This is a fixture that can cement a player or a manager’s reputation for better or worse. For a débutante there can be no better way to endear yourself to the supporters than to put one past the old enemy. For a manager there is no greater responsibility than ensuring your army of fans have bragging rights over their neighbours. Down the years there have been many men in red who have gone beyond moments of brilliance, and who have  embodied one of the fiercest rivalries in football. Here is my top 5 players, whose impact on the fixture transcends their time at the club.


Emlyn Hughes

Crazy Horse’s contribution to Derby folklore is not about scoring goals. He did manage to break their hearts on the pitch  a few times though. His brace in the ’73 game at Goodison will live long in the memory, with both goals coming in the last 10 minutes to secure a 0-2 victory. However, such an achievement pales in comparison with the six words uttered from the steps of St Georges Hall, that wound a whole generation of Everton fans up and still reverberate through the ages.

“Liverpool are magic, Everton are tragic.” My father-in-law, a bluenose, still moans about that today. Priceless. A lot of Blues had turned up to welcome the victorious Liverpool side home after their European exploits in ’77. Even Tommy Smith thought it was “out of order”. Maybe he’s right, but for me it sums up the spirit of the fixture, which is all about merciless banter. Neither side wastes many opportunities to rub the other’s nose in it whenever they can. Emlyn’s song, whether fair or not, is now part of the history of the fixture.


Ian Rush

Rushy is now famously fated in song, thanks to his exploits in the 5-0 trouncing Liverpool handed out to Everton in their own back yard. Rush tormented the Blues throughout his Anfield career. I’ll never forget the two extra-time goals he scored in the ’89 FA Cup Final, but there were so many more.

In all Ian Rush scored 25 goals against Everton in two spells totalling thirteen years. This surpassed their legendary striker, Dixie Dean, own record by six goals. In my lifetime I have never seen a more prolific striker in a red shirt and his record in the Merseyside Derby probably won’t be bettered before I hang up my boots for good.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 28, 2012: Liverpool's captain Steven Gerrard celebrates the third goal, but it was disallowed, against Everton during the 219th Merseyside Derby match at Goodison Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Steven Gerrard

In the modern game, no player has got under the skin of Everton fans more than Stevie. This is the reason they partied like it was their last day on earth after he was sent off in one Derby. If you know a truly bitter Blue, just mention his name and sit back and watch their eyes glaze over. Rejoice as their lip curls revealing fangs as the Gladwys St. zombie takes over. Who among us hasn’t laughed his or her arse off as a Bluenose recounts tales of gangsters and infidelity. I don’t know what’s worse; the rumours themselves, or the fact they think it bothers us in the slightest

Everton fans have penned whole stanzas devoted to ‘Stevie G’; possibly more than they have to Dixie Dean or Howard Kendall. They sing about him when they’re playing other teams – it is truly the bizarrest form of flattery. Never mind the fact that he sits at number four in a list of all-time Derby goalscorers; It is the fact that Everton fans descend into madness at the merest mention of his name, that puts him in my top five.

3 Apr 1999: Robbie Fowler of Liverpool is pulled away by team mate Steve McManaman after mimicking cocaine snorting to celebrate his first goal against Everton in the FA Carling Premiership match at Anfield in Liverpool, England. Liverpool won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Ross Kinnaird /Allsport

Robbie Fowler

It’s a real shame that Fowler’s career at Liverpool was cut short. I’m certain that he would have given Rush’ record a serious challenge, if he’d stayed at the club for the duration. Sadly it wasn’t to be. Still he manage six goals between 1992-2001, a very respectable return.

Again though Fowler will go down in Derby legend, not for his goal scoring heroics, but for his participation in the ferocious banter that exists in the city. As a self confessed Everton fan as a child, who joined the Reds and became a legend, it’s probably not surprising that he induces such bitterness with the Blues. Throughout his spell with Liverpool he was beset with ridiculous rumours about drug taking. Every second taxi driver would regale anyone who would listen with tales of cocaine parties and worse. Fleet St. must have been gutted they never got a photo.

Robbie’s response was utterly Scouse and completely wonderful. After bagging a brace in the Anfield Derby in 1999 he rammed the abuse right back down their throats to hilarious effect. The sight of Fowler racing towards the Blue contingent, before collapsing to the turf and pretending to snort the chalk line was hilarious. However, it was only half as funny as the apocalyptic reaction in the Anfield Road end. Nice one Robbie.

Seriously though kids, Just say NO!


Luis Suarez

Another player who invoked utter hatred amongst the ‘County Road Cutters’ was Luis Suarez. It was no wonder. In just three years at Liverpool he put four goals past Everton and reduced their defence to a shambles time and again. Some Everton fans were so sick of Suarez that in one game they threw money at him. Obviously they were offering to pay his air fair home. He had offended their delicate moral sensibilities so much, they even managed to forget the antics of ‘Psychopat’ and ‘Big Dunk’.

David Moyes made the age old mistake of trying to wind Luis up prior to the 2012 Derby at Goodison and the Uruguayan responded brilliantly. After netting the opener he raced towards the dug-out, arms crossed against his chest and dived theatrically in front of the Everton manager. It was a hilarious riposte to Moyes’ accusations that Suarez was a diver and the Scotsman didn’t look like he knew how to respond.

Okay I can’t leave it at five and I certainly can’t leave out the greatest hero of all. Here’s number six……


Bill Shankly

When Shankly took over at Liverpool he famously said that Anfield was the biggest toilet in the city. He had a huge task on his hands to transform Liverpool into a “bastion of invincibility”. Not least of his challenges was overtaking our nearest rivals. Shankly actually had a lot of respect for the Blues, but he felt that his Liverpool side had an inferiority complex when it came to their neighbours across the park. So he set about dismantling that and bursting blue bubbles.

He must be the most quoted man in football. These days the internet is flooded with fake memes that attribute non-existent quips to this player or that. The beautiful thing about Shanks though, is that all of his are real. The great man went on to achieve his aim and the Reds emerged from their rivals shadow and went on to eclipse them totally.  So on the eve of another Derby day encounter let’s celebrate a couple of absolute classics.

“There are two great teams on Merseyside. Liverpool and Liverpool Reserves.”

and the best of them all:

“If Everton were playing at the bottom of the garden, I’d draw the curtains.”

This article by me was published first on

Corbyn And The Newspeak Effect

Posted: October 3, 2015 in Family

Originally posted on Jeff Goulding:


Something odd happened to me today and it caused me to question my own free will and whether I was the victim of mind control. Anyone who has been reading my ramblings will know that I have been inspired by a new movement in British politics. For the first time in a quarter of a century I feel that I want to engage with politics and that there is hope that I can make a difference to the world around me. The architect of this political renaissance is of course Jeremy Corbyn.

So why the existential crisis? Well it all started around lunchtime when I checked my twitter feed. Actually I was only really interested in the Labour Party Conference and specifically the ongoing reaction to the leaders speech. I had also heard about Eamonn Holmes descent into madness earlier and wondered whether Fox News had made him a contract…

View original 949 more words


It may no longer be the ‘friendly Derby’, but for me it remains the biggest game in Liverpool’s calendar. Some may argue that the games against United have assumed greater significance over the years, but not me. Losing to the Mancs hurts, but I don’t bump into them at work and there are none in my family. Liverpool -Manchester is an inter-city rivalry, while Liverpool – Everton is a sibling rivalry and the stakes are much higher for it.

Blues who know their history will tell you that they were the dominant force in the early days of the fixture. However, in my lifetime it is the red half of the city who have held bragging rights over their neighbours. In the history of the fixture The Reds have now notched up 77 victories to Everton’s 60, with 66 games ending in stalemate. There have been some momentous tussles down the years, but which of them would you include in your top five? Here are mine in reverse order.


5. Everton 0 Liverpool 5: 6th November, 1982, Goodison Park.

This game has now immortalised in song by The Kop. Rush scored four and Lawrenson got the other in what was one of the most comprehensive Derby drubbings in my lifetime. Everton will claim the first half sending off of Glen Keeley gifted us the game, but who cares. The Reds tore Everton to shreds in front of a home crowd of 52,000 – not that there would have been that many in the ground at full-time.

One of the great joys of winning the Derby as a kid was going into school on the following Monday and I can’t remember ever being as eager to go in as I was after that game. This game will feature in any list of Derby day victories and is arguably our most celebrated.


4. Liverpool 3 Everton 1: FA Cup Final, 10th May, 1986, Wembley Stadium.

The Reds had already met Everton at Wembley in the League Cup Final back in ’84. It had ended 0-0 and Liverpool needed a Souness barn-stormer at Main Road to seal the victory. I remember there being a sense of anti-climax and disappointment that we couldn’t beat them at Wembley. Two years later and we were back for another festival of the Mersey.

It was a game some will remember for an on the field spat between Jim Beglin and Bruce Grobelaar. Lineacre had put The Blues one up just before the half hour mark and Liverpool laboured badly in the first half. Somehow it seemed that we regained our focus after defender and keeper had their ‘settler’ in the penalty area. Rush levelled on 57 minutes and Craig Johnston put us ahead 6 minutes later. With game delicately poised Grobelaar pulled of a stunning save to deny Sharp an equalizer before Rushy put the game to bed in the 84th minute. The double was sealed and Dalglish showed he was as adept as a manager as he was a player.

IHN LIVERPOOL V EVERTON 25/03/06. Liverpool's Gerrard is sent off during the game against Everton. Picture by IAN HODGSON

IHN LIVERPOOL V EVERTON 25/03/06. Liverpool’s Gerrard is sent off during the game against Everton. Picture by IAN HODGSON

3. Liverpool 3 Everton 1: 25th March, 2006, Anfield.

Liverpool fans were still basking in the Istanbul afterglow when Everton visited Anfield in the Spring of 2006. That game taught us nothing was impossible, but when Gerrard received a second yellow in the 18th minute it felt like we were going to struggle. It was the type of headless chicken start from the skipper we had seen in his youth and Benitez would later take him to task for it.

I was in the Anfield Road end for this game, having scored a last minute ticket. The Everton fans were celebrating like they had just won the league as Stevie trudged off the pitch. They would fall eerily silent on the stroke of half-time though. Phil Neville failed to deal with a Liverpool corner and headed into his own net meaning the ten men would go into the break on top.

None of us thought it would stay that way and as the players emerged from the tunnel I fully expected a backs to the wall performance second-half. I needn’t have worried. Just two minutes after the restart Garcia pulled off a delightful chip over the hapless Richard Wright, before pulling away to celebrate with his thumb stuck firmly in his mouth. The sight of our players jumping on him in front of a delirious Kop is an image that will stay with me forever.

Cahill would make us nervous until a Harry Kewell stunner sealed the points. “We’ve only got 10 men” sang The Kop and the Everton fans waited for the ground to swallow them whole.


2. Everton 2 Liverpool 3: 16th April 2001, Goodison Park.

This was a momentous season for Liverpool. After the drought that was the nineties, Gerrard Houllier delivered 3 major trophies in one year and capped it off with a place in the Champions League. As if that wasn’t enough he also presided over an absolute classic Derby at the home of our old enemy.

This was a roller coaster of a game, full of needle from the first whistle. Liverpool came out the blocks quickly and Emile Heskey had us one up after 5 minutes. The Blues wouldn’t lie down though and Liverpool would have to sweat for the victory. Ferguson cemented his place as a Blue’s legend with a leveller on 42 minutes (the equivalent of a trophy on County Road) ensuring a tense half-time.

Liverpool needed a win as the race for a Champions League places hotted up. A draw wasn’t going to cut it. Relief would sweep through the away end on 58 minutes as Markus Babbel put the Red Men back in front. The game looked won as we were heading into the last ten minutes. Then Igor Biscan saw red and five minutes later the referee gifted Everton a penalty, which Unsworth slotted past Westerweld. It was a disaster and the sense of injustice was palpable.

Obviously this game will be synonymous with the name McAllister, but just as Everton were levelling Houllier made a substitution that would prove crucial to the outcome. Off went Robbie Fowler and on came a young Frenchman called Gregory Vignal. It would be his run late in the game that would draw the foul that ultimately led to that incredible free-kick. McAllister broke Everton hearts at the death and sent the away end and the Liverpool bench wild as he hit an absolute pearler. It was possibly the most satisfying three points ever secured at Goodison Park.


Liverpool 3 Everton 2: FA Cup Final, 20th May, 1989, Wembley Stadium.

This game will always be the greatest Derby of all time for me. It’s great that we won it of course, but it meant more than that to Liverpool as a city. After a truly horrific year for everyone connected with Liverpool, it seemed only right and proper that the two Mersey giants were contesting the FA Cup final.

Merseyside boasted two of the best teams in the country for most of the 80’s and the League title would reside mostly at Anfield and twice at Goodison Park. It was a decade that would also see us contest three cup finals and this would be the last.

Hear bursting and mind racing, John Aldridge flew out of the traps and put the Reds in front on just four minutes. Briefly Reds entertained thoughts that it could be an easy ride. Not so. Everton made it a tough game and as it wore on the emotion of the occasion and the inevitable fatigue of a long painful season got to both sides. Still The Blues managed to summon enough energy in the final seconds to hit a brilliant equalizer, stunning the travelling Liverpool fans. There was bedlam amongst the blues and extra-time beckoned.

Rush restored the lead on 94 minutes, but McCall once again scored a cracker to level. The drama was hard to bear – could it go to penalties? No. Rush would immediately respond with a deft header to grab Liverpool’s third nd clinch the cup for Liverpool in the 103rd minute. Both teams had delivered a cup-final to be proud of and once more the city of Liverpool gave the world a lesson in passion, sportsmanship and brotherhood.

This article by me was originally published on


Something odd happened to me today and it caused me to question my own free will and whether I was the victim of mind control. Anyone who has been reading my ramblings will know that I have been inspired by a new movement in British politics. For the first time in a quarter of a century I feel that I want to engage with politics and that there is hope that I can make a difference to the world around me. The architect of this political renaissance is of course Jeremy Corbyn.

So why the existential crisis? Well it all started around lunchtime when I checked my twitter feed. Actually I was only really interested in the Labour Party Conference and specifically the ongoing reaction to the leaders speech. I had also heard about Eamonn Holmes descent into madness earlier and wondered whether Fox News had made him a contract offer yet.

What I saw was the emergence of a new ‘Corbyn controversy’ and this time the attacks had gone nuclear. There has been so much abuse aimed at the new leader that I am almost exhausted by it. For the most part the media induced hysteria is so absurd I simply brush it aside. Corbyn himself did an excellent job of mocking the “commentariat” in his Brighton speech. Still the cumulative effect can be soul-sapping.

Having said all of that, I had happily concluded that Holmes was just one of the many media hornets Jeremy had stirred up, and judged his lame attempts to bully and harangue Corbyn live on-air as childish. However, I found it harder to laugh off the incendiary effect of Corbyn’s comments on Trident and pushing the button.

His refusal to countenance ever using weapons of mass destruction filled me with dread. Not because I disagreed with him, but because I could see that this would open up a new line of attack for the right wing media. After a tremendously inspiring speech I wondered whether Jeremy had just handed his enemies a whole new arsenal of insults with which to attack him?

I need to be clear here. I am fundamentally opposed to nuclear weapons. I believe firmly that we shouldn’t renew Trident. Actually I would rather not vote for someone who could ever openly contemplate genocide and the destruction of the planet. Yet here I was, having an almost allergic reaction to a man who was espousing the very values I believe in? What the hell is wrong with me?


Actually there’s nothing wrong with me. I am just another victim of the strange ‘bizzaro world’ politics that has held sway for so long. Instead of revelling in the fact that for the first time in my lifetime a leading politician had opened up a national debate on Britain’s nuclear ‘deterrent’; I was gripped with fear about the electoral damage his position might cause. I had briefly fallen into the same trap that has snared the Labour Party for decades, that is thinking you shouldn’t speak your mind in case your opponents or the media attack you.

George Orwell, in his classic novel 1984, describes a dystopian world in which people are controlled by ‘Newspeak’. This is a fictional language used by an all seeing dictator, ‘Big Brother’, to mould and control how the population think and prevent them entertaining ideas about freedom and peace. In Orwell’s nightmare people who fail to conform are found guilty of thought crimes. The regime even controls which words the public are exposed to, with undesirable concepts removed from the vocabulary.

We may not live in such a terrifying future, but it would appear that the media have declared certain ideas and philosophies are in violation of their own version of ‘Newspeak’. Jeremy Corbyn, it would seem is guilty of thought crimes. His views, though well thought out and consistently held for decades have been declared off-limits – unelectable. As such, according to our establishment ‘Big Brother’, these thoughts cannot be openly discussed. This, in my view, exposes all that is wrong with the climate in which politics operates today.

This is a toxic atmosphere and the establishments position is deeply hypocritical. They espouse the ideals of democracy and free speech, while ferociously attacking those who offer a different perspective to their own. What follows is not a rational discussion. Instead ideas are either suppressed or there are attempts to manipulate us into thinking their proponents are crazy.

Surely it is perfectly appropriate and actually refreshing to hear politicians, even of the same party, disagreeing. This is what democracy is. It should be cherished not ridiculed. The current furore, and all the others before it, bring into question the whole process by which the parties develop policies and ideas and how the media hold sway over them.

Do we really want to carry on with the same sterile, focus group, top down think tank approach to policy? I don’t. I want to see our leaders openly debating their ideas and values and involving us in the discussion. I don’t trust people who tell me what they think I want to hear. Instead I want to know what really motivates them and guides their thinking.

If we continue with a status-quo where our representatives have no room to think, save for a very narrow set of pre approved policies and ideas, then how will we ever advance our society? How will we learn from the vast wealth of talent and creativity that exists in the wider population? There should be no bad ideas except those that are not expressed openly and debated. Only through this discourse will we arrive at policies that have the potential to change the world. If we keep doing what we have done for generations we will keep getting the same results.

So, after chastising myself for succumbing to the power of ‘Newspeak’,  I applaud Corbyn’s bravery in daring to say what, according to ‘Newspeak’, isn’t fashionable. I thank him for being honest and for attempting to start a debate in society that so many have shied away from. An idea, once liberated is a powerful thing and we should resist all attempts to stifle it.

Let’s continue to discuss and debate the kind of world we want to live in. We won’t always agree, but in the process of debate we have the chance to unlock new solutions and ways of thinking. This is a new kind of politics. It’s scary for some and even for me it sometimes feels uncomfortable, but it’s no less powerful for it. We should embrace it.


I’ll remember where I was when I heard John McDonnell deliver his first speech as Shadow Chancellor to the Labour Party Conference. It was one of those moments in time when you sense things are never going to be the same again. He had promised to be “boring”, more like a bank manager than the left-wing firebrand he obviously is. It had the feel of a lecture from your favourite school teacher. It was warm, sincere and compassionate, but for all its calmness there was no hiding the seismic nature of every word he uttered.

The Tory Party and their supporters in the press don’t know what to do with Labour’s new front bench team. After failing miserably with their predictable but cynical smear campaign, they seem to be in complete disarray. McDonnell had been labelled an insurrectionist prior to taking centre stage in Brighton. When he sat down those same hacks were busy labelling him a sell-out. So bamboozled are his opponents that they continually flip-flop between condemning his “outrageous” radicalism and sneering at the “lack of any radical detail” in his speech.

It’s no surprise to me that the fourth estate are struggling to deal with this new movement. After all they have been fed a steady diet of sound-bite politics, spin and triangulation for over a quarter of a century. I actually read a tweet from a journalist recently, who had bemoaned the lack of a ‘spin doctor’ to explain Corbyn’s speech to the Trades Union Congress. Here’s a thought, why not just listen to him like the rest of us.

We now live in a world where the idea that statements and facts have to be reinterpreted for us in order to make them more palatable to to some imagined electoral norm. It’s no wonder to me that interviewers are continually wrong footed when trying to deliver the all important ‘Gotcha!’ question. However, it is a little depressing that Corbyn and McDonnell are seen as ground-breaking because they actually answer the question; a fact that says more about the nature of politics and the media, than it does about them.

The strap-line for the campaign that has shook the political establishment and transformed Labour was “Straight talking, honest politics”. That’s exactly what McDonnell delivered today. It was at times deeply moving, but throughout it signalled a truly radical shift in British politics. I’ve heard it said that people won’t vote for anything other than a centrist liberal offering. I fundamentally disagree with this. I believe people respond to a clear vision and to conviction, and McDonell’s speech was full of both.

The detail will come. Labour have appointed a panel of internationally renowned economists to help draft their economic strategy. They will oversee the development of a plan that will offer a robust alternative to austerity. I look forward with genuine excitement to arguing for those policies in 2020, but what I was looking for was some idea of the principles that will guide the whole process. This is where McDonnell delivered in spades.

“To the Tories austerity is just a word, a political choice,” he said. He then passionately pointed out that it was much more than that to the homeless, the working poor and those pushed into poverty by it. There were promises to end the mistreatment of disabled people, to build secure homes for the 100,000 children living in homeless families and to end workplace discrimination.

For me this speech was the most radical in my lifetime. It was a line in the sand and the electorate can be in no doubt they have a choice at the next election. Gone is the so called ‘neo-liberal consensus’. In truth Cameron and Osbourne tore that up the moment they won the election anyway. Labour’s challenge was merely choosing whether to march even further to the right, or to stand up for the principles that founded the party. Thankfully and magnificently they have chosen to do the latter.

Make no mistake, this Labour Party is seeking to transform society, the economy and the structures of government. Workplace democracy is now on the agenda with commitments to more cooperative forms of ownership and worker control of businesses. We will see greater wealth redistribution and an end to ‘corporate welfare’. McDonnell will “aggressively” bring down the deficit, not on the backs of middle and low income families or the poor, but by forcing the rich and the corporations to pay their taxes.

The Tories have used the economic crisis to roll back the state and in doing so they have left hundreds of thousands of people isolated and vulnerable. It is an ideologically driven agenda and the financial crisis is just their cover-story. Anyone who wants to see a genuine alternative now has an opportunity to see it realised. At the next election there is a real choice at last.

I’ll end this piece with the words that brought a tear to my eye today. They were spoken with genuine sincerity and passion. I believe they embody the ideals that led me to Socialism as a young man and they are why I have come home to Labour today..

“As Socialists we will display our competence with our compassion.

Idealists yes but ours is a pragmatic idealism to get things done, to transform our society.

We remain inspired by the belief and hope that another world is possible.

This is our opportunity to prove it.

Let’s seize it. Solidarity.”

                                                                          John McDonnell, 28th Sept, 2015.


Going to the game with a hangover is never a good idea, but given our current form it borders on the masochistic. It’s even worse when you ignore your Liver’s pleas for mercy and agree to meet in a pub for a pre match beer. ‘Get a pint down you quick and you’ll be sound.’ That’s probably not the best medical advice I’ve ever received, but as it happened it worked.

I had decided to walk, hoping the fresh air would clear my throbbing head. That idea didn’t really work and by the time I reached the pub, I am told I was a weird shade of grey and had a serious case of the beer sweats. This wasn’t a good start. The perfect metaphor for our season. The mood was flat and it seemed few could see Liverpool managing to get much from the game.

The smattering of Villa fans dotted around the ‘Flat Iron’ seemed happy enough. Why shouldn’t they be? After all Anfield has been a happy hunting ground for them of late. Yes we’d robbed them of their main threat, signing Benteke in the summer, but this is a Liverpool side that only strikes fear into….well Liverpool fans. They must have fancied three points and who could blame them.

On the telly Spurs and City were busy proving what a crazy season this was already proving to be. It was a point that Chelsea would reinforce at St James’ Park later in the day. This is surely the only crumb of comfort in a start that has sent most of us crashing into the depths of depression. Any team that can put together a decent run of results could find themselves, no matter how undeserved, sitting at the summit. Yet still none of those crowded into that alehouse at 2pm could see Liverpool actually managing that.

There is an air of fatalism surrounding the club at the moment. Few of us could see Rodgers surviving until Christmas and even after the game the feeling persists. I played “he’s lost the plot” and “we don’t look like we’ve got a clue” bingo as I supped my pint and prayed for the waves of nausea to subside. At least my headache was subsiding. Then a small group of Villa fans decided to ramp up the cringe-ometer.

As someone who is hurtling towards fifty at an uncomfortable rate, I am constantly bemused and annoyed by modern football. I am probably no different to my Dad, who would always delight in telling me, every time I listened to the ‘Top 40’, that “it’s not music – it’s just noise!” Good one Dad. However, even if I admit that I am becoming a grumpy old man, there can surely be no justification for running through a pub with an inflatable palm tree, singing “he’s got a palm tree on his head.” to the tune of “he’s got the whole world in his hands.”

I would have rolled my eyes skyward in the old days, filled with a sense of superiority and certainty that we would never indulge in such nonsense. Then it occurred to me that, although I am yet to see a palm tree at Anfield, it’s probably only a matter of time. Liverpool as a club are on the brink of becoming ordinary. There is evidence all around, from the ambitions of the boardroom to the chants of ‘who are ya?’ and the boos on The Kop. We are slowly losing any right to look down our noses at other clubs and their fans. All may not be lost yet, but it’s a depressing trend.

It was approaching match-time so we downed our pints and followed the palm tree and it’s band of merry ‘Villans’ into the September sun. We separated outside The Kop and agreed to meet up again afterwards for a couple, regardless of the score.

As I took my seat I was buoyed by news that Sturridge and Ings would start up-front. At least I hoped that would be the case and Ings wouldn’t be pushed wide, leaving Sturridge isolated. There was more talk about must-wins and ‘he’ll be gone if we lose this’ and then the game got under way.


When you’re completely bereft of confidence the last thing you need is a tense nervy start, in which the opposition can build patiently and put you under pressure. Fortunately for us James Milner had decided we wouldn’t be having any of that. I’d barely sat down and the ball was nestling in the bottom corner of the Anfield Road goal. “Did you see who got it?” “Milner – Get in!” It was exactly what we needed and hopefully we would build on it. Villa are poor and should have been the perfect ‘sacrificial lambs’. If only.

Liverpool looked better and were clearly benefiting from two up top. Milner and Lucas were also having a good game, but it was at the back where things were still not right. The back three doesn’t seem to be working and it’s even harder to understand why Can should be anywhere near it. He struggled all game in that position and you just can’t help but feel his obvious talent is being wasted there.

Of course we couldn’t get through the half without a trademark goalmouth flap from Mignolet. Just before half-time he elected to punch an Alan Hutton cross rather than save. As usual it was followed by some defensive chaos,  but fortunately Westwood shot wide when he looked certain to score. It drew anger and frustration from The Kop, but fortunately no boos. The crowd had been in good form first half and it was a welcome reprieve from the bad tempered atmosphere of mid-week.

Half-time came and it was a case of so-far-so-good. Villa were appalling. They looked clueless and completely lacking in ambition. Yet they had still managed to fashion a couple of chances. We needed a second and early on, if we were going to avoid more frustration.

As the second-half got under way the signs were good. Milner was at it again and drew a decent save from Guzan with the half barely ten minutes old. Then Coutinho followed up with a free kick that was a bit too easy for the keeper. The noise level was good and I sensed a breakthrough was coming. Then Sturridge spectacularly obliged. He played a great one-two with Milner and dispatched a superb volley into the far corner. The Kop erupted and, as the pandemonium died down, I saw him doing his dance with a big beaming smile on his face. My seat under the scoreboard gives me a view of the hospitality lounges in the Centenary Stands. Clearly Daniel’s family were in one of them and jubilant celebrations broke out, which the player acknowledged from the pitch.


He had clearly needed that and he will have enjoyed hearing The Kop sing his name once again. It’s been a rough ride for the forward, but he proved exactly what we had been missing with that finish. I admit my immediate thought was get him off. Sturridge is now so crucial to our season, any injury would spell disaster. Fortunately Rodgers had other ideas. Luckily the striker would see out most of the game, because Liverpool’s defence would ensure that we need his heroics once again.

At two-nil the game should have been over. Villa had offered little and surely they had a mountain to climb now. From that point on the best they could have hoped for should have been damage limitation. A better side would have destroyed them; they were that bad. This is Liverpool though and as recoveries go this is a very fragile one.

This was a point Villa would hammer home on 66 minutes. To be fair The Red’s defence can claim the assist. Alan Hutton easily beat his man down the right and crossed for Gestede to score as the back three appeared to say “after you sir”. I have no idea why Mamadou Sakho punched the floor repeatedly, but his obvious anger was mirrored in the stands. This is the Liverpool we have come to know and loathe; self destructive and calamitous.

The difference yesterday though was Sturridge. Villa fans had no sooner finished celebrating when he popped up again to restore our two goal cushion. Another delightful one-two, this time with Phillipe Coutinho. El Magico delivered a delightful back-heel into his team-mate’s path and the striker dutifully dispatched it low into the far corner. Cue more scenes of delirium, only this time as they settled down it wasn’t a jubilant Sturridge that caught my eye.


To my right and in the Centenary Stand I notice a fan in a Henderson shirt holding up a sign. It was a home made job and wrapped in a plastic sleeve. This ‘supporter’ had obviously waited for his moment and confident he stood a chance of getting on the telly, with the cameras on the celebrating Red’s players he held his ‘work of art aloft’. I could clearly see that he had printed “Suarez made you Brendan – #RodgersOut”. It astounds me that any Liverpool fan would smuggle something so embarrassing into the ground, let alone hold it up when we have just scored. At that moment I was growing genuinely nostalgic for the inflatable palm tree.

The Kop burst into a rendition of ‘poetry in motion’ and for a brief moment I was transported back to happier times. It was to prove very short lived. Just four minutes later Amavi delivered an inch perfect cross into The Reds box and once again completely unchallenged Gestede planted the ball in the back of the net. 3-2 and a nervy finale beckoned. Villa, a team completely lacking in ambition had somehow managed two score twice at Anfield. My hangover was beginning to resurface and I was looking at another weekend of avoiding the papers.

Liverpool didn’t retreat though and to be fair they kept pushing forward. Sturridge repeatedly squandered chances for his hat-trick. He was clearly tiring and you could see he wouldn’t finish the game. There was more frustration as Coutinho’s brilliant free-kick was saved by Guzan, but Liverpool held on for the three points. As the whistle went a loud roar of approval went up, as much in relief as anything else.

For Brendan this represented temporary shelter from the storm. However, a better team would have beaten Liverpool yesterday. If this is to become a permanent reprieve for the boss, he will need to keep Sturridge fit and plug the holes in our defence. Mind you a prolific striker and a leaky back-line – wasn’t that the ‘hair of the dog’ that bit us in 2013-14.


With the Reds struggling for form and function and Brendan apparently one or two games from the sack, Liverpool once again find themselves fodder for the rumour mill. The Club’s failure to effectively compete once again has led to more ownership talk. Of course we’ve been here before. It is rapidly becoming the new norm and yet again ‘the most storied franchise in sporting history’ is gripped will tales of takeovers and big business machinations.

Tony Evans, once of The Times, got the ball rolling with claims that Fenway Sports Group want out. “It’s all about monetizing the brand now” he suggests. To be fair he’s not wrong – but then hasn’t it always been about that Tony? Does anyone really believe that John and Linda are former Kop season ticket holders (I see Tom Werner more as a Main Stander) and that they bought the Club so they could get to pose with the European Cup? They came to win, or so they said. I think they did. Trouble is that for them and us ‘winning’ means two totally different things.

Less credible sources claim that The Reds hierarchy are in advanced talks with the Dubai Royal family. You may remember that the unfortunately named DIC, led by Al Maktoum, were jilted at the altar by the Moores clan. This in turn led to Liverpool getting into bed with probably the worst rebound guys ever. Now FSG’s is said to be $700 million, despite Forbes valuing Liverpool at $1 billion – bargain!

Apparently the Boston billionaires are frustrated at the dilution of ‘financial fair play’, and the loss of the level playing field has left them wondering if it was all a big mistake after all. Who knows if any of this is true. Many Reds will hope it is. After all the last twenty five years ave been tough to bear for most of us. Who’d have thought back in 1990 that City and Chelsea would be any where near winning the League. To be fair even United were a bit of a joke back then.

Liverpool fans have sat by and watched teams we used to regard as fodder flex financial muscles we can only dream of. Successive ownerships have had a go over the years, but their net spends reveal their true ambitions, or perhaps more accurately their real spending power. In this ‘new reality’ our only hope seems to be praying that some oil rich oligarch will come to our rescue (or more accurately to liberate us of the TV money). I don’t subscribe to this.

It might be great to watch footy at the Etihad now. City fans probably can’t believe their luck (Of course I’m talking about the ones who were supporters prior to the Mansour dynasty). While I can’t really blame them, it all seems so fake and manufactured to me. I may well exercise my right to be a complete hypocrite if, following a Dubai takeover, we buy Messi and Ronaldo before going on to dominate football for a generation. But it would still be a hollow route to success in my view.


So what’s the alternative? Is there a local messiah waiting in the wings ready to take us to the promised land? Imagine if there was red-nosed Scouser, once of the mean streets who who has now made good. What if he wanted to put us back on our perch. Would that be better? Well, possibly, but to be fair it’s highly unlikely. The days when a rich local fan could carry the hopes and dreams of supporters into the boardroom ended when David Moores sent a tear stained letter to the papers. There’s no oil in the Mersey and Curtis Warren isn’t that rich. Ask any Everton fan and they’ll tell you that having a Scouse millionaire in charge isn’t the answer.

There is bound to be more takeover tales as the season winds on. The owners have admitted they would consider outright investment – could that include a buy-out? There will be many among us who see that as a way out. I think Liverpool fans should be careful what they wish for though. Our fingers should be still stinging from the last time they got burned by a rich sugar daddy. Surely there has to be a third way. Football is the people’s game. A handful of those people might be super-rich, but they shouldn’t be able to buy up the games assets from under the noses of the overwhelming majority.

For most of us the game is a labour of love. We pour money we can scarcely afford into it every week. We put all of our hopes and dreams into it. At Liverpool the game is an inspiration for the artists who craft magnificently witty banners or pen brilliant songs, only for the club to usurp their talent and turn it into logos on t-shirts or coffee mugs before selling them back to us.

Football Clubs haven’t so much been wrestled from the people who built them and sustained them for decades. Instead they have been given up lightly by a public who can see no alternative and feel powerless to stop it happening. The new TV deals threaten to put even more clear-blue-sky between us and the objects of our affection. The grass-roots can and should be in revolt if we are to have any kind of say in how the game is run.


In Liverpool we have seen the emergence of Spirit of Shankly, AFC Liverpool and now attempts to establish a City of Liverpool Football Club. These are all signs of a fan-base that feels increasingly disenfranchised and looking for alternatives. Local fan run clubs are unlikely to challenge the Premier League’s dominance in the short-term, but if the big clubs don’t see the writing on the wall they risk alienating those who they see as customers. They should also note that empty stadia do little to encourage sponsors to shell out their ill-gotten-gains.

Football supporters need to engage more. Our elected representatives should be in no doubt that we can and should have a say in how our clubs are run. If fan ownership is a distant dream, then genuine supporter participation at board level needn’t be. There should be no decisions made about the future of our clubs without us. Football belongs to the whole community. It is the supporter who gives the game it’s life-blood. It’s time to reverse a trend, in which our teams have become mere commodities that are bought and then sold as soon as the financial winds look less favourable. As someone once suggested, they are much more important than that.

This article by me was first published on