LET me take you back to a painful day in our recent history.
Sunday April 27, 2014. Liverpool 0 Chelsea 2. That one.
I was low down on The Kop that day with my mate Tony. Front row, corner flag. We were so close to the action that we could have tapped Iago Aspas on the shoulder and said “Back post for this one, Iago lad. Trust us on this,” had we the benefit of hindsight. Had there not been a tabarded steward in the way, we could have stepped over and touched the pitch.
Before the game the enormous flag, which is passed over the stand as the players come on, was taken out from the corner of the Kop/Main Stand and unfurled. Given our position we were handed the task of unravelling it and helping it on its way. As we were stood underneath it we noted two things:
- It had pen marks on it. Proper marker pen graffiti.
- It absolutely stank.
This led to a discussion about how you wash a flag of that size. Surely it was too big for a washing machine and a hand wash would require a sink of enormous magnitude and, in any case, where would you hang it to dry? It’s almost as big as the stand.
Of course, the most notable incident of that day involved a man falling over. Again, we were close to this, close enough to hear him grunt as he fell. We all know what happened next. Demba Ba, timewasting, Andre Schurrle coming on to play as a second left-back, Fernando Torres breaking free and a man with the temerity to wear a body-warmer going mad on the side.
As we left the ground, dimly hoping that Crystal Palace might cause an upset against Manchester City, there was one thing which bothered me more than anything. It wasn’t the realisation that the dream of a 19th league title was evaporating in front of our very eyes or that the greatest player of his generation was somewhere in the bowels of Anfield, blaming himself for a human act. No. It was this.
“Wolves’ fans are never going to let us forget this.”
We got back to the car. Silence was the main order of the day save for Marc shouting ‘cunts’ every now and then as he steered us through the crowded streets of Old Swan on the way to the M62. City were already beating Palace at that point but, for the others, it was the horror that it was Chelsea and Jose Mourinho which hurt the most.
Not me, though. I just couldn’t get those horrendous thoughts out of my mind.
“And Plymouth! They’re going to sing about this if we ever play them. Possibly with fervour. I just know it.”
It was a matter of days before the song was aired. Our own version about him being ‘big and fucking hard’ or the sanitised ‘he’s better than Frank Lampard’ if you had kids with you at the match, was twisted into the new Chelsified version to be sang by Chelsea only. Of course, it would be. They were the opponents and no team other than them and the club who gained the most – City – would sing about that.
“Oh, Jesus! And Exeter! I’d forgotten about Exeter! Those guys are going to troll us about this for generations! The ‘lolz’ and ‘bantz’ will never end.”
Alright, there might be a small amount of sarcasm attached here, but as the fans of Wolverhampton Wanderers – themselves a club of some success in a bygone age – amassed in the Anfield Road end a fortnight ago, and went through their repertoire of shite songs, it was the ‘Demba Ba’ song which stood out.
I fell into a reverie about this. How had they arrived at that choice of song? Did they leap for joy that sunny day and check out the Chelsea website for song updates? Was Chelsea’s success theirs too?
It’s like me breaking into pro-Oldham songs at the Manchester derby.
I’m not just picking on them either. I’ve been to countless games where the opposing fans sing it with no relevance to themselves and – and here’s the thing – to us either! Steven Gerrard doesn’t play for us anymore. We don’t have the same manager. City won that league but have also lost it since. How is that supposed to wound us now?
We’re not blameless for this either. After 2005 you’d often hear the ‘Fuck off Chelsea FC’ song ring out when we were playing other sides, but I don’t think we ever sang about a specific incident in a game where we ourselves did not gain an advantage.
One of the great joys about supporting Liverpool is that we have a wide variety of songs – some basic, others unusual. How many other clubs have ditties based on the dying thoughts of a soldier in the Boer War? Anthems from musicals of 1945? Wit has also been a thing. Singing John Wark’s name in a high-pitched squeal when he was whacked in the bollocks once and, in 1987, exaggerated applause from The Kop every time QPR made a successful pass when their own fans celebrated winning a throw-in like it was a goal.
Something new, something unusual. Something sporadic.
Other clubs have traditions too. I’ve always had a soft spot for ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’ and the way Spurs sing ‘Oh When The Spurs Go Marching In’ really slowly, but much of that has been dropped. These days most visitors at Anfield run through the standard selection of ‘Sign On’ (notably from the economic powerhouses of Newcastle and Sunderland), ‘Demba Ba’, ‘Where’s Your Famous Atmosphere’, and, if they’re desperate to be seen as an enemy, ‘Always the Victim’? Didn’t really work that last one, did it, Hammers?
I’m fine with that to some extent as it just shows a lack of imagination. I just wish they could be a bit more original and give us an opportunity to shout something back rather than the standard weak, sarcastic applause.
In the 1959-60 season, Wolves were denied a third consecutive league title when they lost the league to Burnley by a single point. A 3-1 defeat to Spurs in the penultimate game proved too much for their championship ambitions and even the presence of Player of the Year, Bill Slater, was not enough. Liverpool weren’t even in the same division at the time so naturally we were in the perfect place to gloat about it.
I’m just off to write about song about it.
Bill Slater, Slater…