By TTT Subscriber Liam Blake.
“The socialism I believe in is everybody working for the same goal and everybody having a share in the rewards. That’s how I see football, that’s how I see life.”
The history of Liverpool Football Club falls neatly into three eras. The first, beginning with the club’s inception in 1892, remains foggy at best for most of us. We’ll have heard of Elisha Scott, Billy Liddell – I hope we’ll have heard of Billy Liddell – perhaps read up on him, and a very lucky few will have seen him play, but by and large, the 67 years that followed remain at the periphery of the collective memory. Five leagues and four second division titles – a few peaks, a lot of troughs. Some magnificent players; Raisbeck, Stubbins, Paisley, and men of vision in the dugout or the pre-60s equivalent, but presided over at all times by a board guided only by self-interest and intent on maintaining the status quo; conservatism the watchword, and not always with a small ‘c’.
The early nineties (the 1990s, that is) brought something of a slow burning shock. Where once we were kings, now we were strangers in a strange land, blinded by the rising sun of the Premier League. The board struggled to adjust to Sky’s brave new world as United found their commercial mojo, and then some. Anfield’s ‘aristocrats’ – a tasteless moniker, even for the time, but beloved of the red tops – suddenly resembled tramps at the banquet. While Andy Cole sprinted into history, an ageing Ian Rush tossed his shirt in disgust in the general direction of Souness, and Dennis Irwin – surely a player to have been prized by Paisley had he been a decade or so older – patrolled his lines with pedigree as Julian Dicks went all Sunday league on us as he hauled his beer belly up and down the left flank. When he was fit. But I mustn’t let Boxing Day sometime in the early nineties at Bramall Lane jaundice my memory entirely. There was always Rob Jones. There was hope.
Much of that hope was fulfilled in time, if fitfully, as the FA’s capitalist juggernaut raced towards its global destiny. Two chapters of relative financial stability – either side of a dance on the edge of the abyss – have been the backdrop to a steady stream of silverware where once there was a torrent. And it’s surely no coincidence that during the dynastic years between 1959 and 1990 – it seems fogey-ish to call it the Golden Age, but what else was it? – Liverpool FC became, whether by accident or design, arguably the country’s pre-eminent socialist institution, almost a socialist utopia.
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