By Frank Gamble
Take a club, any football club. Breakdown and analyse their support and chances are that the highest percentage will be in the age group of 18-30 year old; those that regularly attend games anyway. A fair assumption?
Every game, they don their warpaint and armour or in most cases bobble hats and scarves
and make their way to their temple of choice to indulge in their ritual tribalism. Vociferously supporting their team, berating the opposition; treating the visiting fans with disdain and insults; some original, some banal then sharing a mutual loathing with them for the match officials. Then the following week, the hardcore of them will travel to watch their team play away and themselves become the butt end of their hosts acerbic wit and tongues but giving back as good as they get. Some will show originality with their battle hymns, others just change a few words here and there to suit their cause and follow like Lemmings over a cliff.
Now and again, just sometimes, a common cause or incident may unite the two warring factions and mutual respect breaks out, but it’s rare.
We all know what happened on April 15th 1989 at Hillsborough, now we also know how and why it did. Not that we hadn’t known; it’s just that too many people didn’t believe us or our version, which happened to be the truth. Is that an oxymoron? I do not know if it is, but it’s a very strange feeling to have been carrying around for twenty seven years if you are a Liverpudlian. What we do know is that anthem “Justice for the Ninety Six” has been sung at every Liverpool game since that dark day as the fight was carried on. Thankfully, we have reached that journey’s end and the biggest miscarriage of justice and cover up in British history and Law has been uncovered. Finally the families, loved ones and friends may now hopefully find closure, it is vital and necessary that they do.
The football world has been magnanimous with it’s praise for the “Liverpool family” since the verdict and rightly so. But what next? Where do we go from here? What’s the protocols and etiquette? Do you suddenly fold up the banners and stop singing the anthem now that the goal has been achieved? I don’t know the answer, only the match going public do, it will be their choice. It is a notion that first came into my head nearly four years ago when David Cameron apologised to the families of the 96 in Parliament. I think that was the day we knew the tide was turning our way. People now want accountability for the real culprits but that’s a word even the most original football song writer is going to find hard to scan into a popular tune.
I am not being flippant and disrespectful here, far from it. My thoughts are veering towards that age group I mentioned at the start because the Liverpool fans who fall into that category have been singing that anthem about an event that happened before most of them were born. Yet at every game, to their eternal credit, they sang about getting justice as loud as their voices would allow them. They carried the fight with a passion and resolve that shook the establishment and gave comfort to the deceased s families. They didn’t ask why or question. From the day they reached the age of reasoning they heard about Hillsborough from families, friends and people who were there. They understood the pain and suffering that had been endured and a lot of them had seen parents, who were in that age bracket on the day the tragedy unfolded, approach and reach middle age with the trauma it brought like a yolk around their necks. So they kept singing, “Justice for the Ninety Six” till they were listened to.
Their passion and energy were boundless. They were inspirational and comforting at the same time. No way were they going allow their fallen brothers and sisters be forgotten. The question kept coming into my mind: how will they channel this energy once the day comes when we get justice? Now we will find out.
Twelve months after that dreadful day, Liverpool won their eighteenth league title and they haven’t won it since. We’ve had a few near misses here and there and a cluster of cup wins doesn’t make up for the title of being the best team in the league. We need that nineteenth more than ever now if only to thank that band of support that has been steadfast for over a quarter of a century. During that time, we have lacked leadership and charisma with all due respect to Rafa’s Istanbul miracle and Kenny’s second coming. But now, there’s a new kid on the block and a sense of re awakening.
Jurgen Klopp was made for Liverpool and they were made for him.
Hopefully in another twelve months time we will be campaigning to get him to change his name to Moses because he will have led us to the promised land and number 19. The combination of his football savvy, animated emotion and tactile handling of his players has endeared him to the club’s support en masse and he has matched the passion and energy his youthful following have for LFC. They will be his Praetorian Guard as Liverpool open the next chapter of its illustrious history, marching on and conquering all before them like Shankly, Paisley, Fagan and Dalglish. He will be the new Caesar .
It would be a just and fitting reward to see our young support taste and feel what it means to be champions because no fans deserve it more. Believe me, its the best feeling in football and I have been fortunate to see 13 title winning sides but I still crave for number 14. I also have one of those Praetorian Guards living under my roof, he was born eight months after Hillsborough and I want it so much for him and his mates because they are the heart and soul of this club.
Last night, we reached our twelfth European final and at the final whistle, Herr Klopp displayed some moves on the pitch Shanks would never have dreamed of. This guy is so infectious, he has the crowd in raptures. I believe that this man will lead us to bigger and better times and new songs will be sung with the same passion and pride as the Justice anthem. Not that it will ever be forgotten, it never will. When his time passes, this current group will have grown older too, hopefully producing the next batch of little Praetorian Guards and the cycle continues.
I didn’t think we would win last night. I thought he got his tactics wrong in Spain. I thought that possibly, the raw emotion everyone has felt over the last week may have took its toll and it may have been one hurdle too many. Just like the Arsenal game in 1989. I was totally wrong and glad to be. It was all down to Jurgen Klopp and the way he inspired our team to play and he justifiably reached his second final in only seven months. New rituals are being introduced, particularly the welcoming of the team bus up Anfield Road before big games. When you look at the crowds there, it proves my point. You don’t see many over 30s in that scene.
There is momentum building up at Liverpool presently, the young legs are carrying it and long may it continue. Don’t worry kids; your time is coming, and rightfully so.