Tag Archives: Liverpool Football Club

You’ll Never Walk Alone.

It was William Ewart Gladstone, one of Queen Victoria’s prime ministers who said “Justice delayed is justice denied” , but I doubt if even he could imagine a wait of 27 years to see justice done. I’ll do my best not to get too angry about this, but I make no promises. Let me start at the beginning.

On April 15, 1989, some 54,000 football fans were at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillborough stadium to see Liverpool and Nottingham Forest play in the F.A. Cup semi final. By the end of the afternoon, 96 were dead. LET ME REPEAT THAT. 96 people attended what should have been a glorious, exciting sporting event and went home dead. You would imagine that such an event would result in a thorough investigation in order to find and punish those responsible, but you’d be wrong.

In fact, the victim blaming began before the bodies were cold. David Duckenfield of the South Yorkshire police, and  the officer in charge that day , claimed that “Drunken fans had stormed the gates” and rushed through the tunnels leading to the terraces. Four days later, a statement repeated far and wide by the media. Indeed, just four days later, “The Sun”, a semi-pornographic comic for the educationally subnormal masquerading as a newspaper printed a headline in 200 point font “The Truth” following which it claimed that fans had robbed the dead, assaulted ambulance workers and urinated on police tending the victims. The only “Truth” on the front page were the date and the price. Needless to say, no one was surprised when piles of the publication were burned in the streets of Liverpool, newsagents refused to carry it and sales in the city plummeted and have never recovered.

Where was the public outrage? I hear you ask. well, bear in mind that this was the 1980s. Margaret Thatcher ( may she burn forever in the fires of eternal damnation) was still Prime Minister. Her contempt, which knew no bounds reached stratospheric heights for three groups, namely: football fans, the working class and the people of Liverpool. Combining all three produced a perfect storm which she and her cronies exploited to the full.  Bear in mind that Thatcher had proposed national identity cards for football fans, and for football fans alone, and had wanted all crimes within a mile of a football ground on match days to be considered a football related crime. If the 9/11 attacks had happened in London within a mile of a football ground on a Saturday, the deaths would have been blamed on football.

Now that you’ve had a couple of minutes to let that sink in, I’ll continue. The resulting Taylor Report was a whitewash, with the authorities cherry picking the conclusions. This led to the abolition of standing at football grounds which then led to the massive hike in ticket prices and the start of the campaign to turn football into a middle class day out and ostracise the true fan base.

Of course, the people of Liverpool rallied around the victim’s families, and there were precious few who didn’t know someone who had lost a loved one or someone who had been at the game. Support groups emerged to continue the fight for justice – a long, thankless task that took a full quarter of a century to succeed. A little over a year ago, the current Prime Minister, the oily creep David Cameron admitted in parliament what we had all known: that the Police had destroyed evidence, altered statements and suppressed facts. Cold comfort, but finally we had confirmation of what we all knew in our hearts.

On April 26 this year, the two year coroner’s inquest into the deaths returned a verdict : all 96 victims were unlawfully killed. Duckenfield was found guilty of gross negligence and my only hope is that he will be prosecuted. I won’t go into the details, as you can read them for yourself. I would, however like to point out two things. Trevor Hicks has been at the forefront of the Justice Campaign since the start. By now he should have been playing with his grandchildren and living life to the full. Instead he was in a coroner’s court to hear that his 16 and 18 year old daughters had died as a result of police incompetence. Jon-Paul Gilhooley was just 10 years old and the youngest victim that day. Had he lived, he would have seen his cousin Steven Gerrard captain the team he loved.

I can’t imagine what the families went through for so long. I just can’t. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. No one should have to put up with the stonewalling, denial, vilification and outright lying that went on over the course of so many years. Only the knowledge that they were right and the support of the community kept them going. Liverpool is a tight knit city, even more so when threatened and attacked by outsiders and if any good has come out of this it is a strengthening of the city’s sense of self.

I have no quip with which to end this post, no upbeat comment to wrap things up neatly, so I’ll just end by saying:

(finally) Justice for the 96. They will never walk alone.

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/apr/26/hillsborough-inquests-jury-says-96-victims-were-unlawfully-killed

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Kicker Conspiracy.

This one may be a bit wordy, so kick off your heels, loosen your corset, unsnap your stockings, sit back and relax. You too, ladies.

As you know (see “World Cup Willie”), football is an integral part of my life. I’m now able to enjoy watching whole games online just a couple of hours after the final whistle and I never fail to keep up with the highlights. The ups and downs of the 20 Premier League teams are a sort of soap opera, although over the past few years, the lack of variety and the inevitability of the top four spaces being occupied by both Manchester teams, Arsenal and Chelsea rather spoil it for the rest of us. Not so this year.

The EPL script writers ( Copyright Men in Blazers) have thrown everyone for a loop by introducing new characters, transforming others and sending some into what can only be described as a death spiral the likes of which one would never believe in real life. The stand out stars this year have been Leicester City, and for good reason. On April 3 2015 they were in 20th place with 19 points from 29 games and seemed a certain bet for relegation, yet one year later to the day, they were top of the league with 69 points from 31 games and barring an implosion of epic proportions are set to be champions. I can’t tell you  how happy it makes me to see them in the top spot. Not only have they upset the old hegemony but they have done it with essentially the same squad as last year and have played some of the most exciting football I have ever seen.  Added  to which, seven years ago their top scorer, Jamie Vardy was playing for Stocksbridge Park Steels of the Northern Premier League Division One – the eighth level of English football – imagine the third string of a single A baseball team and you’re almost there. Now, he’s one of the leading scorers in the EPL and set to play for England in the European Championships this summer.

Seven years ago , AFC Bournemouth were at the foot of League Two – 92nd out of the 92 teams in the English professional system, with not even the funds to pay their milk bill, let alone their staff. Promoted as champions from the Championship last year, they are now set to remain in the EPL and pocket their share of the $5.1Bn television deal. You can’t help but love them, and not in a patronising way because they’ve fought like devils, beaten Chelsea and Manchester United and played some damn fine football along the way, and all on a  tiny budget. Their stadium holds about 11,500. Yes, you aren’t seeing things. There are high schools in Texas with bigger football stadia.

As a dyed in the wool Liverpool fan, the  collapse of both Chelsea and Manchester United brought a tingle to my special place, and it has been a delight to see the smug grins wiped off the faces of so many of their fans, as well as the managerial turmoil associated with the spoiled brats of English football not being given their free ride and automatic European Champions League spots.

It’s not all schadenfreude, though. I feel really sorry for fans of Aston Villa who have been treated like dirt by the club’s American owner, a man who cares naught for pride, history or the future and sees no further than the next dollar. It breaks my heart to see a once proud club reduced so, and only hope the fans and players stick together and refloat the sinking ship.

Now you may imagine that I take some delight from Everton’s increasingly poor league position, but not so. I like their manager, Roberto Martinez: He strikes me as a thoroughly decent chap doing his best with a limited budget. I don’t even have any animosity towards Everton fans as the blue half of Merseyside is as passionate about football as the red half. Throw in the performances of sexy, sexy Stoke ((C) MIB), Watford, West Ham and even Tottenham Hotspur who somehow managed to avoid their usual habit of fading fast, and it all adds up to a thoroughly exciting and enjoyable season.

“But what of Liverpool?” I hear you ask. Well, having sacked Brendan Rodgers as manager and replaced him with Jurgen Klopp, we’ve not really done all that well. The thing is, Klopp  has had to spend this season getting to know the strengths and weaknesses of the squad, and I expect a grand clearing out over the closed season and next year Liverpool will emerge reborn, ready for a rip roaring season and automatic qualification for the Champions League.  I accept now that our dominance of Europe is over – we steamrollered our way across Europe like  a Russian tank army from the late ’70s until the late ’80s and those days will live forever in football history, but it would be nice to recapture some of the old magic, I’m just pleased that I’ve been able to enjoy it all without the need to get up before the sparrows and been able to pause play to take a comfort stop or make breakfast.

I’m as old as “Match of the Day” and I can’t imagine not being able to see the show, even though Gary Lineker is the archetypal “Mum – safe” presenter so beloved by the B.B.C., Martin Keown is able to do nothing but recite statistics and Jermain Jenas looks like a little kid overawed by being allowed to stay up late and sit with the grown ups. One thing remains unchanged – Alan Shearer blowing up and barely controlling his urge to swear over yet another dismal Newcastle United performance as they slide relentlessly towards relegation. Someone had better load him up on doggy downers – they play Manchester City tomorrow and Liverpool on Saturday. At least that means next year he will be calmer. Unless that is, he joins Manish Bhasin as co-presenter of “The Football League Show” to provide insight into English football’s second tier.

 

 

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Football Crazy.

Editorial note: for “Football”, read “Soccer” if it makes it easier for  you.

I’ve been a fan of Liverpool Football Club for as long as I can remember, so it must be at least 44 years. In fact, I can’t remember ever NOT being a Liverpool fan. When living in the city, attending games was never a problem, and there was always “Match Of The Day ” on Saturday night to give access to the highlights of other games, and eventually, in the mid 80s’ live games on a Sunday afternoon, so I never felt deprived of footballing action. Moving to the U.S. in 1992 changed all that. Our first computer, a 486/66 at least gave me access to scores and game reports, but nothing else.

I dwelt in this netherland for a couple of years until Fox launched a highlights show fronted by Mario Machado, and pretty dismal watching it was too, as poor MM seemed to have no real understanding of the game, the laws or  the teams. Still, it was English football, and that’s all that counted. The expansion of cable, and then satellite gave greater access, and praise be, whole games, not just highlights, made all the easier to watch with the addition of a DVR to the home. The arrival of the kids made watching somewhat problematic due to the disappearance of all free time from the schedule as well as a permanent state of sleep deprivation  seen only in those individuals singled out for special treatment at Guantanamo Bay.  One bright note was the European Champions League final of  2005. It took me 3 days to watch the game,avoiding all potential news of the game, fitting it in around regular fatherly chores, and I still have the tape, but at least I saw all of the game, and the depression induced by the first half made for a pretty miserable day until I could find the time to watch the remainder.

When I moved to my first rental, I paid the extra $10 a month for a DVR and at long last, I could stretch out on the sofa with a beer or five and watch the games in all their  high definition 64″ flat screen glory. Oh happy day! Leave aside the frustration of lacklustre performances and defeats against “weaker” opposition, I was again watching full football games uninterrupted. In April of this year I moved again, and had already decided not to pay for cable, as the cost just doesn’t match the value I would derive from watching T.V. “The Daily Show” is available online.

A friend pointed me in the direction of a free website that shows football matches not just from England, but from all over the world. “Great”, thought I, but of course, there is always a catch. That catch is that the games are streamed live, with no ability to pause or rewind, transporting me back to the early 80s’ of I.T.V.s’ “The Big Match”, sans Brian Moore.

Just in case you missed it, the games are carried LIVE. This means that a 1:30pm kick off in England means a 5:30am kick off for me. Yeah. Now, I’ve never been one to slip out of a young ladies’ bed before either she or the sun was up, but this is what I found myself doing  one recent Saturday morning so that I could watch Liverpool take on their local rivals Everton in what is always a fiercely contested game – 20 players sent off in the last 20 years. At least my sweetie had the good grace to understand my need to see the game,  having gotten up with me the week previously when staying at my house to watch her first ever football match, for which I appreciate her greatly. Still,  I experienced a  mix of emotions as I dressed in the bathroom and then proceeded to make coffee and set up the laptop in anticipation of the game.

It’s not the easiest thing to watch such an emotionally charged game under such circumstances, especially if you are the kind of person who still yells “YESSSSS!” at the top of his lungs when your team gets a goal, or something less polite at a poor refereeing decision,   but somehow I managed to restrain myself and returned to bed 2 hours later slightly disappointed at a draw, but having seen a 6 goal game full of excitement, skill and passion. At least on that occasion I could return to welcoming arms and a bed kept warm. Not so this week. The need for silence remained, as the kids were with me, but knowing that once they awoke I’d have no opportunity to catch up on my lost sleep, I made the coffee just that little bit stronger. It’s a pity I only had coffee on hand, as a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Hull City needs something fermented or distilled to ease the pain.

Why the hell do I do this? Why the hell do I get out of bed at an ungodly hour on a weekend to subject myself to the possibility of said weekend being ruined before it’s even begun? Maybe there really is an element of masochism in being a football fan. Maybe I’m pining for my youth spent standing in the stadium with all the cameraderie, joking and sense of purpose that it entailed. Or maybe, my mother was right, and, as she used to say, that I haven’t got the sense I was born with.  Only the remaining 25 games of the season will tell.

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