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The good ship Lionel Messi feels too massive to be moved | Barney Ronay | Football


We all have our favourite Victorian engineering folly. Mine is the SS Great Eastern, Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s super-ship powered by a hundred furnaces, a vessel so vast it could carry 10,000 passengers, so vast it became a symbol of grandiose, stovepipe-hatted ambition, and so vast that it turned out it couldn’t actually sail anywhere.

Completed in November 1857, the Great Eastern stayed moored at Millwall on the Thames for two months, unable to move because of its own mind-boggling size. Several times a launch was attempted and then abandoned. Eventually the Great Eastern left its dock with the help of an unusually powerful tide and from there set off on its ill-fated shortened lifespan.

Too huge to be any real use as a passenger vessel, Brunel’s mega-ship ended up seeing out its days as a floating funfair in Liverpool before being junked in 1889. One of its masts was salvaged by Everton Football Club and erected at their then-home Anfield, an emblem of human ambition…

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