DURING the occasional — well, more than occasional if I’m honest — moments of weakness I look at other clubs and wonder what it’s like to be them. Look at Wembley and the support there. Aston Villa are a pretty poor side, aren’t they? Capable of taking a team to the south coast two weeks before a cup final and shipping five goals in the first half while singing about their European Cup.
Yeah, they might be getting battered and have a manager who probably takes his own pool cue to the pub, but they go through with it all as they’ve got a cup final — a Cup final which may go to double figures in terms of goals conceded admittedly — to cheer.
Then there’s Arsenal. Top four every year, one trophy a decade and perfectly happy (I think) with their lot. Too happy. A mate of mine bought a programme at the Emirates during the ‘Piss off’ game a few years ago and read something that made him rub his eyes. A season ticket holder (a necessary prefix as it gives the opinion automatic weight apparently) wrote that, although Wenger hadn’t delivered trophies he HAD overseen a new stadium which was brought in on schedule and on budget (their italics). Hazzah! Let the joy be unconfined! I almost envy them that. Supporting a team where the search for glory no longer involves the pitch. I wonder what that’s like… I’ve covered a few lower league games this season and viewing the fans with low expectations has been educational.
For example, Brentford were only interested in the current 90 minutes and sang just about that. Nothing about their rivals, nothing about their situation — just the name of the club and their players. I’m not sure if this is the way forward or a romanticised throwback to a bygone age but I’ve grown to like Brentford for that. I hope fame doesn’t spoil them.
I’m all for simpler support. Following Liverpool is far more complicated, or, at least, more complicated than it should be. We don’t reserve our views to the here and now. We fight several corners at once. Being in the ground is one thing but if you commit an opinion to social media or fan fora you instantly align yourself to a camp, an ethos or, in some cases, a campaign.
Sometimes you just want to sing the name of the club. At the start of last season I decided not to play any more. I took my ball home and went back to basics. Go the game, sing about Liverpool and leave the whole opinion circus behind. The match is supposed to be fun and when it is, it’s really something. The battle scars of the last five years were still branded into me but I wasn’t prepared to take up cudgels or fight battles I couldn’t win. Just one word from that day forth — Liverpool.
Fortunately, we had a season where it wasn’t just easier to have fun, it was compulsory. Three nil up at Old Trafford, six goals at Cardiff, five at Stoke, that roar before Tottenham at home and the beautiful rain from the crossbar at White Hart Lane. A season of hugging strangers and waking up excited because Liverpool were playing that day. No need for agendas or polemic viewpoints. It was all about the pitch and the players making your runs for you. Now it’s all gone a bit beige and fractious again.
Klopp, transfer committee, injuries, he signed them/no, they signed them, Mighty Red, Rodgers in/out, planes etc. Oh, and we’re fifth. Should mention that. This season has been like fighting your mates over a girl none of you fancy. Liverpool aren’t much to look at but we’ll stand our ground just because it seems to be the thing to do.
I wrote last week about our determination to win the ‘class’ war — to be seen as the classiest club by being nice to everyone and caring the most. I was rewarded by being told by someone that not approving of the guard of honour at Stamford Bridge made me no better than those who booed the Hillsborough silence. I let that comment slide but it illustrates my point.
Of course, it’s nice to be nice but in some ways that detracts from the main order of the day. The pitch stuff. Also, the more you congratulate yourself when you’ve done something good, the more it detracts from your good deed. I bring this up as there was a glorious moment from Steven Gerrard on Saturday. His farewell ceremony was planned to the last second and he was stage managed throughout, but at one point, he broke away from the pelaton that engulfed him and made his way to the Palace fans.
They were singing his name and he was touched by that selfless act of appreciation so wanted to show his thanks. He hasn’t mentioned it since and it wasn’t in the planned running order. He did it anyway as it’s a basic human act of kindness. It showed something of the man. I’m taking that minute with me. I won’t retweet it or shout ‘Look at us’ though. It’s a good deed in a naughty world. Admittedly, I’ve sort of ruined that by talking about it.
Yet there is something that annoyed me about Saturday. One thing that defies my policy of non-intervention in fan matters and I can’t let it go. It’s this. “The result wasn’t important today.” Woah, woah, woah. Roll back. It wasn’t what? There isn’t a day on this planet where a Liverpool result is meaningless. That’s not me doing an impression of a super fan or showing how hardcore I am. That’s just a given.
Yes, it was important to give a send off to the one man in our club hierarchy who deserves something like that, but it never comes at the cost of a game. The Premier League were handing out points and we should have been waving our hands in the air expectantly. I see the point of that opinion but, again, it strikes me as a shifting signifier as to what supporting this club is about. Caring more about a send off than three points seemed de rigeur in some quarters just as much as being the nicest and ethical club has superseded this tiresome business of winning stuff.
The best thing about supporting Liverpool is that feeling that we do stuff that no one else does. Example: I had a long drive over the weekend and had to listen to various phone-ins, thanks to a recalcitrant CD player. The host asked for Liverpool fans who had been at the match to call in. I smirked at that. Liverpool fans don’t tend to call in if they’ve been to the match. I sat through the programme and not one fan answered the plea. Well done us.
But it can go too far the other way. Liverpool is a whirlwind and we get dragged into the wind too often. We have to be seen to care more, to shout more, to argue more. So much so that we ignore the most fundamental aspects of support.
For example, I’m all for a bit of hyperbole but pretending that the 20 year old kid is worthy of a plinth is too much. There’s supporting them and there’s worshipping false icons. There’s not liking the manager and there’s twats flying planes. There’s talking Emre Can as if he’s Beckenbauer and there’s treating him like a lad with one Anfield season under his belt.
We don’t keep our feet on the ground and once upon a time we were renowned for doing just that. We are blind to the concept of light and shade. Can we just stop wailing at the wind and get behind the most important thing of the day? The reason why we’re all here?
Anyway, it’s the summer and it all ends soon. Time to rub our eyes and face the daylight. Maybe we’ll all calm down a bit and see the true picture of support — just hoping with every fibre of our being that we can take points off our opponents rather than winning opinion trophies.
Have a good summer. Up the Reds.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda-Photo
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Nice piece. More than ever now, I find myself asking what’s the point?
So what’s the point?
One of the football clichés I find most irritating is usually trotted out by Ingurland players prior to a major tournament: of course we believe we can win it, otherwise we wouldn’t bother turning up.
Really? Perhaps as fans, in the here and now, fully cognisant of our glorious history but properly aware of the present, we need to reevaluate our support. I’m not sure how. It’s not like we can transfer it. But we are in danger of becoming clichés.
The talk of a par season brought with it the obvious golfing comparisons, which are unhelpful in that the golf majors are much more competitive & unpredictable than the PL. A more useful analogy would be Formula 1. Let’s be clear: I find F1 the most tedious ‘sport’ imaginable. But the point is, last I knew, if you haven’t got one of the fastest, most reliable cars, you ain’t gonna win. Only a couple of F1 teams are competitive. The rest are there for the – the what? The glamour (of being in a competition they cannot win)? The fun (of winning the odd race)? The money (not many F1 drivers on housing benefit)?
Ultimately, we are in a league we cannot win. The gap between us and the (3) teams that can win gets wider every year. We are no longer a top tier club. We can no longer attract top tier players. So let’s face facts. We are closer to Spurs and Villa than to Chelsea or the Mancs. And soon there has to be a reckoning. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Er, to clarify: we have to demand excellence from everyone at the club. On and off the pitch. Because what gets done off the pitch clearly has a massive influence over what (& who) appears on it.
But it’s gonna be a long and painful journey back to the summit. And I’m not sure how we’re (ok, I’m) going to cope.
‘Ultimately, we are in a league we cannot win. The gap between us and the (3) teams that can win gets wider every year. We are no longer a top tier club. ‘
Except a year ago we nearly did win it.
The key word there is ‘nearly’.
(And now we are reverting to the mean.)
Very fucking nearly. I take your general point but if FFP ever properly kicks in we are not that far away from the top. We are also in the midst of a bit of a painful rebuild, which should be better in a few years if we can manage to hold onto our developing stars.
Good stuff, Karl, as ever.
Just on the Sterling award of a young player Golden Samba. That was decided on the basis of these things:
1) To remind everyone he’s 20
2) To make the tiniest bit of an attempt to make him feel Anfield is a place he can play his football, and that it isn’t just infested by jealous bigots
3) To thoroughly piss off those who’ve revelled in giving him dogs’ abuse over the last 8 weeks on “home” turf. Go and sit in the away end, dickheads
4) To remind the whinging “we’ll never see the likes of Gerrard again” lot, that if you scare all your best prospects half to death for giving the ball away, then the emergence of any new hero is pretty unlikely
I made the point on Neil’s match review that the game was meaningless and I stand by it. Yes, I was pleased when Lallana scored and livid when Palace scored the free kick (and the rest) but if my mood was affected by the result it was only that I felt sorry for Gerrard. 5th, 6th 7th, it’s all the same to me – it’s a failure.
I woke up Saturday morning and thought about Gerrard. I didn’t think of Palace (and at one point was asked who we were playing and took a few seconds to think). I want Liverpool to win friendlies but I’d call them meaningless and Saturday was no different to me.
Also, despite thinking this plane thing is naff. I actually smiled when I saw it only because I was so embarrassed as a fan base about the previous one. I thought, though wank, it balanced it up a bit.
Tell Steven Gerrard whether the game was meaningless, tell Steven Gerrard whether he’d prefer to win than getting a big send off for himself
Those people who say the result doesn’t matter are actually disrespecting Steven Gerrard and what he’s about for this football club for 15 years
Spare me the sanctimonious crap please, love.
Says the guy who just made a point how embarrassed as a fanbase about the first plane he was (not that I disagree with you there, but let’s cut the double standards)
The article’s a good one, we were too caught up in the whole sentimental side of it all and forgot we still needed to win a football match to guarantee we don’t play in July
Villa: ‘a Cup final which may go to double figures in terms of goals conceded’
Arsenal: ‘the search for glory no longer involves the pitch.’
good article Karl. Some good points, but some brilliant comments too.
I continue to be more confused than at any point in my 43 years with the same bird.
You’re a fan of stats, chew on this.
Our proohlem hasn’t been getting the ball forward as much as it has been picking it up from the back of our net. It’s not about Xabi leaving that turned us into a pub team as much as it’s about Rafa leaving that burst the dams open.
2004/05 – 52 For 41 Against +11
2005/06 – 57 For 25 Against +32
2006/07 – 57 For 27 Against +30
2007/08 – 67 For 28 Against +39
2008/09 – 77 For 27 Against +50
2009/10 – 61 For 35 Against +26
371 For 183 Against +188
2010/11 – 59 For 44 Against +15
2011/12 – 47 For 40 Against +7
2012/13 – 71 For 43 Against +28
2013/14 – 101 For 50 Against +51
2014/15 – 51 For 42 Against +9
329 For 219 Against +110
It’s not about going forward as much as it is shutting up shop day in and day out. In the two full seasons that Rodgers got to use him, we conceded 93 league goals. What a waste.
Frankly, I’m amazed that we managed to bag Suarez in the first place – if he hadn’t taken a bite out of some guy in Holland *and* intentionally handballed in the World Cup scaring off potential suitors, chances are we’d have ballsed up that transfer too, and Rodgers would likely be managing some other team, probably in Turkey.
135 goals conceded in 3 years won’t cut it, especially when you’re forking over 3x Skrtel money every transfer window on defenders and he still remains the meanest bastard at the back. Forget Xabi Alonso – you could take allll the money we spent on centrebacks the last couple years, build a time machine, bring Alonso back in his prime, stick him in this team, and we’d still leak goals.
We’re soft at the back.
Was trying to reply to Roy’s Sunny Side Up post :-)