It is only three days before the collective descends again on Anfield for the start of a new season.
Thanks @MichaelTNevin for this post – give him a follow on Twitter!
Fenway Sports Group likes to market The World’s Greatest Football Family, referencing Liverpool’s tangible global appeal, but it is a tag which grates on many of the local hardcore of fans. “The Fam” – a sarcastic derisory abbreviation used on Merseyside – smacks too much of a laissez faire, out-of-town breed of new-age supporter.
The reality is somewhat different.
Yes, Liverpool – akin to Manchester United with a rich pedigree of domestic dominance, European heritage but also tragedy – attracts Premier League tourists by the plane load. On match-day, a significant percentage of capacity is filled by once-a-season visitors eager for a bag filled with souvenirs and Bill Shankly photo-bombing their reel of selfies.
The scarf might be raised to the strains of You’ll Never Walk Alone, but the voice remains mute. Such is the appeal of the Premier League that some of these customers might also turn up at Old Trafford or The Emirates bedecked in different home colours that same weekend.
In equal measure though, Anfield fills with thousands of perennial die-hards who don’t share that accent exceedingly rare. Whether attracted by the characters, trophies, triumphs or sadness of The Reds’ 20th Century heyday, or younger supporters drawn in forever by The Miracle of Istanbul, they all bleed the same Red blood.
I’m lucky to count many as friends and as a veteran of nearly forty Anfield seasons they can sometimes put me to shame. While I often watch from the pub or couch at home, my non-scouse mates will be there giving the Reds a shout for me. Some of the most passionate, committed, well-travelled Liverpool fans I know hail from Ireland, USA, Hungary and Norway. And latterly, joyously, Ukraine as well.
These are bona-fide Liverpool supporters. A great Norse friend of mine spent something approaching £18,000 travelling to watch the Reds in his final season before eventually settling in Liverpool for financial and cultural reasons. This particular “Scousewegian” takes great delight in calling me “lad” in a tongue not out of place in Bootle, Toxteth or Kirkby.
When I watched our away fixture at Manchester United last season in a Budapest bar, I might as well have been in a pub near Anfield. If anything the desire to win and later, the disappointment of defeat was more acute. The air was turned blue, the bias was outlandish and sorrows were well and truly drowned.
Like the English who dubiously commandeered and then settled in the green fields of The Emerald Isle and became more Irish than the Irish themselves, my overseas Liverpool mates have imbued themselves with that irreverent Liverpudlian mentality; a phenomenon which isn’t exclusively held by all of the locals. Nearer Anfield we joke about Scouse wools who “don’t get it”; those who bring their misery, angst and an appalling sense of style to stain an English ground which houses a unique continental fan culture.
The trip to Kyiv in May was affirmation that Liverpool has to exist as a global club, embracing and harnessing the sum of all its distant parts. It was so reminiscent of joyous pilgrimages to Dortmund (2001) and Istanbul (2005) when what seemed like the whole of Europe and beyond tuned up dressed in Red.
Liverpool’s fame; its reputation for revelry and song attracted thousands of locals onto the streets to join the party. For every bare chested Scouser singing Allez, Allez, Allez there was another hailing from Kyiv.
Ukrainian lads and girls, men and women became Reds overnight and many will doubtless tune in on Sunday hoping for three points just like us. Several I know will be over later this year to make their Anfield debut and they’ll get a royal welcome.
Once Liverpool gets you, you’ve had it. No matter where you come from. It’s not so much a football family as a welcoming, wild Red tribe.