Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Why I Love Liverpool Football Club


I came late to football.  I wasn't really into it as a young kid.  Sure I liked playing but watching it was something that other people did.  We watched the Cup Finals and important England games in the World Cup as a family, but that was about it.

My Grandad supported Arsenal though and wanted me too as well.  However at about five years old it became clear that this wasn't cool and if anyone asked I said I supported Liverpool.  One of my earliest memories is my Grandad introducing me to someone as a fellow Arsenal fan and me turning round and saying I supported Liverpool.  He looked absolutely crest fallen but I stuck to my guns and he even bought me a Liverpool bag for school.

But until I was twelve or thirteen I barely took an interest.  My circle of friends changed a bit though, around this time and I became mates with someone who supported Spurs and slowly but surely I started to watch games.  I can remember the first Liverpool game I saw properly on TV, at least I think it was the first time I watched them.  It was a League Cup Semi Final 2nd Leg against QPR and Liverpool were a goal down from the 1st Leg.  The game finished two all and Liverpool went out but something must have clicked, I enjoyed watching and from the commentary I gathered that Liverpool were still going for a League and Cup double.

The semi final of the FA Cup wasn't on TV in those days, in the aftermath of the Heysel disaster the year before there was hardly any football on TV at all, so me and my Mum listened to the game on local radio.  She is a Saints fan and it was Southampton v's Liverpool at White Hart Lane.

The game went into extra time and then Ian Rush pounced twice for Liverpool to send them to the Final.  Despite all of Liverpool's success during that period they'd only won the FA Cup twice at this point, once in the 1960's and once in the 1970's.  The Final would be against Everton their local rivals and also the team chasing them in the League.  I think looking back that was when I got the bug, listening to that match.  It isn't why I love the Club, but maybe it was the moment I started to love the game.

On Saturday the 3rd of May Liverpool played Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the last league game of the season needing a win to secure the League.  I listened on the radio as Kenny Dalglish, player manager for Liverpool and coming to the end of his playing days, scored the only goal of the game.  They were Champions of England for the 16th time and it felt pretty cool.  But I was new to all this, I didn't really appreciate what an achievement winning the League was, although a lot of fuss was made of Dalglish winning the title in his first season in charge on the back pages of the papers.  Pages I was now starting to turn to first.

On the 5th of May my Dad died from a brain haemorrhage at work.  No warning, completely out of the blue and our family went from four to three in the blink of an eye.

That week was obviously dreadful.  Maybe one day I'll write a post about it but today is not that day.

On the 10th of May it was Cup Final and I went to family friends to watch it.  I was already getting good at spotting the ebb and flow of a game from an arm chair perspective.  Everton settled early and then Liverpool slowly pulled themselves into the game.  Then disaster struck on twenty seven minutes.  Linekar out paced Hansen and forced a save from Grobbelaar and then poked the rebound home. 1-0 to Everton and that was how it stayed until just after half time.

Liverpool came out for the second half in a different mood.  Jan Molby was suddenly finding time and room and he played a deft through ball to Rush who rounded the keeper and finished brilliantly.  Then, four minutes later Molby crossed for an unmarked Craig Johnstone to finish at the far post.  Seven minutes from time Rush volleyed a great third and Liverpool had the FA Cup and the double.  Only the third time it had been achieved in the 20th Century although the 90's would see other sides achieve the same feet and indeed this Saturday coming Chelsea can do it.

As a thirteen year old who had lost his father 5 days earlier it was pretty clear that Liverpool had done it for me.

They've let me down a few times since and Hillsborough in particular ripped a hole in my heart.  That glorious night when we won the European Cup (Champions League) against Milan with the six minute miracle will live with me forever but honestly that feeling that they did it for me on the 10th of May 1986 has never really left  me and probably never will.  When 'You'll Never Walk Alone' rings out around Anfield, the Kop End bellowing it out, I believe it.  People talk about football being their religion.  For me it really is.

I fell in love with a football team that Saturday afternoon and I've never regretted it.