For most people in Liverpool, seeing England draw 1-1 results in either a half-hearted grunt or a wry smile. Being Scottish, I had the latter.
I appreciate a lot of Liverpool fans do not actually come from Liverpool, I’m in that camp. I fell in Love with the reds from a young age; I remember Hillsborough like it was yesterday, I remember that team of 88/89 as the first team to truly capture my imagination.
Even after the demise of Liverpool after Kenny left, there was something that kept me drawn to the club. The size of the club is something that does draw people in, but let me be clear; I’m not a glory hunter – if I was I’d have been off years ago.
More than the size, success or the glorious red strips devised by Shankly to intimidate the opposition that draws me to support Liverpool – it’s the fans, the people, scousers who make Liverpool the unique beast that it is.
It’s the same with Barcelona, although I’ve never actively supported barca, they are a club who are owned by the people and, and they’re no ordinary people Catalonians, they’re a people shunned due to their proud Catalonian routes and adamant stance that they’re not Spanish. They have their own language, culture and history that they see as unique. Any team with a bit of a chip of their shoulder and also a proud chip that sets them apart is something I’m instantly drawn too.
Scousers have never really seen themselves as English; scousers are scouse first and English second and long may that continue.
I’m lucky enough to have had the privilege to live in the city for a while through work and whilst I was there I never missed a match. I went home and away and saw some amazing scenes I’m likely never to see again. Even after I left I was still there week in and week out and was often drawn to the city as a place where people were proud of being a part of something bigger than themselves.
For Liverpool fans, the Kop in particular the sense of being different is clear. The concept of the Liverpool Way wasn’t a model that stemmed from some written constitution; the Liverpool Way is world famous because it’s a club that is the embodiment of a culture.
People doing things for each other, having anthems in a football ground, singing their hearts out, pride in the shirt of the fans who don’t really care about what’s going on outside and building something new and unique for themselves which represents them. Shanks was the embodiment of that, and was mad enough to instill that on his team which shook British football.
When you hear shanks talk about the collective, the team vs the individual, you’d think he was some socialist nutter. But that’s the Liverpool way, that’s why things like the Hillsborough campaign was successful because those amazing campaigners like John Glover and Sheila Coleman had a steel about them, a mental strength that comes from having been kicked from pillar to post and still they stand, they fight, they work together.
There are many parallels with that attitude and the pass and move approach Liverpool has, you hear Brendan Rodgers talking about his team pressing as a unit, the work-rate and character, intensity. They’re all words that would fit most scousers characters down to the ground. Creativity is another thing that scousers are famous for in more ways than one.
As the club announces tiered pricing in a stadium which by no means is fit for purpose and new season ticket structures meaning now that some tickets are priced at over £50 for games, there’s a bit of a risk that the club is beginning to isolate true, home grown fans and thus shun the culture that has made the club so famous. Ian Ayre said last year, performances had been up and down therefore as well as the economic climate they wouldn’t increase prices. One could argue despite improvement Liverpool’s performances are still up and down, the economic climate is still tough, thus the two factors cited for not increasing prices are still there so why rise now?
Tony Evans of The Times said last week he felt that in doing this, the club was creating churn, trying to maximize the revenue from every seat by attracting a new demographic. This does make eminent sense drawn from Logic a lot of businesses follow. Whether this was Tony’s instinct as a seasoned journalist, rather than from inside info on the ‘why’ of the move to change direction in prices, nobody knows. If this is the truth, this could mean a sale is on the agenda for FSG, businesses like to fatten up before they look for buyers, but then again it could just be the realisation of a new commercial model.
This issue should be a real concern for Liverpool FC. The club raves about the atmosphere and the fans, although just now they’re doing little to show the local fans that every time the team play, they play for them as Shanks once said standing on top of steps of city hall after lifting the clubs first European cup ‘I’ve drummed it into my players time and time again, that when they play in a Liverpool shirt, they play for you’.
Ian Ayre and FSG must now tread carefully and show the fans they’re willing to invest in the people of Liverpool, after all the club rants and raves about the fans all over the world. Anfield does not have the effect of turning every day fans into some of the best supporters in the world, the fans are made that way. It’s in their DNA, these are no ordinary fans these are scousers, and it’s these fans that make Liverpool the great force they are.
Johann Cryuff once said he’s never experienced anything like the fans at Anfield, let’s not forget this was the man who was one of the best in the world in his generation, played for word famous clubs and who ditched Ajax for Feyenord (the equivalent of Steven Gerrard switching from Liverpool to join Man United) at half time forcing his team mates to be held in their dressing room for 8 hours after the game. This man knew passionate fans but none could be compared to those at Anfield.
Indeed, the new away fans are earning a reputation as one of the best in the country just now and it’s no wonder. These are young, passionate scousers who embody everything about the core support of the club, the Liverpool support doing things in a very Liverpudlian way. Fans from other areas of the country should be welcomed at Liverpool, and I know first-hand that the majority are, but us ‘outsiders’ of the Liverpool family know only too well why we love it at Anfied, or indeed Liverpool itself; it’s the scousers we love, it’s certainly not the weather!
For Liverpool to move forward, they must realize that isolating local support isn’t a smart move. Great European nights will be a little less great, fans bringing their own Kop banners will cease and we’ll see scenes like at Chelsea and Man City where the flags are laid out pre game for the fans to wave, we’ll end up the plastic fans that Rafa famously said of the Stamford bridge support. The unique selling point of LFC will be gone…
FSG would do well to go to their respective luxury beds at night remembering the saying ‘we’re not English, we are scouse’. It should haunt them; look what happened to Hicks and Gillett when they nearly destroyed the club. Scousers won’t stand for that and they won’t let it happen.
As for me I’ll always love Liverpool, but we’ll be a sorry club if it loses its heartbeat. Shanks once said of the Kop “The fans here are the greatest in the land. They know the game and they know what they want to see. The people on the Kop make you feel great – yet humble.”
Maybe John W Henry should have a little seat on the Kop as Shanks did once he retired, and he might finally find out why Liverpool is the club it is. He might then truly understand the Liverpool way!