Liverpool’s owners, FSG, were clearly surprised by supporters’ opposition to the proposed ticket prices for the forthcoming 2016/2017 season. Neil Poole explains how the last nine days have seen an unprecedented series of shockwaves batter Liverpool’s system.
The last time I felt as bereft leaving Anfield as I did in the 77th minute last Saturday was leaving Anfield after the 90th minute in April 2014 in the wake of a 2-0 defeat to Chelsea. However, while the defeat to Chelsea two years ago felt like the realistic end to a rare title challenge, Saturday felt more ominous, more like the end of days.
Whether it was the black flags, the graveyard silence or watching the billowing goal nets expand then contract as if blown by a red giant’s last breath, Liverpool Football Club genuinely felt like it was flat lining. A little melodramatic? The writing might be. The feeling was not.
In the four days preceding the game and in the four days that followed, the rhythm of that fading heartbeat was regularly punctuated by a toddler running rampant with a defibrillator. Some of the shocks just added to the trauma. Others were invigorating.
Where do you even start?
“Stand Clear!” Zap! News of the increased ticket prices came out of the blue for most of us and the proverbial hit the fan. The clever bods from LFC’s official site who came up with the ‘100 Players Who Shook the Kop’ series, now have a macabre variation on a theme should they ever have the stomach for it, called ‘9 Days That Shocked the Kop’.
“Stand clear!” Zap! The resistance of some supporters to fellow Reds wishing to protest against the new pricing structure was mind-boggling. It seems that the only thing that fires up those who are apathetic are people who do not share their apathy.
As a public servant and union member, I have regularly taken industrial action against draconian austerity measures in this country over the last six years. Many of the arguments against against the ticket price protest were frighteningly similar to those trundled out in workplace or by the right-wing media.
Having been outflanked by patronising invitations to enter the ‘real world’ and sh*thouse whining of ‘what’s the point’ over the last week, it suggests this attitude is less a football problem and more society’s. Of course, feel free to disagree, but try and refrain from feeling at total ease patronising those who choose to stand up for themselves and others.
“Stand clear!” Zap! The very idea of a walkout on seventy-seven minutes was unprecedented.
“Stand clear!” Zap! The club’s riposte, delivered by Ian Ayre, was one of startling arrogance and ill-conceived pretend-gangster menace. Liverpool were staggered at the response. Supporters were told to be careful what they wished for. Supporters were told to look at the facts. So we did… and we saw we were right to walk on 77.
“Stand clear!” Zap! You’ll Never Walk Alone. Enough is Enough. Deafening whistles. Stand up. Walk. “Liv-er-pool!” Bloody hell I’m about to cry here. I wasn’t expecting this. Walking on 77 was bitter sweet. Guilt ridden for abandoning your team for the first time in your life, yet walking in solidarity with over ten thousand other Reds for the future of your club.
Clearly, scarred by the aforementioned years of taking industrial action in work to no avail, I’ve become accustomed to taking action as a symbolic show of solidarity rather than in the expectancy of success. Liverpool were staggered. I was staggered. The biggest shock of this whole affair has been the numbers that walked, and the sense, at the time, that this might actually work.
“Stand clear!” Zap. Ten minutes later, walking away from the ground, “What?! It ended 2-2! You’re f*cking kidding”
“Stand clear! Zap! Not arsed.
“Stand clear!” Zap! Almost unanimous support and positive coverage from the media, ex-players and not least on Match of the Day from the man who could bore a fox off a chicken, Alan Shearer. Only joking Al’! Good man.
“Stand clear! Zap. Liverpool Football Club apologise and freeze prices for the next two seasons, and do so within four days of the walkout. There’s a man with a terrible song out. The chorus goes “I wasn’t expecting tha’” but somehow he manages mispronounce ‘that’. Well, tha’.
The over-arching shock is, I genuinely thought Liverpool FC had given up on ever surprising supporters again. Up until the 2013/14 season, you could always expect Liverpool to do something unexpected.
We were predictably unpredictable, reliably unreliable. Liverpool FC has been an oxymoron dressed in red for the best part of thirty years.
Even our relatively recent muscle memory is primed with winning against the odds or in quirky ways: unglamorous trebles. A Champions League turnaround of Herculean proportions. An injury time FA Cup screamer from Gerrard saving us from the jaws of defeat and spring boarding us to FA Cup victory. Our captain’s cousin missing the crucial penalty in the shootout of the Capital One Cup final. There’s always been a story. There has always been unbelievable fairy-tale ending.
It’s why so many of us prematurely nailed our flags to the mast in the final weeks of the unexpected title challenge in 2013/2014. proclaiming it was indeed nailed on. It seemed like fate. What could be more Liverpool than somehow winning the league like this?
We all know what happened next…and if the footballing Gods have their way it currently appears that Leicester are more like Liverpool than Liverpool these days.
Since the end of that season, we have trudged through dirge from weekend to weekend, watching the same inadequate players, play the same games in the same ways, making the same mistakes to the same end.
The shocks have ceased to happen on the pitch. The ones that occur do so, for better or worse, are at the behest of Fenway Sports Group. The massive positive remains the surprise appointment of Jurgen Klopp when personally I had given up on us attracting a world class sought after manager, for years. The U-turn on ticket prices and the apology should be commended too. It is as welcome as it is unexpected.
On the other hand, the whole fiasco points at a worrying and fundamental disconnect with the culture of the club and its fans. Furthermore, freezing prices whilst positive need to be tempered with the reality that they are being frozen at a price, which is too high.
Who knows what will happen over the next few weeks, months and years. The only thing you can be certain of is that the shock waves of the last nine days will reverberate around and effect our club for a long time to come.