Editorial – Issue 48, Autumn 2000
By Steve Kelly
From Issue 48, Autumn 2000
I’m not sure what to make of this issue. I’m feeling a bit iffy about it, because there are certain things that might seem tacky or tasteless. I started TTW&R after Hillsborough, so I’ve always walked a very thin line between sympathy, tact – and the sick sense of humour I’ve got. Sometimes that line is crossed and even after eleven years I still haven’t got the hang of it yet. Maybe I never will? The Victoria Adams joke on page one may be diluted somewhat by the fact (a) she’s okay now (b) the new Andrew Morton book casts doubt on whether the pair ever tell the truth about anything and can even spin a kidnap yarn in order to get the luvverly David off a driving ban, but now I’ve heard about Gary McAllister’s wife and I’m wondering if I’ve done the right thing. I’m fully aware that meningitis is not funny, but if I did the fanzine on the premise of offending nobody I don’t think anyone would give a toss about it. As ever, I’d be interested in other views on the subject.
Sorry there’s little or no stuff on Hillsborough, but I asked both groups for a progress report on their activities and their views on the trial and have received very little. That could be down to the e-mail fuck-up, or more likely that things have become so complicated that they scarcely had time to write for me, which is fair enough. The legal action against the HJC’s web site has resulted in new levels of recrimination between both sides, making it doubly difficult for outsiders like myself to get a handle on what’s actually going on. I’ve always felt that an army divided is an army defeated, but there is still more concentration on differences than similarities (Bettison, for example). It’s been said that I probably receive nothing from the Support Group because I’m firmly in the HJC camp. That isn’t so, but a number of things have made me lean towards them. Firstly, they were fully supportive (and instrumental in the success) of the boycott, which I thought was extremely important – and how great is it to know that LFC will not have to visit those bastards for a while, the way things are going for them ? Cue dodgy FA Cup draw. I also think the HJC are being blanked out in quite a shameful way. The Support Group gets a letter in the Echo, but the HJC’s response doesn’t get printed, they’re in the programme and the HJC isn’t, the club will not acknowledge their existence. Whatever you may think of them, that sort of banishment is simply WRONG. They represent people who have suffered just as much as anyone else and for their own club to turn its back on them makes me sick to my stomach. As for this legal action there’s some grey area about what the HFSG are actually objecting to, but I do wonder what people who went to the Justice concert and bought the CD would have said or done back then if they’d known some of their money would go towards legal action against other bereaved families? Hopefully, there’ll be a clearer picture in TTW&R 49 – but I wouldn’t bet on it.
No, I’ve not been avoiding any mention of the team on purpose, although that would be entirely understandable. There was a view from last season that Houllier had drawn the basic sketch of the team and that 2000/01 would be the year for ‘colouring it in’. Not from what I’ve seen so far. It’s been very drab fare. One regular writer damns GH with the worst Red insult of all – another Souness. He has a point. Did we really need SIX new players, based on our exploits last season? What is going on with the players’ fitness? They’re picking up stupid niggly knocks or they’re running out of steam after an hour. Players arrive with reputations for good play and work-rate, yet they’re here for two months and suddenly they look fat slow and ponderous (the words ‘Barmby’ and ‘Sunderland’ occur to me here for some reason or other). More than half our goals against have come in the final third of games – that’s if the game is actually still a contest, which Chelsea clearly wasn’t. Souness used to make great play of pointing his finger at the ‘unlucky’ injuries or a poor ref’s performance – pointing it in every direction but his own, in fact. His away record was also an absolute shambles, and if all of the above isn’t enough to set alarm bells ringing then you must be one cool customer.
But what’s the solution? Get rid of the manager and start all over again? That would hardly make sense. The club has invested very heavily in Houllier’s judgement, even going so far as to plan a 70,000 stadium based on the success Gerard will bring to Anfield. Selling fanzines after games gives you a little insight into what fans are saying about the club and the team, and Sunderland was particularly illuminating. Quite a few people went past saying “if they think 70,000 will go and watch that, they must be crackers”. I didn’t hang around after Bucharest long enough to sample any of the epithets being uttered after that game, but I suspect they weren’t much better! We started poorly last season of course, but once we were written off the team seemed to relax and get some good results. As soon as the pressure came back, with a top 3 place beckoning, they blew it. The trouble with LFC 2000, just like the Mancs in the 80’s, is that it doesn’t take much to send everyone gung-ho. A few wins and the usual suspects will start beating their chests and throwing “told you so”‘s around like confetti. It’s an almost intolerable burden for Houllier, but I’m afraid that’s the way it is. It’s a very demanding job, and there’s only one way we’ll know if he’s the right man – when we succeed.
I’m not all that sure if I wouldn’t mind a little air being taken out of this club. When you discover that the 98/99 team (i.e. pre Houllier spending spree) earned 80% of the club’s turnover – so it must be more now – you just feel this is all going to end in tears. The REAL revolution would be to destroy everything and start again from scratch. No one’s saying the players can’t earn a good living, but I’ve had it up to here with this “short career” shite. When did it become law that footballers only have to work until they’re 35? Then you get a ‘performance’ like Stamford Bridge and you think “what are we getting in return?”. Precious little at the moment, but that could all change I suppose. I just get the feeling there are going to be even more debates about the club’s future before this season is over.