“Liverpudlians” are known for their quick wit. Many say the humor comes from the severe hardships endured by the primarily working class people of Liverpool through the decades. In fact in Liverpool they will tell you that having a strong and well honed sense of humor is the only way to survive in that City, and maybe in life too! I love my Saturday afternoons in front of the Telly whenever the English football (soccer to any ‘Yanks’ who may be reading) season is under way, even more so when my hometown team, Liverpool’s, games are being shown on Fox Soccer Channel – which can never be often enough for me.
I’ve been an avid supporter of Liverpool Football Club for as long as I can remember, from when I was a kid kicking a “rag ball” around in the streets. As I hit my twenties and was earning a pay check, come rain, hail or snow, my work mates and I would rush off to the match, straight after work every Saturday as if our lives depended on it. It didn’t matter where the ‘Reds ‘were playing, either away or at home, the city’s reputation was at stake. We always wanted to get to the ground [‘ANFIELD’ stadium, built in 1884] at least an hour before kick-off so that we could join in the pre-match singing.
It’s hard to describe the atmosphere that is created when a large crowd, in this case around 40 – 45,000 people are singing in unison! But even more so, when you try to describe what it was like when our other hometown boys The Beatles came on the music scene and Liverpool FC hit their own heyday around about the same time.
Prior to the game starting, the supporters would start impromptu sing-a-longs as the Beatles and other local Liverpool groups belted out their latest hits over the PA system. ‘Gerry and the Pacemaker’s song “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” became the club’s anthem and was (and still is) sung at every match – a song that is recognised by football fans the world over as the ‘Liverpool Song.’ Listening to the supporters singing that song never failed to make the hair on the back of my neck stand up – it still does. There are many incidents of the ‘Spion Kop’ [this was a specific part of the ground where all the die-hard local fans gathered to be sure they could sing and soak up the maximum atmosphere] picking up on activity happening on the field and instantly turning it into a parody of the latest pop songs.
One Saturday afternoon in 1963 [and yes I was actually there for this one] when Liverpool were playing at home and the Kop was in full song and spirit as usual. One of the opposition’s players went down with a severe leg cramp. The game was brought to a halt to allow the team’s trainer to come onto the pitch, as they do, to assess the issue and administer treatment. While the trainer was busy vigorously massaging the player’s thigh muscle in the middle of the pitch, the Kop began belting out a very loud, impromptu rendition of… ‘He loves You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!’
It was also around this time when Peter O’Sullivan, a fanatical ‘Reds’ fan thought it would be a good idea to honor his team by naming his new born baby girl [his third daughter], after each of the Liverpool team players and even the manager, coach and trainer. So she became Paula, St. John, Lawrence, Lawler, Byrne, Strong, Yeats, Stevenson, Callaghan, Hunt, Milne, Smith, Thompson, Shankly, Bennett, Paisley, O’Sullivan. Baby Named After Liverpool Players – all of them! This amazing tribute was even the backdrop for a Hyundai TV commercial that ran during the 2010 World Cup!. Such is the fanaticism of the average Liverpool FC fan.
'Shanks' as he was often affectionately known to Liverpool fans, has been famously quoted on many of the finer points of football and even life itself. Bill Shankly, was typically described as a no-nonsense, down to earth, maybe even 'a little crusty', but proud Scotsman, he led the team to many, many a victory and is often cited as being responsible for what most consider to be Liverpool FC’s heyday. One quote I remember in particular, truly defines his perspective (and that of most Liverpool fans) on football. When asked by a journalist if football in Liverpool was considered a matter of life and death? Shankley replied, “Oh yes…some people think football is a matter of life and death.I assure you it's much more serious than that!”
Watch this short video below to hear in the man's own words, his thoughts on footballers pay and the obligations they have in respect to the fans and the team because of that – very interesting thoughts given the astronomical salaries footballers, other athletes and other celebrities receive today.
And lastly, just to add a little perspective of my own…Liverpool Football Club was formed way back in 1892 when player’s salaries were roughly the equivalent cost of a McDonald’s Big Mac Combo. The club saw a heyday during the 1960’s when a working man could easily afford to attend the game most Saturday’s and could often even afford to take his son or sons along with him too. In fact it’s quite likely that those Saturday afternoons were the primary bonding moments between those fathers and sons, and in some cases may be the only “bonding” moments they ever really had. Of course all of this is quite different from football in general today, where salaries and transfer fees especially hover around the price of a small private Island in the Caribbean, and the price of a ticket to watch the match is rapidly getting to be about the price of the plane ticket to get you to that island!
Just a Joke…
Here’s one for the Liverpool fans…
Q: What’s the difference between a dead dog on the road and a dead Manchester United fan on the road?
A: There are skid marks in front of the dead dog!