Drawing a Line Under It, Putting It All Behind Us, And Moving On…

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…Yeah… Good Luck With That!

There are those among us that will always try to look beyond the obvious.
There are those among us that think anything that happens is a simple case of black & White.
And there are those among us that simply take whatever SkySports, or their media-source-du-jour, say as the truth.

“among us” is such a general reference… it applies to every walk of life or society, but in this particular instance, what am I about to go rabbiting on about…

Liverpool Football Club is and always has been different from other clubs.
Other club’s fans can try to make that claim, but we are… we just are… deal with it.

It is generally accepted that we should embrace the 21st century and stop living in the past.
There was much to be said for “The Liverpool Way” but as much as it propelled us forward from the advent of the 60s… from the advent of the Premier League it began to hold us back.
We were not like the rest and we would not be like the rest, we would go about our business as we always had done.
…and the simple truth of it is…
…the thing we clung to, that which we loved, and still love, so much about our club, that which contributed so integrally to “our” greatness…was the thing that to some extent, stood in our way, the barrier to us being left behind.

Now I’m not suggesting for one moment that we should have scrapped The Liverpool Way in the 90s…
…or that we should do so now (FSG be forewarned, you would do so at your peril… see H&G’s reign of terror, and where Poulsen and Hodgson took us.)

…but we do need a New Liverpool Way…
…one that holds true to everything we hold dear about our past, but one that takes us into the 21st Century…

… and it is how you bridge that gap that counts.
Rafael Benitez “got” that, he understood it.
Kenny Dalglish understands that, he “gets” it.
Some of our fanbase simply doesn’t, and never will.

My hope is that FSG, while they go about trying to make sense of a foreign game, a foreign premier league, and a fuckin sludge alien with spiky tentacles English media…
… will try to understand that WE (at our core) are not just a group of people who follow a team, no matter what…
…we are a group of people who follow a team in a unique and different way, no matter what.
(well many of us still are anyway.)

A large part of getting to grips with this Brave New World of the Premier League
…was getting to grips with it’s New World Order, and the demands of not only the league and it’s new structure, but the demands of the 24/7 media, and later, of the internet.
(It is worth noting here, that while we dominated domestically in the 80s, our income suffered from the post-Heysel Euro ban, and this weakened the financial footing we stood on in the years leading up to the launch of the PL… it provided a foothold for other teams to compete with us, where one had not previously existed.)

I’ve read more than a few comments about how disastrously poor our handling of the PR has been lately… and I think those comments are to varying degrees, quite accurate…
…. we’ve been shite at it for a long time…
… and I think part of the reason for that, is that fairly simple…
… PR in its true sense of the word, is something that is manufactured, and Liverpool never needed to manufacture PR… we simply had it…
… The Holy Trinity, that Great Man called it… Club, Manager, Supporters.
… the Club “got it”, He “got it”, WE “got it”…
… the PR of Liverpool F.C. of the 60s, 70s and 80s was an organic living breathing thing…
… an integral part of the Liverpool Way.
…all part moving in harmony, to the same goal, in the same manner…
… you wanna bring your Panorama Cameras and have a look at it, we’ll show it to you, we’ll try to help you “get it” and if you do, then great… but if you don’t, well frankly, fuck anyone who didn’t “get it” … I am a Liverpudlian and I come from the Spion Kop.

Oh how lyrical that waxes.
There is no denying that so much of who WE were and are, is mythology, plain and simple.
There is no denying that so much of who Shankly was and is remembered to be is mythology, plain and simple.
But it is a mythology borne from truth… an inflated story, not a manufactured one.

Bill Shankly understood the city, he understood the fan base, and yes to some extent, he pandered to that, but in a way that was genuine.
He knew how to “big up” his players, his club, his people, and he did it… but there was nothing fake about it…
… Bill Shankly’s time was to some extent “the perfect storm” … that confluence of club/players, fanbase/city… and the man.
The Dynasty was created, then perpetuated in the same manner, by Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan and Kenny Dalglish.

We were different. We were Liverpool Football Club.
We’d toured the world, and brought back, not just the t-shirts, but silverware… Big Fuckin Silverware… the Biggest… taken from the very hands of the Biggest teams in Europe.

We were Kings of Europe, Kings of the English game, and just as important…
… we were top of the pops among the people… the neutrals…
… of course, there were those who always begrudged us our success, but we rarely inspired the sort of hatred among the neutral that Manchester United did and do… (we were so often a person’s “2nd team”)

But with the advent of the Premier League… the game changed.
Not just on the field… coz this new league creation coincided with the emergence of 24/7 news coverage, mass satellite Broadcasting, and the soon to emerge internet.
All would grow alongside each other… and society would change as football did.
If you can say one complementary thing about Manchester United, and I would be loath to say more than one, it is that they “got” the “new way” quicker than any other team, and leveraged it for themselves.
(taking a shower now, feel dirty, back in a mo…)
(now where was I…)

…I would go so far as to add Roy Evans to the above list. I believe he “got it” and went about his job in the truest spirit of the predecessors under whom he had apprenticed…
…but unfortunately for him, as I said, the game changed on him…
…he had to deal with the “perfect storm” of the emergence of the Premier League, the explosion of media/satellite coverage, and the first generation of truly obscenely paid “football stars”, who’s behavior and egos exponentially out-measured those who’d come before, let alone those whom they ultimately represent… US.

So United grew, worked the media, reinvested, worked the media, grew more, and worked the media…
We were Liverpool, we had a way, went about our business in that way, coz it had always been successful…

Who needed to learn this pesky newfangled IBM or MacPlus, when we had a perfectly functioning Olivetti Typewriter, from which we had “penned” so many a best seller?

Now again… don’t get me wrong…
I am not for one second advocating that we should have shunned ourselves of our colors, like some plummeting Heavy Metal Star who in an attempt to stay relevant, cuts his hair, burns his leather and spandex, and signs on to sing a ballad duet with George Michael or Cliff Richard, donning matching powder blue suits for the Video and adding dancers for the Grammy’s performance.

But the landscape was changing, and the club either didn’t see it, didn’t know how to handle it, or ignored it.
Throughout the “wilderness years” WE as a fan base stayed true to this WAY of ours.
We prized it.
Each season’s failure we clung to it like a life vest.
Even when it became obvious we were being left behind, most didn’t want the “Way” abandoned completely for the sake of the money that was deemed “necessary to compete”

The Liverpool Way did not change…. and again, I’m not suggesting that we should have thrown it out, or turned it upside down…
… but it was a Brave New World, and at the very least, the “Way” needed new carpet and drapes.

And a big part of our stasis, was recognizing the growing power of the media, the way in which United and their Odious Leader in particular, were manipulating it, and not proactively responding… not to just deal with it, but to get out in front of it.
Ask any PR professional, or Political Advisor… and they’ll tell you…
…if all you have is a response… you’re dead in the water …
… your actions must get you out in front of a situation/story…
… or you might as well not bother…

We have spent 20 years “responding” to the changing landscape… that was being shown to us.
Initially we ignored the new landscape…
… then we tried to poke one toe into it…
… then we put a foot in…
… then shifted out weight to that foot…
… then cautiously moved onto its fringes…
…all the while…. clinging to what was becoming an Antiquated Approach to this new landscape…

We needed a “New Liverpool Way” if we were to survive.
The beginning finding that, was the rather bumblingly handled transition from the “boot room” Roy Evans, to the “continental” Gerrard Houllier … a Frenchman who had a more worldly football approach, while still having Liverpool at his heart.
He dragged us into the 90s, just as the clock ticked over into the 2000s.
I’m still not entirely sure if Houllier fully “got” The Liverpool Way entirely… he seemed to initially, then seemed to badly lose his way…. perhaps the task of transforming it into a “New Way” was just so monumental, that he was destined to get lost within that task.

Then came Rafael Benitez… benefiting from the work Houllier had done… and able to fit in and “get us” almost immediately.
It initially looked as though we were about to finally enter the 21st Century on even footing with our immediate rivals and launch a campaign to retake our Crown.
… and then came G&H and it all went so terribly, horribly wrong.

FSG, for all their naiveté of Football, the Premier League, and the fuckin sludge alien with spiky tentacles English media, appeared for all the world like men who knew a thing or two about PR.
Initially they played a pretty good hand, and seemed to have “the house” on the ropes.
But personally, I think they’ve been a bit of a mixed bag.
One minute scoring PR success, the next falling a bit short…
(… coincidentally I’ve just recently read a few interesting articles referring to their use of PR during their acquisition and subsequent running of the Red Sox, which concern me a little… especially moving forward from the incidents of the last few months.)

Regardless of the Truths, Accusations, Lies and Fabrications of the last 5 months.
Regardless of the disproportionate Indignation, Outrage, and Cultural Differences of the last 5 months.
The club simply did not handle their affairs in a competent manner.

Kenny was responding… the player’s were responding… and as somnath said, the foot soldiers (US) were doing their part.

The club needed (and had time to formulate) a unified message.
It clearly didn’t.
I wonder (and would like to think) that was because they never took the accusations seriously.
The original accusation was so clearly inflammatory, manufactured and overtly false, and coming from a serial accuser, that I almost don’t blame them if that was their initial response… I am giving them the benefit of the doubt in thinking that they would be found out for what they were and the case would be rightly dismissed.
… but…
…. coming from Fungus, they should really have known better.

… everything else that has happened… regardless of the minutia… stemmed from that failure.

To quote a line from the movie A Knights Tale: “We have been weighed, measured and found wanting.”

…as for the handshake…
… well we botched that royally too… in just about every way we could… and that includes the 3 statements, and particularly the wording of them.

It is my hope that behind the scenes, “things are not as they appear” and all are still working towards a common goal… that Luis has been asked to do what Rafa was asked to do, fall on his sword for the good/reunification of the club…
… and that the “foot soldiers” who so openly backed the lad, have not been left twisting in the wind…
…that statements have been made to appease the press (whether we agree with that or not) and try to get the story off the front and back pages…
… and that in addition to all still pulling in the right direction…
… measures are being taken to drag our fuckin PR and legal team into the 2nd Decade of the 21st Century, and have them armed and equipped with fuckin stealth fighters and smart bombs instead of the pathetic 2 inch knives they’ve been bringing to the gunfights recently.

The next few weeks and months will hopefully give us some insight?

… to borrow another line from a different movie.
There’s a saying in prize fighting. When you get knocked to the canvas, the getting up is up to you. (not the direct quote, before some of you jump in)

Well, we just got knocked down… the getting up is up to us.

Aitch

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