THE NEW YORK TIMES of the 1st of December 1980 reported on a protest taking place in Liverpool. 40,000 people had marched through the streets of “this depressed industrial city” in a “demonstration against Britain’s steadily rising unemployment”. Special trains and buses, daubed with slogans like “Save Jobs – Sack the Tories”, had brought people in from all over the country who were determined to make their voices heard on their opposition to Margaret Thatcher’s government.
The NYT pointed out the march “was completely non violent” and said “the most popular cheer of the day, rising above the marching bands and the bagpipes, was ‘Maggie Maggie Maggie, Out! Out! Out!’” A digital sign told the watching world of the number of unemployed, 2.1 million at that point, and was used to demonstrate how the jobless total was increasing at a rate of 1 every 15 seconds. That was 8.4% of the workforce across the country, but in Liverpool it was as high as 15%.
A week later New York and Liverpool would become the focus of the world’s media. John Lennon was dead, murdered by Mark David Chapman outside his New York apartment block. The world mourned and struggled to come to terms with the violent end that had been met by a man so focussed on peace. The following weekend a vigil was held outside St George’s Hall in Liverpool as tens of thousands of people gathered in Lennon’s home town to show their respects.
In football Liverpool followed a 3-1 home win over Birmingham in the League Cup (Dalglish, McDermott, Johnson) with a win over Spurs. Liverpool, the reigning champions, had gone back to the top of the table thanks to the Graeme Souness-inspired 2-1 win over Spurs, replacing leaders Aston Villa who’d gone down 2-1 at Souness’s old club Middlesbrough. David Johnson had opened the scoring for Liverpool in “an electrifying five-man move”, with the winner coming on 59 minutes when Souness “split the Tottenham defence with a beatifully-flighted long pass to Ray Kennedy.” Kennedy’s left foot shot won the game for Liverpool.
Villa’s defeat on a snow-covered Ayresome Park pitch against a ‘Boro side featuring future Red Craig Johnstone would prove to be a blip. Villa went on to win the league with Liverpool finishing down in fifth place. The Reds were consoled somewhat by winning their third European Cup and their first League Cup.
It was the beginning of some of the toughest times the city would face, but as would so often be the case, football gave the people something else to be hopeful about, something to put smiles on faces, something else to think about.