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Live: 2035/36 Europa League Final

“Hello, hello! Welcome to the Ernst-Happel-Stadion in Vienna! I’m Jamie Carragher, here with Gary Neville, for the Europa League Final!”

[The new Europa League anthem — Eric Clapton’s It’s In The Way That You Use It — plays in the background, as highlights from this year’s tournament play. The camera swings to Gary, clad in a full Partizan kit, including shinguards and cleats.]

“Jamie-lad, I’ve never been one for overstatement, but Georgy-boy’s Smurfs do not have what it takes to deal with this Partizan side, who have a swagger like the United of old. Let’s not forget, Nico’s men eliminated ze Germans 2 years ago in the quarterfinals, and they’ve only gone from strength to strength since then!”

“Gary, I appreciate that you’ve got strong opinions here tonight, but–“

“It isn’t an opinion, Jamie. It’s a ****ing fact, as your ****stain of a manager once prattled on about. Facts are facts. And the fact is that Partizan are going to tear through this Schalke side like popcorn through a prolapsed anus, something you know all about, yeah?!”

“Gary, I told you that in confidence…it really has nothing to do with what will happen on the field tonigh. I, for one, don’t think that you can dismiss Schalke so casually, they’ve–“

[Gary pulls a flare and lighter from his kitbag.]

“Jamie. When I want your opinion, I’ll beat it out of you. No pyro, no Party-zan. It’s that simple.”

“Gary, can we please stop with the–“

“Tell me, Jamie-lad…is that a woman’s perfume you’re wearing?!”

“It’s…uhh… It’s unisex, Gary.”

“Just like your haircut, yeah?! You slapnut ****.”

[In the background, It’s In The Way That You Use It blares through the stadium speakers and the sides walk out on the pitch. Gary laughs maniacally, lights the flare, and begins to sing along at the top of his lungs, joining Eric on air guitar for the solo.]

[Note: if you are here during the live blog, you will need to hit refresh to see new updates as the match progresses. We had to restart, due to a technical difficulty/crash. Ugh.]
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11th minute

“Well, Gar-bear, so far this has been pretty dry. Schalke with possession, but Partizan are the side looking dangerous.”

“Jamie-lad, so far this has been pretty dry. The Smurfs with possession, but Partizan are the side looking like champions out there, dangerous as ****.”

“I literally just said that, Gary. Please don’t…you know I hate it when you… Just…”

“Whatever. Things are better when I say them. It’s a fact. They’re going to edit you out, anyways.”

“We’re live, Gary.”

“Oh, we’ll see about that, Jamie-lad…”

12th minute

“Panda, menacing down the right, he takes Godwin to the farm, Gary…and that’s…DE SMET SMASHES HOME FROM 7 YARDS!!! 1-NIL TO SCHALKE!!! PARTIZAN HAVE GOT TO DO BETTER THAN THAT, GARY!!!

[Gary mutters darkly, cursing in Serbian. He pulls a flask from his kitbag and takes a long pull.]

22nd minute

“Better from Partizan here, as they win a corner. Curled into the near post, but Elesin heads just over! So close, Gary!”

[Gary just continues to drink from his flask, getting more agitated with every passing moment. He hasn’t said a coherent word since Schalke scored.]

28th minute

“Jeremic with a beautiful run out of the back, Beckenbauer-esque there…”

[Gary speaks for the first time in nearly 20 minutes.]


“He finds Zivkovic, who centers…so close from Vukojevic! Well held by the Schalke keeper, that.”

[Gary screams in frustration, before taking another drink.]

32nd minute

“Partizan continue to look dangerous, don’t they, Gary?”

“You sound like a soccer mom whose kid’s team always loses, Jamie-lad.”

“Kouao finds Godwin in space on the left…whipped in…BARIC, OFF THE CROSSBAR!!! THE KEEPER WELL-BEATEN!!! IT SHOULD BE LEVEL, GARY!!!”

[Gary begins to sing the new Partizan anthem, Zlatan’s Golden Fountain, which echoes throughout the stadium, the Serbian support in full voice tonight.]


The referee blows for halftime. Both sides trudge towards the locker room, as Nicolaj Bur stands staring into the middle distance. His side have been less than ruthless in the final third, something he knows must change. Before leaving the pitch, Zlatan Ibrahimovic pauses to acknowledge the Serbian support, which sends them into a frenzy, renewing their chorus of Zlatan’s Golden Fountain. In the broadcast booth, Gary joins in enthusiastically, preventing Jamie from offering any meaningful analysis.

On the pitch, the halftime show begins. Justin Bieber, performing live for the first time in over a decade, breaks into his chart-topping remake of Who Let The Dogs Out?, as a pack of dogs wearing football kits riding hoverboards race around the pitch. When the song ends, Justin is joined on stage by Michael Buble for a heart-warming rendition of George Clinton’s Atomic Dog, during which the dogs line up and Conga around the Schalke technical area.

As their set concludes, a severely-depressed-looking Bieber launches an emotional plea to the crowd, “yo yo yo, give it up for the Vienna Dawg Pound…yeah. Aren’t they…fetching?!”

A smattering of boos from the crowd, disinterested in the extreme. A solitary tear falls from Bieber’s eye, as he drops his head, aghast at what his life has become.

62nd minute

“One hour gone, Gar-bear, and I have to tell it like it is. For all of their bluster, Partizan are showing the fortitude of a limp noodle here tonight. Twice in the 2nd half, Schalke have had a chance to put a second away, and muffed it. Partizan need a change. And they need it now. 30 minutes to play, Gary. Tick Tock.”

“Jamie-lad, I would rather listen to 10 Bulgarian prostitutes stab each other to death in a piss-soaked elevator, than listen to another 30 minutes of your analysis.”

[Gary takes another drink from his flask, staring menacingly at Jamie. Jamie scoots his chair to the far corner of the broadcast booth.]

71st minute

[Gary grunts, as the ball rolls out of play. Jamie flinches involuntarily, not daring to speak a word.]

[On the pitch, Bur is shouting instructions to his players, urging them forward. Zoubir “Zoob” Aouameur and Nikola Zarkovic have entered the fray.]

76th minute

[Gary screams incoherently as a loose ball falls to Ibrahim in the box, who fires straight at Stachura.]

[A string of rapid-fire Serbian curses (with a Mancunian accent) flow from his mouth, spittle flying everywhere. Jamie takes shelter under the desk.]

86th minute


“Gary…let’s try to just…this is a big moment, yeah? 5 minutes plus stoppage time…Partizan are a man up…let’s just calm down and see if we can–“

91st minute

[Down on the sideline, the fourth official holds up a sign. There will be 3 minutes of extra time. Gary groans, before lighting a flare and starting to sing Serbian anthems at the top of his lungs.]

91st minute

[Gary’s singing turns to an incoherent, prolonged scream as Zarkovic drives into the German box, shooting high to Stachura’s near post. The Slovakian international gets a hand to it, tipping it off the post! So close, yet again! While Gary is distracted, Jamie crawls out the door of the broadcast booth, not wanting to be there if Partizan cannot find the equalizer. He knows Gary’s rage, all too well. At this moment, it seems as if a goal is imminent, the only question being whether Partizan can find it before the final whistle blows.]

91st minute

[Schalke clear, but only so far as Doctor Congo, the Partizan holding midfielder, who plays wide to Svilar…Svilar whips a cross in to Zoob, who fires straight at Stachura from 10 yards. Another missed opportunity. Gary’s face begins to turn purple, as he wrestles to tear his Partizan shirt from his body.]

94th minute

[Gary’s shirt and shorts lie in ribbons on the floor. This is the moment. The 94th minute, of 93. Free kick to Partizan at the top of the box. 21 year-old Vukasin Vujadinovic stands over the ball. No deception from the Serbians tonight. Everyone in the stadium knows that he is going to take it. Barring a miracle, this will be the final kick of the match.]

94th minute

[But instead of shooting, he dinks it to Elesin, who has a free header from 8 yards…but he flicks it just over the bar, Stachura well-beaten in the German goal. Gary collapses like a puppet whose strings have been cut. He lies moaning on the floor as the final whistle blows.]


In all fairness, we did not deserve to win that match.

We did not play terribly. But we did not play particularly well, either. We had our chances and did not take them.

In contrast, Schalke had 2-3 chances. They buried the ever-loving **** out of the first one, and muffed the others. But that’s all it took.

While I wanted to win this one quite badly (if only to get a 1st seed in the Champions League next year), our European campaign this year was a success. We went toe-to-toe with the likes of Sevilla and Gladbach, narrowly finishing 3rd in the Group — 1 point off Sevilla, level with Gladbach on points. And we made a rather triumpant run to the Europa League final. Progress, to say the least.

Thank you for following along — we’ll be back tomorrow with the annual season review, and a look towards the 2036/37 campaign.

If you’ve stumbled upon this post and are finding yourself a bit confused… Don’t worry.  The basic concept behind the Nearly Men save is explained here.  Just need to catch up? Each installment in Nicolaj Bur’s story can be accessed through the Nearly Men Archive.

And if you just can’t get enough…join us for The Ballad of Toothless Bob, a series that explores the world of Nicolaj Bur, away from the pitch. What is Project Arcturus? What lies beyond the twisted redstone door, deep in the bowels of the Santiago Bernabéu?

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