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WAYS TO BE A PERSON

by Karl Coppack // 14 July 2013 // 18 Comments

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In February 1987 Liverpool played an everyday bog standard home game with Southampton.  As with many Liverpool/Soton games it didn’t have much to recommend it. Peter Shilton was in goal so the game was automatically relegated to an undercard as the Kop preferred to remind the England goalkeeper of his back seat shenanigans of yesteryear rather than watch the game. He accepted it wisely by ignoring the ‘Tina’ songs that had dogged him through the years (if that’s the term I want).

The attendance that day was 33,133 which pleased me immensely. There simply aren’t enough palindromic attendances these days. Anyway,  we won this pretty turgid encounter 1-0 thanks to a John Aldridge header. He didn’t score in the 33rd minute. Sometimes God is never that kind.

The other thing I can recall from this game is the reception Aldo received as the teams trotted out onto the pitch. It was his home debut and, although many were unconvinced that he would adequately replace Ian Rush, there was an extra buzz in the air that this fixture very rarely generated. Home debuts for strikers are great things. Get an early goal and you’re halfway there.

Obviously Aldo being a local lad meant a great deal to the crowd and his lower league CV made everyone like him a little more. Anfield loves a trier and if he’s a native Scouser and has a throwback moustache he’s already nestling into our hearts.

Aldo ran straight to the Kop and gave it the full hands above head handclap with a grin that would have shamed Liberace. He then picked up the nearest warm-up ball to charitably boot into the crowd as a ‘hello’. He missed. Instead, he thumped it into the roof of the Kop goal and everyone laughed. He then did that thing where you point and go ‘aaah’, as people did before that goalkeeper ‘You’re shit, aaaah’ goal kick thing, as if he meant it and the joke was on us. We laughed again and he got a song before his Anfield career had kicked off. We liked John Aldridge from that moment.

No, it was more than that. We shared a joke with him. He was likeable. That was us down there, wearing those bollock freezing shorts. He was ‘one of us’. We had an affinity. He was a lad from Liverpool who wanted to stand on the Kop on the days when he wasn’t playing in front of it and every time we won a penalty his name would ring out while he tied his bootlaces (something he always did before taking a pen). Now let’s be fair about this. The fact that Aldo went onto score sixty goals in two seasons and break records certainly helped the bonhomie that descended from the stands but overall his birthplace, attitude and Scouseness helped. When it was time for him to leave the club he threw all that he owned into the Kop after his final spot kick in the 9-0 v Palace. Something that, say, Gary Gillespie didn’t do.

It’s not just a Scouse thing either. Dirk’s debut was magnificent and he quickly won over the crowd. Some players would settle in to a game and take a few early touches to get used to the surface and the pace of the ball. Not Dirk. When he came on for his debut at home to West Ham he resembled a toy car that had been wound up and held before being released to smash into a skirting board. He sprinted onto the pitch and battered the ball into the hoardings at the Anfield Road end mid stride. He also didn’t smile once, which I liked. It was just what he did. A few minutes later we won a free kick and he took it without consulting his team mates. The agenda was set. Hard work, Dirkrate if you will, and the overwhelming urge to score in the next ten seconds no matter where he was on the pitch. We took to him immediately.

You can lose that affinity too. How many Kopites refer to Mascherano as ‘Tommy’ these days?

It’s a sad old song, I know, but relationships between individual players and the crowd are rare these days. We’ve taken Coutinho to our hearts and given him a song (thankfully having resisted anything based on ‘Sussudio’) but it’s not a two way thing yet. The little fella looks a little confused when he sees rows of middle aged men singing his name from behind clouds of smoke. Carragher had it, of course, and Gerrard along with Reina to some extent. In fact my happiest memory of Pepe was at Stamford Bridge in the Alonso 1-0 win when he bollocked the away end for releasing the ball too soon for a goal kick. He wanted to waste as much time as possible and felt we weren’t doing our bit. A link between the two, see.

Then there’s Suarez.

Ah.

It’s easy for any player to pay lip service to the fans. The usual ‘they were my boyhood team’ line has become a comedy cliché now particularly since Robbie Keane seems to have had the longest and varied boyhood in Christendom and a nod to the ‘amazing’ fans is always the second bullet point in a post victory interview even though the evidence occasionally points to the opposite but Luis Suarez has more reason than most to praise the club and fans. He certainly cannot complain about a lack of support. The whole Evra row was unpleasant throughout and a lot of people (well alright, me) tacitly supported him purely because he was a Liverpool player and gave him the benefit of the doubt, particularly as the accusation changed several times throughout 2012. I’m not saying that Suarez was guilty as such, the jury’s still out for me personally, but the backing he received was impressive, stoical, vocal and possibly ill-advised. The crowd stood up for him and the brickbats that flew at us during ‘Klanfield’ etc were swiped away with a bored arm. We back our own. We’ve got a song about it.

For his part Luis returned the compliment. In fact he thanked everybody.

“I want to say thanks for the great support that the Liverpool fans have given me in these last days. I would like to say thanks again to fans of Ajax for what [they] did today.  As you know I am Uruguayan, and I defend the selection team, so I want to say thanks too [sic] the fans, players and managers of Nacional for their great support today! A million THANKS for everybody!”

Aw, that’s nice. Everyone else can sod off. We have a symbiotic relationship with the players and when we back our men, we back to the point of zealotry.

Maybe that’s a Scouse thing too. We can slag off the city worse than most people. That’s allowed. If an outsider makes the same point…well, it’s not going to end well.

We revel in it too. Sing anti-Suarez songs and we’ll sing louder. Half the time it isn’t about Suarez at all. It’s about us. Sometimes we just want to remind the opposition whose fans they’re facing today even if the lads on the pitch aren’t especially intimidating.

One bite later and it had all changed. True, there was the odd incredible defence (‘What exactly constitutes a bite?’) but his goose was thoroughly cooked this time. A ten game ban is ridiculous compared to both his and Terry’s ban for a far greater crime but what the hell did he expect? A fair trial? Jesus, even Lionel Hutz could have prosecuted this one and, even though the length of this ban was not his decision you can’t have a quarter of a season off just because you gave away a penalty and fancied a sulk. You can fuck off United, the FA, the press and Ollie Holt as much as you like but don’t do it to us. He’ll still get a cheer when he comes back as we’re quick to forgive but most will agree that the bite was idiotic thing to do. Funny, obviously, but stupid.

When he comes back?

It’s up in the air at the moment but it’s not looking good. Yes, there are differences between the translations of his interviews with the Uruguayan media but we’re still waiting for a ‘after what I’ve put them through, of course I’m bloody staying’ quote. If anyone deserves support from a player it’s us. Yes, we’re not looking likely to break into the Champions League just yet and yes, he’s young and yes, the Madrid move would only happen once in his career but come on! A little love back this way wouldn’t go amiss. I’m not asking for him to stand with us at Villa Park next month with some pyro smuggled into his trackie top but…well, we’ve more than stood up for him.

Maybe it’s the premise that’s wrong. Just because we treat our better players like Gods it doesn’t necessarily follow that they have to do the same to us. I quite like Assou Ekotu’s statement a while back about how football was just a job and he was in it for the money. There was something almost laudable about his honesty. You sing my name, we have some good times but I’ll fuck off when I want. Cheers. We’re not brothers.

Luis Suarez isn’t the boyhood Kopite that John Aldridge was. No one expects him to be. He also plays in a mid-table side that isn’t going to win the League or Champions League any time soon. I’m fine with him leaving. If he’d stood up and said ‘Thanks lads, but it’s time to go’ he’d go with some grace and thanks. On the pitch he’s been a fantastic asset to this club but to moan about the press and then try to get a move via the, erm, press is a selfish and uncaring act to those who took a fair amount of abuse for standing by their man. People leave clubs all the time but, as Leo McGarry says in the West Wing ‘there’s a way to be a person.’ Issuing ‘come and get me’ pleas from the other side of the world is disappointing particularly when his reasons for leaving are perfectly understandable. There’s no need to be so, well, cowardly.

Heroes can fall too. Torres and Owen could talk to him about that. Those men should have had monthly mosaics such was the love they inspired but our hand was spat on. Indeed, when Owen came back for the first time a frowning journalist said ‘these Liverpool fans must have short memories after what Owen did for the club.’ No, we don’t. We have excellent memories and slights are remembered. Suarez may not experience the same enmity should he go but its telling that Dirk, a much lesser player, would probably receive a noisier welcome upon his return than Luis, particularly if he stays in the country.

Maybe it’s our fault. Maybe we should just accept that one avenue of pleasure has been forever closed down and the men on the field, once Reina and Gerrard go, will be mere employees and shirt fillers. Maybe that romance has gone now. I really hope not. We like our heroes at this club, our paragons. Let’s hope that one day we can have a laugh with one of our players rather than an empty song and a weak smile by return.

@TheCenci

 

 

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18 Comments

  1. Had he behaved himself on the pitch, and then spoken of his desire for CL footy alone, he would be heading off to RM for 50+m, but without the hassle.
    He’s clearly not the sharpest tool in the box, and doesn’t have too many brain cells to call on, which is probably why he’s chosen this route.
    One day they’ll learn no?

  2. Also, I don’t think he’ll leave cos nobody will stump up the cash.

  3. Do think we’ve got a few more than Reina/Gerrard who truly love the club. Agger in particular springs to mind.

  4. That was a superb read, Karl – incisive, perceptive and poignant.

  5. Absolutely loved that. Proper fans perspective.

  6. I cant see the club selling him for less than 50 million and I think there will be repercussions from our fans if that is met by a Premier League side. Abroad is the only option if he goes but if I was the manager and 50 million is not offered I would then tell Luis that its of his own making! “Hey Luis we listened to offers and they were not met to the required standards, your own fault not ours! Now try and get a full season under your belt without the misdemeanors and you will get the move you want. Until then, shut it” YNWA

    • Brilliant piece, and this is the best comment ever. Cool and logical.

      So tired of the hysterical knee-jerking on the social networks… while Luis hasn’t behaved particularly gracious in these past couple of months, the fans’ abuse he is getting under his wife and kid’s photo makes me lose faith in humanity.
      Special thanks for that goes to the media of course, who keep doing their job twisting his words whatever way it’s possible, or simply making up comments he’s never made.

  7. Another cracking piece from the boy Coppack. Quite frankly, after Torres left I vowed to never fall in love with a player again. That boy broke my heart, not by leaving but by going to Chelsea and coming out with all that ‘joining a big club’ nonsense. I was staggered by his lack of appreciation for fans who had literally bounced to his name.

    I subsequently didn’t allow myself to get close to Suarez. Yes, I love watching him play but I braced myself for him going soon. What annoys me about current situation is a) lack of appreciation for fans who have backed him so much b) the crap excuses he’s come out with for wanting to leave (photographers in garden etc). I honestly wouldn’t have minded if he just said ‘I want to go to Real because they’re better and everyone there speaks my native language’.

    And one more thing: Please LFCTV spare us the ‘This is a special club’ interviews with new signings when they join. As Karl says, we see through the guff.

  8. nice read.

  9. It’s actually a lot of factors combined into one.

    Suarez has said he wants a move indirectly time and again (not referencing this shite unverified quote but the interviews given to the media during Confed Cup). Things had become so bad in fact, that LFC had to release a statement saying “We expect Luis Suarez to honour his contract with us” in a salvo to save the club’s media image at the time. By all means, he is a fantastic player who has every right to think of his future. The problem does not lie with the fact that he wants to leave, but the manner in which he is expressing it in public.

    Our club has been doing pretty well lately in terms of forming a formidable talent group with a sharp eye for the future. The acquisition of Mignolet, Aspas, Alberto and Coutinho, not to mention Ibe and Sterling and Pachecho means that we have a squad with balance, depth and precision. This is no longer like last season where we hoped Sterling would not get injured in the first half of the season because we were so lacking in options. Suarez pulled us through virtually alone and was indispensable. Right now, he is our brightest star yet, but his departure is not the end of the world, as it would have been, just one season ago.

    The fans and media alike have come to terms with the BR philosophy of football which focuses on young, versatile talent with a penchant for attacking, fluid soccer. The very notion that Suarez would go for 45 million+ gives the notion that we can get 2-3 top players for the money who can contribute to our first team potential AND sustain us for the next few seasons. With names like Eriksen and Bernard being thrown in, it truly is exciting times as compared to last summer.

    Finally, as a fan, I love him. I really LOVE what he has done for the club on the pitch. However, the fan-idol relationship, just like real life, is also fleeting and at one point must end. The best progression for all is in handling this maturely and focus on the positives that can come out if he stays/leaves in the coming weeks.

    As long as this ends amicably, I have no reactions either way. I wish him the best for his career whether he is with us or for someone else.

    However, as a fan, I simply request all the other fans out here not to take out their pitchforks so early. There are professionals including BR monitoring the Suarez scenario and they would take the best decision considering all inside sources and info ( which will be me MUCH more reliable than that of SkySports or The Telegraph).

  10. really enjoyed readinmg that

  11. really enjoyed reading that

  12. Great article.

    I think Suarez knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s decided he wants to leave for CL football and will do whatever it takes to get his move. It’s the way he is – a “win at all costs” attitude that I like many others thought meant he really cared about what we cared about – LFC winning. Sadly it seems to me that the only thing Suarez really cares about is himself and his career – like probably most other top players. It’s sad but it’s the money obsessed way of football these days I’m afraid. I just wish he could be honest about it with LFC and stop with the transparent “come and get me” pleas to – well almost anybody who’ll have him, as long as they’re in the CL. It’s just an insult to the club and, more importantly, the fans.

    I’d love to think we’d make him stay and if his attitude wasn’t right – bench him. However I don’t think FSG would countenance that and will take whatever we can get for him.

  13. Another good piece Karl, one point I would make however is while admitting that Luis can be his own worst enemy I do wish more English people would consider is it edifying for England as a nation that the xenophobic English media and English FA can hound one of the worlds top players out of the English game.

  14. Great article (though admittedly it was probably the Leo McGarry quote that edged me over the line to say so). As a Gooner, I thought you guys were indeed over zealous in your support of Suarez but, as you pointed out, that’s apart of what it is to be a Red – although as football fans I think we’re a lot more collectively similar to one another than we like to let on, as fickle as the next. But, nonetheless, support you did – and to an extent I think you’ll agree that it cost you something, a blemish on the reputation of a magnificent and proud football club – but respect you deserve back from Suarez. That’s not much is it? So if his catalogue of misdemeanours wasn’t enough (and they were), then let’s add this too – the way he is treating you. I want him no way near my great football club and am embarrassed that Arsene’s seriously interested in going there. Would you want this character if the situation was reversed? We’re not Chelsea (least there’s always that…)

  15. Enjoyed that, what a good read…

    Us LFC supporters ought to have learned our lesson by now with regard to affections for players.

    Those affections should be reserved for the locals like Gerrard, Carra and Aldo…the kids that are brought up in our Academy and make it through to the first team and the non-locals and imports with proven loyalty such as Agger, Lucas and Johnson.

    The later 3 would have had very good reason and opportunity to jump ship given the circumstances at the club over the past 3 or 4 years, but they didn’t. That shows huge character, loyalty and commands a lot fo respect for me.

    These 2-3 season wonder-strikers like Torres and Suarez are simply tools. Very, very effective tools in the team we all celebrate and they should be seen only as that until they ascertain the status of Lucas, Agger and co.

    For that reason I want Suarez “the tool” (pun defo intended) to stay this season. I watched the home game against Swansea again last night and I just struggle to see who we could replace him with that would be as effective at what does.

    Cold? Maybe, I was firmly on his side before Ivano-bite but after that I gave up. I’ll still support the man and celebrate his goals, but he’s got a hell of a long way to go before I start caring about the man.

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