Friday, 17 April 2015

Remembering the 96 and the ongoing fight for Justice

I've taken my time to put some thoughts down about what is an extremely emotive and difficult time for the families and survivors of the Hillsborough disaster.

I think it can be easy to appear trite when registering your recognition or remembrance of the Hillsborough disaster and the lengthy and horrifically tough fight for justice that continues for the families. I don't want to doubt the sincerity of anyone who recognises the disaster (and our social media accounts posted tribute posts on the 15th of April to recognise the day so you could accuse me of hypocrisy) but it does feel that somehow a hashtag or throwaway post of JFT96 almost trivialises the sheer enormity of injustice that we are dealing with. The reports of people attending the memorial service to take photos and chant the name of players makes me feel incredibly uncomfortable, angry and sad.

I'm an unashamed out of towner, born with no connection to Liverpool and too young to remember the disaster itself, only to decide upon Liverpool FC as my club of choice as a youngster. There was no reason other than a naive attraction towards certain players and a club that seemed different.
So my first awareness of the Hillsborough disaster was from the internet and the early days of Liverpool message boards and chat rooms. At school I read "Hillsborough - The Truth" by Phil Scraton and became immediately immersed in the horrendous injustice and horror of what happened to Liverpool fans and their families not just that day but for years after. An injustice which still remains.

Only over the last couple of years has the incredible injustice begun to be uncovered and a slow realisation is creeping across the wider country. Unfortunately I worry that irreparable damage has been done by the horrific and undeniable smear campaign of blame against the people of Liverpool by the establishment, Thatcher's government, a right wing press and the police.

Having lived in Liverpool for 10 years after University I am now back down south and have to endure the lazy stereotyping of Liverpool on a weekly basis. My colleagues at work or people I come across are perfectly nice and well meaning but I tire of baseless and lazy comments around Liverpool as a place and specifically the Hillsborough disaster. Comments along the lines of "why are people still banging on about it" and "yeah maybe the police messed up, but I bet the fans weren't angels" shows just how deeply the lies and smears have penetrated our modern society.

I will use the word again - injustice. The scale of which is almost incomprehensible. A government in power, supposedly there to represent democracy and us; a police force supposedly there to protect us; a supposedly free and ethical media all conspired to lie and heap misery and pain on families who had suffered horrifically. They conspired to categorically discredit a whole region and turn the rest of the country against them.

I don't want to preach to anyone, but whether you are connected to Liverpool or not, if that injustice doesn’t anger you and make your blood boil then you are a vacuous and cold being that I don't want to know.

The fight for justice isn't over and it must continue alongside a respectful and compassionate understanding of what the families and survivors have been through. They need our support, they need our help, but more than anything they deserve our respect.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Just Enjoy It

It's a bright and sunny Thursday morning. Last night Liverpool booked their place at Wembley for an FA Cup semi final after beating Blackburn 1-0 in the replay. It was a solid, professional performance.
After back to back defeats to Man Utd and Arsenal, leaving our Top 4 hopes hanging by a thread,  you could have been forgiven for thinking over the last week that we were facing relegation.

I don't know if it is a modern day malaise or it has always been like this, but you do feel that knee jerk over reaction, shameful criticism, abuse and fickleness from a significant set of so called supporters, whether that be Liverpool ones or any other club is a symptom of the modern world and modern game.

Twitter gives any old moron a voice, hundreds of soulless and trite blogs littered with gambling adverts and affiliate links vie for clicks and views with regurgitated and sensationalist clap trap.
Sky Sports News trundles along 24/7 peddling rumours and gossip leaked by unscrupulous agents and "sources" about training ground disputes or crisis meetings.

It's all rather depressing.

It's worth remembering what we're in this for. We're in it because for whatever reason we love football and we love OUR club.

Aside from perhaps my criticism of Lovren (who played really well by the way) I've always struggled with the idea of venomously criticising and slating the club, manager or players that are meant to be our own. I have never booed a Liverpool side, and I never will. Obviously you get frustrated, and there have been dark days where you could legitimately see that the club was in the wrong hands. Hicks, Gillet. I'm looking at you. You cunts. Hodgson I'm looking at you. Paul Konchesky,  I'm looking at you.

But we are a far cry from those days at the moment. We have owners who albeit are clearly money men (who isn't in football these days?) are money men with some values and a long term plan. I don't believe in the rampant commercialism going on at the club, but they are also making good decisions. Like the redevelopment of Anfield.

We have a manager who lives and breathes football, who relishes and understands the magnitude of being Liverpool manager and also happens to be one of the best young managers in the world.
We have an exciting, young and talented crop of players who genuinely seem to love playing for Liverpool and have a real togetherness. You only need to watch the celebration after the Blackburn goal to see that. They are, in the words of Neil Atkinson from TAW "a great bunch of lads."

I have listened to a lot of talk on The Anfield Wrap and read a lot of articles in fanzines recently bemoaning modern football. I am one who bemoans it more than most. But there have also been voices, commonly of lads from TAW who have lept to the defence of the some of the "tourists" and people who are supposedly the problem and looked at the rest of us and gone "yeah we know lads, it's not quite the game as we'd like it, but stop moaning and just enjoy it eh?"

If some of us, myself very much included put as much effort into bemoaning modern football as we did to trying to change it and just enjoying it along the way, we'd all be in a better place.

That goes for you; moronic twitterati. What do you want from all this? To be sat in your armchair as Liverpool win the league year after year and your accas keep rolling in? I bet you'd still find something to moan about. Get angry that we weren't as good as Real Madrid. Why don't you just go and support Chelsea?

Life isn't perfect. That's why it's enjoyable.

Tell you what, put your iPhone down.  Get off TheSportsBible. Get off Lucas' back and go the game. Get a couple of lads together. Even if you're not sat together.... make sure you meet an hour before for a pint. Have a laugh. Talk to human beings. Don't go in the fucking "fun zone." Go in The Flat Iron.

Make a banner. Make a flag. Get a bit pissed before the game and have a bit of a sing. Honestly, it's a laugh. Try it.

And if we lose, yeh moan and swear to your mates. Over a pint. Even post some semi pissed vacuous tweet if you must. But understand that Rodgers or Kolo or Gerrard haven't done it to piss you off deliberately. They're fuming too, you know. And you hurling abuse at them isn't going to help anyone.

I tell you what, supporting Liverpool is more of a laugh than supporting some sides. But do you know what? Lads supporting Luton... or Leyton Orient or Leeds probably have more of a laugh than we do. Because they let themselves enjoy it.

I am of the era that I can't remember the last time we won the league. Fowler is my hero. But I have seen us win a frigging European Cup. FA Cups. The UEFA Cup. Ask my mate who supports Swindon what he has seen them win? Then ask him how much he has enjoyed watching them this season. They play some magic football you know. No, of course you don't.

So yeh.. we beat Blackburn. Felt good didn't it? We're going to Wembley. That's alright isn't it?

Let's enjoy it.