Wednesday, January 04, 2012
Liverpool FC Takes Its Eyes Off The Ball
August 1987: I travel to Arsenal's old Highbury stadium to watch Liverpool's first fixture of that season. During the game a banana is thrown onto the pitch not far from the feet of John Barnes, who is making his debut in a Liverpool shirt.
The banana is thrown from the section of the Clock End terracing reserved for Liverpool supporters.
That memory has come back to me as I've read the contorted syntax & lurid pledges of defiance on messageboards & comment sections from too many of the club's supporters over the Suarez/Evra affair.
The controversy has been well-documented elsewhere & I've viewed it with a mixture of dismay & anger as the club's handling of the situation has been crass & cack-handed; accepting the FA's eight-game ban for Suarez while muttering about unreleased information & hidden agendas is, if nothing else, lousy PR (http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/16404023.stm & http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2012/jan/04/kenny-dalglish-luis-suarez-transcript ).
It suggests that Liverpool FC don't get it; it suggests to a wider audience that the club doesn't take the issue of racism in football as seriously as it should.
Moreover, at the risk of inducing a couple of coronaries on Oldham Hall Street, Paddy Shennan (yes, hello, Paddy!) was correct to question the team's highly dubious t-shirt stunt in support of Suarez (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/views/liverpool-columnists/paddy-shennan/2011/12/28/paddy-shennan-ponders-whether-liverpool-fc-s-shirts-of-support-were-the-best-response-to-the-luis-suarez-situation-100252-30020155/ ).
He got a lot of flak for his article, many indulging in juvenile & puerile "banter" about his support for Everton & other equally irrelevant concerns.
The view from Liverpool's more discerning & less hyperbolic supporters is that the affair has damaged the club. Badly. As Stuart James pointed out in the Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2012/jan/03/liverpool-loyalty-luis-suarez-contrition), the begrudging & curmudgeonly nature of Liverpool's response invokes disdain from those who rightly see bigotry as a more pressing matter than team spirit. Indeed, coming, as it did, on the same day as the verdict in the Stephen Lawrence case, the club's petulant stance is staggeringly insensitive & ill-judged.
Amongst his many quotes, one particular observation from Bill Shankly seems pertinent:
"The socialism I believe in is not really politics. It is a way of living. It is humanity. I believe the only way to live and to be truly successful is by collective effort, with everyone working for each other, everyone helping each other, and everyone having a share of the rewards at the end of the day."
Such noble sentiments stand in stark contrast to the current stance of the club he managed.