Talkin’ Bout My Generation: Did It Used To Be Easier To Be A Football Fan?
By Gareth Roberts
YOU have to be a bit careful with nostalgia.
For all the good things, which the psychologists say we are naturally programmed and predisposed to remember – the bad things can be forgotten. Who wants to remember negatives?
And if we push all those aside, it’s easy to see where the “ah, the good old days” phenomenon comes from.
I love football nostalgia though. Always have. Clips of commentaries that bring back flashes of life way back when. Goals that spark a smile. Kits that you can almost smell.
“Corner taken quickly, Origi!”
Bet you’re smiling now, aren’t you? See? I love that those words couldn’t have come from the mouth of a nicer fella, too.
It’s not just life I’ve lived either. I’ll take the Bill Shankly content all day, thank you very much, yet I wasn’t born the day he resigned in 1974: “You’re having us on!”
And interviewing the late great “Sir” Roger Hunt was one of my very favourite one-on-ones ever. A lovely man but there was a bit of fire in there, too. Again, I didn’t see him play. But he’s a huge part of the story of our club.
So, to the point. Those moments we lived. Those special times we experienced. They are, in the grand scheme of things, rare. Even at a club as big and successful as ours (don’t get me wrong, they are even rarer elsewhere…you don’t need to look very far).
But it’s why we live the life of a football supporter. Hoping for them. Praying for them. Believing this is a start of another one. Time was at Liverpool that they were too far in the past. History FC. We were, I remember one report saying along the lines of, the old woman still dolling herself up for one more night on the Grafton club dance floor when her glory days had long since passed.
Then we did it all over again.
But what about the everyday stuff? The day to day of devoting large parts of life to supporting a club. Is that better now, or was it better then?
Everyone’s then is of course different. My then, as a quick-fire flavour, is a standing Kop. It’s the Pink Echo, golden goal, Shoot magazine, Match and League Ladders. It’s Emyln Hughes’ International Soccer, three-and-in, headers and volleys and “Spot”.
It’s an Adidas Tango, a Trophy Five, Umbro kits, Panini sticker albums and local radio commentaries. It’s ‘Kenny Quits’ on the front of The Liverpool Echo, it’s a multi-coloured, single-tiered Anfield Road end with “Wonderfuel Gas” at the top of it. It’s fellas pissing through an Echo on The Kop, it’s scallies asking you the time to check where you’re from.
I could go on. Don’t worry, I won’t. You get the picture.
But then, football was a treat. I aspired to go the match. Dreamed of it. Longed for it. For a long time I didn’t get my way. Even football on the telly then was a rarity.
Yes, there was Saint & Greavsie, Match of The Day, The Big Match and later Standing Room Only (I pitched bringing that back to life…never did hear back). But it was nearer to famine than feast. The less is more argument re football is often made. Did that make it feel more special? When we didn’t take it for granted? Or is it just the curmudgeonly outlook of a man approaching his fifth decade on this rock?
Answers on a postcard…shit, even that dates me, doesn’t it.
In all seriousness, it’s gone too far. We’re now overloaded. “Oh, another live match.”
If you pay for all the necessary subscriptions, or you tap into the many, ahem, alternative methods, you can watch the beautiful game every night of the week near enough. On your couch. In the living room. On a laptop. On a phone.
It’s a long way from the hunter gatherer legging animals for a meal, isn’t it? So may I suggest it’s not good for us somewhere deep inside?
I left the confines of my living room the other night to watch non-league Marine batter FC United of Manchester 5-1 with my son. I was one of nearly 1,600 people to do so. And I spotted something saying they had sold 500 season tickets already for this campaign. That’s a long way from the crowds they used to get in the not-too-distant past. It’s essentially Division Seven football. So is something happening? Do people want less of the digital life and more of the real one? I’d recommend it either way. It feels good for the soul.
What else? Well something somewhere frowns and twitches about people making money about – essentially – tweeting about transfers. I get it. People want their club to sign good footballers. It makes it more likely we have those special moments once more.
But hasn’t it all gone a bit too far?
The ticking clock. The daily shows. The conjecture. The blag. The ITKs. Online. On the telly. On the radio. On social media. On WhatsApp.
How much is worth it?
Agents know of the thirst for transfer news and quite clearly use the media accordingly. Transfer talk is going up, not down. And yet, someone somewhere will always say, “I loved those days when things just happened and no one knew a thing about it.”
Me too. But I reckon it was a little bit easier to keep Ian Rush’s return to Liverpool on August 18, 1988 under wraps when Sky Sports didn’t exist (it launched in 1991), we didn’t have the internet at home and Twitter was just a noise birds made.
We are long since through the looking glass. Sport radio runs right through the night, talking away whether there is something to say or not. Sky Sports is either on its neverending late-night loop, dishing up new stuff, or asking fans what they think about transfers.
We don’t wait for newspapers, we follow journalists online. Websites are continually updated. Often with each other’s bullshit.
So the big one: is it more enjoyable?
The Moises Caicedo rollercoaster was some ride to be fair – and when it was ticking up the track at two o’clock in the morning, I’ll admit I was jumping around the bedroom celebrating in my bills.
But ultimately it splashed into a pool of the brown stuff at the end. And Liverpool’s transfer train is still struggling to find the tracks. We even have the manager justifying buying a player now...
While it was still in the midst of its tight turns, climbs and falls, TalkSport called the Chelsea v Liverpool match: “The Moises Caicedo Derby.”
I mean, really?
The 19 times Champions of England and six times Champions of Europe, founded in 1892, visiting the six times Champions of England and two times Champions of Europe, founded in 1905 (it’s time to jib the history song, lads) and the focus is on a 21-year-old midfielder who at that point played for neither side?
Oh, and it was the small matter of being the first game of the season, too. That’s not right, is it?
Even in the ‘quiet’ times many of us, the fans, fill the void. Some focus endlessly on the grim: the shitty that never sleeps. FSG, this. Conspiracy theory, that. These are the bad fans, these are the good fans. These are Top Reds, and these are…etc.
I don’t get that either, personally, it’s enough to drive you potty. As life goes on, I realise that football matters; a lot. It gives meaning and purpose to life, it’s social, it’s passion, it can be a force for good, it’s lots of things. But sometimes the best thing to do is just put it down for a bit.
Now isn’t a quiet time. We all want Liverpool to buy more players. The squad looks lacking if the club doesn’t manage to do just that. Wataru Endo is a start. But the idea put forward that Liverpool are the first club ever to bid for players and not get them isn’t true, is it? And the window is still open. So, could we maybe, I don’t know, wait and see instead of the 24/7 fretting?
Once upon a time we didn’t have a choice but to wait and see and stay sane. The worst you’d have to endure was a letter from prolific griper Len Griffiths in the letters page of The Echo or a few ‘Over The Tops’ in Tommy Smith’s letters page in The Pink.
Now? It’s easy to feel like the world is falling in on us. In fact, I saw a tweet this morning that said just that.
We’re more connected now, but we are further apart? I miss those chats at the newsagents waiting for The Pink to arrive...
It’s only football, lads. Just not as we knew it.