Red, Red... Redemption!
BELIEVE IN YESTERDAY : The city of the Beatles rejoices as Liverpool win their 19th league title, and the first in the Premier League eraUpdated: Jun 27, 2020, 08:13 IST
When John Houlding, Everton Football Club president and owner of the Anfield ground, got into a bitter rent dispute in 1892 with the club committee, who knew it would lead to the creation of a sporting and cultural behemoth.
As Everton moved to Goodison Park, Houlding started his own club, Liverpool FC. In 128 years since, Liverpool FC have not only surpassed Everton as the city’s most prominent club but also, as a famous Kop song goes, ‘conquered all of Europe’ – a feat they have achieved six times. For a city that gave the world The Beatles and whose airport is named after John Lennon, its greatest cultural export is Liverpool FC which has a global fanbase running into millions. “Congratulations Liverpool number one I send you peace and love (sic),” tweeted Beatles’ drummer Ringo Starr after the league title.
That was the one thing missing for 30 years. In that time Liverpool had gone on successful European conquests; they won the Champions League last season. But the Premier League, a competition that replaced the English First Division in 1992, proved elusive. Liverpool hadn’t bested the rest at home since 1990. That ended early on Friday when second-placed Manchester City’s 1-2 loss at Chelsea ensured the 19th league title for the Reds. The delight was palpable among local fans many of whom gathered at Anfield to celebrate amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This is a big moment, I have no real words. I am completely overwhelmed. I never thought I would feel like this! It’s very important to celebrate because these moments are unforgettable. We have pictures from the season and now we have pictures of the celebrations and we will create pictures in the future with the parade with our supporters,” a teary-eyed Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp told Sky.
Song sung true
For the last two seasons, Anfield’s terraces have sung ‘Allez Allez Allez’, which talks of Liverpool’s European Cup triumphs and is set to the tune of a famous Italo disco number. It has been adapted by many clubs across the world with their own lyrics—East Bengal fans have a Bengali version, for instance. It has made Jamie Webster, once a small-time musician in Liverpool, the musical face of the club. You’ll Never Walk Alone, Liverpool FC’s best known song, was originally a tune from the 1945 musical Carousel and made famous in 1963 by Liverpudlian band Gerry and the Pacemakers. It is also sung for many other football teams. In 2006, the Dortmund stadium shook to it after Germany lost the World Cup semi-final to Italy.
When it comes to football songs, Liverpool’s Kop, the stand behind one of the goals, has often broken new ground. Conspicuous by its absence though were songs about winning the league. They had sung “we’re gonna win the league” in 2014 but following a Steven Gerrard fall, title hopes slipped sliding away. It was only during the imperious march in 2019-20 that the chant resurfaced.
What it means
To understand the significance of this title it needs to be seen in the context of the city and the club’s history. Liverpool had won the league on five occasions (1901, 1906, 1922, 1923 and 1947) prior but it was in the 60s that they became a powerhouse in British football.
Under legendary manager Bill Shankly, Liverpool were league champions in 1963-64, 1965-66 and 1972-73. That lay the foundation for three European Cup triumphs and six more league titles under Bob Paisley. More titles followed and in 1990, few would bet it would take them this long for another. Knocked off the perch, Merseysiders watched as bitter rivals Manchester United entered an era of dominance under Alex Ferguson. Liverpool FC have had a largely working class fan base. The city’s port, once one of the busiest in Europe, began losing importance when UK’s business relations strengthened with the rest of Europe. Geographically, they turned out to be on the wrong side of the country. The economic fallout of that has been a key influence in local political dynamics.
The city’s culture has always been closely connected with the fate of the two clubs —Everton and Liverpool. And its antagonistic relationship with Britain’s right-leaning Conservative Party has played an important role in shaping this.
While many north-western cities in England, including Manchester, have been traditionally left leaning, Liverpool has had more reasons to be so. The antipathy goes a long way back; it perhaps started in 1911 when home secretary Winston Churchill sent thousands of troops and a warship to quell a strike in Liverpool. The relationship between Merseyside and the Tories deteriorated in recent decades.
Liverpool’s successes on the field, and that of Everton too, coincided with Margaret Thatcher’s tenure as Prime Minister. When rising unemployment, government spending cuts and police brutality towards blacks sparked a riot in Liverpool’s Toxteth district in 1981, it became an inflection point in the city’s relationship with the Tories. The Hillsborough tragedy in 1989, when 96 Liverpool fans died ahead of an FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest due to over-crowding, left the city hurting. The government’s attempt to blame Liverpool fans led to outrage and permanently damaged relations with the Conservatives. Over two decades later, inquests would find the police guilty of gross negligence.
With the Tories in power since 2010 and Boris Johnson—an unpopular figure in Liverpool particularly for disparaging remarks made about the city in 2004—Prime Minister, it seems like history repeating itself. Amid government roll backs in spending, Liverpool FC have risen again.
It is their charismatic manager who has been the architect of this resurgence. Few would be a better fit at this club than the German and it’s not just because of his ‘gegenpressing’ tactics on the field. A self-avowed socialist, Klopp, usually in casuals and a cap, has spoken in support for a welfare state, even vowing that he would never vote for a right-wing party. “Tonight it is for you out there,” Klopp told the city. “He (Klopp) just embodies the whole club,” said Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander Arnold.