Supporters guarantee Reds legends never walk alone
It’s a scene that has been played out many times during Liverpool’s illustrious history. A player enters the arena to a crescendo of applause and cheers. Two of his teammates rush to greet him. They embrace and You’ll never walk alone fills the air. The sights and sounds are so familiar. The passion is not dulled, but time has moved on.
These were not scenes from Rome or Wembley though. This was not a halcyon Anfield, built by Shankly in the 60s and decorated by Paisley in the 70s and 80s. This was instead the Devonshire Hotel, Liverpool and a ‘Scouse Tribute Night’ organised entirely by supporters of the club, in aid of their heroes.
That night Tommy Smith, Chris Lawler and Tommy Lawrence, men who had been the very foundations of the club we love today, embraced again and once more soaked up the admiration they so richly deserved. In other events Ian St John and Willie Stevenson have been similarly honoured.
Liverpool supporters have always prided themselves on the bond they have with their heroes. The days when fans and players got the bus home together after the game may have passed into history, but the sense of belonging to a “great society, where people all around you are loyal and passionate,” as Shanks put it, has never left us.
The Kop invented individual songs for these legends in their playing days and serenaded them before kick-off, one after the other. Now they have hung up their boots, the admiration and respect remains mutual.
Ian Golder, one of the organisers of the events, explains how the former players and legends felt when first approached, “they are so humbled to be recognised by the fans individually,” he said.”Willie Stevenson in particular was almost moved to tears, because he thought the fans had forgotten about him.”
As someone lucky enough to attend Stevo’s night, I can testify to the fact that it meant the world to him. In truth it’s the least the man deserves. This is a guy who helped us to our first FA Cup. Along with his teammates he lit up Anfield for so many years.
It’s fitting then that the atmosphere at these tribute nights can be as raucous and passionate as any game under the Anfield floodlights. In particular the event held in honour of Chris Lawler turned Liverpool Town Hall into the Kop for one night only.
Ian recalls the night that still gives him goosebumps. “We had this young lad, known as Irish Luke, who Peter Hooton of The Farm had brought along. He got up at the end and sang every verse of Liverbird Upon my Chest, a tribute to Shankly’s best. Everyone was clapping and stamping their feet.
Chris was then led down the red carpet to a waiting taxi as Mike Dean, of the Hat, Scarf and Badge store, started singing ‘There’s only one Chris Lawler.’ It went on for 15 minutes and a video of it went viral.”
Despite the grandeur of the venue, Ian says the event had a raw feel about it. This was no corporate affair. Instead it was a uniquely Scouse tribute, with supporters and players coming together as one.
“The idea was borne from the fact that we don’t believe the club help or look after these lads anywhere near enough. They are the very foundations. They are the Shankly boys,” said Ian.
This sense that more should be done to help ex players, many of whom are living with illness, led local historian, lifelong red and radio host, Frank Carlyle, to set up the tribute night concept. His aim was to honour the heroes, while at the same time helping out charities too.
To date, Cancer Research and the Alzheimer’s Society have benefited and next up is local charity “Save our Katie.” The charity hopes to raise funds to send a young girl, suffering from Leukaemia, to Seattle for vital treatment. The group will be hosting a fundraiser for Katie’s family on 3rd March and helping out will be a hero of the 1984 European Cup Final, Alan Kennedy.
Ian explains the next steps for the group, “after honouring the legends of the Shankly era we also plan to recognise the latter day greats. We have big plans for more nights in the future, so watch this space.
When Alan heard we wanted to do this for him, he was incredibly moved. He was also very keen to support young Katie too, so we’re really grateful to him for that.”
Many famous faces have rallied to the cause. Phil Carragher, father of Jamie, has donated some amazing memorabilia for auction. Others like Karen Gill, granddaugher of the great man himself, Bill Shankly, have voiced their support for the non-profit group and local musicians have given up their time to entertain those who attend.
From humble beginnings the ‘Scouse Tribute Night’ concept has gone from strength to strength. It is making an impact in the community, while at the same time honouring former legends as only Liverpool supporters can.
If past experience is anything to go by, Friday’s Alan Kennedy tribute promises to be another great night of music and stories. There’s also a meal and a chance to bid for some incredible memorabilia; as well as an opportunity to pay your respects to one of our truly great heroes of the 70s and 80s.
Tickets are £25 and a meal is included. So if you fancy getting along on Friday 3rd March, there are still a few places left. To get yours ring the Devonshire Hotel on 0151 264 6600 or Ian on 07572439064.