Monday, 21 October 2013

The Anfield Shrine Column - Issue 191 of RAOTL

Originally published in print. Issue 191 of Red All Over The Land Fanzine

Liverpool V Palace – Not a match report at all…

After what seemed like a lengthy absence from Anfield (my last game being Man Utd this season, sitting out Southampton) I returned, with my old man up, for one of his trips of the season to enjoy Crystal Palace’s visit to Anfield. It is a fixture that held quite a lot of nostalgia for me and my old man as in 1998 Crystal Palace was the first Premier League game my Dad took me to at Anfield. I’m afraid to say mine isn’t a story of scouser to scouser, but deep down Bristol Rovers fan taking his slightly strange but very strong minded Liverpool supporting son to Anfield, all the way from Wiltshire. I won’t enter into the out of towner debate, and I feel no need to justify my support to anyone… I’ve lived in Liverpool ten years now, and my Dad is a full convert. Although even I will admit to a soft spot for Rovers as I mature. But anyway… I digress, it was indeed this fixture, well over ten years ago that I got my first taste of a premier league game at Anfield (having been to a pre-season friendly a few months before.) Like most of us, I will never forget the game… despite having forgotten most of the slightly dull duels against Premier League strugglers since. The great Lombardo was player manager at Palace, and a rather rotund Thomas Brolin also featured for the ‘Eagles.’ We won 2 -1 with a little David Thompson coming off the bench to score the winner. I’ll always remember the long drive home… crawling out of a guest house car park on the Anfield Road, a site that now houses the ‘food zone’ or ‘kids zone’ or some other absolute bastion of modernity and corporate bastardry. 606 on 5 Live droned on as we slowly made our way out of Liverpool, and flicking through a matchday fanzine while someone who’s opinion is of no consequence whatsoever* spouts rubbish to Alan Green  always reminds me of that wondrous evening.

So to the present day… we were unusually situated in the Main Stand… having resided for years in the Anfield Road, before becoming fed up of the hordes of incomprehensibly pissed Irish daytrippers that frequented it (no offence to our brilliant genuine Irish support by the way) and moving into the Kop. God know’s why, but the only availability for us for Palace was the main stand, so the main stand it was. In a strange way I quite enjoyed being in there again… it gives you that old football ground feel that is so hard to find these days. A feeling that leads me fairly nicely onto the whole point of this column….

I’m afraid I’m going to bemoan the atmosphere and yes, modern football in general. The site of a young lad getting carried out in the aftermath of Palace fans letting off smoke bombs was certainly distressing, and it makes it very difficult to advocate the use of ‘pyro’ at football stadiums, but you can certainly advocate noise, passion, originality and atmosphere. All of which, these days, Anfield does not possess. It isn’t so much modern football that is the problem… I’m sure we all secretly have Sky Sports News on more than most channels. Alright players get paid extortionate, ridiculous amounts of money… but there is very little we can do about that. The actually game itself hasn’t changed, a brilliant tackle is a brilliant tackle, a great goal, is a great goal. But your average matchoger… well they have changed dramatically.

I’m aware that it’s easy to moan about the atmosphere at Anfield these days, but I can’t help it… I pretty much despise most of the Anfield attendance now. If I’m honest, it looked a lot more fun in the Palace end! We all know that the match day atmosphere at the biggest grounds in the country have been on the decline for years, whatever we say… Old Trafford, Arsenal… ourselves, it’s all a similar pattern. Inflated prices and grounds full of ‘tourists’ and people who wouldn’t know ‘terrace culture’ if someone wrote it as a motif in the chocolate of their cappuccino.

I don’t expect a booming atmosphere every game… but at least have some self-respect and knowledge of what supporting a football club is all about. Not just any club indeed, Liverpool Football Club. We don’t sing… ‘who are ya’ and ‘going down, going down.’ We don’t take photos of Steven Gerrard taking a corner from 100 yards away on our iPhones. We don’t tell people to ‘sit down’ just because they have the cheek to get mildly excited or irate about something. We do take pride in what we wear to the match… and we don’t feel the need to drape ourselves in horrific and overpriced club merchandise.

I know people say, rather than moan about the atmosphere, try creating some? I hate that argument as much as anything else… my answer to that is: what is the point? For me, safe in the knowledge that I’m surrounded by vacuous identikits of modern life I’d rather sit quietly and enjoy the game than make some pathetic attempt at generating an atmosphere that I know no one else around me will appreciate of understand. For me it is more embarrassing and cringe worthy to see someone persevere through ‘Poor Scouser Tommy’ because they’ve learnt the lyrics off by heart on an internet forum.

Every now and again, very, very rarely, Anfield comes alive like we all know it can. But it is so rare these days. I appreciate the Kop seems to be more densely populated with banners and flags than it has been for a long time… but it strikes me as paying lip service to an atmosphere when after the whistle has gone, any sign of an atmosphere is packed away with the canvas and flag poles.

You’re having a scarf aren’t ya?!

Maybe I’m just in a bad mood… perhaps I’ll be proven wrong as the season progresses, but I doubt it. I was hugely heartened, if I can put it like that, by the piece by Semolina Pilchard in the last issue. They beat me to it by absolutely lambasting the modern obsession with ‘split scarves.’ The mind absolutely boggles. Now I didn’t used to mind split scarves during our European exploits, it struck me as a genuinely good ‘memento’ of some wonderful games and against obscure and fascinating opposition. I cherish my split scarves from games against the likes of Barcelona, CSKA Sofia, Juventus, Young Boys et al. However, why oh why anyone would want a split scarf of Liverpool Football Club Vs Wigan or Reading or Norwich or any other English team is beyond me. What is even worse than that are split scarves against Utd. We are Liverpool… we despise that lot more than anything else, how an earth anyone could cope with having THAT badge and THAT name draped across them at Anfield or anywhere else for that matter is beyond me. I think I may have posted a statement during the Utd game this season on some social media network or another, along the lines of… “any so called Liverpool ‘supporter’ who is currently at Andield sporting a Utd ‘split scarf’ should be strung up by it.” I stand by that.

Anyway… you’ve probably had enough of my vitriol. You wouldn’t think we were 2nd in the league would you? There’s no pleasing some people. Pass me a plastic bottle of flat Carlsberg and I’ll try and crack a smile.

Oh and if anyone fancies sorting me out with away tickets… Tweet @AnfieldShrine

*Paranoid Android – Ok Computer - Radiohead

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

The Anfield Shrine Column - Issue 190 of RAOTL

Originally published in print. Issue 190 of Red All Over The Land Fanzine

Firstly I’d like to introduce what is HOPEFULLY going to be a regular column in RAOTL. Some of you may or may not remember ‘The Anfield Shrine’ a little fan site I ran during the emerging years of t’internet and LFC forums, probably well over 10 years ago now, how time flies! I was known as ‘Curly’ back then… but very few would know me by that name now.

Anyway, to cut a long story short I’m looking to reignite The Anfield Shrine as a new LFC blog, offering opinion, news and guest columnists. I’m just getting it stared again, but I’m keen for anyone who is interested in helping to get in touch… any contributors / designers / supporters are most welcome! I’m also very keen to continue to support this wonderful fanzine that I’ve enjoyed over the years, so I intend this column to be a regular and print only affair!

We’ve just opened a Twitter account, so please follow us @anfieldshrine – we’re not really tweeting much yet, but follow us and we will!

So anyway… onto some musings…

In Simple Praise of Brendan Rodgers

It is late on Red All Over The Land’s very own deadline day and I am determined to pen a piece after a final plea for contributions from the big man JJP. I was struggling to think about what to write about. Strange I know considering I’m sat here watching ‘Ingerlund’ safe in the knowledge that Liverpool FC are currently sitting pretty at the top of the Barclays Premier League © (for all you SKY fans) and with I think we would all agree a pretty successful transfer window behind us AND all without the enigma that is Luis Suarez. So I thought, considering my initial reticence and to be honest, just general ambivalence towards Rodgers as a Liverpool manager I thought it was about time I reflected and expressed my change in opinion.

It was not so much Rodgers ability as a manager that I doubted; it was more just something about him as a man that I found a little ‘cringe worthy’ for want of a better word. I don’t think that God awful ‘being Liverpool’ helped him in my eyes, but to be fair to the man that wasn’t his fault. I will fully admit to be a fully-fledged RAFA obsessive, I still am, I love the man and I wanted him back in a flash… but I’m starting to get over that. I think I’ve found closure!

And who can argue with Rodgers progress so far? Several things stand out for me…

The purchase of Sturridge – what an absolutely inspired move!

Coutinho – see above, what an absolute find… he is simply a magician and I just hope we can keep hold of him. I’m more worried about losing him than I am about Suarez now!

How he handled Suarez - the way both Rodgers and Henry handled the Suarez situation over the summer impressed me. We set our stall out that we’re not a selling club and didn’t let Suarez and his big mouth dictate things. We have ambitions worthy of keeping a player like Suarez, and so we should!

This transfer window – I think we have probably had one of the most successful windows out of any club. We haven’t lost anyone that we didn’t want rid of anyway. We have strengthened in defence which was essential, and with what looks like some real quality. Toure has looked another inspired buy and the other new lads all look to have a lot of potential.

We’re top of the league – ok no one is getting carried away, but we can’t fault that can we? And what is more, we’ve done it without Suarez and with a slight change in style. We haven’t been as obsessed about ‘knocking it about’ but have passed it well, kept possession but in a more meaningful fashion. The display against Utd was fantastic, I thought Lucas was outstanding and everyone played their part.
So I apologise Rodgers, I’m sorry for my initial coldness towards you… carry on like this and who knows where you will end up in my affections!

Finally… support RAOTL

Finally, just a little humble rallying cry to you all… to make sure you support this wonderful publication. If you’re reading this, it means you’ve bought a copy. If you’re never bought it before, I hope you’re enjoying it and if you buy it regularly: don’t stop! Buy a 2nd copy and give it to a mate… and if you fancy putting pen to paper get in touch about contributing!

I love this fanzine and I’m so glad to be involved in it again, it was the first independent voice I came across as a young Liverpool fan and it gave me the chance to express my opinion and develop as a writer… albeit an amateur one! We all know our gripes with modern football, but fanzines like this are the absolute cornerstone of what being a football supporter is all about. Forget your replica kits, hospitality, 3rd kits, training kits and LFC branded egg cups, just buy yourself a copy of RAOTL, put your Adidas trabs up and enjoy.