by Chris Tobin
The Liverpool Way can be regarded in the modern age of Sky Sports and social media madness as somewhat of a noose around this great clubs neck, strangling it to its very core. An engaging media that has no time for such “Liverpool Ways” wanting instant retribution for any ill-advised activities. The blame culture where social conscience leads the baying pack toward its prey devouring “The Liverpool Way”.
Some believe that it was built on an ingredient of success and an insurmountable amount of glory, where the masses jumped in with both feet hoping that the silver prizes would rub off on them, forgetful that Bill Shankly would go trophyless from 1966 through to 1972 “The Liverpool Way” has not always been about winning, more about the conducting of one’s self on and off the football field.
Transfer targets would only become known to the masses upon entering the famous halls and corridors of Anfield, secrecy would be a byword of “The Liverpool Way” the crown jewel would be its fans, supporters pack like with a tribalism like nothing before, astonishing people fighting its corner.
The Liverpool Way would not just be about football; through the 1970s and 80s it would be a home for the masses of unemployed, people disenfranchised through Margaret Thatcher’s years in office, a Community Centre, a church to come and pay homage, their very own place of worship, they would kneel and pray toward Gods with feet of clay. The Liverpool Dockers strike would be the longest in British industrial relations history, supported by “The Liverpool Way” with Robbie Fowler wearing a supporting T-shirt which would be revealed during a goal scoring celebration.
Hillsborough and its justice campaign for innocent supporters, innocent children lost to a stadium disaster, would run red hot through the very veins of this club, everyone to a man or woman would fight like they themselves had been a parent to those 96 that perished from that day, “The Liverpool Way” would make sure they would not be forgotten, they would not allow them to be lied about, they would boycott The Sun whose lies would harm so many The Liverpool Way would be to seek justice and the truth. Hillsborough would be entrenched in the thoughts and minds of every Liverpool fan, and subsequently educating new followers of their responsibility to seek justice.
The Liverpool Way would be an honest way, where truth could and would be accepted.
Tasked with this impossible assignment Kenny Dalglish like others before him has been found wanting, a institute well practised with keeping cards very close to its liver bird chest, where in-house would mean exactly that. A Cosa Nostra with its very own values and rituals, where fans would have to take a code of silence, brothers in red arms with family secrets that would be forever clandestine. Its first Godfather Shankly would give it his own brand of meaningfulness.
“Well the Kop’s exclusive. The Spion Kop at Liverpool is an institution. And if you are a member of the Kop you feel as if you are a member of a big society where you’ve got thousands of friends all roundabout you. And they’re united and loyal.”
Its ingredient would be more Fanny Craddick than today’s less tasty if more modern Jamie Oliver, an unquestionable loyalty in a theatre of atmospheric greatness, where scarves would be raised above heads full of footballing integrity with a dash of knowledge, supportive to its very bone. With songs to sing with words that others would steal for themselves, loud and boisterous would be added to the dish, slices of belligerence roasted with its very own humour, a side dish of humility. The Liverpool Way would be an honest way, where truth could and would be accepted, passion would not get in its way.
This banquet however would become far less palatable, but some would keep the appetite for this new dish and consume with the same intensity whilst unaware the ingredient had now changed, a modernistic plate, with its integrity questioned its former ways challenged once lauded and extolled, would now be abused and accused leading to a new Liverpool Way.
Strangulation of Liverpool Football Club would come with an inability to react to the modern way; it would have to battle with its demons, the veracity of its history, an acceptance of its part played on 29th May 1985 in the deaths of 39 football fans as bitter as any feast it had been fed. The Liverpool Way was to protect and fight its own corner, but it would not win this battle. The modern fan may well try and defend the indefensible, believing in some small way they are protecting the club. They are not. They are furthering its unacceptable face, intolerable in its stance.
Wearing t-shirts supporting sacked dock workers would be replaced with those pertaining an association with an alleged racist.
Wearing t-shirts supporting sacked dock workers would be replaced with those pertaining an association with an alleged racist. This would not help the modern Liverpool way, and it would become all too consuming for the modern fan, believing defense with all-out attack was an appropriate recipe. Where once they could hold their own court the avalanche of media driven rhetoric would need feeding more regularly; than owners, managers and players were used to, and negativity thrust upon this once great institution had begun to make inroads, divided it would be conquered.
Fans had found an insatiable appetite for what they perceived was their right to a once given success, a hunger they cannot stomach, replaced realism with dreams of grandeur above its station, patience thin to its hub. How “The Liverpool Way” had manifested itself into the modern church goer whom no longer just came to pay homage, a wanting of satisfaction from its demigods, an expectation of excellence from those who would fail to deliver. The Liverpool way would become just a distant memory talked about and regaled in moments of reflection.
I was raised on the diet that was “The Liverpool Way”, an innate sense of what was right, a footballing paradise, where pass and move were watch words, a recognition from eyes that would behold this spectacle; our way. When our castle on the rare occasion was penetrated we would applaud our conquerors with a gratitude that only our way knew. Defeat would not be met with rounding on heroes and custodians of our institution. We would sing “You’ll never walk alone” and we would mean it, frivolous and erratic support would be for others, it would not be “The Liverpool Way”
Its history will not be decided from within Anfield but more from outside, its fans, the media driven vitriol and Mr. General Public who will decide to believe headlines over content, where social media rage replaces sensible dialogue. My fear is its epitaph is written.
R.I.P. “The Liverpool Way”