BY BEN McCAUSLAND
ME and Liverpool Football Club are going through a bad patch. Every long-term relationship has its ups and downs – I understand that – but I have felt this way for a while now and I don’t see clearer skies on the horizon. The dynamics of our relationship has changed, external parties are affecting us and the cracks are starting to show.
Just a few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a friend in which we discussed the current malaise in our affections towards Liverpool Football Club. We talked about the reasons – Hicks and Gillett attempting to play us all for fools and very nearly getting away with it, Torres breaking our hearts and making it impossible to trust another footballer ever again, the Hodgson Hangover, the somewhat-higher-than-inflation rise in costs of match tickets and oil-rich Arab’s and Russian’s playing chicken with Platini and his FFP scheme making it harder and harder to compete all figured pretty high.
We even jokingly (drunkenly) made plans to abandon Liverpool whenever Rafa got his next management job and instead follow his new team and began to daydream of Rafa taking over at AC Milan or St Pauli. Based on recent developments at Stamford Bridge it is a good job we didn’t pinkie swear on that promise to follow Rafa, as I am not sure how welcome The Shed would make me and Kevin feel.
I have been a season ticket holder for over 15 years, and whilst I would be loath to ever give that up, am I really going to keep going when the inevitable happens and it costs me £1000 for 19 games of football?
For the last 12 years, if Liverpool were playing, chances are I would be there. Missed games were few and far between and I have had unbelievable times and made great friends thanks to Liverpool.
But if we are honest, modern football is shit.
Football fans all over the country have different reasons for getting fed up with their club – mercenary foreign owners, bankruptcy, Bill Kenwright, Milton Keynes, wallet-bleeding ticket prices to name but a few. My love affair with Liverpool is potentially on the wane due to two direct reasons – firstly Hicks and Gillett (although I am not going to go there in this piece, too raw!) almost pushing us to the brink of extinction and making me realise football is just another big-business now, and secondly, getting my heart broken by Fernando Torres.
In 2008, an Evertonian friend of mine said that “not since the heyday of Bowie have so many grown men been so ridiculously in love with an androgynous twat”, and he was right (although I disagreed with the “twat” part, at the time), we were head over heels, daydream about, want to be mates with, IN LOVE with him. And didn’t he know it. Looking back now, akin to a scorned lover looking through old texts from an ex, the flowery prose with which he waxed lyrical about the “bond” he has with the supporters, his love for the city and his book – with a Liverbird on the cover – which was basically a love letter to Liverpool, now all just seems so hollow and made our split all the more painful.
I saw Torres as “one of us”, in a way that Fowler was and Owen wasn’t, he was Spanish but he “got it”, he understood what it mean to play for us, and when he left us he took all trust I would ever have for footballers with him.
I’ll be honest, it has given me an almost perverse pleasure in seeing Fernando struggle since he left, and to use the ex-girlfriend analogy again, it’s been like watching the ex get fat and start seeing some lad you know she thinks is a dickhead. And whilst Torres can point to 3 major trophies won since he left us, I can point to minutes on the pitch and decisive contributions made in those competitions *coughPegguyArphexadcough*.
I can’t lie, it has been especially difficult to see Rafa make his return to management with the thoroughly undeserving Chelsea, and even worse that he just might be the man to get Torres close to his 08/09 pomp.
I guess what I am trying to say is that the LFC / Torres break-up has left me with some emotional detachment issues in that I can’t (or won’t) form another bond with a player like that again. I see Suarez doing what he does but I can’t give him the adulation I once would have, because at the back of mind I am thinking “well, he’ll be off soon”.
A third reason is the atmosphere, and the general “match day experience” at English football. The Guardian, and in particular Raphael Honigstein, don’t help either – with their seemingly endless supply of articles detailing the many ways in which the Bundesliga is superior to our own Premier League.
Safe standing areas? You got it.
Have a beer watching the match? Why of course!
€190 for a season ticket? Why would you pay any more?
Clubs owned by its fans? Wouldn’t have it any other way.
Barring a few occasions each season, watching Premier League football is a very sterile experience. By all accounts going to the match in the 70’s and 80’s was at times a terrifying and disturbing experience, and no-one wants a return to those days. But does it have to be so far the other way that these days the person standing up, singing and enjoying themselves is in the minority?
I have only been to one German League game, a 2.Bundesliga game between St Pauli and Bochum. To be honest, the standard of football was solid gold shite, but watching the performance of both sets of fans was seriously impressive. Also standing, with a beer, was a rare treat.
Obviously the issue of standing at football is a hugely emotive one for Liverpool, but I for one would love to see a Safe Standing Area implemented in the Kop. Where my season ticket is there is probably 20 rows of people who stand for every game – at the big games the entire Kop remains on its feet – and when a goal goes in there are people going arse over tit over the seat in front, shins cut to ribbons and general mayhem. The presence of seats in these situations does in fact add to the problem.
For as long as ticket prices keep rising and rising, and the “fun-levels” of going to the match keep decreasing, (a friend of mine recently referred to going to Anfield as “a chore”), more and more what I would term “proper fans” will be turning away from football, resulting in further diluted atmospheres.
I would like to say that this will eventually result in dwindling attendances, thereby forcing the clubs to actually have to work to sell tickets, but the most recent survey of ticket pricing suggests that this is some way from happening unfortunately.
A direct knock-on from this is the disappearing characters from our support. I went to both the Moscow and Udinese away games recently and it struck me that there was a lot of faces missing that in years gone by would have been nailed on to be out there. So many of the old guard who helped make our support so famous and unique are choosing not to bother anymore, and the exorbitant ticket prices are making it massively difficult for the new breed to go regularly enough to establish themselves.
The working class are being squeezed out and the homogenisation of supporters is well under way.