From Crown Paints to Carlsberg: The Kings of the Kop

Posted by JamesG L4 on April 3, 2006, 05:49:21 PM

From Crown Paints to Carlsberg: The Kings of the Kop

We all have our odd little rituals. Granted, they’ll never be as famous as Rushy dowsing his boot’s in water before each game, but nevertheless we all have them in our own little worlds. For my pains, I like to take out all of my old Liverpool kits and lay them one by one in chronological order, my glorious Liverpool time-line. A montage of sweet victories and magnificent Saturdays always come flooding back, from Crown Paints to Carlsberg I see the different phases of being a red flash before my eyes...

Remember the total belief and passion of being a fourteen year old red? In the time before women or money football was czar of all thought, and it ruled with an iron fist. I doubt I’ll ever feel the complete raw passion for the reds as I did in those days. Lose and Saturday night was a hell hole of chewing fists in utter depression. Sitting in my room listening to the phone-ins, always tempted to phone in and raise teenage hell, eating one more bowl of scouse and dreading school. The score would be scrawled on the free fixture list given out on the first day of the season, new formations written and rewritten, possible points total and final position worked out. These were the ferocious hours when my life-long heroes were born, when a love for certain players was forged that I will cherish for the rest of days.

This depression would only be lifted by a good old late-night session masturbating to the fuzzy German beavers on RTL, when everyone had gone to bed after Match of the Day. Finger poised on the infamous orange ‘back’ button on the remote.

These days fade when the bright lights of town are discovered and you find that it is possible to shimmy past that engulfing Saturday night depression with a good night out on the tiles. We graduate from the MOTD-RTL axis and set out on the often painful years of searching for the possibility of real life sex with a real life person. Granted, it’s mostly a very remote possibility, but any seventeen year-old will take ‘remote’ with both hands.

The late teens are the age when you-know-best and everyone-else-is-a-tit. A combination of large groups, awful taste and incombustible belief brew into the soup of teenage cynicism that scares the shit out of everyone else. In my day the uniform was all stolen Berghauses and Reebok classics. These days it’s all hilarious primary coloured Le Coste tracksuits, huge gold chains and 3-minute sun showers; an army of mini Stevie Gs with orange faces, long scowls and disdain for everything.

You do some bizarre things at the ASBO age, like taking chippy meals to the match. Reheated slabs of pale chip fat doused in thick sewerage. And how these lads sit there and feast! Nonchalant attitude to tradition is all the rage. Not for them the singing YNWA or clapping away goalies as they pile more chips in.

These guys can break from the wall of grease and spittle with a one liner that will knock you dead, though. Some nasal phrase straight off the street, perhaps the playground, cutting into our celestial atmosphere like a brick. I once heard a Henri Lloyd clad ruffian shout, ‘Oy! Yobo, your ma can’t afford a fanny!’ Laugh? I nearly choked on my Bovril. You find yourself pathetically trying to be their mate, attempting to show them that, ‘Yes, I too, was one of your kind’ and ‘I get your jokes, mate’. How embarrassing. At half time these guys merrily light up a spliff and chortle at the half times, lost in their own world of the Pleasure Rooms and Scouse House. I’ll give it to them though, they only light up AAA grade skunk, rocky is strictly lower league etiquette for these guys.

And the years and seasons move slowly on. I’m now on the amble towards the Three Nought. Years when football fans begin to, hilariously, ‘think deeply about the game’. We’re voracious for detail; forums and broadsheets become a necessity. You can scan the whole sports section of a newspaper for the words ‘Liverpool’ or ‘Benitez’ in less than five seconds. You know every referee’s name, and have a decent opinion on each. You are suddenly older than many of the established players, or even the same age as the ‘senior’ pros. To be the same age as a player is one of life’s little pleasures. I share 27 with JC and feel a certain kinship with the man. I feel we have strolled through the same years and events together, and though we have never met, we share some magical same-year-in-school bond. Pity one of us is a Millionaire-European Cup Winning-Liverpool-Legend, while the other is most certainly not. The fickle fates of the double helix, eh?

The internet is both friend and foe. Gone are the halcyon days of relating superlative football news to your mates in the pub; the days of surprises are long gone. Get a group of 30 year olds together and in between Peep Show, i-pod and mortgage conversations, there can be no new news about football because everyone has already read it on five different websites. Sometimes, I find it all a complete and utter bore and wish we were back in school full of sponk and ignorance; wanting centre halves to play centre-mid to shore up the midfield and all that malarkey. But then I read Spyin’ Kop and roll around joyful, like a pig in the filthy, minute detail of it all.

It’s not all mortgages and i-pods though, because this is the age when you start to lose that all encompassing urge to trot off to the bright lights after the match. Football slowly realigns itself as the central romantic force in your life once more. One night you find yourself sitting in The Sandon at half nine, one eye on the clock so you have time to get a chippy and get home in time for Match of the Day, when you realise father time has moved on once more. It’s time to start keeping scores on that fixture card again, and maybe even have a glorious night cap with RTL.

Years and years ago, I was in one of those elongated toilets in the Main Stand having a piss next to my gigantic old granddad. As he was happily pissing in a sink, he looked at me solemnly, nodded at his (yellowing) wrinkly old sausage, and said, ‘The doctor said not to lift anything heavy, but he can fuck off!’ I laughed so hard piss went all over my new Crown Paints kit, and I stank for the entire second half. We demolished Luton 6-0, and I have never laughed and shouted and sang as much as I did that day sat next to my granddad. If Kenny is the King of the Kop, then I had discovered the Kings of Anfield.

For five hours every other Saturday these men roll around the pubs and avenues of Anfield, holding the keys to all the romance and humour of it all. These are the ones that open it all up to you as a kid, enrapture you as they teach you the verses of Scouser Tommy before bedtime and whisper hilarious stories of awaydays in Rome in family parties. The ones who take you to your first match and stand proud when you sing and shout in a young, shrill voice.

Not for them this Fantasy Football lark or this internet lark. It’s the holy trinity of Radio Merseyside, The Echo and Match of the Day. To hear one of these men shout, ‘You’re all spread out over the pitch like a madman’s shite reds, get a grip’, is better than any museum tour and free programme. It’s like watching a Russian gymnast in the Olympics. Not a foot wrong, timing perfect, and you can just about see the camel hoof. They start the cycle all over again, putting wide eyed children on the road to teenage nights chewing fists and remapping the meaning of Saturday for a lifetime.

Sometimes when I’m in Anfield, with about twenty minutes to go, I look around at all these characters bouncing up and down and singing and shouting, and I just feel this great sense of community and shared spirit. I still walk the same route up to Anfield as I did when I was a child, full of song and excitement, and I always will. A lifetime following the reds, following in all these footsteps, is a grand thing indeed. And in this world of change, it’s nice to have this world of Saturdays deep in the centre, unmoving and totally magnificent.

© TheMightyRed 2006

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