1985/86 was a league season full of significance not just for Liverpool but for the whole football league. The game was in turmoil, as was the nation, and it took a magnificent campaign to give the game the boost it needed.
Tony Evans has written a book on that season called Two Tribes. Neil Atkinson travelled to London to speak to him about it in the week of publication.
To buy this book click here.
Great interview, well done. Kudos to Neil for “allowing”, if that’s the right word, Tony to speak uninterrupted with intelligence, enthusiasm and passion. Had seen Two Tribes listed on Amazon as “available soon” for over a year and had pretty much given up hope of its release; pre-ordered my copy in January and it’s on its way. Can’t wait.
Great that. Tony sounds a fascinating person. Just been looking at that Waterstones thing. Gonna get a ticket tomorrow. Just waiting to see if any mates fancy it.
I’m fascinated by the social, economical, political & cultural phenomenon of society.
When I was young I found it weird when I spoke to my nan because she was born in 1903. I couldn’t grasp what it must be like to see so much change. But then, when I look back to the 80’s I find it incredible remembering how it was compared to now. I’m made up my son is more like Adam Lallana than Graeme Souness and that he lives in the 2010’s and not the 1980’s. Society has changed so much. Yet, I can’t shake off the love I have for those times. I wouldn’t swap those days for now even if, like I say, I’m glad my kids won’t end up going down some of the routes I went down. One thing the 80’s and early 90’s showed me is there’s a certain type of person, and they’re numerous in society who just buzz off being part of a movement, if you like. For people my age it was mods as young kids, later football hooliganism and then the rave scene. In the early 90’s there was a feeling among my mates, or more accurately, acquaintances I’d fell in with, that England was fucked and the buzz was abroad. When we returned after the millenium England was a very different place to the one I’d left. I couldn’t believe how big football had become. It was always big but I suppose I mean in terms of coverage and exposure which brings me to my point. I think the lack of any ‘movement’ for youth today has meant the youth have put their energies into football for that community or sense of belonging, rivalry etc. I think that’s why it’s so huge now. I see with things like Facebook or Twitter that people long for that feeling of being connected or part of something, expressing themselves too, but today it’s all gone virtual because of how society is. The football hooligans of today are Twitter trolls. Virtual thugs. So, I’m pleased my son uses a hair dryer and doesn’t have a toot in the high rise but I also pity him or his generation at least, if that makes sense.
Just a reflection sparked by Tony saying people told him he should do something with his life other than watching footy. The lack of opportunities and grimness of it all led a lot of people to seek something less grim and it turned out it was far more appealing than work anyway. My lad will probably get a job soon and not have more than 2 weeks off till he’s 80. It’s a shame.
On the subject of the lovable Ken Bates, didn’t he moot the idea of electrified fences at the Bridge?
Such a concept seems unfathomable in 2018. I suppose by today’s standards, football exists in a sanitised world of plastic flags, corporate sponsorship and media-friendly soundbites. As a soft southern get who came to football late in life, Two Tribes, like the excellent Rivals series with Steve Armstrong and WWCH 85-86, is invaluable in documenting not just events on the pitch, but the social-economic-political context in which the game was run by the governing bodies and perceived by the mainstream media.
Mate, I used to go and watch Chester regularly. Seeing the grounds today you can’t imagine how it was then. The away end was a mud bank with huge blocks of concrete protruding out of it. The home end was wooden planks for a floor with big holes in. Below them was a 15 foot drop into a cesspit of rubbish. The Valley Parade fire was no great shock to me. The toilets were just a 4 ft wall on 3 sides with a gully to piss in. I can still remember the stench. They didn’t even have women’s toilets. Chester was a league team. What amazes me most about those days is the fighting in the home end. Every time there was a fairly big game the fans and the police would have a huge brawl. I’m talking one that sometimes lasted half an hour. It was just like a straightener between police and fans. No one got nicked because, I’m guessing, the police didn’t want it known what was happening. They loved it. You’d also get 50 away fans in there at times and it was the same result. From 8 years old me and my school mates used to sit on a beam at the back and watch it all 2 foot in front of us. At the time we loved it. After the game and after we’d watched the running battles in the street we’d go to the greyhound racing next to the ground and get blokes to put 10p on a dog for us. To go there now, all you’d find is a retail park. I always say, football is far better now all round but there was something about those times I miss. Probably an age thing.
I say, old chap. Being a Premier League novice myself, I can’t draw upon cherished childhood memories of terraces and run-down stadiums.
In the Eighties, if clubs could’ve gotten away with charging £50.00 for a Division One game, would they have? I suppose I’m asking: have the footballing powers-that-be ever really cared about the fans? Back then, football was in a state of decay but financially obtainable to those that wanted to go the game; now we have a “product” that’s the envy of the world, but financially out of reach to the common man and woman. How does one square that circle? Given that gate receipts account for a fraction of spending revenue, how about £30.00 tickets? Incentives for under-sixteens to go in groups? Redevelopment of the Anny Road end? Safe Standing? I think we can learn a lot from Celtic Park.
It’s interesting that Tony Evans briefly references punk. Punk was amphetamine fueled aggression and society reflected that. What was noticeable by 1988 was that the “tough kids” that used to go round kicking heads suddenly started taking a rape drug patented in Germany in the early 1900s. Long-term use of the substance would lead to burnt-out synapses, depression, paranoia and panic attacks, but in the medium to short-term, the effect was one of universal bliss and ecstasy. Hello, “World In Motion” and the Premier League.