The Man Who Would Be King
By The Boy Wonder
From Issue 46, Spring 2000
The best three goals this season were scored at Filbert Street. No, I haven’t had a bump on the head. I know we only scored two there and one of them was a penalty – I’m talking about three that Leicester scored. To be more accurate, the three than Stanley Victor Collymore scored on his home debut. The first was even better than his debut goal at Anfield, such was its power and sheer audacity. The reason I felt so overjoyed was that I had begun to doubt, begun to believe the liars and the demonisers. That I, Stanley Victor Collymore’s number one fan, had even begun to believe that England’s best footballer had lost it completely. He hasn’t, and I for one thank God that he hasn’t. I curse Liverpool FC and I curse Roy Evans in particular that he still isn’t here doing that sort of thing for us.
You may wonder why I refer to Stan’s full name so much. That’s because it helps remind me of the opening credits of ‘Porridge’, when the prison doors clang shut on Ronnie Barker aka Norman Stanley Fletcher. It’s because no footballer – not even that overrated moron Gascoigne – has been as badmouthed, demonised and falsely portrayed in my time of watching the game.
I’ve had cause before in these pages to slag off my fellow Reds for their errant ways and reversals of Anfield custom and tradition. It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to at least try and stop the rot. This is being written before Villa, but no doubt you’ve already bought your Fiorentina tops and your Batigol t-shirts. Don’t worry if you haven’t, I’m sure there will be plenty on sale on the night. Should Leicester be rearranged for a Champions League night, I’m sure if you call the LFC merchandise line they’ll let you know who United are playing. Exaggeration? Perhaps, but not by much. In fact, I’m surprised that a sharpie like Rick Parry hasn’t seen the financial possibilities!
It isn’t just United-mania that bugs me, but the chill that descends whenever an ex-Reds player is about to return. “Oh, we always give our former favourites a good welcome when they return”. Really? It’s an Anfield tradition that is fast turning into myth, I’m afraid. In fact, it’s possible to perceive that as the team struggled in the 90’s the ‘welcome’ started to go out of the window. Staunton was abused during the quarter final with Villa in 1992, despite not saying anything untoward. Deano came back with a winner for the same team in January ’93, and was cold-shouldered despite exemplary behaviour – especially as he must have been mystified about why he was sold in the first place. Fans may say the attitudes towards Burrows and Ablett were understandable given their eventual destinations, but where they go counts for nothing. It’s what they did for us. Titles and cup finals – in Ablett’s case, almost an entire season out of position at centre half where he coped more than admirably. All forgotten once he’d moved.
I only mention all this of course to build you up to the most shameful of all these returns – the night that Stanley Victor Collymore came back to town. On the back of some odious press shit-stirring and some contemptible propaganda from Tommy Smith (when the old fart had the audacity to tell people to make their own minds up at the end!), Stan was booed for the entire match. This disgraceful betrayal of every tenet of a Kopite’s faith (and yes, I know it wasn’t everyone who joined in) left Collymore in tears, and it wasn’t hard to understand. My respect for and loyalty to TTW&R was strengthened by the Ed’s stance on this imbecile behaviour.
After that season was over, I bought Kevin Sampson’s book ‘Extra Time’ and expected some support for my view. Not a bit of it. Apparently, Stan had brought it all on himself with his “Spice Boy” comments. Leaving aside the idea that Liverpool fans should take any notice of what’s printed in a Manc-worshipping rag like the ‘Mirror’ – the same paper that printed all the McManaman rumours that season, all of them just before the big matches – there’s something else I don’t get. A year later, there were two words that were never off Liverpool supporters’ lips. That’s right: Spice Boys. So how come Stan had to be vilified so much for saying the exact same thing?
Don’t get me wrong, I thought Extra Time was a great book about us, not just Kevin, and got almost everything spot-on. The take on Collymore………well, let’s just say I disagreed! He had insider info from Pete Hooton about the time Fowler and Macca took the piss out of Stan while the latter was at a press conference. Stan’s humourless response “marked his card”, according to Kevin. Knowing what we know now about the Liverpool ‘culture’ under Evans, don’t these ‘innocent’ actions carry a hint of reminding the new boy who were the real stars of the show? It’s a bit like a sanitised take on ‘Scum’; “Don’t get too big for your boots, mate, we’re the Daddies here”. Kevin claims that his team mates could hardly bear to celebrate with him, raising the spectre of his time at Forest. Check the videos, there is little or no evidence to support this view. In fact, the only reason the players couldn’t celebrate with Stan after the fourth goal versus Newcastle was because they couldn’t catch the bugger!
Kevin even blames Stan for fucking up the 96/97 title race! “With Rush and Fowler up front, there’s no way we’d have been capitulating to the likes of Coventry at home” – and, er, why did we lose to Coventry, then? Because David James couldn’t catch a cold, never mind a cross. How come that was Stan’s fault?!? Kevin later had sympathy for Collymore’s misery after the 3-0, but says he brought it on himself and never gave us his all at Anfield. Kevin, that’s shite.
This has been dealt with in TTW&R a number of times, but I’d like a word or two on the subject. I count his two seasons at Anfield as some of the best football I’ve ever seen. He didn’t even play every game with Stan, I know, but Fowler got a total of 67 goals in those two years – Stan made a quarter of those goals. To go with Stan’s 35 (one every two games), that makes 102 if my Maths is all it should be. One hundred and two goals. Liverpool will be lucky if they manage that in the last two league seasons combined. If Stan never gave his all, then his potential must have been absolutely frightening – and a player with the potential to be even better than what he showed us should have been persevered with. It’s interesting that many Reds are willing to persist with Fowler after three years of rumour, injury, idiot behaviour and very few goals (even less when you take out the penalties) – these are the 3 years since we sold Stan, if you want coincidence – but the general take on Collymore is “we’re well rid”.
What’s happened to the lad since then has been both sad and disturbing. The Harkness episode was a shame, with a lack of tangible evidence on both sides, but it was alarming to read so many Reds siding with Harkness automatically. After the “horror tackle”, almost everyone came to the conclusion that Stan’s allegations of racism were therefore phoney. Not a deduction that Sherlock Holmes would have been proud of! That day is still a mystery, and an admittedly bad challenge is not proof. I notice Solskjaer didn’t even concede a free kick for the same sort of challenge, and intriguingly avoided all the shock headlines Stan received.
The “calm down” gestures he made after his red card were a laugh, because that’s what Stan thought would hurt us. He was being humiliated, and that’s what he thought was nasty. Childish – but tame. Liverpool fans’ reaction to that (in the papers and fanzines) was over the top to say the least. I’ve not a lot to say about his various indiscretions with girlfriends, because I would never hit a woman and can’t begin to understand how any man could. Then again, my girlfriend has never walked into the flat at two in the morning with another bloke on her arm, so maybe I’m just lucky and Stan isn’t? I’ve heard another side of the Ulrika business, that she wasn’t exactly Miss Prim and Proper on the night, but it gets into a PC nightmare when you try to discuss this subject at all. In the end, Stan is portrayed as a maniac who can’t keep his fists to himself. For me, that’s just a bit too convenient for too many people, and it automatically makes me suspicious.
Of course he has mental problems, and at a time when he was receiving treatment you would have thought an ounce of sympathy could have come his way for once. Fat chance. Most people took their cue from that renowned psychological expert, Doctor John Gregory. This odious little creep poured scorn on the idea that someone with money, good looks and talent in a job they love could possibly be suffering from real stress or depression. How unlucky for the world that Dr Gregory’s revolutionary theory wasn’t around in Hollywood in 1962, to save the rich beautiful and talented actress Ms Marilyn Monroe from a suicide that denied us many more delightful films. I’m sure Mr Kurt Cobain would’ve put down his shotgun and would still be thrilling us with his tunes today if he had only known
that he wasn’t really depressed at all.
The truth is a little different. Mental illness knows no boundaries; race, wealth, talent, beauty or the lack of them – it’s all the same to Mr Insanity, everyone is equal in his eyes. When you think about Stan and the loss of his dream job (he still speaks in glowing terms of Liverpool and the fans, even after the treatment he’s had) and when you think there are liars still denouncing his time here as an utter failure or the press smears that still come his way, wouldn’t you be depressed?
Now that he’s at Leicester, it was time for a new start and a hope that he would be given a chance. It didn’t even last a day; he was photographed at the press conference with the Foxes’ emblem behind his head. You may think it a stroke of luck for the photographer, but isn’t it more likely that the infamous picture (published in every paper) of Stan with little devil’s horns coming out of his head was deliberately taken that way? From day one, Collymore was portrayed as a demon. Far from being praised for bringing a major talent to Filbert Street for peanuts, O’Neill was slandered as an egomaniac that believed he was the only one who could tame this wild beast.
Some pathetic holiday jape with a fire extinguisher (maybe the Spice Boys would have liked him a bit more if he’d pulled such a stunt here?) led to columns of gibberish equating the childish prank with something like Armageddon. Writers have to fill their pages with something, but why does it usually have to be shit? Step forward, Phil McNulty: “The names of Frank Clark, Roy Evans and Brian Little were chanted at O’Neill like a mantra of managers who have been hurried towards the P45 by this giant waster, but he simply wouldn’t listen”.
When it comes to being a giant waster, McNulty should know because he has masqueraded as a man who knows something about football for years. Just to set the record straight, Collymore gave Frank Clark two seasons – one in which his goals dragged Forest out of the Nation-wide, and another in which his goals dragged Forest into Europe and secured a British record transfer fee out of Liverpool to offset vast debts at the City Ground. When Stan left Nottingham, Clark’s team had finished in third place -ahead of Liverpool! Where does the concept of being hurried to a P45 actually come in here, Phil? Ask Man City fans what they think about Clark’s ‘talents’.
I’ve already said what I think of Stan’s time at Anfield, and sit here remaining to see if anyone is actually going to employ Roy Evans – a man McNulty indirectly attacks every time that he praises the professionalism and passion of Houllier’s Regime. As for Brian Little, his Aston Villa departure was hastened by a relegation threat. In the three months that remained with Gregory, they secured a UEFA Cup place. Little has been dumped from one lower league club after another ever since. Whose fault is that? Stanley’s, of course.
Even a proper writer like James Lawton gets caught up in this nonsense, also blaming Stan for “shattering the careers of Roy Evans and Brian Little”. Nothing to say about the ‘first to the booze’ culture of late-90’s Liverpool, something Stan had hinted at in his Spice Boys remark. Lawton gloated about the fracas in La Manga, something nearly all of the Leicester players (and a few coaches) were implicated in. Needless to say, his reaction to the superb hat trick against Sunderland was begrudging, churlish and downright nasty.
I know this is all one-eyed and utterly biased, but I know the man’s bad points because they have been repeated ad nauseam in the papers and amongst Liverpool fans themselves. You don’t balance the scales by putting equal measures on each, you balance them by putting everything you have onto the weaker side – and that’s what I’ve tried to do. Stanley Victor Collymore, you have been found guilty of being the most entertaining and skilful footballer I’ve seen in a red shirt and it is now my duty to pass sentence upon you. You will come back with Leicester to our once-hallowed turf and be booed for the 90 minutes by people who should know better. I won’t be one of them, if it means anything.
Wishing you were still here,
All the best,
THE BOY WONDER