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The desperate desire of fans to think they make a difference

Posted on 16 October 2010 | 10:10am

I cannot claim to have followed every twist and turn of the Liverpool FC saga, but it says something about what top flight football has become that fans now find themselves doorstepping banks, courts and law firms, rather than merely stadia and team buses arriving to offload the players before a match.

You don’t have to be in Liverpool for long – I was there yesterday to speak to the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy – to feel the intensity of concern among both Liverpool and Everton fans about the current state of their clubs.

The slide in Liverpool’s fortunes has been fairly dramatic, and something in me says that the euphoria that seemed to grip the law-firm-doorsteppers last night may be misplaced. There is something about 12-inch cigar-smoking American multi-squillionaires that doesn’t sit easily with the LFC brand (in its successful guise).

We shall see. What the volume of coverage of this saga has shown, as manager Roy Hodgson observed yesterday, is just how much a football club like Liverpool means to so many people. But the lesson of recent months, no matter how well this particular chapter of the story has ended, is that no club is totally immune from the forces that have been unleashed upon the football world. Further down the football food-chain … ask supporters of Dundee FC, whose staff and players are currently staring at p45s.

But the faith of the fan tends to be enduring. So I write this as I head to Bramall Lane to see whether Burnley can get their first away win of the season at Sheffield United.

I am normally an away end person. But in part because I want to catch up with my old mate Dick Caborn, former sports minister and a lifelong Sheff U fan, and also because my son Calum can’t make it today, I have decided to slum it in the directors’ box.

And here’s the thing. Just as those fans who turned up at Slaughter and May law firm thought they were influencing events – and may well have done – there is a little part of me thinking my one-match shift from away end to posh seats and prawn cocktails might just be the tactical shift we need to get that elusive first away win. I will be texting manager Brian Laws shortly to ensure he factors this in to his planning.  If we win, you will be hard-pressed to persuade me I had nothing to do with it. If we lose, I will be back in the away end at QPR for our next game on the road.

What do you mean football fans are illogical?

And may I thank the organisers of the Ilkley Literature Festival for organising my event tonight so it fits perfectly with the timings of our first away win … the sun is shining, the match will be won, and the mood will be good in Ilkley.

  • Olli Issakainen

    I am interested in football business, and have helped the local club to organise their business side better. Ice hockey is more popular here, so while I live in a town size of Burnley the football club only gets attendances of 600 in the Championship level.
    I myself have won the junior Championship of the town in football, and taken part in junior Finnish Championship tournament representing the local club.
    Football used to be a sport. Then it became also entertainment. And then also business.
    These days it is unfortunately mainly business.
    Many clubs in Britain have business models based on sugar daddies which are not sustainable in long term. I am glad that we have the best chairman in Mr Kilby.
    We are debt-free and do things in “Burnley way”. It is inconceivable that a foreigner would own Burnley.
    Hope we will win today. But for me football is not about winning. Some you lose, some you draw! It is about commitment.
    Football can take you high – and low. The trick is never to tie your self-esteem to the results of the club you support.
    Do not forget that we are playing Villa away on 27th Oct in Carling Cup!

    Ps. The sun is shining also here, but snow also arrived this week.

  • Venus In Faux

    Agree very much. I’m a passionate Internet Terrorist, I mean Liverpool fan (although Tom Hicks would have you believe the former) and it has been devastating to see our decline from being probably the best team in Europe bar Barcelona in 2008/9 to being in the relegation zone and playing dire, route one football now. But more disheartening has been witnessing businessmen with no clue as to how to run and manage a football club honourably and respectfully throttling the life out of our club. As the saying goes, once bitten, twice shy, so whilst I’m thrilled to see the back of Hicks & Gillett I wait and hope that John Henry and his cohorts can deliver us a football club to equal the pride I feel in our fanbase once more. I don’t expect or desire ridiculous and frankly criminal investment like at Eastlands or Stamford Bridge, from some billionaire playboy, but someone who isn’t using money we make as a club to pay off their own debts and line their own pockets and treats the people who love our club with respect and not disdain.

  • mikey

    Couldn’t agree more.Although neither a Liverpool nor Man Utd fan,tragic to see the effects of American billionaire businessmen without the slightest interest in, or knowledge of football,clubs and fans( in particular “). I remember` a Liverpool fan university friend of mine who scrounged every penny he could so he could hitch to first the 1977 FA CUP FINAL, and then a few days later to the final of the then European cup final in Rome, compounded by the fact that he was unsure he would make it back here for the Friday after the match to take the last exam of his university degree finals.People like him shoud be running football clubs,not the people Venus has correctly identified.

  • alan

    As an Everton fan of many years its sad even to me to see Liverpool’s slide i just hope they haven’t jumped from one fire into another with the change of owner’s i may be terribly biased but i fear Americans just don’t get football and what it means to run a club.

    Plus the new lad’s going to need massive pockets to turn them round..will he have it? the fans i know are expecting it so over to the seegar man.

  • Richard Brittain

    I’m a Liverpool fan, though not a Liverpudlian. I feel that Hicks and Gillet, although bad owners, were nowhere near as bad as the fans made them out to be. They borrowed a lot of money, but spent a lot of that money on players. Hodgson talks a good game but he now needs to deliver. Liverpool still have good players, but we also have some very overrated ones – like Pepe Reina.