My earliest football memories are of waiting for me arl fella to come home from the match and give me the programme to flick through. There was something magical about it all. I can remember the feeling even though it’s hard to explain now.
When I was 6, he took me for the first time and that was it; no turning back. Through thick and thin, living and working within travelling distance all my life despite many opportunities to go further afield. The highest of highs, pure ecstacy. The lowest of lows, pure misery. Every waking hour, always there... An addiction.
You might read that and think, "Sad get"... You might be able to identify with it. If you do, I’d like to think you’re an Evertonian like me. But maybe you support Norwich City or Oldham Athletic. We all like to think our club is special, unique, and nobody else understands. But common sense tells us that other clubs have equally obsessed supporters, the difference is in how this obsession manifests itself: Us and them.
Maybe, like me, you’ve come to despair at what football has become and have an irrational hatred for people who have latched on to the game and spout pundit’s pronouncements as their own insight. They never go the match, unless it’s Wembley — then they’ll kit themselves out in minty scarves and mass-produced T-shirts at £6 a pop.
I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but there have been times in my life when I haven’t gone the match every week. Sometimes life has got in the way, but not very often, and never for very long. Everton have outlasted a fair few women, and the ‘But I thought you’d change in time’ conversation has been the final one on more than occasion.
Change? Not me, I’m a Blue — not one of these armchair replica-shirt wearers other clubs seem to attract. Living where I do now, Blackpool, you meet them all the time. They’ve all turned tangerine now, but that’s another story. But I grew up surrounded by them. Yes, they’ve always had more ‘fans’ than us in my lifetime, but seemingly not as many ‘supporters’. By support, I mean, you know, going the match.
In May 1977, I was nearly 8. Young, but even then stubborn and full of self righteousness. ‘They’ had just won the European Cup and suddenly they were everywhere. Suddenly, us Blues were a small minority. Some of our more fickle classmates had gone over to the dark side.
Us remaining Blues became more steadfast than ever, especially in our rejection of former allies who’d been weak and easily seduced by mass acceptance. There they had to remain, even when some later wavered. They’d crossed the line and would never be accepted back. Fuck off... Or at least that’s how I remember it.
I’m writing all this to help me understand why a group of adults from the same background as me, ostensibly people I should have a lot in common with, have been camped outside an empty football ground burning American flags. Loyal, working class, die-hard supporters who care about their club. Weirdos. They would say I’m small time, a Bitter Blue who wouldn’t have the first idea what it means to support a club like theirs. Yeah... like, whatever.
In May 1984, I watched us win the FA Cup... on my portable in the bedroom. I came down after to see me arl fella who’d watched it downstairs. I had a speck of dust in me eye, and he made a jokey comment, and I went off me head. I was nearly 15 like. Crying was for girls.
In May 1985, I saw us beat QPR to win the league. At last, all them years of putting up with them horrible, arrogant, armchair twats had been vindicated. We went on to win the European Cup Winners Cup. We were the best. I was nearly 16. I knew it would last forever... It didn’t.
Life intervened over the coming years: girls, college, being skint and stuck 60 miles away, other stuff. I think it’s called growing up. Everton were always there, always at the forefront, but going the match wasn’t the be-all and end-all — not always anyway.
In May 1994, we nearly got relegated. I was nearly 25. To this day, it’s hard to fathom how we survived. That seemed to galvanise us. It reminded us all how important this was to us. Somehow, the next season started off even worse, but cometh the hour...
Joe Royle, an Everton legend and all-round nice guy, arrived... and inspired the birth of another legend. A big, brash Scot with a nasty streak. An icon. Flawed, but a man who came to embody Everton in the fallow years that followed. Proud, defiant and not giving a damn what others thought. Quietly generous and caring towards supporters, giving his time and money to supporters without fanfare. The real Duncan Ferguson. Another facet of the Everton psyche. We knew, that was all that mattered.
In May 1998, we nearly got relegated again. Despite having saved us from relegation and winning the FA Cup within 6 months of his arrival, big Joe had long gone, and our most successful manager ever had returned but taken us to the brink. Again, last-gasp survival and joyous celebrations, before demanding the resignation of our chairman. Not a planned protest, purely a spontaneous reaction to a frustrating situation. He didn’t last much longer. Yes, I was on the pitch. I was nearly 29.
Anyway, us and them. Replica shirts, flags and scarves aloft to an old show tune? Pass the sick bucket. Orchestrated campaigns instructing supporters how to support their club correctly? Fuck off. Preening and posturing, "Look at us, we are the best supporters in the world..." Flags, banners, tributes to every fucker except the victims of the Heysel disaster. "LOOK AT US!"
Punch-ups between Evertonians in the Gladwys Street over whether a certain player is, indeed, ‘fucking shite’? Erm, yes. Sat in silence while opposing supporters offer to sing us a song? Very considerate... now shut the fuck up — I’m trying to watch the match, you fucking performing monkey. Sullen, contrary, protective. WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU LOOKING AT?
Anyway... where was I? Oh, yeah. Us and them. Why do they believe they have a God-given right to be the best? Why do they think the media, the FA and everybody else has it in for them when they have blatantly been the golden children for, well, a lifetime? Why did they condemn Moores for not putting money in to the club ‘and fucking sell up, you cunt’? He did, and now he should have gotten a letter off the buyers’ mums to say they were very nice men?
Everton’s net spend per season from 2004-2009? £3,850,000. In fact, in the last 30 months ours is £0. Theirs? £18,125,000. Only City and Chelsea have outspent them. Last season we finished 8th and are skint again, signing League 1 strikers on free transfers.... Ah well. They finished one place and 2 points above us and are roaming the streets like they’re The Warriors because things aren’t going to plan.
The obvious reaction is to wonder what they’d be like if the last 25 years had gone the same for them as it has for us.... Sorry, of course, I’m just a Bitter Blue.
So why the difference? I don’t know but I’ll hazard a guess. Every club has its own identity forged by its history. This history is not just measured in what is written, but more in what is told. What is passed from father to son, mother to daughter. In the pub, at the match. If you’re a Blue, you’ll ‘know your history’. We’ve all done it, when meeting a fellow Blue for the first time, we test each other. Do they know their history? If not, we don’t trust them. God help us in attracting this new global support other clubs have...
So what is our history? 9 league titles, 5 FA Cups, 1 ECWC, and a few Charity Shields but they don’t really count. That’s the mantra, what gives us the platform to dismiss the Newcastles, Chelseas and Tottenhams of this world. Yes, we have an element of big club arrogance in our make-up. But, we have other things as well.
It seems that a lot of these Spirit of Shankly — or Sons of Shankly or whatever version of the Judean People’s Front they are this week — types are around my age, give or take a few years. My own experience is a roller-coaster of highs and lows. Early 70s decline – when I was small I kind of got this sense we’d been great just before my time, but now times were changing – followed by late 70s insignifance in their shadow. The 80s carried this invisibility on until a glorious resurgence – The Time of My Life – which was cruelly and unfairly snatched away. Since then, it’s been general mediocrity with a few golden moments and too long peering into the abyss.
A healthy perspective on football and life follows naturally. We could be great again, but equally we could be shit again, Nil Satis Nisi Optimum notwithstanding.
Them? They were brought up on success. Many of them chose to follow success. They still have the arrogance of success... 18-5 and all that. And they have periodically had success, of sorts since their heyday. And they’ve always been only 1 or 2 players away from winning the league. That tantalising, nearly there, ‘next season defo’ optimism. Of course, because they’re them, they know it will come.
5 November 1989. 2 years since we’d last won the league, and we were in the mix again. Things were looking up again. It was my first term at college and being a matchgoing football fan had earned me a nod from a few like-minded people. They supported shit clubs of course, but you can’t have everything. The bar had a telly so I sat down to watch us go top. There were a couple of teds in Villa shirts there as well. Wools.
The afternoon didn’t quite pan out as expected. We lost 6-2. We only got 2 because they switched off at 6-0. Disbelief. Gradually, I realised, it was over. We weren’t winning the league any time soon. The next few years were the ‘1 or 2 players away from challenging again years’. 1994 was the wake-up call.
2 June 2010 was their wake-up call. Unless the Arabian Cavalry come to their rescue, it’s over. They are just another club, and they can’t handle it.
Time to get a grip and face reality. Isn’t the phrase these days ‘Man up’? Yeah, fucking man up, you gang of freaks. We had to, and we didn’t have internet posters comparing our manager taking a £6,000,000 pay off to walk into another job – sorry, I mean ‘getting sacked’ – to people being murdered and major disasters.
Us and them. Arrogance and delusion. Is it just because of the ‘glory’ they’ve seen in their lifetimes? Or is it more than that? Maybe it goes deeper....
Our legends – Jack Sharp, WR Dean, TG Jones, Alan Ball, Howard Kendall, Joe Royle, Harry Catterick, Peter Reid, Neville Southall. Courage, honour, humour, humility, class and dignity? Are these fitting words to describe these men? I’ve not mentioned their achievements, but to me these words embody what Everton means to Evertonians.
It’s about pride in our successes... but equally pride in the manner in which they’ve been achieved. Our manager, David Moyes, understands and embodies this. We admire him for it, even if we sometimes criticise his decisions.
Their legends – Kenny Dalglish, Ian St. John, Bill Shankly, Emlyn Hughes, Tommy Smith, Rushie, Aldo, Thommo, ickle Jamie... Heroes, brash, bold, success, success, success, blah, blah, blah. Men of humility, class and humour? Or crowing, arrogant, superior, insular? Their ex-manager, Rafael Benitez, understands and embodies these qualities. Oh, and he says YNWA. Always helps. And they idolise him.
Can’t they see that he has manipulated public opinion to keep the fans onside? Can’t they see he has created divisions between fans and board for his own ends? Can’t they see he has openly courted other clubs? Can’t they see that he could have stayed if he wanted to but he cut and run with £6,000,000 and offers on the table elsewhere? Can’t they see he has spunked £210,000,000 (say "a quarter of a billion" to yourself — go on) and still demanded more to be able to compete? Can’t they see that players don’t improve under his guidance?
Can’t they see their own hypocrisy in castigating Moores when they virtually hounded him out of the club? Can’t they admit to fucking anything, ever? Most of all, don’t they fucking realise that all over the world are loyal supporters of clubs who have been let down, disappointed and royally shat on more times than they can imagine... yet they just fucking get on with it because that’s what you fucking do?
Arrogant, delusional, hilarious, kopites. Who’d be without them? And who thinks they’ll come up smelling of roses like they always fucking do? And that in a few years time this little ‘episode’ will be airbrushed out of history like every other time they embarrass or disgrace themselves? And we’ll be called Bitters for pointing all of this out to them?
Us and them. And some people would settle for sharing a ground with them....
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1 Posted 04/06/2010 at 17:31:38
Excellent article and I agree with every point made.
2 Posted 04/06/2010 at 17:42:25
3 Posted 04/06/2010 at 17:48:13
4 Posted 04/06/2010 at 17:53:55
Great article, Rob!
5 Posted 04/06/2010 at 18:17:44
6 Posted 04/06/2010 at 18:08:04
One of the fanzines said it best when they said Rafa was always one piece away from finishing the jigsaw, when he should have been looking at the picture on the fucking box!
7 Posted 04/06/2010 at 18:49:37
8 Posted 04/06/2010 at 19:04:55
9 Posted 04/06/2010 at 19:43:33
10 Posted 04/06/2010 at 20:09:55
11 Posted 04/06/2010 at 19:58:06
We both agreed (and I've thought this for a while) that they are the new Newcastle; increasingly claiming a status for themselves that relies on a historical context. Arrogant fans who believe "top four" status is their divine right. It ain't... and, like the loveable Geories, their ability to self-delude is self-perpetuating and fuelled by a media which for reasons I increasingly can't fathom feed their delusions. The amount of tripe uttered in the last 24 hours by so-called experts is astonishing.
The money required to get them out of the hole they have dug for themselves is mind boggling and I just can't see any billionaire being mad enough to chuck that kind of money at them. Then again one's born every minute.
My biggest frustration is that we haven't taken advantage yet. A couple more points last season and we could have hammered another nail in.
12 Posted 04/06/2010 at 20:26:19
That lot are seriously embarrassing themselves. One deluded kopite on the TV yesterday was saying something like they shouldn't have got rid because they don't do things that way at their club. They are different to everyone else! Of course what he meant was 'above' everyone else. Self-delusion in the extreme, and it has been going on for years. Hopefully another disastrous decision is looming regarding their next gaffer...
13 Posted 04/06/2010 at 21:09:31
To give them some credit, they have been under Rrafa a slightly above average cup-wining side; however, they seem incapable of going to Sunderland and beating 11 men and one beach ball!
If their board had any sense they should be knocking at Al Fyed's door and getting Roy Hodgson but, as they don't, another foreign manager will be appointed and he will replace Rafa's Spanish duds (which replaced Houlier's French duds) with duds of that manager's nationality.
I think it's going to be a case of meet the new boss... same as the old boss — and long may it continue.
14 Posted 04/06/2010 at 19:28:22
Cannot wait for next season BTW.
15 Posted 05/06/2010 at 06:26:12
Hi, Rob, my name's Derek and I have been an Evertonian for 52 yrs.
As for ' them', they didn't used to be RS, and some of my closest family and friends, still remember the 2nd Div.
But they sold their Shankly Red Souls to the devil (or whoever) and the loan is now due, in more ways than one.
It breaks my heart for all the old style supporters, but not the new ones; sorry it's sad, but nowadays they are exactly what it says on the tin.
And it couldn't happen to a better bunch.
16 Posted 05/06/2010 at 09:44:32
As I got older and Sky poisoned football, I can still remember the glory-hunting bastard era kicking off most notably with a sudden appearance of Blackburn tops when Jack Walker bought them the title. (Who the fuck supported that lot for real?) I remember our team in the 80s and calling for changes right up to the Oxford game and suddenly it all clicked and we were invincible.
I remember countless trips to grounds wondering how many we would score, not if we would win; trips to Wembley every year, the CWC nights and the final in Rotterdam. I was gutted when that shower broke us as a club and it all started to fall to bits and that's when my hatred rather than banter grew as their fans evolved into smug nasty bastards who knew nothing about the club and pretended otherwise.
Sky has fucked football fans but hasn't driven a wedge between me and Everton yet.
17 Posted 05/06/2010 at 09:49:56
18 Posted 05/06/2010 at 13:27:02
19 Posted 05/06/2010 at 13:38:55
Your crack about 'Sons of Shankly or whatever version of the Judean People’s Front they are this week ' is a classic, mate!
Regarding 'Rafa' , was he agent Johnson in reverse? Let's get that "re-instate him" petition started soon.
And regarding 'Kingmaker Kenny' (the ganster's whore) his last act of 'kingmaking' was at Celtic when he brought J Barnes in as manager, so the RS are in safe hands.
20 Posted 05/06/2010 at 14:02:43
21 Posted 05/06/2010 at 14:11:23
You lost me there. Sounds like the cliched crap people are starting to say about the lack of singing at Everton.
22 Posted 05/06/2010 at 17:12:34
I get this and I am sure I am not alone... grown men singing "Let's all have a disco" etc or "You'll never work again." Fuck 'em — we are better than that.
23 Posted 05/06/2010 at 17:58:20
24 Posted 05/06/2010 at 21:26:57
An arrogant member of my family is a red... I don't hate him for that, I hate him for being everything you talked about, Rob. The selfish nature through which he sees his club as if they have a fucking god-given right to be competitive. Well, the worm has turned and they are fucked and he knows it.
They might sell their playing assets to calm the debt repayments (but that is short-termism at best) and pay £80m off the £351m the BBC say is owed. Pleasingly, they've NO young talent to bring through... that was the Fat Waiter's way... ha ha ha ha... and they love him for it. Dickheads.
Even better news: One of the Yanks in charge has previous with ruining clubs. In February of this year, the Major League Baseball team Texas Rangers was put into administration Pompey style... Anyone seen Tom Hicks lately??? The banks want their money back.
25 Posted 06/06/2010 at 00:43:53
They held street parties for the FA Cup Final... we lived in maisonettes in Seaforth, and while I got a spanking for nicking a box of matches and tying to set fire to all the red and white bunting, my brothers decked themselves out in rosettes and scarves... and ate cake and jelly while gulping down various flavours that the Alpine man had delivered.
I've never known such a huge switch in faith as I saw that day... every horrible arrogant little shit I knew wanted to be Keegan or Heighway... Turncoats we called them..
It's still the same now — hundreds changing colours to go and line the streets when the luckiest twats ever returned from Istanbul, still probably wondering how they weren't 10 goals down at half time...
No moral fibre... glory hunters, spoilt kids who don't get their own way... that's what they come across as. I only know about 3 or 4 decent Liverpool fans... and I know hundreds....
I always say — and its true, I'm not bitter... I hated you in 1970 when your trophy room was right up there with Wolves, Bolton, Blackpool and Chelsea!!! And I still hate you now.
26 Posted 06/06/2010 at 13:01:12
27 Posted 06/06/2010 at 12:29:42
It's the arrogance of them that really annoys me. I remember being sat in the Upper Bullens the day of the Clattenberg derby, a pack of seven or so RS sitting not far away from me. Now I've sat in the red end at Anfield for derbies but had a degree of respect for the position I was in; I was on their patch... but these dickheads started causing a bit of trouble and the bizzies ended up throwing them out. The thing I remember though is, as they were frogmarched out, to a fair bit of abuse it has to be said, even if they deserved it, they each held up 5 fingers as if some kind of arrogant salute that we are better than you. Fuck off!
Another example was at a mate's wedding, his best man giving his speech with a part about how they are both blues and enjoyed growing up together going to the match in the glory days of the 80s. It wasn't so much about football but the times they as mates have shared. At the mention of ECWC final, a couple of RS pipe up "Is that all, try the European Cup, etc etc" They then start singing "We've won it five times" in the middle of the guy's speech, just fucking rude and ignorant. Fortunatly we had beat them 3-0 a few weeks earlier so they were swiftly put in their place and shut up, but the sheer arrogance of interrupting a speech at a wedding with your own arrogant self-important ideas pissed everyone off.
28 Posted 06/06/2010 at 19:56:14
"At the mention of ECWC final, a couple of RS pipe up "Is that all, try the European Cup, etc etc" They then start singing "We've won it five times"."
Because that doesn't have a hint of bitterness in it at all, does it?
29 Posted 06/06/2010 at 22:55:29
Now we really need to put the boot in and beat them home and away next season.
30 Posted 07/06/2010 at 09:16:52
Think you should consider a new career as a speech writer - stirring, visceral stuff.
31 Posted 07/06/2010 at 11:40:26
I knew plenty of reds supporters in school, their fathers regular attendees at Anfield Road, waiting for their own chance to go and watch Liverpool, they were just like any young kids, their allegiance came from the family, dads, brothers, etc.
The difference from then to now is TV, the kids now see Chelsea, Man Utd, Liverpool etc and they seem to win everything, so they take the easy way and support the best teams, tradition gone out of the window.
So what you have now are thousands of so called supporters who think supporting a team is about them winning everthing and if they dont then somebody has to pay.
The takeover by Hicks and Gillet was heralded as a new dawn for LFC by the same people who are calling the Yanks a disaster, I remember the TV reports and newspapers with excited LFC supporters saying how they could now compete on a level playing field with the likes of Man Utd and Chelsea, a new ground just around the corner (literally).
Mr Moores walked away with £85m, Parry with £4m and now Benitez with £6m, the Yanks putting zero of their own cash into the club, now £350m in debt, with Purslow and Broughton appointed by the RBS to sort out the mess.
You then have the misguided fools walking round Anfield Road protesting against Hicks and Gillet, when the ground is closed for the summer and the Yanks are thousands of miles away in the USA.
But, through all this I have this sinking feeling that they will come up smelling of roses, a knight in shining armour will appear from somewhere and rescue them.
Why do I say this ?
Well because 5 years ago, sitting watching the AC Milan v Liverpool game, 3-0 down at halftime,with RS supporters leaving the pub at half time calling for Benitez to be shot and me saying to my Blue brother,"Its not over yet, Ive seen all this before with these bastards" and being ridiculed by RS supporters, the same dickheads who believe the "One Night in Istanbul" to be a factual account !
Remember this is Liverpool, normal rules do not apply.
32 Posted 07/06/2010 at 12:06:42
Standing applause from me! Superbly accurate and almost as if your in my head!
Derek, same age - same views exactly!
Brilliant stuff - a Shakespearian Agincourt of a speech!
33 Posted 07/06/2010 at 12:49:21
I will not be truly happy until they are bankrupt. The day this happens will be a sad day. A sad day because of the millions of Evetonians who have lived and died but never had the pleasure to witness it.
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