Cup, so Johnson's stand-up (and often fall down) show will be entertaining Brazilians soon enough.

But, when Gayle came on to bang on a double in the final minutes, then the situation truly moved into Monty Python-like surrealist territory.

Gayle hadn't scored at Selhurst Park since last August.

Everyone had forgotten him. He had to be re-introduced to his teammates in the dressing room.

When he came on as a second-half substitute, he was wrestled to the ground by an over-eager steward who thought he was a pitch invader.

All season long, Gayle has done for attacking what Liverpool's back four has done for defending.


And yet he has now made a decisive contribution to the title race. Before yesterday morning, his only real contribution at Crystal Palace was helping to get Ian Holloway sacked.

The Reds were understandably distraught at the final whistle. Fortunately, Palace supporters offered their sympathy by singing: "3-0 and you f***** it up". But now is not the time to mock the afflicted. Now is a time to offer a quiet word of comfort, a gentle squeeze of the arm and mutter: "What the hell was that? You couldn't defend a sweetie shop from an invasion of sugar-starved toddlers?"

Brendan Rodgers' pitch-side instructions appeared to be: "Attack, attack, attack! No, forget the defence, we haven't got one... Attack, attack, attack... Who's this guy? Dwight Gayle? He must be the Palace mascot."

The rest of us are now doing what Liverpool's defence seemed to be doing in the final 15 minutes - walking on eggshells.

Like Basil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers, everyone is afraid to mention the war - or in this case Crystal Palace.

I mentioned them once or twice in this column, but I think I got away with it.

Still, the Scousers appreciate more than most that humour is the great healer. In the end, survival is all about self-deprecation.

As the old saying goes, if you can't laugh at yourself, laugh at your back four

This article was published on May 7 in The New Paper.

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