25 Sept 2009

Liverpool fans need to get real and forget about these two 'pleasurable' burdens...

Romanticism and nostalgia - both are integral to the Liverpool fan experience, and when one hears the words "Liverpool Football Club", you almost expect the word ‘history’ to pop up somewhere. But what exactly does history mean in this day and age, and is it actually important to the club’s prospects of success?

Whether it’s our 118 year life-span; tales of past glories/tragedies or even Carlsberg’s 17 year association with LFC, all around us we’re reminded of history; told what it means to us and expected to respect it.

In an emotional game like football, history means many things to many fans, it’s nostalgic, romantic and sometimes cringe-worthy. Most of all, it fools us, and makes us believe things that we might not have a right to believe.

The belief that a team has an automatic right to challenge for silverware is something that irritates me, and it’s a viewpoint that's in danger of becoming a pandemic.

‘The Liverpool Way’ used to be crystal clear, a stalwart slogan of the Bill Shankly era. It seems since those days the waters have been muddied. Shankly created history, he didn’t pine for it. His philosophies were very much about today and tomorrow, not yesterday.

Liverpool have been the bridesmaids for 20 years, which in football is a lifetime. In what wreaks of desperation, too many of us cling to our history, as if it makes the last 20 years a forgetful dream. The reality is history counts for nothing once those players cross that white line.

Sure, we can throw our history and trophy list at potential new signings, and make them believe that there’s something ‘special’ about our club. History is Hollywood; it’s what makes us want to believe that it was our great history that drove us on in Istanbul; that inspired so many Mighty Ducks comebacks. The truth is history was nothing to do with it.

In the 60’s when Liverpool began making history, there was one thing that put us above the rest (besides the genius of Bill), and that was money. Money is the enemy of history. It’s unromantic, flashy and generally dirty. It is, however, what makes the world go round.

We can kid ourselves that back in the day we did things differently, that we had real working class heroes scoring real working class diving headers to win matches. The crux of the matter is we had the biggest spending power.

It was rare that a team would outbid Liverpool, Shankly used the threat of a walk out on a number of occasions to force the hand of the chairmen (remind you of anyone?); John Smith never shirked splashing the cash during his reign in the 70’s and 80’s. Money talks, it always has and it always will.

In the last 20 years Liverpool have always spent, but never enough. It’s easy and almost ignorant to throw figures around of just how much Rafa has spent, without looking at what he’s done to the team. Only two players remain from his first year, Gerrard and Carragher. Everybody else has gone. Shankly did the same when he signed, although a little more dramatically with 24 players being released upon his arrival.

If history can tell us anything, it is that passion and love doesn’t win you leagues, money does. Look at Blackburn in 94/95, Chelsea this decade and United for the last 20 years! As soon as Liverpool stopped outspending our rivals, we started falling behind.

With cold hard cash governing who wins what, it almost takes away a bit of the magic of football. There is hope though - money is the most important part without doubt, but you still need brains and cunning to make it work well.

This is why I feel like some fans need to let go of our history a little bit. Okay, we’ve had a glorious past and we should be proud of it, but it shouldn’t be the basis of our success and expectations.

For the last 20 years we’ve allowed the expectation to build and build, but I think each season we need to look at things logically. We don’t have the biggest transfer budget, we don’t have the biggest wage bill, we don’t have the biggest stadium and until next year we haven’t had the biggest sponsorship deals.

On that basis, how can we expect to come out on top of Chelsea and United? Luckily we have a gifted manager who is closing the gap each year with fewer resources, which in itself is an achievement. Our history does count, but not as we hope it does. It counts for the fan banter, the marketing, the prestige, but that’s all.

Last year we punched above our weight finishing higher than Chelsea; it was nothing to do with history, it was to do with tactics and guile. History is fine for everything off the pitch, but on-the-pitch matters are an effect of the present, and the thing currently on everyone’s mind is that sweet, sweet moolah.

From now on we need to forget our past and how we need to live up to ridiculous expectations. Winning that 1st league will be the hardest, from that point onwards you’re working with a championship winning team, things become a little easier.

Our memories of great times in the 80’s and 70’s are all built on previously successful teams. It’s not as though each league win was built from scratch, we already had the base thanks to Shankly’s work in the early 60s.

When Liverpool come up against a team I don’t think ‘wow I hope they don’t have loads of history on their side’, I think how have they built their team? How much did they spend over the last 5 years? And what’s their manager’s record like against teams similar to us. The opposition will do the same, they don’t worry about playing Liverpool because of our history - they worry about playing Liverpool because we bought the best players.

It was George Santayana who said “Those who do not care for history are doomed to repeat it”, a closer look at our own would show that we’re a team that should create history, not rely on it.


  1. We've been living off our history for far too long now, I agree. having said that, it's still a great source of pride for fans, and as long as we don't have unrealistic expefcations, I don't see it as a huge problem.

  2. sorry, what's your point again?

  3. And what is your point, exactly? Please stick to making comments about the issues raised in the articles.  Snide comments will be deleted.

  4. Spot on article, I think it is good for the fans to celebrate our history though, and it is something that should not be overlooked. But I certainly agree that it matters far less on the pitch than off. Our players and the oppositions are so focused on the game in hand when on the pitch that it does not matter one iota. I think we need to start realising our massive potential on th pitch as it now seems we finally are off it. This season is massive although massive strides have been made, ultimately it will be almost four years by the next time we can win an important trophy, since our last, and that is far too long for a club like Liverpool FC.

  5. Genuine question.  Sure history doesn't guarantee results, but it's not irrelevant.  The video of Istanbul linked in the article begins with Benitez talking about how important history is.

    A football club is far more than current form, results on the field etc.  I'm sure we're all aware of this.  It's a community, with shared experiences and history.  The history informs the way the team plays (in particular players like Gerrard and Carra, but including foreign players- Torres seems especially impressed with the history of LFC).  Moreso it informs the way we support the club.  Statistically maybe it has little significance but individually and collectively as fans it's incredibly important.

  6. I dont disagree with anything there, but i'm not sure i fully understand your point?  no-one thinks our history affects our performance on the pitch so not sure why you mention that?

  7. I have said many many times that too much reliance on history just blinds the fans, although I believe this article is too radical in this approach - the local players (and sometimes even the ones arrived from abroad) do bring more effort in their game by realising they are playing for a big club of significant history, fans of which expect that approach from them.
    Also, there is indirect influence of glorious history over the potential sponsor signings, which, in turn, can affect transfers, and in turn, results on the pitch.

  8. The article is taking a look at what history means if you missed the point. You can make your own mind up if it means something to you.

  9. without the history you have to spend, in the 80's man u spent more money than we did but did not have more success than we did. also players like torres came to liverpool because of the history, when he could have went to any of the top teams for more money. history breeds loyalty not just from the fans but from the players. They know what is expected from them, on and of the pitch. History also sets a target to present player to aim for to emulate those that have gone before. I think we are punching above our weight due to the history of the club and a good manager. Chelsea have had a lot of recent success but still cannot fill there stadium for every home game.  

  10. more nonsense from this manure wum

  11. Good article. Not sure I agree 100%, though.

    Paisley, Fagan and Dalglish were all great managers, but they did have the added advantage of having had the historical base set by Shankly. The psychological power of the "This Is Anfield" sign should not be underestimated. I have seen, first hand, European teams (and good ones, at that) come out of the tunnel at Anfield and look genuinely in awe. They have been beaten before they even kicked a ball. Sure, it has a lot to do with the immediate history of the team - how well they have been playing etc. - but a great big slice of that fear factor is down to the history of the club. They know that our great stadium has seen the likes of them before; has eaten them up and spat them out. The anecdotes of the Kop sucking the ball over the goal line are all part of this aura, and this all comes from our great history.

    That said, I'm with you all the way on the issue of money. Without it, Shankly may not have been at Liverpool for quite so long, and he certainly wouldn't have had the same success. The economic conditions are very different today, and Benitez isn't quite able to compete on the same level as some of his opponents, but that just gives me hope that if he can do what he has done with (relatively) limited funds, then maybe we may be on the verge of something truly great.

  12. I do agree with a lot of things said in the article - I was born in '88 so have never seen (and remembered) us win a league. It's frustrating in that way as growing up Liverpool were always touted as a big club, but as a kid all I saw was a mediocre team with a few stars like Fowler, McManaman etc who never won anything. Not until about 2001 were we a 'big' team in my eyes, and since then I think the club has created another chapter in its history, and not 'relied on the past' i.e. the 'treble', the FA Cup, and most significantly the Champions League.

    One thing I do believe though, is that our history determines the way we support the club, the way the club acts and the way the players do also. Mascherano apart, have you ever seen a player in a Liverpool shirt do what Drogba did last season? Or the way the Chelsea players ALWAYS mob the referee, or the way the players attempt to hold the club to ransom to get higher wages (Captain Terry in particular), or the way they behave in the transfer market? I would hope and believe that Liverpool players, directors etc and fans would not behave like this and that's because of the way the club has conducted itself throughout it's history. We follow an example set by the people before us. Chelsea on the other hand are in unchartered waters in terms of success and spending power - they've never had it so good. They consequently act the way they do because they've no reference point, no continual period throughout their history where they have witnessed anything similar. So for me, history does matter in that way - it gives you your principles, your beliefs and gives you a general sense of direction, if at times we don't always follow it.