‘This Boy’: Gini Wijnaldum

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Written by Ollie Clark

The rain hammered down on the tarmac of the M6, soaking the car’s windshield. Dad cursed under his breath as the wipers impotently slapped back and forth. Following my final year at Uni in Edinburgh, we had piled every miscellaneous item I owned in the boot and crammed ourselves into the remaining space.

The radio had been blaring trite for the previous two hours. Splayed in the passenger seat, I was so exhausted that I couldn’t care less. That was until a hypnotic guitar grove and bass line entered the radio’s mix. ‘I know this track…’ I thought. Brazen high-pitch female vocals cooed “money rains from the sky above”. My stomach lurched. My pours leaked. My heart pounded. I took a sharp inhale to check I was still breathing. ‘Not now. Not this track!’ I begged. But the song continued, the tempo quickening, the bass becoming increasingly irresistible with each passing second. It was Kungs’ & Cookin’ on 3 Burners’ ‘This Girl’. An impending dread grew beat by beat, as cheap horns began their glorious assault on the mix. No words can even begin to describe the wonderfully obnoxious wordless chorus that drones “Du, du, du, du, du, du, du, du, du, du, du, du”. Every Liverpool FC fan will know the track. Supplanting The Kop’s fleeting use of Kolo Toure’s iconic chant as the club’s catchiest player anthem, ‘This Girl’ had been bestowed upon the coolest cat to grace Liverpool’s midfield since Gerrard’s retirement: the not-so-recently departed Gini Wijnaldum. The words “Du, du, du, du, du, du, Gini Wijnaldum!” rang loud in my ears. I grimaced as images flashed into my mind. From his goals against Barcelona, Middlesborough, and Bournemouth, to his pristine hairline and spellbinding smile… Each thudding beat, a new image. “You all right?” Dad muttered, noticing my distress, whilst he peered through the relentless deluge. “Yeah, I’m fine” I retorted. I wasn’t fine. No one likes to be unexpectedly reminded of their ex. The same applied here. Yet, I could resent my ex. I had more than enough ammunition to sulk a lifetime about her. But it was different with Gini. He had left Liverpool on glowing terms. The pair couldn’t agree on a mutually beneficial contract. Fair play, thank you for your service.

The love never died, but the relationship was just too complicated to figure out. I get it. But hell, I wish Gini could have joined Chelsea, or feigned a back injury, or bit someone for that matter… At least then I could remind myself that it ended for a good reason. But no, Gini was at the club for five faultless years. A stalwart in the middle of the park, The Dutch Don was the definition of ‘Mr Reliable’: Athletic, consistent, and critically, the embodiment of a big game player. One of the most press-resistant midfielders I’ve ever seen, Wijnaldum could contain a game like no one else. As his hips lowered, his legs would spread, and the ball would stay magnetised within his impenetrable sphere of control. He took the sting out of games when we led. He could energise a match if we trailed. He was the consummate professional. O. F. Clark 2 Like any dutiful partner, Wijnaldum was always there. The good and the bad days. Over his Liverpool career, he averaged fifty-five appearances a season. I considered our current options. Ox: out. Keita: out. No surprises there. New boy Arthur: out. Jones: out. Another week, another knock for the mercurial Thiago. No matter how many spellbinding turns Thiago conjured, I couldn’t help but wonder where we would be in the table had Gini stayed. Would he have done the same as Keita and ballooned the ball into Row Z during last year’s agonising Champions League final defeat to Madrid? Probably, but I would never have held such festering resentment against him as I do Naby.

The list of naff nicknames doesn’t stop at Mr Reliable either. Try Mr Dynamic. The man played CB against Brighton once, and the Reds won 5-1. Coincidence? Quite possibly, but he must have done something right. He even tried his hand at Firmino’s false nine once too. True, we lost 3-0. Yet, Gini was the man to save the tie in the return leg at Anfield, as he buried two past Ter Stegen, before Origi’s immortal ‘corner taken quickly’ moment. Did he have flaws? Not in my nostalgic eyes. One look at his beaming grin and I forgot his perpetually scuffed shots. A reminisce about his inimitable turn against both Sergio Busquets and Arthur Melo would make me excuse every pass that was agonisingly behind each of his teammates. Hell, my traditional view on player numbers went straight out the window as soon as Gini’s #5 jersey rose above a hapless Aleksandar Kolarov to power a header past Claudio Bravo, back in 2016. The neon glare of braking lights approached us as traffic ahead grew. I put my feet on the dashboard and chomped on a piece of gum, rubbing my temples. Evidently irked by my sour mood, Dad barked “Come on now, what’s really going on?” “Urghhh” I muttered, before taking a moment to have another bite, eventually whispering “It’s Gini…”. “Here we go again…” grovelled Dad, as he rolled his eyes. “You’ve gotta move on man!”. I knew he would say that, so I fell silent again. “You know he’s injured right? He added. “Having Gini wouldn’t help us right now…” ‘What?’ I thought. But Gini’s never injured. There must have been a mistake. He must have been thinking of another drop-dead gorgeous CM with a perfect complexion. I snatched my phone out of my pocket. I needed the truth. Here it was. “Oooofftt” I winced. Fractured Tibia. Out for five months. ‘Christ, that’s rough’ I thought.

What did this news mean for my melancholic pining? I wasn’t too sure. ‘Don’t live in the past?’ ‘Be thankful for what I had?’ ‘Don’t cry. Smile because it happened?’ I’d heard it all before. Yet maybe, just maybe, there was something to it. The cars ahead revved and began to jolt forward, eventually picking up speed. I looked down at my phone one last time, smiling at a still of Gini pulling his bicep flexing celebration. Dad was right. It was time to let go. ‘This Girl’ began to fade on the speakers, so I closed my eyes. ‘Cheers for everything Gini’ I thought. The traffic had dispersed. Now we were flying. “Dad” I added, “let’s run the track again…” I grabbed the aux and hit ‘play’. O. F. Clark 3 “Money rains from the sky above…” rang loud from the speaker and I looked at Dad and beamed. The chorus descended and I howled “Gini Wijnaldum!” as we passed Penrith, heading South towards home…

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