By Cosmo Viancra
From Issue 44, Autumn 1999
Is there anybody out there still buying the Daily Mirror? Clearly, you did not see the edition that contained the Liverpool 0 Watford 1 match ‘report’ by a Fat Sweaty Coppers reject called Alan Nixon. The tone would have made Bernard Manning blush. Each of our new signings was slagged off in the crudest possible way, and the humour was dire. For example, Smicer played as if he used to play for Lost Contact Lens…………. get it? Hyypia was an Oldham reject, Smicer was Czech for “Sick Note” (please, my sides have split), Westerveld had James’ allergy to crosses and Camara worryingly faded. “Clubs like Liverpool want to get all trendy and bring in a Frenchman with an impressive CV – or should that be 2CV?” Where’s that shotgun?
This deplorable material was made even worse by the insinuation that LFC should have opted for Graham Taylor’s services instead. Ha ha ha ha ha! Now that is funny. “Taylor is the man who found players like John Barnes and Mo Johnston “…….Mo Johnston?!? Now he really was taking the piss. This appeared in the Manc’s football pullout and also featured numerous other little digs. On the match referees’ round up, “Houllier should be the one to panic”. On the betting page, “Watford were the longest odds winners in the Premiership since Barnsley two seasons ago at….Liverpool”. By the time you got to the letters page with two Mancs saying Paisley wasn’t a patch on Ferguson, the whole sorry charade was complete. Buy this scum-sucking filth at your peril.
The report for Middlesbrough a week later was even worse, and the general message was “it would be good for football if these foreign no-marks fail (er except Chelsea)”. Standard Mirror crap, you might think, but this used to be a left wing paper and here they were piling on the xenophobia for all it was worth. The purchasing policy of Houllier has been the subject of a lot of comment, most of it stultifyingly ill-informed.
As has said in the fanzine last time, it became local hack policy to attack Reds fans’ distrust of them there Foreign Johnnies. I felt it was curious that I wasn’t hearing (or reading) letters about) anything like this. Perhaps we were too clued up on our own history not to be taken in? It’s worth trying to compile two all-time great Liverpool sides in order to compare and contrast.
England 11, managed by Bob Paisley: Clemence Lawler Byrne Smith Thompson McManaman McMahon Callaghan Barnes Hunt Fowler. ‘Foreign’ 11, managed by Bill Shankly: Scott Nicol Hansen Yeats Lawrenson Johnston Souness Whelan Liddell Dalglish Rush.
Well, it’s certainly a game I’d like to see! Hard to call the winner, though. Remember that Welsh, Irish and Scots now count as foreign. This sort of subterfuge reached its nadir when the Mancs (who else?) attempted to pass Keane and Irwin off as ‘British’. It was equally laughable to read the appalling Mirror’s attempts to further push it’s racism down our throats in the Man U v Leeds match report. “Interestingly, for a Premiership match, there were eleven Englishmen on the field”. What they slyly didn’t tell you was that Leeds provided eight of them – the Mancs had just three. This was subtly camouflaged to push their “English is best” policy without having to resort to the sort of cheap gags on their favourites that they did with us.
But back to our two ‘select’ sides. We are, of course, massively fortunate to be able to pick two such teams (no Heighway, no Grobbelaar, no St John, no Stubbins etc etc etc etc), but I could not really say that one was intrinsically better than the other. Two of our most successful seasons, 84 and 86, were achieved with few English players while another (77) was predominantly English. Which was best?
Their hand forced by the rules of UEFA, Liverpool built an English side in the mid-90’s. The one that entertained us so much in 95/96, if you exclude Babb (wishful thinking perhaps – and he’s a cockney anyway) and McAteer (about as Irish as Tara Palmer Tompkinson) was completely English. It is a sobering thought when you go through that excellent side and see what happened to them all in such a short time. When you also consider the resurgence of United (foreigners), Arsenal (foreigners) and Chelsea (foreigners) and the 98/99 flag bearers for the “Buy English” brigade are, Aston Villa and there is really one conclusion you can come to. And that is Houllier’s.
Based on logic and reason, of course, but since when have bigots ever had logic for their hatred? When Benito Carbone was in dispute with Wednesday, there was bound to be some crass, self-opinionated oaf ready to chip in with his odious views. It is round about such times when Gordon Taylor pops his head out of Alex Ferguson’s sloppy sphincter just long enough to drench us all in bile. “Without being xenophobic” (and don’t you just know what’s coming next!) it is a particular problem with foreign players brought over by agents. If things aren’t right they want to move again and the majority don’t have any loyalty to England or understand the traditions of our game”.
They certainly don’t. Why, you will never see these greasy types kick another player in the face (Shearer) or taunt a player’s sexuality (Fowler) or go on gambling binges (Merson) or beat their wives (Gascoigne) or punch an opponent in sly off-the-ball incidents (Le Saux) or do time for drunken driving (Adams) or pretend to bite opponents or pull pubic hairs (Wise) or sell tickets to touts causing crowd disturbances (Leicester) or stamp on opponents with alarming regularity (Beckham) or make inflammatory gestures to opposing fans (Neville) or mock disabled linesmen or wreck referees’ dressing rooms or make fun of referees being assaulted (Wright) or plough their plush automobiles through whatever speed limit they please (James, Matteo but certainly not Neil Ruddock oh no) or get into violent altercations with stewards (Campbell) or dig themselves quite a trench in a night-club when they’re supposed to be on international duty (Sheringham). Yes, I think Gordon Taylor is perfectly correct – these foreigners just do not respect the traditions of our game.
And if you want to add a few ‘Brits’ to that list, then try Ryan Giggs, Roy Keane, John Hartson or Duncan Ferguson for size. Off the field? How well the image of the game has been served by Graham Rix, Peter Johnson, Ken Bates, Graham Kelly, Alex Ferguson, Keith Wiseman and the board of Sheffield Wednesday. The last two top-flight footballers who tested positive for drugs were also English. Taylor’s breathtaking nerve is now seen in it’s true light.
Much as it pains me to point it out, English clubs struggled repeatedly in the Champions League when the Three Foreigners Rule was in force. Now that Bosman and the Treaty of Rome has played their part, the European Cup now resides on these shores. Our previous winners of the Cup (oh, erm, let me think for a minute) also relied heavily on non-English players. Gordon Taylor, and every other piss-pot Little Englander, always seems to ignore that little fact. Nor do they ever mention the sheer lunacy of the transfer market valuations of English players. Ten million for Sutton seemed like a Chelsea response to criticism of their previous policy – something tells me they won’t be making that mistake again! Heskey is not worth ten million, and while Fowler had a blinder against Arsenal, their rumoured twelve million bid for him in the summer is now starting to look more and more tempting.
Taylor and his ilk also never point out the failures of a club like Villa that paid it’s £6m for Merson, it’s £7m for Dublin and similarly excessive fees for warthogs like Steve Stone and Alan Thompson in order to trail in dismally behind their more cosmopolitan rivals. Needless to say, the legalised larceny that is currently being practised on the Villa fans by Doug Ellis in order to pay for these ludicrous excesses is never mentioned either.
What is it about Europe that offends people so much? EC interference? Yes of course – minimum wage and maximum working hours. Coming here with their filthy foreign ways! The Daily Mail has been full of such shit for years, employing as it does a right-wing nutter like Wooldridge. Even in the newly sanitised Planet Football (God help us) he can still refer to supporters as the “lager-fuelled lumpen proletariat”. Even they could see the lunacy of baiting the foreign contingent in the Premiership, even pouring scorn on the “Expensive & Embarrassing” deals for Hartson, Collymore (x 2), Kevin Davies, Les Ferdinand, Chris Sutton and (ex-Legend of this parish) Duncan “well that’s my 20 minutes for the season then” Ferguson. Anyone watching the fabulous Chelsea humiliation of the Mancs could only sit back and admire the skill, work-rate and professionalism of that particular outfit. In fact, get rid of the English brats Le Saux and Wise and it would be almost possible to like them. Almost.
So what of Liverpool and Houllier? As you may have gathered, I honestly don’t think he or the club had any choice. There were too many gaps, too many weaknesses in the team for one or two big English transfers to make a real difference. Perhaps the ‘Mirror’ wants Gerard to fail so much because he has banned one of their slimiest hacks?
Roy Evans’ intervention was equally unpleasant, blinkered as he was to the possibility that he just might have had a part to play in the mess Houllier has to clear up. Whatever the merits or failures of the new lads, there seems to have been an improvement in the professional behaviour of the players. If that is to be Gerard’s only legacy, his stay here will have been worthwhile.