LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, September 13, 2022: Liverpool players and supporters stand for a moment's silence to remember Elizabeth Windsor, Queen Elizabeth II, who died on Thursday aged 96, before the UEFA Champions League Group A matchday 2 game between Liverpool FC and AFC Ajax at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Agendas and faux outrage – Football’s societal pantomime

Amid the conjecture and projections of rancour over the thorny issue of a looming moment of silence at Anfield, the real reason we were all in attendance in the first place was largely pushed into the margins.

Football as a sideshow, as we clicked through the turnstiles there had been little talk in the build-up to the visit of Ajax, of such trivialities as the injury that would keep Andy Robertson out of the team or the prospective return to the starting lineup of Thiago and Diogo Jota.

There was no in-depth chat about perceived defensive frailties, no debates about a troublesome midfield or words sounded over the labours of a front three that were still searching for better collective cohesion.

Instead, all the talk was of the sound of silence, or more pertinently perhaps the lack of silence, a ‘will they, won’t they’ question that the writers of a 1980s or 1990s American sitcom could only dream of.


Concerted campaign

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 10, 2022: A tribute is displayed on an advertising board next to Anfield, home of Liverpool Football Club, following the death of Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Shrouded in pantomime and a complete and utter lack of common sense across the breadth of the weekend, Liverpool supporters had even been criticised for hypothetically booing the playing of a national anthem that ultimately never got an airing prior to a game that was cancelled.

We’ve all heard of xG when it comes to the concept of expected goals, but here was the whole new ball game of xB. Expected boos.

Seen by many on the outside looking in as uproarious militants, a community of deliberate contrarians, conversely, at their best, what Liverpool supporters are is the voice of reason, the standard-bearers of common sense, the nation’s conscience, heart and soul.

Whether the UK likes it or not, this is a country that is swift to look to the city of Liverpool for their reaction to social, cultural and historical events and then adjusts their own responses accordingly to their decreed criteria. We lead and either they follow, or they cry foul.

Prior to Tuesday’s game, there was a concerted campaign to coax us into forced respect and reverence for the loss of Queen Elizabeth II, who died last week at the age of 96.


Subtle messages

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, September 13, 2022: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp before the UEFA Champions League Group A matchday 2 game between Liverpool FC and AFC Ajax at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Jurgen Klopp was extensively asked his opinion, Jordan Henderson was widely imaged signing a book of condolences, the club’s elders were sent out to talk in soft tones and the match programme was emblazoned with a photo of the lost monarch handing Ron Yeats Liverpool’s first FA Cup in 1965.

It made for a glut of far from subtle road signs which all pointed towards an almost direct order of impeccable behaviour.

Don’t tell us what to do; treat us as the adults we are.

As a collective, the vast majority of us are more than capable of restraining ourselves for a moment of silence, whether the subject matter is something we subscribe to or not. Odds are that we all know somebody that it will mean something tangible to, somebody that means something very dear to us.

We observe an annual version of this with the closest home game to Remembrance Sunday, a gesture to acknowledge the semi-self-sacrifice of a generation of youngsters for a horrific cause that was not of their instigation or will.

It is a noble thing, but it’s also a bit mad that we are conscripted to this ritual, over a century from its genesis. It still doesn’t stop us from sparing the time to conform for that short stretch of time once a year, because, well, you know, we’re adults at the end of the day and the odds are that we all know somebody that it will mean something tangible to, somebody that means something very dear to us.


A match did take place

Jordan Henderson signs book of condolence for Queen (Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

In the days leading up to the visit of Ajax, social media was awash with hot takes on the sound of silence. Usually wonderfully sound Reds sat on both sides of the divide and were highly vocal about their polarising stances.

Stay down on the concourse or turn your back if you feel strongly enough was the mantra of the more laid-back militants. Choose as you see fit and air your grievances if you want to, said the more volatile. At the other end of the spectrum were pleas for best behaviour, mainly because they seemed worried what others would think and spew forth.

I do believe this should never have been a consideration though; why should we be concerned about what angry from Manchester thinks about all the repeats on TV?

People who take pride in being outraged by Liverpool FC will always move on to the next perceived faux pas within a few days. Some even make a career of it, with one Telegraph journalist peddling a line that the partly punctuated silence had been cut short.

Agendas successfully pandered to. We should be beyond caring what our detractors have to say for themselves, just illuminate gobshite behaviour for what it is and move along.

2K0WCMG LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 13: Joel Matip of Liverpool celebrating scoring a late winner during the UEFA Champions League match between Liverpool and Ajax at Anfield on September 13, 2022 in Liverpool, United Kingdom (Photo by Andre Weening/Orange Pictures)

After the tense preliminaries, on the pitch, a football match took place, with Liverpool gaining a deserved win. Ajax were organised, dense in defensive situations, fluid when in possession, and unsettling on the break, but Klopp’s players dominated overall while looking set for frustration as the 90th minute ticked away.

Joel Matip was majestic all evening and he was the deserving scorer of our winning goal; Mo Salah had reassuringly put himself on the scoresheet earlier in the evening. There were plenty of positives and the three points gained were vital.

Not a result we can build upon as such with 17 days separating us and our next game, it will be like starting over by the time October 1 rolls around.

Will will then embark upon a 43-day span in which we will play 13 games across three different competitions before the World Cup shut down in November and December, where many of our fatigued players will run around in the heat of Qatar.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, September 13, 2022: Liverpool's Joël Matip (L) celebrates with team-mate Mohamed Salah after scoring the second goal during the UEFA Champions League Group A matchday 2 game between Liverpool FC and AFC Ajax at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

With the national anthem to be played across the Premier League this weekend, the xB will be negligible compared to what the powers that be will have feared possible at Stamford Bridge.

Thing is, we’re all adults though, lads.