Liverpool and Man Utd. Catholics and Protestants. Israel and Pallastine. David and Goliath. Ken Barlow and Mike Baldwin.
Rivalries that have shaken the earth to its very core.
This blog is going to be about the first rivalry mentioned because unlike all the other ones, I constantly find myself on those trenches under heavy fire.
It all started for me when I looked like this:
Man Utd were not the team that they are today. I have earlier pics somewhere of the earlier jerseys from the mid 80s. (I actually got Alfie Hale to put SHARP on one of my early 80s jerseys to bring it up to date a little bit)…but anyway, the point is, they were a bit shit. Players like Remi Moses, Mal Donaghy and my all time favourite, Brian Mclair, were never going to set too many pulses racing. But like the Israelites and the Catholics, I was born into my belief system. Man Utd were my team and I had no choice in that, like my children will have no choice either (if they want to keep a roof over their head).
When I was in Primary and Secondary school I was one of the more well known Man Utd fans. There really wasn’t as many as there is today but I was known because I always wore a jacket or had a school bag or some kind of apparel that affiliated me with the team. People in other standards knew I was a Man U fan (by the way, reader, where you’re from do you call it standard? As in first and second standard? As opposed to first class, second class, etc – we did anyway) so I had a target on my back each time we lost.
Being a football fan as a child was often a traumatic experience. I took it personally every time the team lost, especially if it was a big match on Sunday or the dreaded Liverpool game. If we lost I would cry, and then hide. My “friends” from the Cork Road would knock on my door, just to laugh at me and possibly throw things at me. Then I would have a sleepless night because I knew I had to face the whole school the next day. I walked in with my over sized man utd jacket and my head held high and proceeded to soak up abuse like a sponge. Funny, whenever Man Utd won most people were nowhere to be seen and the only people I could laugh at were the other loyal supporters of other teams, usually Liverpool. We could take the abuse and we could give it. Generally, it was character building.
Nowadays though, when people are old enough to know better….when they are old enough to have more important things going on in their lives, it seems to have gotten worse. There are two people on facebook (neither of whom I am actually friends with, but I see them posting EVERYWHERE) that I hate. I despise them, a total detestation simply because of their hatred of Man Utd (and not their love of Liverpool).
Now, I don’t intend this to be a Liverpool bashing blog, but if that’s the way it turns out, then que sera sera. I have watched matches with Liverpool fans who will scream at the telly everytime their player falls over his own shoelaces, demanding a penalty, demanding a red card and demanding that a Man Utd player be sent off, and Alex Ferguson fined – And they’re not even playing Man Utd. These Liverpool fans feel that when they lose, it’s not their fault. The ref was corrupt. They dominated possession but the goal post was a Man Utd employee. Everyone else is to blame, but the one important thing to remember is that the team is a work in progress and they will win the league next year. When a Liverpool player does something wrong, like, I dunno, decapitate a fellow player on the pitch, it will somehow not be that player’s fault and the rest of the team will come out the next week with t-shirts supporting him. This is somewhat of an exaggeration but it is one of many reasons why a lot of people totally despise Liverpool and their fans.
There is however, another side to this. I know A LOT of Liverpool fans that are pure gents. They call it as they see it. They don’t have rose tinted glasses taped to their faces. They can give stick and take it in equal measures. They can admit when a goal they got should have been disallowed or when a player of theirs should have been sent down for manslaughter. You won’t see these people calling Liverpool players by their first name as if they knew them all their lives, and you also won’t see them wearing Liverpool jerseys during the Champions League final between Man Utd and Barcelona. They love Liverpool, but they also have their heads firmly screwed on. They know the score.
I like to think I’m this kind of Man Utd fan. I’ll shout at the screen when a Man Utd player dives. I’ll admit when a player should have got sent off or a goal should not have been given. But don’t expect me to go in for this bull shit that Man Utd are currently the most successful team in Britain because they pay off referees.
When Liverpool won EVERYTHING, they were hated and in fairness I too thought that they got all the decisions and must be paying the refs. But then again, I was only 6 years old.
“MAN UTD GOT MORE PENALTIES THAN ANY OTHER TEAM LAST YEAR!!” They shout at me. “YOU CAN’T ARGUE WITH THE FACTS – THEY’RE CORRUPT AS FUCK”. Right. You see the thing is they spent more time in the opposition’s box than your team, hence why they had the opportunity to get more penalties.
I dunno…it’s gotten very messy…the hatred fills people so quickly that they do things that otherwise would be completely alien to them. I see people fall out over the rivalry. Falling out because of what some millionaire pussies do on a soccer pitch, I’m sorry but that’s just sad.
Today marks Alex Ferguson’s 26th year as a Man Utd manager, and I think it also marks 26 years of me being a real Man Utd fan, because I just don’t remember the Ron Atkinson years, nor can I believe that they ever existed. So that’s why I’m writing this blog today. Liverpool have some of the best fans in the world. There really is no sight in football like the KOP in full flow and every other team in the world has to be envious of it. They also got one of the greatest nights in anyone’s football life when they came from 3-0 down to win the champions league. I’m particularly jealous of that one (although I’ll always have 1999 to make me feel better).
So let’s tone it down a notch. Let’s give credit where it’s due, and also abuse where it’s due. For example, Nani deserves everyone’s abuse, all of the time. The man has a statue of himself in his house for Christ’s sake. Suarez is a fantastic footballer, but he bit a man on the chest, come on, he’s a scumbag. Surely everyone sees that?
Anyway, supporters of every other team, and non football fans are sick of it by now, for the good of facebook, twitter and real life, let’s tone it down a notch. Let’s try and be friends 😉
p.s. This blog will start as a column in The News and Star next week. It’s okay, I’m as mystified as you are.