A Tale of Two Cities?

Posted by john_mac on June 29, 2004, 06:03:55 PM

After a couple of weeks of heartache that ended as every Liverpool fan, and genuine football come to think of it, would have wanted it to, I really do think that it is about time somebody looked at the role of Chelsea in the whole sorry state of affairs.

Liverpool Football club are the most successful football club in the history of British football, among the very elite of European history, they can stand shoulder to shoulder with Madrid, Ajax, Milan and Munich as the true giants of European football. Many would claim that this is history, but it should be remembered that many Liverpool fans can readily remember the clubs seven European trophies, yes seven. That is the same as Chelsea, Arsenal and United combined, more than double any other British club, and even the youngsters amongst our support can remember our most recent European trophy.

A club whose history can boast some of the truly great players of British football Hunt, Callaghan, Keegan, Dalglish, Hansen, Souness, Barnes and Rush to name but a few, the club boasts both the most charismatic and most successful managers in the history of the British game.

Growing up in Liverpool in the seventies and eighties it was impossible not become besotted with football and Liverpool Football club in particular from Hitachi shirts to Herbert’s Perms the club ruled on every level. The nearest challengers City, united, Ipswich, Forest and Everton all came and went without seriously threatening the crown.

The Club dominates the skyline of Liverpool 4, it is also the economic heartbeat of the area, and whilst the ground has become slightly dated, it remains a living and breathing testament to what remains a great football club, a living testament to Bill Shankly, perhaps the greatest legend in a world of legends, the man who built the legend that remains Liverpool FC.

Hardly a youngster, when Gary McAllister arrived at Anfield he was battle wary, worldly wise, a player who had won leagues, played in World Cups, a thirty-six year with little to prove. Yet even Gary was shocked at what Liverpool Football Club had to offer “Everyone knows that Liverpool is a massive club, but it is not until you go there that you realise the size of it: the European Cups, the fans. It just grabs you when you go there, it’s special.”

Liverpool football club is special, nowhere else in top flight football, never mind amongst Europe’s elite  is there such a relationship between a football club, a city and the people of the city, the fortunes of all three are inevitably intertwined. Kenny Dalglish was one of the greatest players in the World, a true star of the World game as a manager he won the title three times in five years, yet he could not help but be touched by his relationship with the fans. “To me, public relations involved being able to relate to the fans, helping them in any way that I could, whether with tickets or just spending a moment talking to them. I wanted to make them feel part and parcel of Liverpool Football Club.”

Shankly was also quick to recognise that the Liverpool Way was not a phenomena restricted to matters on the pitch “Liverpool was made for me and I was made for Liverpool, and I knew that the people that mattered most were the ones who came through the turnstiles. Football is there whole lives ... and the encouragement the supporters of Liverpool Football Club have given their team has been incredible” claimed Shankly, three years after he had retired. Quite ironic that a ginger haired character, from a club not too far away, should spend so much of his time trying to imitate the great man.

The 1990s were a bleak time, on the field for the football club, in many ways we struggled to get over Kenny’s departure, in many ways we struggled to come to terms with the way the game changed, and relinquished our dominance of top flight football. For many fans it was difficult to come to terms with, even more so, was a football world dominated by commercialism and greed, a million miles removed from the one in which Shankly wrote  “For the past twelve years Liverpool have played two games most weeks, which is hard on the pocket.” Shankly had little or no respect for football’s money men and the football machine born out of the financial greed of the 90s, would have disgusted him.

Steven Gerrard is a local lad, brought up in this tradition, through the youth academy at Anfield and is now captain of the team. A player who has continually expressed his pride in his club, his position and its’ fans, a true local hero in every sense of the word, it is always gratifying when a local player comes through the ranks, I can distinctly remember Paisley’s pride when Sammy Lee graduated to the National side, I think this was something we all felt with Steven, with each club and international performance but especially when he was made skipper:

"It is a dream. I was captain of my school side and I used to go along to Anfield to watch the team and I always looked up to people like John Barnes who captained the team during the '90s. I'd dream that one day it would be me captaining the team I love.

"I want to do as well as all the players who have captained Liverpool. We've had some great captains at this club - people like Alan Hansen, Phil Thompson, Graham Souness, John Barnes - and hopefully I can follow in their foot-steps and make a success of my role."

Gary McAllister, a fine player in his own right, summed the young Steven Gerrard’s contribution up perfectly, “He is a very special player. When you play with him he has such a drive, a surging power. He’s really explosive. You see it in training, in the tackle, in everything he does. He has everything as a player. You’ll see him come out over the next few years. He is very special.”

He could not have been more correct, over the past couple of seasons, Stevey has matured into easily Liverpool’s best and most influential player, perhaps the best in the country, certainly into a player who can hold his head up with anybody, the very best.

The last couple of weeks have been a nightmare, something that has frankly been beyond, I just have not been able to comprehend how Stevey was considering walking out on Liverpool Football Club for Chelsea.

I have never had any respect for players who do things with purely a money motive, and think that they would always like drive, ambition and motive - everything that makes a great player and everything Stevey has always displayed in abundance. I can remember a time when Liverpool where being linked with an aging Rivaldo, an undoubtedly quality player, but one looking for a pay day. Houllier was quick to explain his lack of interest in the player being touted by his agent “I thought he was not right for the club, you need someone who does not just come here for the money, he must come here for the challenge.” The nineties was littered with players who arrived at Anfield considering that they had ‘made it’, consequently we got nothing out of them.

Surely Stevey was too young and ambitious for this. But does the Chelsea comparison really stand up? They had an exciting season last year, in fact similar to the one we had two years earlier, one that finished full of promise but ultimately empty handed.

The comparison between the two clubs could not be more stark, whilst Anfield sits in one of the most underprivileged areas that the North of England has to offer, Chelsea resides in perhaps the heart of West London, with real estate prices akin to gold bullion. The identity of Liverpool Football Club lies deeply embedded in the City, inextricably linked with the identity of the city and the people of that city. Its fans portrayed nationwide as stereotypical of everything that this country likes to look down upon. By contrast the fan base of Chelsea is so obscure as to be farcical, their only identity being a group of eighty year olds in red coats and Union Jack waving wankers with British Bulldog T-shirts.

Whilst Liverpool Football Club was rebuilt by Shankly, perhaps the greatest man in the history of football, Chelsea was bought for a pound and rebuilt by undoubtedly the biggest **** ever involved in football, Bates. A man who saw fit to take Hardings money and then piss on his grave, he then took the Russian’s money and wanted to maintain control. Who could forget the ‘Blue Peter’ “Save the Bridge” boards, the the way he wanted to fry away fans- a c*nt in every sense of the word. On the field whilst we have excelled all over Europe, Chelsea have yo-yo’d between divisions. For our Kenny Dalglish see Dennis Wise, for Ian Rush see Kerry Dixon and for Alan Hansen read Mickey Droy. For our European Cups see their Simod’s and for our championships see there ...... er nothing.

That was all till the arrival of a Russian Billionaire last summer, a man that none of us had ever heard of, yet a name on the tip on everyone’s tongue now. A man who made Jack Walker’s investment in Blackburn look like a lucky bag, yet a man who we all remain deeply suspicious of, at best. Isn’t it about time somebody actually come out and said where this money has actually come from and what Chelsea is actually built on?

The money he has put in has been er ... wisely spent? I think not, when the club’s best signings remain the likes of Zola, Desailly, Gallas, Hasselbaink and Gudjonsson, all made before his arrival. In fact much of his money is already dead, spent on players worth a fraction of their original value. They are still a considerable way from being anywhere near the Arsenal’s of this world.

I can’t help but hope that he leaves as quickly as he came and Chelsea return to their rightful place in oblivion.

Yesterday was decision for football, a decision for Stevey, a decision for Liverpool and a decision for you and me. A decision for the good guys over the bad guys and one that everyone involved in influencing should be congratulated.

I truly hope that every head that Chelsea try to turn with money takes a good long look at their lives and what their decisions say this summer. I hope that every target they have turns around and gives them two fingers, although I know it is unlikely. Long term success is cyclical and only rarely built purely upon financial clout, it is built from acting in a professional and proper manner and from a solid platform, it is not built on quicksand or Doug Rouvie challenges.

The day that the Russian Gangster puts his toy away cannot come quick enough, the day that Chelsea take their rightful place with the Derby County’s and Sunderlands (I know that’s a bit unfair on Derby, who did win the league twice in the seventies while Chelsea where flirting with 2nd division football) of this world will soon be upon us, whilst like a phoenix from the flames the Liverpool Way will prevail.

© john_mac 2004

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