EVERYONE remembers their first game don’t they? I think I’ve told you mine but I’ll tell you again. May 1990, I’d just turned 8 years old, and my dad had two tickets for Liverpool vs QPR at Anfield. When he showed me them they may as well have been bars of gold they looked that valuable to me. I was scared to touch them.
I can’t remember much of the match, just the sounds and the shouts and QPR being better than I wanted them to be, but my dad telling me not to worry when they went 1-0 up. He was right, Liverpool scored twice, Barnes and Rush, and we won 2-1. After the game everyone hung around waiting for something and then it was announced that we had won the league. I hadn’t even realised that might happen, maybe my dad didn’t want to get my hopes up. The ground sang You’ll Never Walk Alone, me stood on my seat whilst the players did a lap of honour.
My dad says I was strangely quiet when I got in that night, not like he was expecting at all. I do remember being a bit subdued, so much so that he came in to my bedroom for a chat before bed. In my room, surrounded by Liverpool posters and Subbuteo pitches you had to climb over he asked me “Didn’t you enjoy it son?”
“Yeah, I did,” I replied. “I just wish there’d have been a six foot massive red bird bouncing about the pitch like in the NFL to make it all better.”
OK, the last bit of the story is a lie. Although that was my first game and I did genuinely like the NFL as a kid. We used to watch it on a Sunday after a roast dinner as a family, and all had our favourite teams. My sister liked the Dolphins ’cause she was a girl and I liked the Cowboys ’cause I was a boy (although I have just realised this was no indication into how we would eventually grow up). I loved how it all seemed so Hollywood, with the fun names and the bright colours and the mascots and the cheerleaders, although I probably didn’t like the cheerleaders in that way just yet.
But there was no way I wanted my football like that. That was for over there, and besides at that point in my life I couldn’t imagine anything more glamorous than Peter Beardsley on the ball or Ian Rush running through on goal and do you know what? I think kids today are probably exactly the same. Footballers as their idols, quickly swapping Suarez posters for Balotelli ones. Which is why the latest announcement of ‘a new matchday role’ for Mighty Red is utter nonsense. You don’t need to make football more exciting for them, they love those footballers more than anyone. There will be a kid at Anfield on Saturday who is at their first game. Do you think he is going to go to school on Monday talking about seeing Steven Gerrard or the mad red thing that looked a bit like a dinosaur that ran on before kick off?
An even bigger joke is that he is apparently there to make the occasion ‘extra special’ for the mascot. THE MASCOT! I wrote to Liverpool every year to be a mascot until I was bigger than David Thompson and would have looked daft. Good enough Brian Hall wrote back every time, but I never got picked. If I was a young lad picked as a mascot now I’d be trying to dance with Sturridge and make Jordan Henderson my best mate and ask Lovren how big he was, and I’d volley Mighty Red in the shins if he tried to get in the way of me and my heroes.
So yeah. It’s nonsense. But in expressing my anger and dismay I’ve been met with plenty of “but does it matter though?” or “Why are you arsed?”. I would argue it does matter actually. For loads of reasons, some more serious than not. But for the sake of time here are three of them.
1) It’s all too nice. I want us to be the least nice football club in the country. There are plenty of nice clubs knocking about, like Norwich and Fulham, that never offend anyone, and always make you feel welcome and never win anything. The saying used to be that the only thing you’d get at Anfield was a cup of tea. The ‘This is Anfield’ sign was there to “remind our lads who they’re playing for, and to remind the opposition who they’re playing against.” Bill Shankly would be in the opposition players’ ears as soon as they stepped off the bus telling them they looked tired, or that they would never score that day. Ever since then managers and players have worked hard to create and maintain ‘Fortress Anfield’ to the extent that many players and teams have been beaten before they’ve stepped onto the pitch. A young opposition player should feel intimidated walking onto the pitch at Anfield, and Mighty Red is the least intimidating thing I’ve ever seen in my life. He would probably be quaking in his boots at the sight of The Kop until he saw that thing and laughed his head off.
I can’t imagine it does our lads any favours either. Last season at our best we were aggressive from the start, right at the opposition from the whistle. Steven Gerrard should be snarling at the opposition captain at the coin toss letting him know they are, to quote our manager, in for “the longest 90 minutes of their life”. Instead he’s got a big red bird in the way bouncing up and down with a big grin on his face. No wonder we started slow against Southampton. It’s all gone far too nice. If we do have to have a mascot it should be some lad from Breck Road, spitting in Jack Wilshere’s face and singing songs about John Terry’s mum.
2. It’s just not Liverpool. Football clubs should be a product of their city. I would argue both Liverpool and Everton are. Great proud clubs in working class areas in the image of the city they are in. Much is made of the quick-witted, outgoing Scouser, but really it’s a modest city of modest people. The worst thing you could be accused of is being ‘too big for your boots’. The worst thing anyone could say is that they ‘need to bring you down a peg or two’. It’s an attitude that might have held Liverpool as a city back in some ways, but it’s still there to this day.
Jamie Carragher tells a wonderful story of when he first broke through into the first team and he went out with his mates. He was doing a bit better, and had a bit more to carry around, so decided to get a wallet. When he pulled it out in the pub there was uproar. “Look at Jamie thinking he’s all that with his wallet.”
This wasn’t a fancy designer wallet. It was just a black wallet. But where he came from lads carried their money in their pockets and Jamie should still do the same. So he ditched the wallet. I’ve no idea if he ever got another one, but I bet it took a while if he did.
Manchester United are a product of their city too. Cocksure, arrogant and all too pleased with themselves. In the nicest possible way of course. Manchester United weren’t known as ‘The Glams’ by Liverpool fans for nothing, chasing success in the 70s and 80s through fancy-dan players who flattered to deceive. All fur coat and no knickers, quite possibly literally in the case of Ron Atkinson. They are best summed up by their most famous players. George Best, Eric Cantona, David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo. All wonderfully talented no doubt, but they’d eat themselves if they could, just like the fellas you see at Old Trafford, arms aloft at the away end with their 90s coats and daft sideburns.
Liverpool’s most famous players are the opposite. Unassuming men off the pitch who if you met you could never guess their talent. Kenny Dalglish, Steven Gerrard, Robbie Fowler, Ian Rush, all fellas who would rather talk up their team mates than themselves. All lads who still live in the area and you can imagine going for a pint with, and in some cases do. All lads who would rather die than be seen as flash or above their stations.
Because that is what Liverpool Football Club is in danger of becoming. Too flash for the city. LFC is the 18-year-old lad from Toxteth getting a smack from his dad because he’s come home with a man bag. LFC is the girl being told she has forgotten her roots by her mates from school she doesn’t see enough. Liverpool, as a city, isn’t the stupid razzmatazz episode the team announcement has become. It isn’t the increasingly showy half-time entertainment (what’s wrong with fat lads taking pens? Once I’d given up on the mascot dream, I moved on to the ‘fat lad taking pens at The Kop for no obvious reason or prize’ dream). It certainly isn’t a a LOOK AT ME lad from LIPA dancing about dressed as a bird walking on the pitch like he owns it.
No, Liverpool the city is Ronnie Moran throwing winners’ medals at the players in the changing room after the last game of the season and telling them when to report back to pre-season training. It’s Bob Paisley being the greatest British tactical mind of the 20th century but not being recognised as such because he didn’t go round telling everyone how he did it. It’s George Sephton introducing local emerging bands every week to wider audience in his soothing, whispering tones. It’s Jamie Carragher with his money in his pocket of his jeans. That’s Liverpool.
3. It’s not actually doing anything for kids. Doing something for kids is making more adult and child tickets available for league games rather than one part of the smallest stand. Doing something for kids is making kids’ tickets cheaper. Doing something for kids is making one section of the ground kids only, so they can get in themselves and not have to bring their mum or dad who maybe can’t afford an adult ticket, or might not even be around. Doing something for kids is telling all the players to stop on their way out of Melwood and sign autographs as they only work for three hours a day anyway. Doing something for kids is letting them into Melwood to watch them train. Doing something for kids is not bringing out three new kits every season that their parents can’t afford but feel bad about not getting. It’s certainly not having a mascot on the pitch they can’t even see because they are not in the ground anyway. But this will be seen as doing something for young fans and a box somewhere will get a big tick. And it’s not right.
So there you are. Three reasons which might make you think. I hope I don’t come across as a moaner. I’m not particularly an ‘against modern football’ guy you know, or particularly down on the club. I don’t mind all the sponsors and the daft stuff it entails. I don’t mind the long pre-season tours, in fact I’ve been on one. I don’t really get down that average players earn more in a week than the average Scouser does in a year. I think ticket prices are too expensive, yes. But I expect deep down the club agrees.
All I really want is the football club to remain a symbol of the city, rather than this being constantly chipped away until all football clubs end up looking the same. For better or worse, Chelsea should be Chelsea and Newcastle should bel Newcastle and Liverpool should be Liverpool, for better or for worse. A product and reflection of our culture. Rather than the people who happen to own us. Let the bird stay in the fan park, but please keep him away from the pitch.
But you are 32! I am 52 and have to listen to 42 year old men telling me that Star Wars is great. It’s not, it never was, it’s a film for kids. I was 15 when it came out and could see that it was for kids, not for me. But I can still spend hours arguing with 42 year olds who violently disagree.
And that’s my point. You are 32, so obviously you won’t get it. The bird’s not for you, but one day the kids will be 32 and they really won’t see it the same way as you.
We grew up in a time when LFC wanted you to feel like you should feel grateful for handing over your hard earned cash to them every week, that you should feel privileged to be on a 20 year waiting list to pay them money. Times have changed.
I feel your analogy is a bit flawed – fine, if you feel Star Wars isn’t for you and indeed shouldn’t be for 42 year olds either, that’s your call. The point is, 42 year old men are enjoying the product as it was made (“for kids”) but aren’t beating a path to George Lucas’ door demanding he add in a bit for tit and ass ‘for the dads’.
There’s enough out there for kids to do with massive anthropomorphic animals on their 3DS or Playstation or Disney XD store.com/gettheappnow blah blah – you get in to football because it’s football, and I for one got in to Liverpool because (in those early Premier League days) it was still about the football, not the feckin’ brand, family, or any other advertiser’s wet dream; I loved Liverpool being different – jeez, anyone remember the days when LFC were the last Premier League team to bother with an ‘Official’ website?!
Sing the songs, support the team, watch the telly – hell, even buy a shirt. But if you need mascots, brand loyalty and iPhone connectivity, go do something else elsewhere, eh?
That all notwithstanding, I do like getting my LFC supporters pack with a pen in it… :P (Sorry – another amusing whinge I remember seeing recently…)
I disagree regarding the website. We can’t complain about the club not winning AND complain about the club doing what it can to increase worldwide interest and generate more revenue (in order to win).
Well I’m 56, went to my first match in 67 and I reckon it’s another small step away from the real foundations on which this club was built. Bringing back the old boys pen would be doing something for the kids, not this tacky shitty corporate ManU thing. Fuck off “Mighty Red”.
Jesus, every time I blimped MOTD and saw one of the knob-ead clubs with some idiot dressed as a panto-fucker, I’d think ‘thank fuck we don’t lower our esteem by having one of those knob-jockeys’. It’s so ‘boyscout Ra-Ra’ I want to vomit, what’s the fucker going to do when the lads sing the anthem? Just fuckin lower the tone by ‘it’s’ presence that’s for sure. The crowd should bring in snotty, juicy tomatoes and lash the fucker to get our feelings across to FSG……Just fuck this off now. What next – fuckin cheer leaders?
Nice one John
Great article John especially the idea of the mascot coming from Breck Road! The tuts and FFS’s from around me in the main stand surely must have been heard on the front row of the directors box! Why don’t the club see & feel the same as the fans, do none of them review social media?
Brilliant article from John, could not have summed it up better myself, we don’t need this trashy stuff at OUR club!
And in my haste, too busy disagreeing with the dissenting voice in the comments, I forgot to say:
Spot on, John.
Another fat-lad waiting for his Kop end penalty.
what fitzy said 100%. the thought of this fucking thing swaying back and forth to walk on as reds try and intimidate opposition with our passion fucking make me feel sick
Imagine for a second Alton Towers being televised, imagine watching all those people having fun, imagine being transfixed by the roller coasters, imagine watching as it gets bigger and better, rolling out new fantastic rides, the lights, the sounds, you can almost smell it…. but you can’t afford it. Boss that
The bird is mocking you.
Act now before it’s too late!
UTD allowed “Fred the Red” (along with all kinds of other trashy and embarrassing marketing gimicks) to slip in under the radar during the dizzy heights of previously untasted success in the mid-90s.
I think today, with fans groups and the like, such a heinous act would have been opposed a little more passionately.
But unfortunately, the club will just argue that this kind of thing brings in the dosh.
You mean Fred The Red who was there at least as early as 1987 and maybe earlier slipped in in the mid 90’s ? Who knew ? The constant obligatory references about United, and the fact some of you just can’t help it, is far more embarrassing to your plucky cash starved underdog club than some Brendan Rodgers looking red bird suit ever can be
Wappo. Arsenal Fan
I’m going back to the rape forum….
Eh trumpet lips!
£60 a fecking ticket ! Discuss.
Great article Gibbo! I really hope that people at the club that make these type of decisions read this article.
I Feel Good by James Brown is gonna start blurring through the speakers after every goal. We will become like Bolton or Hull with better players and there’s nothing we can do about it.
But no, I agree it almost feels like the club is seeing what little bits and pieces they can get away with just because we’ve gotten good at footy again for the first time in 5 years. They win a little bit of good will back and then just have to do something to start annoying people when there’s no need.
Eh, a rubber cormorant isn’t the worst thing that can happen at Anfield. At least FSG hasn’t sold naming rights to Anfield or renamed it (Etihad Stadium, The Emirates) or worse changed the kit colors to green to appeal to Irish Americans in Boston to sell more shirts.
As long as Mighty Red isn’t a distraction to the players and LFC continue to win, it’s pretty insignificant in the long term. I’m sure LFC is just trying something new. If Mighty is popular, they’ll keep him. If not, he’ll be phased out.
Also, if you’re at a game and you’re complaining about Mighty Red, remember: you’re watching LFC play at Anfield when tens of thousands of folks can’t. Just a bit of perspective. Cheers!
You don’t get it its fucking corny and not Liverpool! read the article again its spells it out for you, the club have overstepped the mark with this, hopefully he can be ousted like Hicks and Gillett, I would like to hear Mighty be told to fuck off by the Kop, maybe some banners, this must be nipped in the bud before they try n pull some more sneaky moves.
Every time I went to Bolton I would laugh at their man dressed as a lion, getting their lads to sing some shit or other. ‘I’m glad we don’t do that.’
We wouldn’t do that but we’re making progress towards it.
And them blerts with ‘I feel good’ flags running the length of the pitch when they score! That lion biff also shows imaginary cards to opposition players. Cringeworthy, unnecessary shite.
Jesus Christ listen to yourselves.
Every time you quietly acquiesce to this sort of shite you tell yourselves “we’ll fight the next battle”. Except you never do because sooner or later it becomes habit to accept this sort of shit. My lads 11 and thinks its fucking cringeworthy so it’s hardly hitting their target market is it?
There is only one thing that has a match day role and that’s the first team squad. That’s it. Nice and fucking simple.
So let’s stop pretending that it’s for anything other than teds raising their ted kids who spunk the best part of five hundred quid in Fiveworld who think that Mighty Knobred is an amusing part of their entertainment that they are entitled to because they paid £300 to Thomas Crook.
Fucking wake up. The best thing they could do for the kids is open up a pay at the gate boys pen and get youngsters into the habit of going the match again at a discounted rate. Quite how a 7 foot tall novelty condom fits into that plan is beyond me.
‘such a heinous act’, ‘a knob jockey’, ‘throw rotten tomatoes at him’?? Talk about extreme overreaction. I totally agree with the ticket prices stuff, that’s obviously much more of a pressing issue but most other things were from your own perspective. Of course the kids are going to see the footballers, theyre paid millions of pounds, they’ll always be centre stage and what kids will leave the ground talking about…but that doesn’t mean they wont enjoy the mascot also, it doesn’t mean it wont add to their fun that day.
The stuff about intimidation is coated in exaggeration too. Old Trafford has been the most feared place in England to go to for 20 years with by far the best win percentage, and they had Fred the Red there the whole time, so clearly it didn’t make the opposition think they now had a chance of grabbing something here, cause look at the state of that cunt in the suit. The same goes for fans too. Guttman talked as well about wanting to turn it into a pit of fire etc but if youre going to the match set on providing that kind of atmosphere, do you suddenly have a change of mind cause you spot mighty red, do you just turn around and go home? ha
Smiled a few times reading that. Nice to read an article that’s light hearted despite the grave nature of it.
I commented extensively on this issue in the comments section of the Super Mario Podcast so I’m not gonna repeat myself and express how disgusted I am about Mighty Red being on the pitch.
On Tuesday though, my lad and his team mates were mascots at Chester’s game. The attendance was 1950. Having LFC, Everton, Utd and City so close makes it difficult for them. They do, however have a lot of kids at their games. Obviously, they’ve been priced out of Premiership games and have found a home there. Fair play to them, they beat their drums all through the game. Anyway, Chester have a mascot. They have to try anything to increase their crowds. I was intrigued and thought I’d see how the youngsters reacted to it.
Truth is, no one was interested in it. There were a couple of disabled kids at the front who played a game with it where they held their hand out and the mascot had to try and slap it before they moved it away. That warmed my heart a little. My lads teams manager said ‘who wants to meet the mascot’ (as they had access to all parts of the ground). They all said ‘no’. The main attraction for them was walking out onto the pitch with Wayne Rooney’s brother (who is absolutely shit and one lazy bastard). Even a star player by proxy was better than meeting the man dressed as a teddy bear. Seriously, they’re all 11 years old and none of them bought into the mascot. Weren’t interested in the slightest. We shouldn’t patronise them.
I find the above relevant because LFC don’t need to entice crowds. They don’t have kids in the ground and the truth is, by 11 years of age a mascot means nothing to them (if it ever did). It’s ok at a kids party where they’re all manic on E numbers but not in the ground. After all, it’s a man (or woman, Kate) in a costume.
It holds no appeal whatsoever. I’m seriously disappointed that after all the good work that’s been done by the club they’ve introduced this. It’s not needed and has no benefit. It’s really embarrassing. They might as well put plastic flags on our seats because it feels like they’re destroying the soul of the club. On the other hand, a withdrawal of it could be seen as a real boost in relations between the club and the fans. Ok, some people want more concessions from the owners but this could be a simple gesture that has no effect on the club but would go a long way.
Finally, I seem to be the villain amongst the regulars who contribute to the TAW comments section so I might as well think ‘fuck it’ and make a few more enemies. My feeling is (though it’s not a perfect correlation) is that people from the North West of England feel more passionate about this issue than people from other parts of the world. If you don’t go to the match then you needn’t worry about it, I suppose. Commenting about how it’s not really an issue though is a piss take and offensive. We should be uniting to put a stop to this not saying it does no harm.
Couple of things on this whole thing I just don’t get.
1) If I was a kid and was into this sort of thing, I would surely want to meet this thing and get a photo etc. how can kids do this if he’s on the pitch? It’s not engaging the kids at all. Analogy I’ve made before is going to visit Father Christmas, and just looking at him through the shop window. Surely this thing should be on the concourse or the fan area at the back of the Anny road. Being on the pitch offers very little.
2) Gibbo was I’m guessing 9 or 10 at his first match. I was 13 at my first match. I’d guess very few match goers nowadays attended the match regularly before the age of 8 or 9. There is not a single 9 or 10 year old I have ever met who would relate or want to meet this thing. They know it’s just some fella in a suit.
My lad’s six and he’s been to a couple of games. He’s met Mighty Red, in fact he has a picture of himself with the thing. I’ve said nothing to him about my views on the thing, yet he decided himself that he didn’t like it, didn’t understand what it was and didn’t want the picture of it on his bedroom wall. By contrast, he met Jamie Carragher at Marine last week and was absolutely made up, has been telling everyone and desperately wants the photo on his wall. Having Mighty Red on the pitch before games is pointless – and as John says is just another step towards becoming A N Other club. Liverpool has always felt different to other clubs – and matchgoing fans take great pride in the fact. The club should recognise that before rubbing out yet another tradition.
Have to disagree here Gibbo. My little girl, Ruby, will turn 5 next month. She LOVES Mighty Red. She would travel anywhere to see him (and the reds of course). She’s beyond excited every time she sees him. To coin a Shankly-ism – “He makes the little people happy” but it’s more than that mate.
You may remember a couple of years back, one of John W. and Linda’s staff took their own life on his yacht in Boston. It was a tough day for them. That same day my lad, Flynn, was playing at Anfield as part of the international academy. When we left the stadium, there was Mighty Red. Ruby sprinted across the car park behind the main stand to see him and I captured that moment in a photo. I tweeted it to Linda and she sent me a message back saying that had really brightened up her day. It’s moments like that and how they can change moods.
Mighty Red has no place at memorials or solemn events for sure but for the kids it’s a good move both in engaging youth, improving passion for the club and in turn engaging parents to purchase merch.
BTW you’ll never be an enemy lad – just healthy open discussion.
That’s a fair comment mate. How many 5 year olds are in the ground though? Less than 10 i’d guess. Not a great ratio to justify it knowing most hate it. I’ve no issues with it at events but not on the pitch.
Sorry I forgot to reply to this Phil. But that is a really nice story
I wonder what the job advert looked like?
‘Wanted person to wear ridiculous foam oufit of a mythical bird and run around in front of 45,000 people making an absolute dick of yourself. Must have absolutely no self respect and able to keep your job a secret to avoid ridicule and humiliation. Apply to Mr Ian Ayre who will provide role model on the job training’.
I get the contrast of English football and American football given above. But I think a better comparable to Mighty Red is actually when the Steelers tried to introduce Steely McBeam. Steelers fans hated it. I think the Steelers are a good comparable to Liverpool in their despise for some of the “ra-ra” things (the steelers still don’t have cheerleaders, for example) Fortunately, we were spared too much of it due to his arrest in a DUI… http://triblive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_561456.html#axzz3D7zKQCSW
I enjoyed the article, but can’t say that I really agreed with the main theme of it. I don’t think Mancunians are that flash and nor do I think that Scousers are reluctant to make a show of themselves either. I wish that was the case, but it just isn’t.
The main difference between the two cities is that Scousers tend to be hopeless optimists, while Mancunians like nothing more than to swim in a sea of pessimism. If you look at the music that has come out of the two cities, since the 1960s (I don’t mean just lyrically), its difficult not to get that impression.
Then again, it’s bands from Manchester that always seem to want to tell all and sundry that they are going to be the biggest in the whole world. I’ve never quite managed to figure that one out.
The club also put out a cringey Instagram of Bart Simpson writing ‘I will not swear when I sing the Stevie G song’ this week along with a suggestion we sing ‘he’s big and he’s VERY hard’ as opposed to the usual. If they’re trying to stop swearing at the match (good luck with that) I wonder if anyone has considered what the reaction to this bird thing taking to the pitch might be? It’s encouraging swearing if anything.
That doesn’t even sound real because it’s fucking mental. It’d be easier to equal Real Madrid’s European Cup tally over the next couple of decades than stop anyone round Anfield stop swearing at the game because of kids. If the club aren’t setting realistic targets how are we meant to.
I’d like to see 3 or 4 elephants do a somersault across the halfway line when we get a corner.Then we could parachute Michael Barrymore in if we get a free-kick.Wouldn’t that be great?
What about getting Cilla Black to take goal kicks?
Get a grip Mate, you’re losing touch with reality here.We are at 2014 here in case you hadn’t noticed.
But I’ve been following this Team since the late 50’s.These things are just like curly perms to most of us.
So let’s just focus on what really matters eh?
I wish we could have Bad Santa as our mascot, complete with sherry-stained beard, comedy erection bulge and a Regal Kingsize on the burn.
That lad that was one of the mascots yesterday couldn’t get away from the cormorant quick enough once they came off the pitch. I’ve got a 6 year old step-daughter that’s scared of ‘characters’ like these because she can’t see the eyes of the person that’s inside the foam. She’s not the only kid like that. He’ll scare as many as he ‘entertains’.
Maybe Mighty Red is more foam than man now? From the perspective of a man who’s had a row with that lion at Bolton, I’m definitely out.