Hearts full of hope
Most football supporters liver for small moments of glory. Perhaps a rare triumph over an old foe or the occasional bonus of a local kid who comes good and transforms the fortunes of their team. For some survival provides a perverse form of success, but for a vanishingly small number of us there is the prospect of something tangible; a trophy at the end of the season.
It used to be that winning your league was the only true barometer of success. “First is first, second is no where” said Mr Shankly, brutally honest as always. He was right of course, but now there is so much money on offer for second, third and even fourth; that what constitutes success keeps on getting redefined. We have now reached the point that even winning the once treasured FA Cup is a distant second to finishing as the fourth best team in the league.
At the end of a season a lucky few will get to drink in the joy of victory and marvel at the glamour of a cup-final or league winners parade. For the rest it’s case of licking wounds and dreams of next year. The cpacity of supporters to keep coming back year after year with little or nothing to show for it says everything about the eternal appeal of the game and it’s why the money men and women are able to exploit us so efficiently.
As a Liverpool supporter I have been blessed. The Reds have won 63 trophies in their history. In my lifetime they amassed 48 of them. When people accuse me of being a deluded Scouser, I just point out this fact. Why wouldn’t I believe that next year is going to be our year? Since the day I was born it usually has been. I’ve seen things many supporters will never see. If you are a neutral that’s nothing to celebrate because it speaks to a deeply uneven playing field in the sport. There are teams out there that literally have no chance of success because of the power of the few.
In the seventies and eighties there were teams that dominated. We were obviously one of them. However, our success was built on great management, buying the right players and coaching them into a cohesive fighting machine united in a common purpose. It was not about outspending your rivals and monopolising all of the talent so nobody else could get a look-in.
Back then there was always a chance that someone could break through and win the league. I remember us going toe to toe with Bobby Robson’s Ipswich one year. Supporters of other teams could dream of winning the league. Nottingham Forest won it under Clough. They also won the European Cup as did Aston Villa. This proved if you assembled a decent team and employed the right manager you had at least a shot at real glory.
However, there is one glorious moment in every football supporters life. A moment when the decks are clear and there is everything to play for. The start of a new season in England is magical. It is a time when it is okay to be deluded. until the first ball is kicked nobody has been vanquished and all can dream of being winners. The sins of last season have been absolved and old mistakes forgiven.
The foe may look mighty, but belief in miracles is never higher than at this time. Hope has yet to be beaten and chased from view. There are new players to worship and new villains to berate. Countless alcohol infused debates and unwise bets will be made. Children will wake early and make their way to train stations or coaches waiting to be transported to scenes of joy or despair. For many of us, whether the week ahead will be unbearable or a breeze will hinge on the fortunes of 22 men on the green grass of a football pitch. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
For the lucky few who have tickets this is our nirvana. Drenched in sunshine, we’ll walk among the badge sellers or take in the atmosphere around the ground. We’ll mingle together and share in the warmth that comes from being part of a tribe. Others will cram into pubs, the air filled with the smell of beer and chatter of dreams and aspirations, of belief and optimism. In English football there is no greater time to be a football supporter than at the beginning of a new season, when everyone can dare to dream. This, if nothing else, unites us all.
As Liverpool fans we have to wait another day. We don’t get to share in the Saturday rituals others will enjoy.Our season starts tomorrow. Thousands will make the journey to Stoke, the scene of our most recent humiliation. Despite this spirits will be high. Summer has healed the wound inflicted on that day. Reinforcements have arrived and there is a determination to set the record straight.
So as we prepare to do battle once more there can be no room for feint-hearts. The time for winging and sniping from the sidelines has passed. It will doubtless return as it always does at the first sign of failure, but for now it has no place among us. United Liverpool fans can achieve great things. When they hear our collective voice willing them on; our players can achieve miraculous things. This isn’t fantasy it is reality, as anyone who lived through Istanbul and the 2013-14 season can attest.
Whether you believe Brendan is the new Shankly or liken him to Hodgson you are surely united in the belief that if he succeeds we all succeed. Whether you would have sold the players he sold or not, they are gone. The new signings, whether inspired or not, deserve our utmost support the minute they cross that white line, because if they succeed – we all succeed. So we go again, under summer skies with dreams and songs to sing. Let’s write the next chapter with hearts full of hope.
This article by me was first published on http://www.thisisanfield.com