Monday, 1 November 2010

Shankly's socialism shines through once more

It’s been a difficult few weeks to be a supporter of Liverpool Football Club, but it’s a fortnight which ends with me feeling proud to be one of those supporters.
First came the Merseyside derby, which is a game that never fails to incite such evocative emotions. It’s also a game which reminds me how glad I am to belong to the red half of the city.
I stand in the Paddock every season and attempt to comprehend how two teams separated only by Stanley Park can have such opposing philosophies on football.
The banners which we revere so much are mocked and derided by our blue brethren, while the songs we sing to celebrate our proud history displease the Park End.
Even our attempts to help our club’s fortunes off-the-pitch are disparaged and scorned upon by the Goodison faithful.
But that culture clash is what makes the derby special; it’s what makes victory taste sweeter and defeat even bitterer.
Unfortunately, against Everton, we supped from the latter cup. It wasn’t our first defeat at Goodison, and it probably won’t be the last – unless, of course, Bill Kenwright decides to move them to Kirkby in the near future.
At least I had an opportunity to hear from several of my acquaintances whom have been missing for nearly two years, I suppose. The County Road chameleons are a wonder to nature, camouflaged in drinking establishments for years until a derby victory brings out their blue exterior in full force.
It would be watching another team in blue - a lighter shade of it - that would cause yet more problems for Liverpool supporters, albeit problems of a different kind.
Nothing beats a European trip with Liverpool. It’s a time for togetherness and unity. Old friendships are rekindled and new ones are forged; moments are shared that will be remembered forever and memories are created that will never be forgotten.
Until kick off, football is never at the forefront of your mind.
There was not one mention of Everton as we boarded at John Lennon Airport – our minds were much more concerned about pizza than Pienaar, we cared more about Morreti than Mikel Arteta.
Sadly, it wasn’t to be a typical European trip. The majority of supporters who made the journey to Naples experienced well-documented problems from a minority of Naples citizens.
Things have been written about our time in the southern Italy, although not enough in my opinion. Ultimately, this is neither the medium, nor the platform, to share the personal experiences endured by my four friends and I.
But despite a torrid 48 hours, and despite 80 of us being crammed onto buses fit for 50, we huddled together in the San Paolo, shared our experiences of the previous night and let out the defiant cry of our football team; the defiant cry of Liverpool.
It wasn’t the loudest away end I’ve been in, nor was it the most effervescent, but for a period of time, we fought their fervent fans with Fields of Anfield Road and You’ll Never Walk Alone, showing that beneath the Liverbird’s feathers beats a heart of steel.
It wasn’t until I was back in Liverpool that I understood the significance of that show of impertinence to the Napoli fans.
I looked around Anfield last Sunday prior to kick off against Blackburn and felt familiar feelings, feelings I’ve felt for almost 20 years.
The smell of burning burgers and the sound of the Solly’s soothing hum in pre-match anticipation were there - as they always have been.
Banners honouring those our grandfathers and fathers respected, and those we respect today, were there - as they always are.
The touch of a mate’s warm handshake and the taste of a pint in the pub afterwards were there - as they always will be.
Despite the week we suffered, we did not desert the football club. More importantly, we did not desert each other. We never do.
That vociferous cry of Liverpool in the San Paolo was made to let both Napoli and the wider world know that despite the problems of the previous two days off the field, and the problems we’ve had on the field throughout the season, we were there to support our football team – like we always are, and like we always will be.
Throughout the club’s 118-year history, the one thing that has remained constant is the supporters. The names and personnel of those who stand on the Kop may have changed, but the values and culture that embody being a Liverpool supporter hasn’t.
And it was as I spotted a banner with Bill Shankly’s name on, a banner that’s been displayed many times before, that I thought of these words:
“The socialism I believe in is, everyone helping each other, and everyone having a share of the rewards at the end not really politics. It is a way of living. It is humanity
“I believe the only way to live and to be truly successful is by collective effort, with everyone working for each other of the day. That might be asking a lot, but it's the way I see football and the way I see life.”
I don’t claim to be a political expert, but that is a view on socialism I can subscribe to - people helping other people with collective effort, both in football and life in general.
It’s Shankly’s idea of socialism I witnessed at Anfield against Blackburn as we supported the team, irrespective of previous results.
It’s Shankly’s idea of socialism I witnessed in Naples as we supported each other and ensured no one was left behind as we alighted our shuttle buses at the port after the match.

And it was definitely Shankly's idea of socialism I witnessed when bodies flew everywhere, voices mustered an almighty roar and 3,000 of us sang Maxi Rodriguez's name over and over after his late winner on Sunday.
The past week has left Liverpool supporters bearing both spiritual and physical scars, but we’ll be there at home to Napoli, Chelsea, Stoke and beyond.
The flag of Shanks will still wave in the wind as the thousands who see it strive to hold our heads up high and let the world know we’re Liverpool, just like the Scot always wanted.
It’s certainly enough to make me proud – and I’m sure it would be enough to make Shanks proud too.

No comments:

Post a Comment