China Crisis and Wishful Thinking
Any week that starts with a frustrating draw in London, ends with an international weekend and has a nation’s unhealthy obsession with Jim White’s yellow tie sandwiched in the middle is bad enough. But, when you throw in calls, by some, for Klopp to be moved on, after less than a year in charge and just three games into a new season, you know you’ve reached a new low.
Nothing sums up the ‘zombification’ of football culture more than Sky’s attempts to turn transfer activity into bad pantomime. Desperate to fill hours of air-space, the Murdoch empire subjects us to bored and utterly pissed off journalists standing outside rain soaked training grounds clutching umbrellas and telling us to “expect the unexpected,” even when they know nothing is is actually happening; God forbid supporters of that particular club should turn over, or talk to their families instead.
Then we get the studio anchor pretending to receive calls from agents and practically climaxing when Roy O’Rovers signs for Skegness bleeding City on a free contract. It’s all fairly moronic stuff, epitomised by the sight of grown men and women clapping like seals, on cue, in the background while broadcast journalists report that some kid, who’s half decent at footy, just added a few million more to his bank balance, as if they’re announcing a Royal birth on the BBC.
What’s worse is the swings in mood it causes. No longer interested in whether their club is signing a player they actually need, supporters become gripped with the fear that they are being outspent by their rivals. Despite my moaning, even I have to admit that, at times, I become depressed about Liverpool’s ‘net spend’. What’s happening to me? I’m worried I’ve been bitten, and I might be starting to turn. If I do, remember, aim for the head.
Don’t get me wrong, I might be losing my love for the game, but it will always be hard to give up on Liverpool Football Club. Even after all the crap they’ve put me through in recent years, like selling the club to a couple of snake oil salesmen from the States, sacking Rafa, then Dalglish and finally appointing Roy Hodgson, my ardour is far from dulled.
I still adore this club, even though they recently dangled a league title before my eyes, only to snatch it away just as my hands were about to grasp it. I didn’t even ask for a divorce when they put Christian Purslow in charge of building a relationship with the supporters. Trouble is I’m not exactly sure what it is I’m in love with anymore.
Is it the new Main Stand? Surely bricks and mortar don’t win hearts and minds, or titles, do they? What about the Liver Bird upon the chest? That’s just a brand now, isn’t it? After all the club attempted to copyright it once, didn’t they? What about the players, or the manager? Well maybe, if only they stayed around long enough for me to build up a relationship with them. As demonstrated so vividly on telly this week, football has abandoned any notion of the one club player, and now worships at an altar made entirely of stepping stones. Football is a soulless and vacuous place these days.
Maybe it’s the supporters, the flags and the banners. Could it be the songs we sing? Is that now all that’s left of Liverpool Football Club? It might be, and let’s face that’s not bad. Problem is how long will all that be part of the club? I live in hope that a charismatic guy from Germany, called Jurgen Norbett Klopp, can recapture some of the magic cooked up by Shankly and The Kop in the 60’s, but even he may be powerless in the face of rampant commercialisation. Boss Tha’.
Of course, this week, we’ve also had talk of takeovers thrown into the cauldron. Pots of cash have been waved before the eyes of mesmerised supporters, desperate for glory and, above all, an increase in our net spend. Those yelling “FFS sake sign someone” into their keyboards on Wednesday, were given renewed hope as stories of a Chinese buy out refused to go away.
Reds are not alone. This is part of a wider football malaise. Even our neighbours, from across the park, are so sick of dining on crumbs, that they have welcomed with open arm an Iranian Billionaire, and live in hope that a Russian Oligarch will follow him. It hasn’t got off to a great start, and the new saviour’s excuse for a deadline day debacle reached comical proportions on Thursday. Not so much the ‘people’s club’ as the patsy club.
But who are we to point the finger? Are our supporters any different?
I don’t know what to make of it all anymore to be honest. I admit to being a little bi-polar or, as some might put it, hypocritical about the whole thing. On the one hand I couldn’t see me refusing to drink the town dry if we bought the league, after becoming the richest club on the planet, but the hangover might feel a bit more fierce. I’d probably be a bit excited if Jim White screamed, bug eyed, into camera one, that Liverpool had just completed the signing of Leo Messi; but surely that would make us no better than Chelsea, City and all the rest, wouldn’t it?
The club I have felt intrinsically linked to for so long, part of my culture, unique and special, would now be no more than a money laundering operation for a distant bureaucracy, with a questionable human rights record. Of course, when the alternative on offer is to be controlled by venture capitalists or oligarchs, it’s a sort of ‘Hobson’s choice’ for me. So I guess, when it comes to my club, it’s not so much a case of ‘China Crisis,’ but existential crisis.
Today I find myself longing for a day when the community that gave birth to the phenomena that is Liverpool F.C, and had has sustained it over more than a century, through the lean times and the days of glory, has a significant stake in the object of their affection. If only they could be seen as more than a means of keeping the enterprise afloat long enough to traffic it on to the next buyer, who just does the same thing again. Round and round it goes, where will it stop? If only I knew.
As talk of new investment, or even an outright takeover, gathers pace, I find myself less than enthralled. Maybe this is the new reality. Perhaps I’m living in the past. Actually I probably am, but the game feels like it’s losing its sparkle for me. Surely it doesn’t have to be this way, or is that just wishful thinking? It probably is.
This article by me was originally published on The Liverpool Way