In the 1970s, nothing was more important to a young Jeff Evans than Liverpool FC. Then, gradually, his passion for the club began to wither. Could brilliant new manager Jürgen Klopp resurrect his love?
It’s not often I’ll start a conversation with a confession, at least a conversation that doesn’t involve my wife, but today I’m ready to make an exception. So here goes: for most of my adult life I’ve ignored the fact I grew up a Liverpool supporter.
In my defence, I’ve never flat-out denied it so much as tried to bury it as deep as possible.
It wasn’t always like that. Almost from the moment I was old enough to kick a dubbin-laden football in earnest, L.F.C. were the three initials that ruled my world. They were everything to me, and shameful as it is to confess now, I was without doubt the ’70s version of a Belieber during my youth.
That my affair with Liverpool occurred during a particularly rich period in the team’s history is probably no coincidence. Such was their dominance of all things football during my teens, at least from the perspective of this distant imperial outpost, that it was a genuine shocking to me that they didn’t feature in every SHOOT! magazine and every Sunday on Big League Soccer.
The ’70s saw them plunder silverware at will: a pair of European Cup triumphs shared headlines with four Charity Shields wins, a couple of UEFA Cup victories, and a win in both the European Super Cup and the FA Cup. If that wasn’t enough, they also captured exactly half of the First Division titles up for grabs during the decade.
It was a glorious period to be a Liverpool supporter, so much so that I even managed to wake occasionally in the pre-dawn hours to listen to their games on the BBC’s radio network.
My sole lasting memory from those blurry mornings, huddled in bed with my radio, was listening to The Kop chanting, “Hardly enough! Hardly enough!” while Liverpool were on the way to pumping Tottenham seven-zip at Anfield.
Spurs actually had a decent side that early autumn day in 1978, with newly minted World Cup winners Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa lining up alongside a fresh-faced Glenn Hoddle, but as YouTube will show you, Spurs were as solid that day as the French boys were against the All Blacks this past October.
The footage is grainy and not as sharp as you’d hope, but if you do nothing else – even if you hate LFC with a passion – do yourself a favour and watch the carnage depicted in the highlights package above right through to the end. The final goal, a thumping header from Terry McDermott, is as good as anything Barcelona can conjure up today. So yeah, tell yourself whatever you have to and take a gander. Then watch it again.
They were great days for sure, but then something inside me changed. I’m still not sure why my passion fell away, but it did. I had loved Liverpool for the best part of a decade, but somehow the spark had been extinguished. I still looked from afar at the odd result, but it was undeniable: I had simply stopped caring.
Maybe my love of cricket had begun to take hold, or perhaps it was the changing of the guard at Liverpool that severed my connection with them. Whatever it was, it felt like a door had been closed on a part of my life I thought would last forever.
Or was it? There has been the odd hint that I might find my way back into the ranks of the faithful. I’ve included a visit to Anfield on my bucket list, and I even went as far as to send away for a souvenir magazine to celebrate the 2005 European Cup victory at Turkey’s Atatürk Olympic Stadium.
The story of the match is well known. Liverpool, largely outplayed and down three goals to none at half-time, managed to recover their mojo early in the second half and scored three goals of their own – all in the space of six glorious minutes – and it was game on. Overtime failed to break the deadlock, so all that was left was that most dreaded of English football foes: penalties.
That English teams don’t relish the thought of spot kicks while playing on the continent is well-known, but then again I guess no one really enjoys the prospect. This time, however, the gods were smiling on our Anglo-Saxon heroes. AC Milan, cruising to an easy victory a little over an hour earlier, crumbled under the pressure – skying their first shot and having another two saved – and the Cup was Liverpool’s. It was a comeback worthy of Roy of the Rovers himself.
In more recent seasons I’ve felt that warm glow of belonging beckoning me once or twice, especially during the near miss that was the 2013/2014 season. It was a wonderful ride while it lasted, but of course any hope of building on their creditable second place in the EPL the following season was scuppered good and proper when a certain Uruguayan did the unthinkable to Giorgio Chiellini during the 2014 World Cup.
Luis Suarez, Liverpool’s prize Uruguayan striker, the man who had lifted Liverpool hearts from a seemingly bottomless pit of despair just a few months earlier, had bitten the Italian defender like a petulant three-year-old bites a kindergarten mate after a dispute over dolls.
Where can you go after that?
Much as I imagine Thierry Dusautoir has spent the past few weeks trying to work out exactly what happened at Cardiff, I’ve dedicated a few hours of my own trying to work out exactly what’s happening at Anfield, and to date I have nothing, at least nothing worthwhile. The best I’ve managed to come up with entwines Liverpool (and Boston Red Sox) owner J.W. Henry, the Curse of the Bambino, and said curse’s need for a new home, together like a ball of Chiellini’s favourite spaghetti.
Stay with me – it’s all quite logical. With Boston’s 2004 World Series win in the bag, the Curse, having cohabited Fenway Park for 86 some years, obviously needed a new home. After failing to find a suitable team stateside, logic suggests that it simply thumbed a lift across the Atlantic with good ol’ J.W. (probably in his private jet), and settled on Merseyside.
I know what you’re thinking: those links are just way too strong to ignore.
Still, hope springs eternal in the real world, and despite the presence of what may (or may not be) the Curse, it seems Liverpool may be vying for my affection one last time. It’s an exciting period in the club’s history: the brand spanking new coach Jürgen Klopp has already been anointed as he of the second coming.
What could possible go wrong?
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.