Tag Archives: Bill Shankly

Taking the baton

We are losing them. That generation, the ones that built the mythology. Slipping away into hospital beds and sheltered housing, winding down without a lot of fuss. The ones who brought you up on what it meant to be a Scouser. The ones who walked down Scotland Road when it was still Scottie Road, when it had a pub on every corner, not a flyover. They could tell you tall tales of boats packed so tight into Albert Dock it was possible to walk across over the decks without getting a wet foot. They could never talk of St John’s Market without distinguishing it by saying, ‘the new one, of course’, even though it had been open longer than you have been alive.

They were our link to the old, great Liverpool – which they knew wasn’t that great, not if you were a docker working short hours or your lad was lost on the Titanic and the bosses wanted you to pay for his uniform – but still eulogised. They were radicalised, but not into firebrands, into the socialism of Bill Shankly, with:

everybody working for the same goal and everybody having a share in the rewards.

They grew up in a city of ocean liners and never closing your front door, not Harry Enfield stereotypes and ‘gizza job, mate’. The Eighties bewildered them then, as they probably still do.

They didn’t have much but they still raised you right. Looked on in bemusement at your pile of Christmas toys as they recalled their happiness at getting a tangerine in their stocking. Made sure you did well at school at the same time as understanding that there was more to be learnt than you could do at a desk, questioning everything. You knew that although they had left their schooldays before their teens they held more knowledge than you could acquire at university. They loved you without measure but encouraged you to go, feel the pull of the river, calling you to explore the rest of the world while never fully escaping these streets and the love they hold. So proud of you that they would die rather than say it, covering it up with a web of gentle teasing, nicknames and family in-jokes. Still, you never doubted it for a second. You were from the best place and the best people there could be.

Even though, of course, none of us are really that ‘from’ there at all. I used to stroll down Dale Street on a lunch break and try to picture it as it was when my great-grandparents arrived, fresh off the boat. Muck instead of tarmac, horses everywhere and a forest of masts beyond the Pier Head. I have probably seen it in old photos. But, although I couldn’t imagine the feel of it – were they anxious, missing home, relieved to be making a new start – in a somewhat rootless existence, there was comfort to walking the same stones as the generations who had come and gone before I was even thought of.

liverpool salthouse dock

Faces I have only seen occasionally, on the few misty family photos that have survived, and still they gave me strength. Whatever gets thrown at you, you will get through, just as we got through. Famines and wars and disasters, loves and laughter and all the mad whirl of life. Survived on tea and chip butties and plates of Scouse.

I came back for the birth of my son, and I try to picture telling him about Scotland Road, ships and Shankly sometime around 2028 when he will be old enough. And I think of how distant it will all seem. I hope that one day, when he is walking around whatever comes after the Liverpool One, he will hear the echo of those distant footsteps – of the ones who walked before him. And he will know, wherever he happens to be living, that some part of this is home.

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Hicks and Gillett, do one!

Almost three months to the day since we gathered at St George’s Hall to declare our independence from the owners of Liverpool Football Club, it looks as if the gig is finally up for these two particularly septic tanks.  As the Liverpool Echo reports that Gillett’s role at the club is now unclear following a default on a £75 million loan, and while Hicks desperately scours the globe for refinancing that seems unlikely to appear, although it may still be premature to crack open all the champagne no doubt being kept on ice by Liverpool fans, it looks as if the financial obituaries for the dastardly duo can at last be written.

Not bad for a fan’s campaign that some said was doomed to failure.

Supporters from all around the world have joined in, with direct action on match days, Hollywood producer Mike Jeffries’ YouTube film and Spirit of Shankly’s ‘Not Welcome Anywhere‘ message.  As events have unfolded, it has become clear exactly how far from the Liverpool Way as Shankly would have recognised it we have come, when stories of undignified boardroom struggles such as these appear in the media:

Broughton, Purslow and Ayre gathered for the meeting at the City of London offices of Liverpool’s solicitors, Slaughter & May, beginning at 3:30pm. Just 15 minutes before that, they received a faxed notification from Hicks and Gillett that they were sacking Purslow and Ayre and replacing them with Hicks’s son Mack and Mack’s assistant, Lori Kay McCutcheon. When Hicks had said on buying Liverpool in February 2007 that his was a “multi-generational family commitment”, nobody envisaged the appointment of another son in a last-minute cling to power.

This has led to a high court hearing to determine if the directors have the power to sell the club out from under the two Americans.  The Echo is also reporting on fans’ determination to make their voices heard as the relationship begun with such hopeful PR statements on the Anfield pitch comes to an unmourned end on London’s Strand.  While the campaign to get Hicks and Gillett out is one all fans should back, on whichever front you prefer – as listed here on Well Red’s website – we will do well to keep in mind as Spirit of Shankly reminds us, that it will not end with them gone.

Liverpool fans will never return to the naivety or innocence of financial wheeler-dealing that we displayed in 2007.  Never again will we allow ourselves to be bought off with a few pictures of grey men in suits from thousands of miles away waving scarves and shirts at us and promising a new dawn.  From now on, it all changes.  A real say in the future of our club, with fan ownership the ultimate goal, is the very minimum we will accept as we seek to create a new Liverpool Way.  One that links the strong traditions our club’s success was founded on together with the campaigning zeal and knowledge of intricate financial instruments which we have had to develop over recent years.  We are more qualified than anyone to act as custodians of our football club.  Whoever buys the club in the coming weeks will need to be aware of the millions of us looking over their shoulders, paying particular attention to the balance sheets.

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My team is Red

‘It’s all thought out,’ Flavia said.  ‘This [music] and the football stadium – they give us two places to scream and curse and stamp our feet.  They’re not stupid… they’re evil.  They know they have to provide an outlet.  Without a valve to release the pressure, this country would explode.’

– Nathan Englander, The Ministry of Special Cases

To some, a World Cup presents the opportunity for an enjoyable grand delusion, a chance for the skilful to shine, allowing dreams of achieving greatness in front of a global audience to become reality for one fortunate group of players.  As well as the chance to lift the Jules Rimet, there is also the hope of every no-mark with a political theory going spare of seizing the opportunity to get their byline in the paper.

Via Max Dunbar, I learn of Terry Eagleton‘s recent assertions that:

… for the most part football these days is the opium of the people, not to speak of their crack cocaine. Its icon is the impeccably Tory, slavishly conformist Beckham. The Reds are no longer the Bolsheviks. Nobody serious about political change can shirk the fact that the game has to be abolished

(emphasis added)

If Mr Eagleton had paid closer attention to the English Premier League team nicknamed ‘the Reds’, he might have found much to love.  Or perhaps not.  His brand of politics is a more ideologically driven variety of the simple socialism proclaimed by Bill Shankly and adopted as a slogan by the fans’ campaign named for him:

The socialism I believe in is everybody working for the same goal and everybody having a share in the rewards. That’s how I see football, that’s how I see life

Mr Eagleton might be encouraged by Spirit of Shankly’s progress towards putting these words into practice, as shown at their Independence Day Rally.  We heard from great speakers such as Billy Hayes, General Secretary of the Communication Workers’ Union, who spoke of his politics having been learnt as much inside Anfield as in his early working life in Liverpool.  Yet the aim of the day was not fine speeches, but the launch of a scheme for future fan ownership of Liverpool Football Club.

The glossy, corporate-sponsored face of football is the aspect of the game that has become the dominant force in recent years.  It has received a lot of attention and, to a casual observer, may appear to be the only one.  There should certainly be disquiet at the way life in South Africa has been presented during the tournament, backed up with support for campaigners who are attempting to change the lives of the population of what is still, for all the first-class stadia that have been built, a Third World country.

That said, to suggest that a love of football and a love of freedom can’t exist side-by-side in the human heart is to miss what many fans take from the game.  It is also to ignore that, even in the so often despised professional game, the lowly can still beat those with greater resources.  Barcelona, with its ‘more than a club’ ethos, can overtake the corporate-backed Red Devils.  For many fans, that alone would be enough to secure utopia!

Unlike other sport football requires no specialist equipment and can be played by two people with a proper ball, or a broken tennis ball, or even a stone or tin can, as the players of millions of worldwide childhood street games can attest.  So the effects of football on our political consciousness should not be dismissed and calls for the game’s abolition should not go unchallenged.  As Carlos Fernández writes:

It’s one of the most wonderful things when we meet someone new at a game, or our bonds strengthen at dinner or a bar after we play. If the football field is essentially a meeting place for play, it must then extend to wherever people enjoy being with each other. That’s where anarchy might start, or at least where it can blossom. When the idea of self-organization can be made obvious by how a goal is scored or how a team trains, anarchism seems like no great feat

It is time to establish football for the fans, not the fat cats.  It is our game and after all, we so often hear that it would not exist without us.   As the over-leveraged owners of our clubs cast around for additional finance, we can come together to build a new model, however long it takes, because we know that what we create will stand for generations.  In football, so it goes in life, as well as in politics:

I am an Anarchist not because I believe Anarchism is the final goal, but because there is no such thing as a final goal

— Rudolf Rocker, The London Year

(… unless that goal is a last-minute winner against Villa away on the final day of the season to secure us number 19, eh, Rudolf mate?!)

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I’m great, me

I realise that blogging is often accused of being a self-referential circle jerk.  But, to those naysayers, I offer a ‘so the fuck what’ because we all need a little external validation now and again.

And so I present to you… a man on t’internet saying how great I am: here.

It is difficult not to agree, of course.  I would love to, except that we had a similar debate at work today and the greater number were indeed outraged by Ms Berger’s perceived crime of ignorance of her constituency-to-be.  This follows the Liverpool Echo’s sterling efforts in catching her out on a couple of questions of local interest.  I can probably forgive her the one about the Mersey Tunnels, as I wasn’t sure how many of the blooming things there were either.

But she didn’t know who Bill Shankley was.  I mean, what the hell?  Surely that information appears on the first page of the important stuff she printed off Wikipedia to read on the train up to her interview.

Or maybe she spent the journey considering what she would say regarding the problems affecting Wavertree today rather than a football manager from our fathers’ time.  I know it might be sacrilege even to suggest it, but the only way knowing Shanks’ name is going to help her as a Labour MP is if she has this quote pinned up on her wall or possibly carved into her arm:

The socialism I believe in is everybody working for the same goal and everybody having a share in the rewards. That’s how I see football, that’s how I see life

Labour’s in the fight of its life at the next election.  Fighting for everything it professes to believe in, for all that it claims to have achieved since 1997, facing charges that it has broken Britain and a commentariat that seems to believe the party deserves to be out of power for another generation.

I would like to believe that constituencies deserve dedicated people, no matter where they hail from.  But if picking ‘the Londoner’ leaves such an open goal for opponents to shoot at, that it is as if Reina had gone up for a corner and been beaten to his line when they caught us on the break, then perhaps, this time, I have to concede that it is not worth the risk.

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