So here we go again - Chris Cook
Monday, 21st May 2007
So here we are again, our second Champions league final in two years. Once more unto the breach against AC Milan. Although for me the two finals could not be sharper in contrast.
Little did I know back then, in 2005, how just a few months on from the greatest night of my life we'd be tipped to the very depths of despair. A completely different end of the emotional scale. Where, in the Ataturk I felt that alive that I was numb, soon it would be the numbness that would remind me I was alive. That those yellow peril taxis of Istanbul would just a few months later be swapped for Cretian versions zigzagging with that same sense of madness as they took me and my brother Tony to a hospital to identify somebody on life support. Somebody that we hoped was our Steve, who'd gone missing just days before. A sense of hope and dread prevailed on both ocassions. Although for two entirely different reasons.
I can't quite put into words the past 21 months. When I do it swamps and dizzies me with some of the stuff we have had to face up to: the hope of potential sightings, the psychics who contacted us with some saying he's dead and some saying he's alive, the feeling of hopelessness about the investigation over there, the people who have contacted us with various accounts of local mafia, Albanians, drug gangs and that; not knowing how hard you push before you push too far, the rumours that circulated and still do about what has happened to Ste - including in our home town where people claim to have heard he's alive, home and well. Nothing is concrete. Just a big mush that you do your best to make sense of.
Thes past few weeks many of these wounds have been reopend with little Madeliene going missing. In the faces of her parents, I see the mirror image of my own. The weight loss, the having to be there for the media but not knowing how to deal with them. To balance hope with personal despair, and again, the trying to push, but not too far. The ghosts of lives trying to be lived. Seeing, and feeling it all again I don't know how we got through it ourselves.
You just keep going. Recently, with the team going to Athens we have tried to kick start things again and get as much media coverage as possible. It may sound distasteful, but as a friend who's a journalist said - 'you have to go for it as a lot of news relies on coincidence' - and with little Maddie's case, the final being in Greece, and Istanbul being Steve's last game we have tried to go for it but you can't always get on the news agenda after all of this time. A lot of effort can go into such things with little reward. That's been difficult for Mum and Dad but then just a few months Ste went missing their appearance on GMTV was sadly cut short and overshadowed by Bruce Forsyth's dog going missing. Things may change and be out of your control but our drive in trying to find Steve will not.
The one other constant that has kept us all going though is Liverpool football club. Not just on the pitch. The community. Without your support I don't know where we would be. In many respects whilst so much inside of us feels like it has died, Liverpool has kept us going. I guess when other parts of you don't feel like functioning having no heart as big makes up for it. Whether it's the odd email or message of support right through to the fundraising night where you kindly donated and bid on various items to raise the reward for Steve's case. Even now, the effort to find him rests more on scousers taking a few hundred posters over to distibute in hotels and bars than anything else we can practically do. None of the family can thank the people of Liverpool and it's wider community enough, and neither can I find the words to, they've already been written in a song you might have heard of called You'll never walk alone.
So, no going to the final for me this time. I'll be in Liverpool instead. I won't have a scouse accent, but I'll know how it feels to be one because you've put so much into our lives at the darkest, emptiest of times. If you are going to Athens then I'm sure you'll have the time of your life, and if you happen to see a scruffy 22 year old on the scrounge for ale money and a ticket then, by habit, it'll probably be our Steve. If it is, tell him to get his arse back home. We miss him like mad.
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