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Bobby McMahon

Bobby McMahon

You can see me on Soccer Central most Mondays and Thursdays on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. I write a regular column for Forbes.com and Soccerly.com and frequently guest on various podcasts and radio shows.


TANGENTS

Are Liverpool Fans Still Special?

Written by on February 2, 2011 | 22 Comments »
Posted in Liverpool

“He gave me the Shankly sell, he told me Liverpool were about to become the greatest club in England, that they would soon be league champions, and that I was a vital part of his plan. He soon convinced me. It was difficult not to believe him.”

Ian St John retelling how he came to sign for Liverpool in 1961. Stephen F. Kelly “Bill Shankly – The Biography”

When Bill Shankly arrived to take charge of Liverpool on New Year’s day 1960 Liverpool were a team trapped in their past. The last of their five championships had come in 1947.

A loss to Arsenal in the FA Cup Final three years later was the only achievement of note in a desert of poor performances and declining standards.

Relegation had come in 1954 and Shankly’s predecessor Phil Taylor had left after failing to achieve promotion. It might not have seemed like it at the time but Shankly had two advantages over Taylor.

The first was that expectations had been driven down to such a low level that a place amongst the top 22 in England was definable as a major success.

Secondly Shankly saw potential in the football club that others either did not see or were blinded to through frustration created by failure.

Shankly understood that he if Liverpool was to fully realize the potential then he had to not only build and motivate a team but he had to inspire a belief in the fans and unleash a passion that few could match.

Shankly achieved both in spectacular fashion. When he left in 1974 he bequeathed his successor Bob Paisley not only the foundation of a successful team but a culture within the club and the city that was unmatched.

The Shankly ethos stood Liverpool in great stead through Paisley, Fagan and Dalglish. Others may have won more trophies than Shankly but without Shanks there would not have been a successful Liverpool Football Club.

Looking back over the Shankly years you realize that, as with other great managers and leaders, he was a great manipulator of minds.

He told players they were great, he told the fans they were the best, and when that was combined with his eye for a player and a highly quotable quip everyone started to believe him.

Especially the supporters – throughout the years there has always been the fans.

Read any comments after a Liverpool article, read a Liverpool forum, speak to a Liverpool fan and it still resonates.

We are special; we are Shankly’s sons, daughters, grandchildren.

That is until now.

It’s not the clowns burning Liverpool shirts with Torres emblazoned (now literally) on the back that has been embarrassing and shameful – such idiots exist at any club and media fools are only too willing to accommodate them with pictures and footage.

It has been the reaction in newspapers, on television, on websites and in blogs. Torres, a bona-fide Anfield hero at this time last week has been vilified, maligned and disparaged all inside a few days.

Torres is a lazy player, Torres is always injured, Torres will never score 20 goals in a season, he is easily bullied out of a game, he sulks and lots more and few as pleasant.

Notwithstanding that Liverpool in the glory years would have never sold a star player to another English club (Keegan went to Hamburg, Rush to Juventus) you can’t help but feel that over the last few days that Liverpool fans are no longer special, they are no longer different.

After nearly four decades has the Shankly Legacy finally withered and died?

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22 responses to “Are Liverpool Fans Still Special?”

  1. WileyJ says:

    Bobby- Or is it possible they’re delirious from whatever s been passed around at Anfield ? Both fan & F.O. alike seem infected. First $50mil for Carrol & then shirt burning, what’s next ? Will someone now suggest the stadium is an interplanetary travel device ? Warning : Liverpool fans , drink NOTHING the front office suggest !… Okay I’m only kidding around, for the team & the league, I really hope the big $ gamble works out.

  2. Salty Ham says:

    Bobby… I am a little surprised at you… You seem to overlook the fact that there are only a handful of teams in the world that could have afforded Torres and only really Chelsea with a need for a striker out of those teams (other than Madrid, but since he is a an Atletico supporter and former player that would have been extremely doubtful to happen). So, Torres wants to leave… chelsea have been in his ear since at least the World Cup (when reps went to S.A. to feel him out)… Chelsea make bid… Torres asks for transfer… liverpool ask for as much as they realistically think they can get for a player that doesn’t want to be there… chelsea agree and transfer is done!

    For Liverpool fans that have supported him through a rough 18 months through injuries and lack of form, thinking that he was a bit different than most of the rest of the money-grubbing modern day footballers (a romantic notion, but a notion that was portrayed by any accounts of Torres by journalists and by his own words), it has to be a bitter pill to swallow to have him request a transfer with 3 days left in the window.

    Liverpool fans, like a jilted lover, revert to pointing out the bad traits… knowing its too hard to accept the great talent that they are losing. A day will come when the fans will come to terms with what they have lost, and I am sure a huge respect will remain for what Torres provided Liverpool in terms of what he did for Liverpool. But I think it a bit unfair to expect Liverpool fans to be that objective today (or over the last few days).

  3. Soccerlogical says:

    If one’s definition of “special” is a die hard soccer fan who likes a drink followed by rioting at a European cup final and occasionally burning effigies and shirts of players who had every right to leave and made the club 50M then yes… they are indeed very special.

    🙂

  4. Gus Keri says:

    Bobby:

    I hope people start treating Liverpool fans as regular human beings and not some supermen who descended on earth from some other planets.

    A human being who can feel the hurt when an act of traison takes place.

    Losing players to any clubs, English or non English, is not new to the club and never being easy. But we always accept it. It’s a fact of life.

    We lost so many good players before, even much better than Torres, but we never felt the betrayal like this time.

    If it was true that Torres wanted to win trophies, he would have gone in the Summer. He stayed on after the club improved his contract. (Was winning trophy then less important to him than making more money?)

    In the last few months, we read a lot about stars, like Tevez and Rooney, who took their clubs for ransom. Did this play in the head of Torres? Nobody can answer this except him.

    But at this crucial point of the rebuilding of the club when hope has never been higher and the mood is so uplifting, and even the devine powers seems to be lining up for us, he suddenly woke up and thought this is probably his best chance of winning trophy by moving to the not-so-well- performing Chelsea?

    Give me a break!

    We are not stupid. This was Torres last chance at making the big money before the new financial regulations in UEFA take effect.

    When he said about Chelsea:
    “They are one of the biggest teams in Europe and after that there is no more steps forward”
    he didn’t mean it in a footballing term, becasue there are many teams which are “many steps forward” ahead of Chelsea.
    He meant, there was “no more steps forward” in regard to making more money.

    We might be nieve and loving people but when hurt, it takes a while to forget and forgive.

  5. Gus Keri says:

    Sorry fro the typo.

    I meant “naive”

    I wish if Bobby provides an “Edit” bottun after posting a comment.

  6. Soccerlogical says:

    There is definitely something “mental” when any group of people think and call themselves “special”.

    I’ve witnessed the “Jerusalem Syndrome” but never a “Scouser Syndrome”… never knew Liverpool fans were the chosen people of the world game….. WTF!

  7. John Bladen says:

    Agreed, Bobby.

    It doesn’t matter whether it is a football club or any other workplace, it is the epitome of low class behaviour to rubbish employees who’ve just gone out the door.

    For all the “what changed?” comments from LFC fans regarding Torres’ “sudden” desire to leave, the same could be said for the fans. How could you find him so brilliant just a few months ago and so utterly flawed now?

    Whether the real issue is money, European football next year or something else entirely (absence of Benitez?), he has decided his future lies elsewhere. It is the way of modern football that contracts for elite players do not bind them to their club (unless they want to stay, of course, in which case the contract is inviolate) as they used to.

    Rather than condemn the man, I’d suggest LFC supporters remember him fondly and look forward to what the $25M profit he generated will buy.

  8. salty ham says:

    question for anyone…. How do you think torres will do at chelsea this season? How big of an impact will he have?

  9. Soccerlogical says:

    Torres will only do as well as a Lampard, Benayoun or Malouda enable him to do. Without a creative force, no striker will succeed.

  10. gorn says:

    Bobby, if I did not know you better, I’da thought you were trolling for hits. This article is not up to your considered and respectful standards. I’d expect this from a Martin Samuel, or any hack @ The S*n, not you.

    As SALTY & Ursus have elucidated, this is not about just any footballer @ LFC – in fact, the reaction would been much more muted if it had been Gerrard IMO – it’s that it was TORRES, and this whole scenario being created by him contrary to his recent comments & history w/Atleti. He’s not a player who has demonstrated anything but bliss @ being @ LFC. He’s shown himself to be a hypocrite, at the cost of LFC supporters. Should they be happy?

    Having said, I know nothing about some of the behaviour by supporters discussed here, but anything like burning jerseys or effigies is wholly inappropriate. Just get another jerseys, people….

  11. Ian says:

    @Ursusarctos:

    “The hero’s halo was already fading before last week. Since the start of the season the voices suggesting the club should cash in on a Torres who obviously no longer wanted to be at Anfield had already been growing louder and more numerous on LFC blogs and chatrooms. ”

    Revisionist history. You just proved part of Bobby’s point.

    He’s not talking about the shirt burners and he’s not expecting Liverpool fans not to feel emotion at Torres’ departure, he’s wondering how fans can suddenly delude themselves into re-rating a player from “best striker ever” to sub-standard in a matter of days. Some jackass United supporters started doing the same thing when Rooney pulled his stunt a couple months back. That, “he’s sh*t, and going downhill” nonsense you started to hear from a segment of the support was embarrassing to the rest of us (to me at least) even before he did his about face and signed on the line. Once he had re-signed the opposition fans, many of them scousers, had a field day waving those comments in our faces. Seems to me he’s pointing out how ridiculous comments like yours above are and how out of line they are with “the way it used to be”. Bobby sounds nostalgic for the days when supporters would stand a clap for a good performance by the opposing team. In other words where we all seemed to have a little more sense. Anyway thats what i think hes getting at…. Or maybe he is just trolling. lol

  12. Ian says:

    Ursusarctos – after re-reading your comments maybe you were not questioning his talents so you might not be as good an example as I’ve tried to make you but I’m sure you still get what I’m saying.

    I’ve only been here a day so what do I know but it seems like if this blog was a sit-com and Bobby was the Waylon J style narrator, then Gus is the nice guy chasing the girl, SL is the wing-nut neighbor and Urs is the…. I don’t think I know the right word for Urs. Not nemesis really. Maybe, prete…. aww never mind. You write well, anyway.

  13. Bryan says:

    Liverpool supporters are no more special than any other set of supporters in the country.
    Other than in their own minds ,which makes them normal.

    Though I will admit they ,and Newcastle ,are “different” from most others.

    (And when I say supporters ,I mean those that are actually there.)

  14. Soccerlogical says:

    So an expat, someone who emigrated form Liverpool or any other fan from around the world isn’t considered a “supporter” in your book, what are they then…. Fair Weather Fans of a chaotic club which hasn’t won the league in 20 yrs?

  15. Bryan says:

    Where was Sian Massey when she was needed?

  16. Boris says:

    Lots of Liverpool fans…

    Modric has had his appendix removed. While reports say he will be out for about two weeks, I fear it may take almost a month. That is a huge loss for Tottenham. Bale in my opinion can be replaced. Tottenham have two quality left midfielders in Kranjcar and Pienaar. Even Modric has played quite well on the left.
    Luka on the other hand is irreplaceable in my opinion unless Harry signs a player like Fabregas or Xavi (would never happen).
    Bobby, in regards to Kranjcar, I think he is just a victim of the system that Harry prefers to use. (Kranjcar would start on my Tottenham team) He likes speedy players on the flanks and let’s face it, Kranjcar is not fast. I think that’s the reason that Hutton is starting over Corluka who in my opinion is the better defender.
    I am glad that more and more people are beginning to realize how good Modric is. As an English pundit has recently mentioned, as good as Bale is, Modric is the one who put him on the map.
    Tottenham fans will soon realize again how important Modric is.
    Also, seeing Liverpool land Suarez who I think has enormous potential, makes me wish Tottenham would get a quality striker themselves. I’d love to see Cavani done a Spurs shirt or even Adebayor…

  17. gorn says:

    Looks like Bobby’s done a runner on this article. Disappointment compounded.

    URS!
    Naw, havnae heard anything about it, but it wouldnae surprise me. He’s been beat up for years.

    I’m seriously starting to think that Benitez is the only reason he stayed. Between Woy’s ineptitude and his throwing Torres to the media wolves this season, looks like he had enowt. Don’t understand why he wouldnae give Kenny a chance, but there you go. Better off without him if he’s that fair-weather. Just bummed that FSG panicked and paid 35m for Carroll. Another 10m would almost buy another quality LB or CB.

    Anyway, Fern is dead to me now, and I’m not one for rumours. The PL is fascinating enowt without the Corry stories too. (c; I’m not really bitter, more disillusioned. Kinda like with Bobby and this article.

  18. gorn says:

    I meant, of course, that Carroll probly coulda been had for ~25m in the summer, freeing up another 8-10m for another buy.

  19. gorn says:

    URS:
    – Don’t diminish me by calling me laddie, unless yer trying to antagonize me. And I don’t need to be told to listen up, either. Treat me unlike a moron and you’ll get my attention completely, savvy?

    – Read a Vickery article showing off how much he knows about Uruguay’s int’l history, but I dinnae get anything of consequence about Suarez’ ability or how he’ll adjust to the PL.

    – Look at the list of 10 most expensive transfers, and tell me who doesn’t belong. It’s Carroll. For reference, Villa was bought for ~500k less than Carroll. So that’s yer panic right there. And mebbe you don’t mind being seen as a spendy club like, say, yer ManUre’s, Chav$ki’s and Mandril’s, that’s fine. But I’m mindful of looking like a hypocrite when complaining about competing with them financially for the last, oh, 8 years. YMMV. (c;

    – LFC isnae getting into the CL this season, so adding an extra striker (who’s injured BTW) for 35m to finish 6th instead of 8th means what, exactly? Kenny himself said the buy was for 5.5 years not one game, so what’s the hurry? But that’s not panic to save face with the supporters? That wasnae an investment in keeping Reds from associating FSG with H&G’s way of doing business? Please. But mebbe, in Swiftian fashion, you too want to become a Houyhnhnm….

    – LFC got by with a 4-2-3-1 for the last 5 years, so why do they need to play 2 strikers now? Are you saying LFC spent 23m on a striker who cannye lead the line?

    – Having said all that, if you had asked me 12/31/2010 if I’d trade Babel & Torres for Carroll & Suarez, I’da had to seriously consider it, and that’s what the deal basically boils down to from a transfer money PoV. Just seems like the risk is all on LFC’s end (ie: Suarez’ adjustment and Carroll’s development) and in those kinds of deals, I like to be a little better compensated when I’m the side that’s more exposed. Again, YMMV.

    If, as you imply, LFC buys a few more great players, well good for the club. Yer right in the sense that it’s not my money, so the amount I care should be pretty low.

    Your assumption, however, that it hadnae occurred to me, and some of your dismissive language, makes me wonder if you are now simply on auto-pilot on this issue and imposing arguments onto me that other, less informed and erudite ppl have used against you. I’m talking about the Liverpool Way; you are talking about buying a PL title. You think Shanks woulda made signing like Carroll in the January window for that much money (insert “adjusted for inflation” comment here)??

    There’s a high degree of PR, as well as dubious Moneyball, in the purchases this week. I see it, sounds like you don’t.

  20. Gus Keri says:

    Gorn:

    I think one important point being overlooked in your arguement is the significant effect on the psychic of all the people envolved with the club.

    The fans at Stoke’s game were a bit down, I thought. Even a win which usually brings a boisterous atmosphere didn’t make a lot of a difference.

    Of course, Liverpool payed a lot but when you think of the good things it will bring, it looks like nothing.

    The fans know that this ownership is not like any other in the past. They are willing to spend no matter what to get what they want. And what they want is what the fans want.

    The players will be happier knowing that the club won’t stand for losing stars and letting the team down. The ownership want to make it clear to the players that the team will keep moving forward.

    And most importantly, the club in on the rise now. They managed to stop the down-spiral and they need to keep this momentum going.

  21. E says:

    I usually agree with most things you say Bobby but this is really poor, sorry. Do you not wonder why Torres is more maligned than Xabi or Mascherano? Could it be that maybe, just maybe, Liverpool fans are right to be so frustrated? Because the situation actually has specific, subjective circumstances you have to take into account?

    Saying that Torres was idolised until last week or whatever is straight up journalist excrement. Fans have been disappointed with him for months and taken account of his body languages and lack of effort, for months. That they gave him the benefit of the doubt right up until he used the club as a doormat argues against your main point.

  22. E says:

    And the bleating about the Carroll fee is just stupid. Chelsea were willing to pay 50m for Torres, funding Carroll (*the* player Liverpool wanted) and then some. They badly needed a striker to replace the outgoing Torres. It actually makes so much sense that it’s depressing the most analysis people are willing to offer is seeing the number 35 and going “BWAAA?”

    Liverpool’s net spend was 1 million. They brought in two class strikers, trimmed the wage bill, and removed unwanted excess. How horrible.

    Please go deeper with your analysis. This is really below what I expect from someone as ostensibly knowledgeable you.

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