The start of a new campaign used to bring a fabulous sense of renewal. But, with 48 hours to go before Dirty Leeds come and I’m still missing something.
With maturity, proximity to Liverpool, and thousands of games it’s never quite the same as those earliest memory seasons, let’s say seasons five, six and seven in your head…… for me probably the mid-80s when the big kick-off meant first sight of that huge replica tin of shirt sponsors, Crown Paints glinting in the August Anfield sunshine.
Perhaps not quite looking forward to the start of a virgin campaign as much as in those sponge-like teen years is more about the loss of youth as it is any loss of enthusiasm for football. Or – and this is the one to bring pangs of existential angst – any loss of love for Liverpool FC.
Actually, that specific relationship with your club is like a marriage.
The passion does ease off. Every now and then the home fires burn again but just as likely they’ll really piss you off every now and then. Sometimes they look ugly as sin. See the darkened “boot room” door, stained by Hodgson. Mere sight of that creature still makes me want to spew.
As much as I love Graeme Souness again now, I wanted to divorce the c*nt back in the early 1990s. Even Kenny did my head in for a while, not for league results in his second spell but for refusing to play the media game when they were all licking his backside. The King still thought it was the 80s and the press were out to get him but no, this time they were in awe but he couldn’t help himself reverting to type.
I still think his dismissal after winning one and reaching two cup finals was mainly because FSG wanted a media-friendly head honcho.
Brendan Rodgers wasn’t entirely that, and came across as a bit of a sleaze even to his biggest advocates (me included), but was still the man who was brave enough to say we could win the league 13 games out, then won them all bar two and put a whiff of title air back in red nostrils.
It was that burning desire, among some key men like Jordan Henderson and critically our modern support; that sulphurous pyro aroma of 2014 that made 2020 seem eminently familiar, eminently less scary, eminently more do-able.
We had breathed the rarified air quite recently and this time we had the head for those heights with Jurgen mad as a box of Frogs throughout. See, I’m on one now.
Nothing wrong with my passion for The Reds.
I watched the BBC i-Player “Liverpool – the 30 year wait” last night.
I cried all the way through it, pausing only to smile every now and then. Jesus, it was like re-watching my life over 30 years – as though dead but welcome at my own funeral. I texted my best friend with this link https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000m7l8 – a friend who I lost touch with after Hillsborough but now see again.
The text read…..
“Please watch this. From Hillsborough to Anfield. Manchester, Wembley and all of London, Cardiff, Monaco, Dortmund, Istanbul, Athens, Kiev, Barcelona and Madrid and then back to Anfield. I cried about 15 times through this. Not a football scene in this where I’m not there somewhere. It’s effectively the life I lived that you missed.”
If I thought I wasn’t fired up for Saturday’s start, I am now.
The task is not to repel Oil-slicky City, to contemplate Chelsea and the new boys they rent, or to F*ck Fancy-Dan Spurs or thwart Lucky Arsenal or do The Ev again.
No, we get in a metaphorical boxing ring with Manchester United, and though it might be the ref (in the guise of their neighbours) we have to knock out, the prize is that perch to which that wretched social climber Ferguson aspired and reached. Our mission is to assume the mantle of 20 apiece, share the unsteady branch and look them in the eyes before poking them out.
If there is a weird sense of things not being quite the same, it’s because everything; literally everything has gone weird in this world. Nothing is the same for me, or you.
I can’t remember what it’s like to defend the league title but there’s a flicker of uncomfortable deja vu that smacks of pressure. And yet, the burden of being Champions is nothing compared to the weight we carried to that 30-year holy grail.
It’s strange starting in mid-September.
The morning grass in Sefton Park is ringing wet, when we normally kick-off in blazing August sunshine, an opening day tradition as strong as Everton’s perennial blueshitehousery.
And, it’s uber-strange there still being no fans.
No first game to go to, no pre-match pint in the St Hildas, King Harry or The Solly or in town. No climb of the Kop steps. No first sight of all the faces in those same old spaces. No high five for Tommy, No hug for Cutz, no kiss for Emily, no clench for Joynty, no nod to Gary, no playful strangulation of Liam, no slap on the head for Walshy. It’s really not real.
I can’t stand it much longer. Real separation anxiety. There’s nothing wrong with me, my passion or my love for the Reds.
It’s the rest of the world that’s gone mad. Thank heavens for though football, even in a vacuum. Back before it went away with Liverpool as reigning Champions.
Defend it, Reds, Defend it to the hilt – while I deal with my existential angst.
I knew I was missing something. Not my marbles. Just my Red mates – on and off the pitch.
About the Author
Mike Nevin is the Director of Lobscouse Media and freelance writer for Anfield Index Pro, The Cricketer, and ATX Reds Press. He is also a contributor at The Liverpool Connection Podcast, based out of Austin, Texas.