By Andy Yates.
I remember the first time I sat down and read ‘Here We Go Gathering Cups In May’. Two and a half hours passed by as I rigorously turned the page in anticipation of the next words and sentences that make up a book I personally categorise as THE best book I’ve ever read. It is a book filled mostly with the memories of fans who saw the truly golden years of Liverpool Football Club. It is tales of journeys across the lands of Europe, to corners and pockets of the continent were you wouldn’t expect them to have a football, let alone a stadium to play in or a TV to watch it on.
As I read this book, I’d delve deep into my imagination and try to picture the days of the ’70s and ’80s, the mass exodus of fans to Rome in ’77, the ‘specials’ leaving Liverpool Lime Street from platform 9 eventually ending up in some far foreign land, knackered, sweaty, full of ale but full of real stories.
‘What I’d give to be there’ I’d say, scouring through more pages for the next laugh, the next heartbreak, the next game. I sat as an 18 year old, a naive quiff haired, university student, a lazy imbecile, and thought of the stories I would tell in 25 years’ time.
There was an archaic inevitability about Liverpool on a personal level for me growing up in the ’90s. It was as though everything that had come before me or before the players I watched, Liverpool were almost expected to win. Not so much an arrogance but of an expectation, a pre planned monologue, to see the greatest trophies and medals make their way back to Anfield.
We all know how teams of the 90’s compared to the God-like squads of the ’70s and ’80s is like comparing the Eiffel Tower to a street lamppost in terms of quality, success and how they are now revered as former greats. Don’t get me wrong, I worshipped your Robbie Fowler’s and your Steve McManaman’s but it always felt as if something was missing.
Michael Owen – England’s new hero, the papers shrieked. Hyypia and Henchoz were the best defensive pairing since Lawrenson and Hansen. Gerrard was the driving force in Liverpool’s quest for trophies, and the French Manager who’d assisted in France’s World Cup win in 1998 was the next big thing in Europe.
Of course, some of those came true, trophies came our way and Europe was conquered, the lesser version. I’d turned 11 a couple of months before that UEFA Cup win in Dortmund over Deportivo Alavés thinking I was supporting a team here who were set to take over the world.
Time moved forward, players and managers left and a new Spanish regime came in under the tactical nous of Rafael Benitez. I turned 15 in 2005 and was stuck in the midst of GSCE exam stress, addicted to MySpace and too much hair gel, Liverpool had all of a sudden changed dramatically. Those foreign names I had just learned became even longer foreign names, more Spanish, better looking. The length with which they were staying at the club felt as short as my teenage chest hair…..barely recognisable and definitely wouldn’t turn heads.
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