BIT of background first. My season ticket is in the Upper Centenary Stand. It has been since it opened in 1992. My dad took the opportunity to buy two when the new tickets were released, and luckily we’ve had them ever since. They’ve shoved us back a few times when they’ve increased the corporate allocations, and wanted to give them the better seats, but seemingly have settled on us being row 19, Anfield Road side.
I like it, it’s a good seat and the people round us, apart from my father of course, are largely alright. But it isn’t exactly a hotbed of atmosphere. About once every two seasons a song breaks out, waking up the older fellas who have drifted off. The rest of the time it’s football supporters telling footballers, and managers, what they should be doing. And me shouting “MAN ON!” or “TURN!”, depending on the situation.
That’s probably always been the case. Behind the goals for the rabble-rousers, and the side of the pitch for the fellas who think they are Bill Shankly re-incarnated. Maybe it shouldn’t be? Maybe it’s up to all of us create an atmosphere when in the ground? Maybe ‘an atmosphere’ is more than just singing anyway, and we are all currently playing along, whether it’s chanting the team, or clapping good play.
My friends who I go to away games with are on row 60 of the Kop. I get a bit jealous sometimes. Or is it guilt that I ‘retired’ to the Centenary Stand at the grand age of 10, when I should have been supporting the team more vocally all these years as a young man from The Kop? Perhaps. Anyway, this has all been a long-winded way of saying I am aware, before I write what I am about to write, that I am as much part of the problem as part of the solution.
Last Thursday my dad asked for my ticket so he could take his mate, so I took the opportunity to buy a ticket in The Kop. It was Jürgen Klopp’s first home game and I wanted to be part of the collective ‘get on us’ feeling amongst the fan base. We had a good go, rubbish on the football pitch accounted for, but I was rather surprised the songs hadn’t moved on much since the last time I was there, especially considering the playing staff had changed so much. So I went home and tweeted this:
Luis Garcia. He isn’t here. He came from Barca. 10 years ago. Half of you hated him. When he was in red. So please take that shite song away
— John Gibbons (@johngibbonsblog) October 22, 2015
Loads of people agreed with me, and lots of others constructively told me why I was wrong. Only messing, this is the internet, they called me a twat. Which is fine, it was a glib throwaway tweet that didn’t really explain what I meant. So I’ll do that now.
Firstly, I liked Luis Garcia. Plenty didn’t. Overall he’s certainly a lot more fondly remembered now than he was when he was here. He liked scoring big goals. He also liked giving the ball away. The latter was very much picked up on, by the crowd and his team mates. So the idea his song is sung now more than any other ex-player is generally a bit mad. Other names pop up as part of other songs; Steve Heighway, Kenny Dalglish, Ian Rush; but not on their own.
It’s not just on a European night as well, as people claim, it pops up all over the place. Luis Garcia, probably around the 100th best player to play for Liverpool, getting his name sung away at Sunderland whilst Martin Skrtel, who has played three times as many games for Liverpool, runs round wondering if there are any hopes. Steven Gerrard would make some sense, as he himself probably thinks as he watches on the TV. Luis Garcia, not so much.
We sing it because it’s a nice song and it bounces along and we know the words. It gets in the way of other songs though. When you aren’t on the Kop you imagine silence until a song emerges as one from the crowd, with one area orchestrating the way. The reality when you are on the Kop is very different. Lots of areas competing to start a song, and one of them sticking, presented as complete to the rest of the ground. Many others fail. Not getting the support, or getting lost in the noise. Anything new or not known suffers to the greatest extent. People give up.
Collectively we’ve stopped singing songs for the lads on the pitch, and I’m not sure why. It’s not just because they aren’t winning things, because in the 1990s we didn’t really win anything, and they all had songs. We also weren’t singing about players from the 1980s during that period, and they won flipping loads. It’s not just a lost part of Kop culture, it’s diminishing what should be the role of the supporter.
The team at the moment need a boost, and the best way we can do that is by singing their names rather than Luis Garcia’s. Let’s use Adam Lallana as an example. He had a tough time on Sunday, he wasn’t playing well and the Southampton supporters were singing about how much they hated him. We just sat there and let them abuse our footballer and said nothing. Surely that is a time you support your player? I was back in my seat in the Centenary but was happy to take it on myself to start a chant for Adam Lallana, but I couldn’t remember hearing one that had been sung before. There had been an obvious opportunity on Thursday night as well when he had fronted half the Kazan team, fighting for Liverpool. When he was getting slaughtered by his former club, Liverpool could have sung for Adam Lallana. But there was nothing.
Changing the timing of You’ll Never Walk Alone probably hasn’t helped with all this. It used to be when the players were in the tunnel, but Benitez wanted the players to see it, so moved it to when they were on the pitch. This was traditionally the time The Kop would run through the songs of the individuals on the pitch. The players would wave their appreciation. I think they liked it more than waiting for You’ll Never Walk Alone to finish before they could kick off. It also helped the Kop realise who didn’t have a chant yet.
Maybe a switch back could resurrect the player song? Force us all to write some more songs about the lads in front of us? We’d know what to sing when the players needed us most. Then we could retire the Garcia one to the pub.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda-Photo