We chat to Dave Usher, editor of The Liverpool Way – the excellent long-running LFC fanzine – to ask all about TLW, his thoughts on Brendan Rodgers and his best LFC memories.
Q. First off, tell us a little about yourself, and how/why you started The Liverpool Way.
I’ve always enjoyed writing but I was always too lazy to do anything about it. Lazy in school, lazy in college, so I didn’t have any qualifications of real worth and ended up bouncing around various office jobs. The last job I had was a bit of a doddle, I could have my day’s work done by 10am and spend the rest of the day just messing around, so with all that time on my hands I started writing articles for Through the Wind & Rain and Red All Over the Land. I’d also bombard Tommy Smith’s letters page in the Echo too, as I say, too much time on my hands. Anyway, I got made redundant and decided to start my own fanzine. That was in 1999, and I’m still doing it now, although the job has changed massively since then due to the internet.
Q. For those who aren’t familiar with TLW, explain a little about the fanzine’s style and what to expect in an issue.
It’s a mix of light hearted stuff and serious analysis I’d say. There’s something for everyone, whether it’s a stupid caption ripping the piss out of David Moyes or Bill Kenwright, or a well written article about whatever latest crisis we’ve lurched into. We’ve got some good writers who contribute and it’s an entertaining read. Cheaper than cost of a pint too!
Q. You’ve managed to get a few LFC players in the fanzine down the years, including Jamie Carragher, tell us how that came about.
It came about because I found out that Carra bought the fanzine and was a big fan of it. He loved TTW&R too, he’s probably the only player I’ve heard of who regularly reads fanzines, a lot of them steer clear as we fans can be quite cruel sometimes! Anyway, a mutual friend put me in touch with him, I asked him if he’d be up for doing an interview and he did. That was in 2003 I think, he’s done several other interviews since and we stayed in touch. He’s been very good to TLW, any time we’ve asked him for an interview he’s been happy to do it, it will be a sad day for me when he retires as he and Gerrard are the two players still at the club from when TLW started.
Neil Mellor and Jay Spearing have done interviews too, those came about due to the time I spent watching the Academy teams. Mellor did his first TLW interview in 2001 I think, we stayed in fairly regular contact and then 10 years later our daughters ended up in the same class in school. Weird how things turn out sometimes, little did I know back when I was watching him as a 17 year old scoring for fun at the Academy that not only would we end up good friends years later, we’d have daughters the same age who would become friends too.
Q. Any other highlights that have arrived from running the fanzine?
The biggest thing that’s come from it is the community that has built up, and how so many people have ended up becoming friends as a result of it. I’m sure it’s the same on TIA’s forums, you end up getting to know people you’d never have met otherwise. I met many of my closest friends through the fanzine/website. It also beats having to go out and work for a living, although the vast majority of ‘proper’ jobs pay far better. Still, I get to work from home, and my Mrs can’t give me a hard time for going the match or watching footy on TV as I can just reply with “Hey, I’m working”.
Q. TLW are one of the fans groups invited to Melwood to interview Brendan Rodgers on occasion. What do you think about this move from the club, and your feelings on how this has gone so far.
I was sceptical at first. I didn’t see the point of it, I mean we can ask whatever questions we want but generally you’re not going to get a truthful answer as the manager has too much to lose and one slightly controversial comment will have the papers in a feeding frenzy. Personally I’d decided I was only going to ask questions that couldn’t possibly cause any trouble for the manager, and I’d stick to things that generally the fans would want to know but that he’d never be asked at a press conference. For instance, I wasn’t going to go in and ask him what happened with Clint Dempsey on deadline day, or why did he get rid of Andy Carroll, because I felt that would put him in an awkward spot where it would be difficult for him to be completely honest.
I didn’t know what other people would do but there was no way I wanted to be responsible for any negative headlines. As it turned out, everyone has been very sensible about it and Brendan has been brilliant, he’s answered everything that has been asked and he’s done so in great detail, even dragging out the tactics board at one point. It’s been fascinating listening to him. He did get stitched up early on by the BBC, who took one line out of context from over an hours worth of quotes and spun it to make a negative story about him telling the players to “man up”. That was pretty low, how he said it was not how it was reported, and I wondered if the club would decide it’s not worth the trouble and scrap any future meetings. They didn’t, and Brendan really seems to enjoy them as once he starts talking, it’s hard to shut him up.
You see the press officer looking at his watch as it goes well over the time we’d been given, but it’s not the fans that are making these things so long, it’s the manager making sure he answers every question in as much detail as possible. We couldn’t ask any more from him in terms of his honesty and the time he gives up, I don’t think these things would work anywhere near as well with the vast majority of other managers, but Rodgers definitely has the gift of the gab.
The interviews are all available online, I’d recommend anyone who hasn’t seen them to dig them out and give them a look. We spoke to Lucas as well, he’s as nice a lad as I’d expected him to be, but he was quite sharp witted too, which surprised me a little as I always imagined him to be a bit… how do I put this… nerdy.
Q. Which brings us nicely onto Rodgers himself. I know you are very positive about him, do you think he is the manager to bring regular Champions League football back to Anfield?
I think so, but it’s difficult to be sure about it as the landscape is changing all the time. I see no reason why we can’t soon be competing with Arsenal and Spurs for fourth spot, but what if some other club suddenly gets a billionaire owner? I know FFP is supposed to be coming in, but I don’t have much faith in it.
I’m extremely happy with what I’m seeing from Rodgers, the football is excellent, the team are clearly very well coached and have bought into what he’s teaching, and our biggest problems have generally been things beyond the manager’s control, such as costly individual errors. You can set your team up to dominate games and play great football, but if you make stupid mistakes you’ll struggle to achieve anything. That’s what has been happening to us all season, and we’ve been unable to find any consistency because of it.
Overall though I have a lot of faith in what Rodgers is doing, and I’m encouraged by what I’m seeing most of the time. We’re just prone to those Aston Villa / West Brom type games, and that needs to be eradicated if we’re to become a top four side again.
Q. Where do you feel the team needs strengthening this summer?
Down the middle. Obviously centre half is a massive need, the only question is how many we’ll have to bring in. Carragher needs replacing, there’s every chance Coates will leave too (either on loan or permanently) and there’s a big question mark over Skrtel as well. So we need at least two centre backs, possibly three, and that will take up a large portion of the budget unless we can find a bargain or two. I’d expect one centre back to cost us a fair bit of money, but if we could nab a Bosman as well that would be a big help. Diakite from Lazio would fit the bill, he seems keen to come here, he’s big and powerful and best of all, he’s free!
I’d also like to see us bring in another midfielder, but one with different attributes to those already here. I like Lucas, I’m not advocating replacing him, but I would like another option to be able to call on if needed as we don’t have another natural holding player in the squad. A fast, powerful, mobile player who can cover the ground quickly when teams are breaking on us would help hugely I think. A Mascherano would be perfect for this team (I know that’s not going to happen, I’m just using him as an example of what we need), but even a pre-injury Momo Sissoko would be useful.
Finally, I’d like another matchwinner. We have Suarez and Sturridge, whilst Coutinho has started brightly, but to be able to compete at the top level (in more than one competition) you need more than that. They don’t come cheap, but if we could find another Sturridge level signing at that price we’d be in great shape. Easier said than done of course. We could do with another left back as cover/competition for Enrique too, but I don’t think we’ll be able to meet all of our needs in just one more window, it may take a little longer.
Q. And finally, your favourite memories supporting The Reds down the years?
Too many to mention. Obviously all the cup final wins are highlights, as they are for every Red. Olympiakos was a great night too, it wasn’t that big a deal at the time to many as none of us had any idea what was to come afterwards, but it was special to me because of Mellor’s contribution. I was buzzing about the part he’d played in it, but in terms of what it meant to the history of the club I expected it to be another Auxerre, rather than a St Ettiene. Having gone on to win it though, the Olympiakos game immediately took on legendary status that it didn’t have at the time.
The atmosphere at the Chelsea semi final that year also stands out in the memory. I’d never experienced anything like that before and I doubt I will again. I don’t think that will ever be replicated, regardless of the circumstances. The entire stadium was stood up the whole game, and the noise was incredible. The hairs on the back of my neck are standing up now just remembering it. An incredible night.
In terms of an individual moment that stands out, I’d have to go with that last second winner from Mellor against Arsenal at the Kop end, that was just a great feeling. Steve Hunter’s commentary on LFCTV was amazing too, both Steve and myself had travelled all over the country together for several years watching the reserves and we’d both gotten to know Mellor, so we knew how much that goal would have meant to him. We were like proud parents that day! Steve went completely mental and lost his voice he’d screamed that much! It’s impossible for me to watch that goal and not grin from ear to ear, that’s definitely one of my best ‘none trophy related’ memories. Aldo’s last game was another, the 9-0 v Palace. Have to admit I shed a tear or two that night, I loved Aldo.
Q. How can people buy the fanzine?
You can buy the fanzine in several ways. It’s on sale outside Anfield before and after every home game, and it’s also available to buy from all three WH Smiths in Liverpool City Centre. If you’re not local then you can order it from our webshop. Postal and digital subscriptions are also available from the online store, which you can find at www.liverpoolway.co.uk/shop/.
Thanks to Dave for his excellent and interesting responses. Pick up a copy of TLW where you’ll find selected articles from TIA published inside.