By Tony Barrett
WHEN Kenny Dalglish and Sir Alex Ferguson first locked horns in English football’s most combustible fixture, it was an era when a minority of supporters came armed with golf balls embedded with nails, Stanley knives that were used for cutting skin rather than carpets and even, on one notorious occasion, a canister of CS gas.
On Saturday, contrary to those who reverted to inflammatory hyperbole to bill it a “blood feud”, the weapons of choice for those who follow Liverpool and Manchester United were words. That terrace chants, however unsavoury they may be, have replaced physical confrontation in this bitter rivalry underlines just how far the fixture has come since its nadir in the mid-1980s.
For those who are so inclined it is still possible to produce a rap sheet detailing the misdemeanours of both set of fans, highlighting their excesses and eschewing perspective. “I would like to thank the majority of fans for their behaviour and co-operation,” Chief Superintendent John Ward, the match commander, said afterwards, providing a snapshot of reality that was in stark contrast to the expectations of doom-mongers. “Despite the large numbers of supporters from both clubs and lively atmosphere, only 17 people were ejected from the ground and, at this time, two people arrested during the policing operation, all for low-level incidents.”
One further arrest was later made, of a 59-year-old man from North Wales, who appeared to bring shame on himself with an alleged racist gesture. But the point still stands that out of a capacity crowd of 43,952 people only the behaviour of three individuals was deemed potentially criminal by those in charge of enforcing law and order. That’s 0.0068 per cent — some blood feud.
This is not to say the occasion was without incident — far from it. The booing of Patrice Evra was as predictable as it was uncomfortable. It was the veracity of the evidence from the United captain that condemned Luis Suárez to an eight-match ban rather than the colour of his skin that led to such merciless baiting. But regardless of the alleged inconsistencies in Evra’s account, we are heading into dangerous territory if someone who has claimed to be the victim of racial abuse — and who has had those claims upheld by an inquiry — is barracked for doing so.
Similarly, those in the away end who blotted the image of their club by using a tragedy in which 96 football fans lost their lives to score cheap terrace points. Hearing “The Sun was right — you’re murderers” being chanted by supporters housed in the same stand that features a memorial to the Hillsborough disaster was as distressing as the intent was pernicious. It is to their great fortune that the media microscope has moved on from sick chants to racism, or else scrutiny of their actions would prompt far greater outrage.
Yet, for all such concerns, this was a world away from February 9, 1986 when United’s players were attacked with CS gas as they alighted the team bus. “Worse than Vietnam,” was Ron Atkinson’s typically colourful description of the incident. Twenty-six years on, his successor and his players had to contend with a smattering of boos that would not have been out of place at a pantomime. Liverpool and Manchester United may still be English football’s most hostile rivalry but even with its obvious pockmarks it is still a far prettier affair than it once was.
From The Times, Monday January 30th 2012
very well put together piece by a pro’s pro. And fairly succinct, given how so many articles on recent events have gone on and on trying to define and bring context to an issue that people either already agree with or never will.
“we are heading into dangerous territory if someone who has claimed to be the victim of racial abuse — and who has had those claims upheld by an inquiry — is barracked for doing so.”
The whole inquiry was a complete joke. Or it would have been had it not been such a serious matter. You of all people should know that as you are one of the few journalists who actually has read the report. The FA panel that found Suarez guilty was many things but independent or expert it was not. Not one single shred of actual evidence, nothing but the plaintiff’s word was enough to ruin a young man’s reputation.
The panel set out to find Suarez guilty and make it impossible for LFC to appeal or Suarez to sue them for defamation. A 115-page report was carefully worded to achieve these goals and I suppose everyone reading this knows how full of holes it is. An utter stitch-up from start to finish. The inquiry in itself proves nothing.
Interesting that the debate on five live on Monday morning didn’t say what chants were heard in the away end, focusing on the evra boos only
Let’s have it right.
War of words is one thing but the booing of Evra was, if barely understandable given the circumstances, a disgrace (god forbid that I should agree with Ollie Holt about ANYTHING).
It was another chance gone begging for Liverpool fans to show their class, but unfortunately many of them just couldn’t help themselves. Undoubtedly many were victims of the group dynamic…
I know it appears Suarez was stitched up, but to boo one player for the ENTIRE game seemed to me to be excessive. It wasn’t Evra that did the stitching up, he simply fought his corner. Fans should perhaps reserve some of their derision for the legal team that so ineptly defended Suarez, or the prosecuting lawyer that was allowed to badger Suarez until he lost his cool, and/or The FA for allowing it to happen.
However, one thing nobody has mentioned yet is how Luis Suarez will be treated at Old Trafford, as a direct result of the Liverpool fans’ treatment of Evra on Saturday. I fear for him, I really do.
tbh Suarez was gettin boo’s before he was found guilty. OT will be nasty as hell for him, but he will get boo’d by ALL non LFC fans now where ever he plays in england. This will stay with him def till the end of the season maybe even half way through next season who knows. All thanks to the FA
What are you raving about Evra didnt stitch him up?? Evra is the one who came out first and said he was called a ‘n****r’ 10 times. Then he said that Suarez said ‘I kicked you because you are black’….’I dont talk to black people’ and ‘Alright, blackie, blackie, blackie’
This is why he was booed… Had he just said that Suarez had used the word once it would be a whole different ball game…..
Regardless of how Liverpool fans acted on Saturday, Suarez would have been torn to shreds at Old Trafford anyway…
I really cant wait for this whole sorry season to be over if im honest. Football has been ruined for me and the FA have taken it back years. Just the other day i was told of a fan in Eastern Europe who was spotted in his jersey, kidnapped by rival fans, RAPED with a 4 foot pole and CRUCIFIED outside his football ground. Now i know in Europe they take it far but I fear that this solid hatred is creeping back into football. The media are whipping fans into a frenzy. The fact that opposition fans have to be LOCKED in after a football match says it all. I dont think ill ever go to another game again….
It had little or nothing to do with EVRA that the complaint was upheld. Are you claiming you read the report or what? If that’s the case then your interpretation leaves a lot to be desired. If Evra lied (and I’m not saying he didn’t), then it was up to the supposedly unbiased members of the inquiry panel to see that (even though the chairman was compromised). Add the fact that they allowed Suarez to be badgered, that Suarez’ defence was hopeless (I mean how on EARTH was it they couldn’t prove Evra had been inconsistent?) and that the FA had an agenda, you have the reason everything went tits up.
Once you set legal processes in motion like that you can’t back away from your story, so did you really expect Evra to do that?
For that he deserves to be derided to some extent, I grant you.
I’m not sticking up for Evra, I’m having a go at all the fans who chose to boo the guy for 90 minutes, which was excessive, however you want to paint it. The booers had a choice as to whether to set the bar high and set an example to other fans, or to do what detractors and the haters in the press expected of them.
The point i was making is that Evra is not entirely innocent. He had a large part to play in the whole process. He heard a word that day and he ran away with it…
He was booed because people feel he lied…
I agree that Saturday would have been a perfect day for LFC fans to hold their heads up. But people are still very angry at being labelled racist. You just cant control a crowd of 40,000. No matter how much you want to.
I would agree that such booing is, say, ’embarrassing’… perhaps it would be better just to laugh at him on occasions like that, & sing songs about his own embarrassment…
But what do you think of Ferguson’s ‘baiting’ of LFC, by making Evra captain?
You ‘fear for Suarez’? I don’t, because ‘words’ have nothing to footballing genius
Evra received boos for branding Suarez an alleged racist and not having the decency to come out and say that he misunderstood his original comments. It had nothing to do with skin colour it was all about Evra’s behaviour in not clarifying the situation while a fellow professional was inevitably hung out to dry by a xenophobic media on the lookout for a scapegoat. Plenty of opposition players are booed regardless of nationality or skin colour and despite the press’ interpretation of those actions. Its a normal part of a games atmosphere and long may it remain. These players receive a kings ransom and a bit of harmless booing is a small price to pay for that.
If Evra is unnerved by this booing wait until he travels to Uruguay to play. He will be booed by a sizeable amount of supporters with the same skin colour as himself.
The veracity of Evra’s statement ??? are you sure ? His evidence was littered with hearsay and inconsistencies that would have got him a night in the cell for contempt of court in the real world outside of FA la la land….The baiting of Evra was entirely understandable. Yes isn’t it lucky that the scotch soaked sports jopurno’s are more concerned with Patrice Evra’s hurt feelings than they they ever were about The HIllsboro Tragedy
“However, one thing nobody has mentioned yet is how Luis Suarez will be treated at Old Trafford, as a direct result of the Liverpool fans’ treatment of Evra on Saturday. I fear for him, I really do.”
This would have happened anyway. What’s the worst that will happen that you fear? Is some nob going to shoot at him or something?
Patrice Evra got boo’ed not because he made an allegation. We would have been fine if he had made an allegation that was true. But, the amount of changes to Evra’s story, the coaching from the FA, fabrication, diving/over-acting, insulting Suarez, pass ‘victim’ claims have us angered at what has happened.
It is clear for anyone to see who has read the report that Evra’s story doesn’t hold water. How can you forget/mis-quote Suarez 30 minutes after the incident when he went to the ref? You look at Adeyemi’s reaction and Evra’s reaction. One is clearly distressed whereas Evra is suppose to be outraged yet hardly winces.
Any court in the land would have thrown this case out yet the FA (who interviewed Evra in secret and kept the tapes from LFC, and then charged Suarez without even speaking to him) sided with Evra’s story.
It is a disgrace. The FA tried to get an image lift in the press and one over Sepp Blatter and Fifa, that is all it was about. Nothing more.
I worry for the future of the game. I worry for the future of Suarez. You can prosecute someone based on a conversation nobody else heard, and action that actually discredit Evra’s story, this is worrying.
In my eyes, we didn’t boo Evra because he felt he had been racially abused. He was boo’ed for everything above and trying to destroy a career of a fantastic player.
Well said Mr B.
I can’t wait until the game at Old Toilet is out of the way, because I sick of the whole f*cking circus now.
As much as the fans have tried to put it behind us, we are not allowed to, by a constant baying media that wants to constantly stoke the fires.
If it goes out of the headlines for more than a couple of days, some devious hack somewhere writes another inflamatory artice to keep the fires burning, and the pot bubbling, until the the next time the teams meet, all because they want to keep it on the boil until the inevitable return of Suarez into the lions den.
Bring it on. lets get it out of the way, and lets get back to discussing the football.
The media can go and f*ck themselves.
If Li’l Louis gets the winner at OT to dent their title hopes with that and us knocking them out of the Cup, Fergie might then think twice about trying to sully our players in the future…