By Steve Kelly
From Issue 47, Summer 2000
Well, that was a fairly eventful summer wasn't
it? With the Ziege marathon still only half run
by the looks of things, I had to go to print sometime.
Judging by the signing of Nick Barmby, I can probably
predict what will happen: we pay ludicrous fee
plus astronomical wages, player has clause in
contract to speak to someone else next year, Boro'
fans give him terrible stick first time he faces
them. Clairvoyant, I am. Of course, it's absolutely
hilarious when we get the player and our opponents
are left fuming. I'm not sure I'll quite see the
funny side when the boots are on the other feet.
The cover's still crap, you'll notice. Spoilt
for choice, mind, what with Barmby and Gazza also
vying for position. Though hardly a surprise,
the Duckenfield and Murray verdicts aren't really
a suitable subject for humour (they could still
have gone on your cover then - readers). I think
what really pisses me off about the whole thing
is the lack of interest from the rest of the country.
The refusal of a new trial made about fourth or
fifth item on the evening news. It may well have
been eleven years ago, but the travesty of justice
lingers on. It gets worse the more you look into
it; how can people sit idly by while they are
told that 200 police statements on such a terrible
disaster have been altered - and all to diminish
or erase completely police negligence? Apathy
has gripped the nation, an easy life is alluring
and the end product is the continuance of a nightmare
for the poor bereaved families. It is the same
apathy that has apparently gripped Liverpool fans.
It would seem that we are moving ground. Just
like that? The complete lack of consultation with
supporters is not really the surprise - the lack
of outrage from the same people is. We've become
used to shrugging our shoulders and saying "that's
that, then" - but it isn't. If it were, then
Murdoch would own Man U now. We've got to respond
in the same way. This is a terrible idea. I'm
sorry if Rick Parry is going to take offence at
being called our "flexible friend" -
but he seems to be making a habit of saying one
thing and doing another. When the cynicism takes
a hold of you, you end up disbelieving everything
he says. Moores' ill health may be the reason
for one or two episodes at Anfield. The departure
of Robinson, perhaps, or even the very idea of
leaving Anfield. If it is simply the club pressuring
the homeowners around the ground to sell their
property at a reasonable price (but reasonable
to whom?), that is a different thing altogether
- if not entirely ethical. As per usual, we are
left guessing because the club doesn't let us
in on anything. We just get an 'announcement'.
Well, sorry, but the demolition of Anfield ought
not to be an idea greeted by the shrugging of
shoulders. I fully support the new Anfield4Ever
organisation, and while debate is encouraged within
these pages I'd better get my position clear from
the off. Letters, please.
So what about the team? Dissent has been largely
frowned upon during the summer. Many preferred
to chant their "we'd have settled for fourth"
mantra and pass over 1999/2000 without minute
examination. There were definitely signs of improvement,
but other signs that were slightly ominous. Leeds'
first competitive game of the season is a Champions
League qualifier on August 9th - a full ten days
before ours. They had hardly anyone at Euro 2000.
We seemed to supply half the tournament! Had we
achieved third place, the players' pre-season
break would have been minimal. Was it therefore
part of the plan to throw it away at the end of
the season? Laugh if you want, but with no tournaments
in the summer of 2001 Liverpool can now play to
their maximum power and potential for nine months.
This is a desperate attempt to find a reason for
a conclusion that was a new one on me; five straight
wins followed by five games with no goals and
two points. The old Spice Boy and "chokers"
accusations came flooding back, so maybe I'm clutching
at straws and saying we meant to do it!
I've heard sillier things about Houllier, quite
frankly. Any criticism whatsoever seems to send
you hurtling into the 'weirdo' or 'bitter' categories
(guess which one Ian St John's in), but there
are other explanations. When my name was mentioned
in 'The Kop' or 'The Liverpool Way', I seem to
have developed an alter ego - King Pessimist!
I plead guilty up to a point, but with his press
cuttings and his £50m plus spent in the
transfer market, no Liverpool manager has ever
had more faith shown in him than Gerard Houllier.
I do struggle to come up with reasons for this.
Certainly, we were in a bit of a state when we
arrived - but worse than 1959? Hardly. If the
guy turns out to be our Messiah, yours truly will
be on bended knee begging for forgiveness, but
if he isn't it is going to be hard for a successor
to get quite the same faith (and funds). There
has been another merry go round on the transfer
trail; Ziege would make another six this summer
to add to last summer's half-dozen. This time,
it cannot be blamed on our period of transition
- it is more to do with the way football has gone
nowadays. Bosman has opened Pandora's Box (lucky
him), and not all for the good. When THE primary
aspect of supporting your team is loyalty, it
is hardly a good sign for the future of the game
if that players do not reciprocate loyalty. How
many of our 2000/01 heroes will even be here next
summer? Football seems to be throwing everything
into the dustbin nowadays; 3 o'clock stars on
a Saturday, good kits, reasonable prices, player
loyalty - even the very ground we have played
at for over a century is fair game to the "innovators".
Some of us have been predicting an end to football's
boom time for at least five years. Maybe WE are
the ones out of step?
Please write in for the next issue, which will
be out as soon as possible. With the e-mail address
sorted, you've no excuse now. The more I'm sent,
the more issues I can bring out. It's an old,
old story - and one that doesn't improve in the