LAST week the media fell back in love with Chelsea, lauding the Stamford Bridge side for their landmark dethroning of Barcelona.
It’s hard to see what all the fuss was about, really – after all, it was only a repeat of their efforts in 2009, when a 1-0 win at the Bridge saw them through to the final.
That Chelsea side was a decent one, but was as nothing compared to the Liverpool team which clung on to a 1-0 home defeat to Arsenal, clinching the club’s 18th title in dramatic style in 1989. That they followed it up with number 19 the following year was the icing on the cake.
Both of course will be more fondly remembered than the Manchester United vintage of 1999, a team of real promise which choked on the big stage, going down 1-0 to a tactically superior Bayern Munich side.
Welcome to the world of the early leaver, a strange parallel universe where football matches last for somewhere between 78 and 86 minutes; where telling interventions from Andres Iniesta, Michael Thomas, Teddy Sheringham and Ole Solskjaer simply never happened.
It’s always been an issue at Anfield, but as this season has ground on it’s become something of an epidemic. At every home fixture, not excluding the cup wins over United and Man City, a steady procession of supporters troops out of the ground.
Against West Brom it began earlier than ever, many people deciding that with fully 12 minutes to go there was simply no prospect of anything noteworthy taking place (they were right on this occasion, but still.)
I’m generally at a loss over this. The most common explanation is that people are trying to ‘beat the traffic’, but why? What essential appointment are they going to miss? Has the government convened a special meeting of COBRA they simply have to attend? Are they going to the dentist at 5pm on a Saturday?
More likely, they’re getting to B and Q before it closes, picking up the kids from swimming, making it back in time for the X-Factor. Football’s meant to be a distraction from this, 90 (yes 90, plus added time) minutes of release from the crushing realisation that your life is essentially futile.
Most traffic-beaters at least have the humility to look a bit furtive about it all, as if they might just have been holding in a desperate need for the toilet and can’t go on any longer.
There’s a more insidious, and vocal, group of early leavers. You can often spot these early on in the match, as they’ll spend much of the time trying to get one of their classic one-liners (eg ‘SHOOT!’ when Skrtel’s in possession on the edge of his own box) recognised by fellow chuckling morons.
Not for this group the surreptitious shuffle along the line of seats. They leave with a point-making flourish, a dismissive shake of the head and a pronouncement along the lines of ‘I’m not staying for this shite’. The self-importance is breathtaking.
If you’ve ever done this, you should know your gesture is as rewarding and productive for both you and Liverpool Football Club as carving the words FUCK OFF KENNY into your inner thigh and using the blood to scrawl BRING BACK RAFA on your chest. Stop it.
I guess if you want to pay close to £50 for a ticket to an event you don’t plan on watching all of, you might think that’s your business.
Except the early leavers make the experience for other fans in many parts of the ground unbearable.
Sit in the Annie Road and you’ll spend the last 10 minutes trying to peer round them, standing to let them out and generally being inconvenienced by their decision to give up on the whole enterprise.
The worst of all are those who insist on pausing every now and again to cast a baleful glance in the direction of the game they’ve decided is no longer worthy of their precious attention. Some of these take about four minutes to actually get from their seat to the exits.
If you go and watch the tennis at Wimbledon you can wait till after 5pm and pick up a returned ground pass for a knockdown price, the original bearer having overdosed on strawberries, Veuve Clicquot and free copies of the Daily Mail.
Maybe this is where we’re heading – perhaps we should halt the game on 75, let everyone with a more pressing engagement than supporting Liverpool FC head off and bring in a few thousand replacements who’d never normally afford a ticket to offer some genuine support.
Absurd? Yep, but no more so than mouthing along to something about walking through a storm at 3pm and walking back to the car park at half four.
Follow Steve on Twitter @steve_graves
I’m not sure why anyone would want to leave a game where anything can still happen.
Never left a game early and never will. Support your team all the way through.
You pay your money, at least watch the whole thing.
We are Liverpool, we have genuine support. Stop acting like Chelsea fans [plastics]
As a child i remember having the Liverpool Annual…I don’t recall who wrote it…. It had no jacket and was old when I had it …I recall a piece which mentioned a 0-1 down LFC storming a resolute yellow shirted Arsenal rearguard under a starlit Anfield…. Sit down yer bums sit down….sang the Kop to an emptying Kemlyn… I think we still lost 0-1 but most would have kept the faith
Anytime I go to watch Liverpool I have to travel from the south coast of Ireland. The very last thing I would do, even if we were loosing (thankfully that hasn’t happened on any trip yet) is get up and leave, so it really does leave me speechless when I see people who have travelled even further, and presumably spent more money getting to the game, than me getting up and walking out before the ref even puts on added time. And most of them (all of them) do it without as much as considering the fact that me spending 60 euro on a ticket means I more than likely don’t want to take my eyes of the game to let them past me. Some dopes.
At the WBA game there was a group of lads who spent about 15 minutes arguing amongst themselves about how shite our season is and what a fan should do rather than actually watching the game. It also included the phrase “I’VE BEEN ON THIS KOP A LOT LONGER THAN YOU HAVE!” from a man in his 50’s to a couple of lads in their 20’s.
I agree completely, this is my absolute pet hate! Who is it that wants to leave early? I would never even leave early at HT to beat the tea queue! But then my tickets mean a lot to me as they are hard come by. Reckon the problem started with the corporates getting back for their refreshments and it has spread, creeping through the complacent season ticket holders to those football tourists that have a train/flight to catch.
I’ve been waiting for a season ticket for a long time. If I ever get one it will be the most precious thing I’ve ever owned and I’ll continue to support my team through every minute of every game.
Left a game at 4-0 down 5 minutes before the end. The sense of guilt still sticks with me.
vs Coventry City, Highfield Road, December 1983
I was 7 years old.
To be honest, I would’ve left the Ataturk at half time had there been any other way back into town than a trail marked by sheep droppings.
haha – made me ponder about them and just where they are going to. Brilliant writing as usual Steve…haha!
Excellent article Steve and I fully agree. Very annoying to have to stand up to let these early leavers leave. I’ve never left early and never will either, no matter the scoreline.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury of being able to attend games as I live in the states. But I did go to one game in 2008 when I was in London which was Liverpool v Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. I got there almost 2 hours early and was enthralled by the whole experience (and this wasn’t even Anfield!). We won, with an incredible goal by Xabi Alonso. Not only did I not leave early, I almost had to be dragged out I didn’t want to leave. It’s hard to see fans leaving early when those of us who have no access to the team or games can only dream of seeing Liverpool live on a regular basis.
Growing up I went to baseball games & hockey games (not of my own will, but taken as a kid and later forced through work outings). We always left early. Because we didn’t have any attachment to the team for starters, or the sport really, and for anyone that has been to LA, avoiding traffic is actually incredibly important! Plus, those games tend to go on about double, sometimes even triple the time of a football game. 90 minutes is nothing. If people can’t stay for something that costs £50 and takes a mere hour and a half, they really don’t deserve to go when so many others would happily go for them.
Some fans come from London & have a train to catch esp. for European games. Obviously you’re not familiar with the London tube system because if these people don’t get to Euston on time, they’d have to wait 6 hrs to get the train the next morning.
So right also hate the getting to the match late then just going for a hotdog lot 10 mins before half time whistle , then getting back 10 mins after half time whistle , just cos you got your season ticket , fuck off I want to watch the match without being disturbed by you , and yeah u might also be sick of my singing all thru the game ! But at least I’m here supporting good and bad
different team different supporters these days. at one time being one down to west brom with 15mins to go would have meant the ground being incredibly noisy with young men shouting their encouragement with increasing amounts ferocity and desperation. now its mainly silence and mutterings about the cost of everything. i dont know if that will ever change now football is mainly for those with a decent amount of disposable cash.
Stamp their cards/tickets on the way out (assuming branding them is a bit OTT) and then use that to dock them points for future games. In fact, lets buld a whole points system based on proper support. If you slack, you’re likely not coming to the next match. And when you get that recious ticket, you know its your time to shine
…and can we add people who arrive late for kick off and after half time please?
And people who spend the time of their phone explaining that they’re at the game?
I too think there is nothing more depressing in any sport than watching your fellow supporters leave a game early, and that anyone who doesn’t stick out matches to the end should sell their season ticket to someone who would, as it clearly doesn’t mean half as much to them.
However, a big issue I have with this article is the short line linking anyone who thinks that it is time for Kenny to stand down to this sort of behaviour. Although fickle people who leave the ground early are probably more likely to be calling for a change in manager (and could well have been calling for Rafa’s head a couple of years ago too), I think the self-righteousness of some people backing Kenny is becoming really disgusting.
Is it not entirely possible that some people’s decision that Kenny is not taking us in the right direction be based on an objective analysis of the way the team has played this season? One of the quotes that I most admire about Liverpool football club is “no one is bigger than the club”. To those people who have decided that they are the bastions of Liverpool FC’s fine traditions should stop to consider what this actually means. Kenny is a legend of the club, he loves the club, we love him, but to question whether he is the right manager for now is not heresy, it is just a reaffirmation of the fact that Liverpool FC is more than one man, it is a tradition, a sporting philosophy, a shared love of many people across the world.
Instead of sticking the knives into fellow supporters, and revelling in how righteous you feel by doing that, please just get back to basics and focus on another fine quote that I am sure you will remember “You’ll never walk alone”, which like it or not, also goes for the fans who leave early or think Kenny should stand down, cheers.
Thanks for the comment. I’m not sure the article links people who think Kenny should stand down with leaving early. People were doing much the same during Rafa’s time at the club. The example was to illustrate how that’s a futile gesture, whatever your viewpoint and whoever happens to be the manager at any given time.
For what it’s worth I’m very far from feeling ‘righteous’ towards people who think KD should leave, The idea that to question Kenny is somehow sacrilege is a toxic and unhelpful one. It’s perfectly possible to be, as I am, unsure whether Kenny is right for our long-term future without necessarily saying he should be sacked tomorrow.
Sorry, I misunderstood what you were getting at with the inscribing messages to Kenny and Rafa on you inner thigh/chest the first time I read it. I get it now, that no one is going to see those messages (that is, unless you streak onto the ground, in which case you would be making a very prominent point!)
Re-reading my post I am a little surprised how worked up I was when I wrote it. I guess reading quite a few of the comments that I was alluding to, on this site and others have really offended me. Sorry if I offended anyone in turn with my response. I just hope that we as supporters can really pull together, as we are really going to need to, to help lift the team out of this one.
Cheers Tom, I completely agree. I think some people on both sides of the Dalglish debate are making it too personal, although maybe that’s inevitable when we’re dealing with someone of such standing at the club. Questioning the future direction isn’t the same as not supporting the club, in fact quite the opposite if done constructively.
Reminded me of a game at Anfield earlier in the season when the lad next to me disappeared down the stairs at half time AND NEVER RETURNED. Half Time?
My friend has a ST in The Paddock and the seat next to her has been occupied for just 2 games this season – 2 games. If you’re not going to be bothered to attend a game, why selfishly hang onto a ticket you no longer require?
I have always had the feeling that those who decide to leave early (at least during a loss) were of the mind that “I paid £50 to come to this game and I expect them to win.” They have always seemed fair-weather fans, to me.
Been going the game since 1968. Home and away. Season ticket holder for 25 years. I usually stay to the end. Occasionally I dont. Last night I left on 93 minutes. Should have left on 23, that’s how much respect I felt that ‘performance’ paid me. Sue me
I’ve missed my last train home at times, and the thought of leaving early and missing even a few minutes was more unbearable than not getting home.
Maybe some of them just need a smoke after another 75mins of frustration – stewards wont let you back in.
Could also be seen as quiet protest – people dont want to boo kennys team and Kenny but are only too aware how pathetic the home form is and how unlikely we are to score in the last 10mins.