What would Shankly have thought?

Posted by Rushian on July 1, 2004, 01:50:47 AM

I think I got the call about 3 weeks ago, my friend works in the City, right next door to Canada Wharf in fact, and he told me the skinny:

“Chelsea want Gerrard.” He reported. “Can’t see it happening.” I countered.

Laughing at my reply my friend advised me to lay down cash at the bookies on Gerrard leaving. “It will soften the blow” was his ‘compassionate’ sign off.

Unfortunately for me this insider’s dealings could not be taken with a tabloid pinch of salt that one would automatically apply. My friends track record was unparalleled - his greatest coup was being informed that Ruud Gullit was being fired by Chelsea the night before Gullit was told he was to be fired.

Last Thursday night I got an update, “The deals done. He’s on his way.”

“I can’t believe he’d leave.” Was my sombre response. “He really wants to
go?”

“Agents my friend, don’t care what players want.” Informed my in-house associate while addressing my naivety.

Reality bites!

It must have been over 25 years ago now, but in the latter part of the seventies Pele played at Stamford Bridge. He was one of a galaxy of stars performing at the stadium, but it was not in the legendary yellow that had become a moving target for the Portuguese to kick on the only other time he graced our country. No, Pele was decked out in a green and white ensemble that was christened with the legendary badge of the New York Cosmos, the football equivalent of the Harlem Globetrotters that had paid its players and Pele millions to become mercenaries in return for their integrity.

Who would have thought that Pele and Gary Lineker would actually have something in common!

I have been an interested reader of the forum postings recently. Not necessarily because I’m a Red but because I’m a documentary maker and over the past three weeks I had thought that if the ‘deal’ had gone through it would have made an interesting film and the perfect reflection of how our game has seriously disintegrated in recent years.

The Pele angle seemed to work well I thought, my opening monologue was already writing itself. I’m not a reader of the papers, I’ve been told by my doctor to steer well clear from hypocrisy, so I was relying on sources when I turned to this forum to get a fans perspective. However, as I started filtering through the various comments and ‘insider exclusives’ my feelings brought more dread than the sense of anger I had initially prepared myself to feel.

Over the past few weeks our emotions have been entirely manipulated and been at the mercy of the press and the pitiful egos of former players and so-called experts whose careers have been left to dwell as semi-illiterate commentators. The result has been a hysteria that have provoked comments that I hope upon reflection will cause many on this site (and others) to consider their words more wisely in the future.

Many, many years ago as a child my heart was nearly broken when I read a newspaper report that claimed the God Dalglish would be joining Chelsea. Yet, my father at the time gave me a piece of advice that has stayed with me to this day; ‘don’t believe what you read in the papers, wee man.’ And how right he was.

In later years I heard that Chelsea’s attention was in fact legitimate but upon hearing how much Dalglish was earning and the giggles from the bootroom, their interest suddenly evaporated.

How times have changed.

My documentary was no longer personal therapy it was beginning to have a bite and a focus. I had the subject, underhand dealings, greed and the prostitution of the national game. And then I remembered our former manager who blamed pressure and politics as the grounds of his recent demise and if anyone had cause to doubt this statement then the scenarios of recent weeks should be conclusive proof.

If Michael Moore was a Red then Peter Kenyon and Harry Harris would be shitting bricks. The posts I'd read had reproduced many comments and headlines from the media and it inflamed me that they still hold such a grip over the game that they are now beginning to drive. Football I concluded was no longer a game, it’s not even a business. It a reality show and we’re the pawns to provoke it.

Its latest contestant up for eviction was Steven Gerrard who ironically had become a victim of his own success and ambition. He was a perfect target for the media to flex its manipulative muscles after the player himself had commented about the current state of his club. Apparently everyone outside of Anfield wanted him to leave. This translates into a systemic campaign by Chelsea to entice the player to their club that used not only the press but also the ‘impartial’ FA.

And it was on show every day, both in the back and front pages. Yet, it was Gerrard who was being castigated for his lack of communication. Not the press or FA who had actually let the situation develop in the midst of a major international competition. Great support guys! Lets really stir it up for a 24-year-old new father supposedly concentrating on paying for his country.

But why? What is the reasoning behind this vindictive streak as my documentary stumbled in midpitch. What had Liverpool and its supporters done to be treated in such a way? Was it our fault that we DIDN’T pickpockets at Hillsborough? All these questions and I didn’t have an answer. But, I reasoned, it’ll be fascinating to find out.

I was looking forward to treating the media with the contempt it deserved. I wanted to get Mark Lawrenson on camera and ask him what the club had done to earn such disrespect. ‘Mark I know its difficult that people will remember Sol Campbell as a great defender before you, but I know the truth, I remember that you were one of half of the greatest centre back paring ever. Jesus H Christ man, you single-handedly retired Kevin Keegan. That’s a God damn epitaph!!

And then it got worse.

The press had managed to achieve the first of its goals and turned Gerrard’s own supporters against him and then it tried to embroil his girlfriend into the proceedings. This to me is disgraceful, and my heart sank, as I knew attitudes would become more personal and vicious and I realised that we may never learn. The masses will still wake up and buy their daily dose of fiction and believe it to be fact. It's taken for granted when it’s actually the first form of attack to instigate a transfer or sacking. For a supposedly intelligent nation our gullibility and moral aptitude is embarrassing.

It not the legitimacy of the story I’m questioning, but the way we interpreted it. It hurts to know that Gerrard contemplated leaving, but here was a player being offered approximately £30 million over the next 5 years to sign for a club whose mission statement is that money can fix anything. For supporters who would actually pay to play in the red, Chelsea’s financial rewards and superficial image were no excuse, but unfortunately reality doesn’t work like that. Celebrity and obscene wages are enticing no matter who you are. Include a posse of players, agents, a spin-doctor masquerading as a chief executive and practically anyone else who can get their rhetoric in print or on television encouraging you to go then it’s only natural that Gerrard would question himself.

It’s true that SG hasn’t escaped the situation without damage, but in retrospect there was little else he could do. Anyone who believes he should have commented earlier should not discount the abuse that Gerrard would have encountered from those who would have questioned his prime focus at the time, the national team. I suspect that Gerrard had no idea how to handle the situation, yet perhaps the question that should be raised is the timing of the past events.

Speculation on Gerrard’s future and his possible transfer should never have occurred at the time it did. The national team were trying to compete in the European Championships, but when certain payers should have been concentrating on the opposition they seemed more concerned in their club's recruitment policy. Yet, where is the criticism from the press, which is supposedly behind Sven’s men? The answer; they unlike Gerrard have no-one to answer to.

My documentary was beginning to take shape but instead of a sense of enthusiasm my feelings had fallen into depression. The game I had loved as a child no longer cared about me and what was worse I was beginning to no longer care about it. My film would not be an expose but a parting shot and a two-finger salute to those who had pissed on my first love and made me hate it.

And then came the press conference.

For some reason my thoughts returned to Pele and the origin of his impotence at the Bridge, where 25 years later the stadium is entertaining the new generation of Harlem Globetrotters. I remembered the embarrassing chorus line of stars known as the NY Cosmos who had ceased to exist after America learned that football was something that couldn’t be bought, but had to be loved.

Sound familiar Fleet Street?

Chelsea’s attention will now turn no doubt to another Liverpool lad who is currently being informed that his career needs a move to fulfil its potential. This time the fixation is only 18 and until 3 weeks ago bled blue if cut.  Now he’s having his head filled with idiotic nonsense and whose teenage girlfriend is already being built up in the knowledge that her breakdown will be far sweeter.

Yet, do our hopes extend to Rooney and that he stays with his boyhood club and develop as both a player and man instead of inflating his ego and bank balance? I hope so, because we need to learn from this tawdry experience, and realise that sometimes as rival supporters our head should rule our heart.

I received an email this afternoon, sent from the financial capital. ‘Well, the running streak had to come to an end some point.’ Was his defence. I won’t disclose the amount that was wagered by my city slicker but I can reveal it reflected the ‘sure thing’ belief that instigated it. I wrote back and offered to buy him a beer, ‘should soften the blow’ I sympathised.

As this long and drawn out nonsense nears its conclusion I begin to think how this article would have read if Gerrard had left. Would I have been as sympathetic or just blazingly pathetic? The majority of my fury would be vented towards the media. Fantasising that I could ‘out’ those responsible, if I were an X-Men that would be my power.

But I suspect I’d have called Gerrard up on his hypocrisy and damned his career with the rest of his soul. When in fact I should have expected nothing more and asked myself what Shankly would have thought of my online hatred towards a Liverpool captain. It was then that I realised how special Liverpool Football Club really is and that the respect of a former manager who left us over 20 years ago still affects me.

When I heard that Gerrard was staying, the realisation of a great documentary being systematically erased never entered my thought process. There was a sense of relief and more importantly a sense of hope. Not because it will heighten our chances of success, but because in an era where the game is being held to ransom and treating those who adore it with disgust Gerrard has proved that not everyone can be bought. Red blood it seems does run thicker than Thames water.

And perhaps at the end of a glittering Liverpool career that will be Steven Gerrard’s greatest achievement.

© Stewart Jamieson 2004

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