About jeffgoulding

I am Jeff Goulding, I am the author of three books about Merseyside Football; red Odyssey: Liverpool FC 1892-2017; Stanley Park Story: Life, Love and the Merseyside Derby and We Conquered all of Europe: Red Odyssey II. You can also find my work on www.thisisanfield.com I hope you enjoy your time on my pages. You'll never walk alone.

Fellini, Fruit Machines, Salah and Stopping the Rot

Featured

By Simon Meakin

Simon Meakin reflects on a sombre couple of weeks for the Reds, but looks ahead to this weekend’s game against the Cherries, with positivity and a few fruit based gags.

There is an unusually sombre tone to this week’s review.  Black clothes have been donned and heads bowed in mourning. Somewhere in the distance, a church bell rings amongst much wailing and crying (I’m imagining a scene in an old Italian village in a film by Fellini or one of the old Italian masters here – not that I’ve actually seen any Fellini films, unless he did Ghostbusters?). 

Yes Liverpool are officially having their first blip of the season with three defeats in the last four games (and the one win being a very scraggy one and mostly thanks to Fabianski having a blip or two of his own). It’s actually come as a bit of a shock to lose some football matches. It’s like a throwback to the old days (2018 – so long ago that Theresa May was still Prime Minister and Ed Sheeran was in the charts) when we used to lose football matches several times a season. This might be what it must feel like supporting any other football club. I’m not sure I like it. 

Our treble dreams are over, our Champions League hopes are in the balance and our 22 point lead in the league has suddenly been whittled down to, er, 22 points having played a game more. So it’s time to stop the rot (and at the same time hopefully set a new top flight record of 22 consecutive home wins – which does indicate that it’s perhaps not the biggest lot of rot that ever needed stopping). 

So, maybe it’s timely that Bournemouth are next up. A team that we’ve never lost to at Anfield and checking back through the record books have only ever failed to beat at home once (a 2-2 draw thanks to a late Josh King equaliser, apparently, although I can’t say it rings many bells).

We haven’t exactly played Bournemouth that many times to be fair so that unbeaten home run doesn’t exactly rank that highly in our glittering list of achievements (did you know we’ve also won six European Cups for example?).  Which does also mean that I don’t have a huge amount of famous games against them to reminisce about. Nor can I wax lyrical about childhood memories of the Cherries, which turned out to be a complete load of cobblers when I’ve checked back. 

Although mentioning their nickname has set me off thinking about whether they’re the only football club (nick)named after fruit?  There is, to my knowledge, no football club nicknamed the Bananas, the Pineapples or the Melons. Cue Benny Hill type fnar fnar at the mention of melons as that is of course one of about thirty thousand nicknames for ladies bosoms in the English language. I mention that purely so I can reference the old Jasper Carrott sketch where he simply unleashes a stream of euphemisms for various rude bits. I tried (in vain) to find it, just so I could hear him say ‘leading the llama down the lift shaft,’ in a Brummie accent – surely the best description of the act of luurrve ever?  (Beats Barry White any day). 

Blackpool are nicknamed the Tangerines, but I think that’s more to do with the colour than the fruit. Quite why, when ‘Right chaps – what shall we call ourselves?’ came up as agenda Item 5 at some board meeting, they decided to go down the fruit-based avenue would be best, is anyone’s guess, never mind the fact that they then decided to go for the one that’s always the worst one on any fruit machine?  Where they looking to recreate the sudden fleeting rush of excitement of getting three cherries, only for it to immediately turn to disappointment as you realise that you’ve only won 20p?

Bournemouth also happen to be the only Premier League club I’ve never seen Liverpool beat, or indeed play (although I’ll hopefully be putting that right on Saturday). So, sadly I have no amusing first hand anecdotes to share. My main memory is of that time a few years BVD (Before Van Dijk) when no lead was too great that we couldn’t chuck it away and turn 3-1 up and cruising with 15 minutes to go into a 4-3 defeat.  Although looking at the team sheet from that day, Clyne and Lovren appear to be the only actual defenders in the team. So lord knows what formation we were playing. 

Lallana was the only sub used and looking at the rest of the bench you realise how far we’ve come in the last few years.  Moreno, Klavan, Woodburn, Ejaria and some unknown 18 year old by the name of Trent Alexander Arnold, who was still 10 days away from his Premier League debut. Whatever became of him?

On a more positive note, my favourite memory (and if I’m being honest my only other memory) is of Salah’s goal against them at the Vitality Stadium last year when he managed to leave half the Bournemouth side dumped unceremoniously on their backsides (almost my favourite goal of last season, but just pipped to the post by the same player’s exocet missile against Chelsea).

Salah seems to love playing against Bournemouth, having hit seven goals in five games and never failing to score against them (unless he made one of his ultra-rare appearances in a Chelsea shirt against them). So I’m banking on him to silence the clanging chimes of doom, apply a coat of top notch rot-stopper and lead us back to the sunlit uplands of winning lots of football matches by leading their defence a merry dance again, bagging a couple more for his collection in a vibrant much improved performance for the Reds.  Cherries squashed (maybe into some sort of yogurt or jam). a 3-0 win with Firmino getting the other one. 

That will set us up nicely for another big European night at Anfield, where Klopp sticks his 10p into the machine gets three bells and hits the jackpot. £4, a place in the quarter finals and a little Monday night trip to our old friends from Walton to look forward to.

Liverpool vs West Ham: Batman, Tangerine Smoke and Tiger Feet

Featured

By Simon Meakin

Simon Meakin is back with a bang. Here he discussed the crisis at the Etihad, 1960s American TV, 70s pop combo, Mud and somehow manages to look ahead to Monday’s tussle with the Hammers. Enjoy.

Chaos!  Mayhem!  Cheating!  Deception! Points Deductions! (Maybe).  Yes I’m announcing the news of Man City being caught bang to rights for (let’s not beat about the bush here) cheating and lying in the style of those 1960’s Batman serials with their Pows and Thwacks and poisonous gases, that despite always being bright pink or green or yellow seemed to take Gotham Police Departments finest by surprise every episode.  Did no-one ever tell the next guy down on the rota to guard the really big important safe with a diamond in it, to watch out for dodgy blokes in green leotards letting off flares in a particularly nice shade of mauve or Dulux Autumn Sunset?).

We’ll have to wait and see what punishment the Premier League and FA come up with (more than likely nothing more than City being sent to their room and being banned from Snapchat for a week).  But Premier League, if you are going to deduct points do it next season.  Not so much because we don’t exactly need any help winning the league this season, but because I don’t want any uncertainty hanging over us when we do win it (not being quite sure whether we can celebrate because City have whacked an appeal in for instance).  Or, even worse. clinching the title at the end of the committee meeting when the points deduction is decided.  Whatever happens it needs to happen (appeals and all) while Leicester can still catch us.  Or, if not, once we’ve already wrapped it up.

I realise I’m spending half my West Ham preview talking about Man City. But, re-reading my Man City preview, it turns out I spent half the time in that one talking about West Ham (and Dave Swindlehurst in particular). So I think that pretty much evens things out (it’s almost as if I planned it that way – I am the master games player – I see every move 15 steps ahead – although if that really was the case, maybe I should be putting these talents to better use than talking about Dave Swindlehurst?  I could become a criminal mastermind instead.  If anyone knows of any large diamonds being stored in big safes nearby, and how I can get my hands on some tangerine coloured smoke bombs, please drop me a line).

It’s been a while since my last preview, thanks to the winter break.  And, I have to say I’ve come back refreshed and raring to go.  I can’t praise a mini-break in Colwyn Bay in February highly enough.  Had a bit of a hot streak in the seafront arcades and was able to use my winnings to indulge in some high end retail therapy in the local Home Bargains (although I have to say the staff in there do get a bit uppity when you try and purchase some new pants with a bucket full of two-pence-pieces).  I’ll upload the photos on to Instagram just as soon as I work out how to open an Instagram account. James Maddison eat your heart out!

I did almost have to cancel my holiday because of the Shrewsbury replay, but luckily I managed to find a toddler to write the review once Messy Mayhem had finished at the local playgroup, with James Milner on hand to supply crayons and moral support. We’ve also managed to pick up six more (unexpectedly hard fought) points against Southampton and Norwich, moving remorselessly closer to that title. There was a slight hiccup in the Champions League though. Still all to play for, but there’s that nagging doubt that we can’t keep pulling it out the bag at Anfield on big European nights.  Can we?  Yes we can!  Maybe.

So what of West Ham? They were another team I had a soft spot for as a kid.  It became a bit of a cliche but they always did seem to play proper passing football, and this seemed to persist well into my adulthood more so than with other clubs which supposedly had a similar tradition (Ipswich were another one).  I can remember the Ian Bishop (he of the long straggly hair who looked like he wanted to be in Iron Maiden) inspired team in the early 90’s playing some lovely football (although I think they ended up getting relegated).  And although the passing football force was strong in that one, it wasn’t strong enough to survive an encounter with Darth Big Sam unfortunately.

I can also remember the 1980 FA Cup Final with John Lyall leading out his team in the glorious sunshine (the FA Cup Finals of my childhood were always played in glorious sunshine – I’m sure that is a fact) resplendent in a cream blazer (not quite Spice Boy 96 but still enough to stand out in my memory) and thanks to a famous Trevor Brooking goal vanquishing the dark forces of boring boring Arsenal with the infamous Willie Young (the only footballer ever who also happened to be the guitarist out of Mud.  If you don’t believe me you can see him on You Tube performing Tiger Feet on the Christmas Top of the Pops in full on Obi-Wan-Kenobi robes and Christmas Bauble ear-rings) committing a notorious professional foul on 17 year old Paul Allen (got me very het up as a 9 year old at all the injustice in the world that did!).  And, more importantly, avenging the team who had knocked us out in the semi final after endless replays.

The romance has worn off West Ham in recent years it has to be said though. What with that “lovable” pair of rogues Sullivan and Gold in charge along with sidekick Karen “Catwoman” Brady (she doesn’t look like a cat, I’m not sure I’ve seen her in a skin-tight black catsuit, she doesn’t drink from a saucer or bring dead birds in from the garden, but I’ve spotted an opportunity to shoe-horn a meaningless Batman reference and I’m going for it), rattling around in a Stadium paid for by my taxes (my taxes!  Possibly some other people’s taxes as well) with David Moyes (Football Genius™) at the helm.

All is not well at West Ham and I feel this is the match where we’ll really let rip, with no game for five days either side.  A 6-1 hammering (pun absolutely intended) with a Firmino double (Pow!), one each from Mane (Thwack!), Mo (Clonk!), Gini (Zap!) and Minamino coming off the bench late on from his debut goal (Crump!). West Ham to somehow get a goal somewhere (that Haller feller maybe).

So there we go.  This review has been brought to you by me whilst listening to Tiger Feet by Mud (featuring Willie Young and Drake). Which has inspired me to write my own version.

“We’re Top, We’re Top, We’re Top, We’re Top, I really love my Jurgen Klopp!”.

“He won’t get the Chop, Get the Chop, Get the Chop, Get the Chop, I really love my Jurgen Klopp!”

“We Beat the Slop, Beat the Slop, Beat the Slop, Beat the Slop, I really love my Jurgen Klopp (even though he didn’t turn up)!.”

We got a Club shop, Club shop, Club Shop, Club Shop, I really love my Jurgen Klopp”

He might consign West Ham to the Drop, To the Drop, To the Drop, To the Drop, I really love my Jurgen Klopp!”

Liverpool vs Southampton: Evil Edna, Matt Le Tissier and Molby’s Shorts

Featured

By Simon Meakin

Simon Meakin returns to mull over a momentous January, which puts Liverpool in pole position for their first league title in 30 years. He reflects on the tussles with United, Wolves and West Ham and looks forward to this weekends home clash with Southampton, with a few customary detours along the way.

This pretty much feels like it. Salah’s last minute goal against Manchester United seemed to unleash something in the Anfield crowd, who finally seemed to believe that the title is coming home after thirty long years. I’m not sure I was quite there myself at that stage. The crucial point for me came a few days later in the cold and dark of Molineux with the mist rolling in from the stands. 

To be frank, we were on the ropes and taking a bit of a beating at times during the second half.  I had the feeling that our unbeaten run was under more threat than at any other point during the season so far.  Yes we were never actually losing at any point, unlike the games at Old Trafford and Villa Park, but the dynamic in those games seemed different as we were chasing the game and I always felt we could get something.  This time I wasn’t feeling at all confident about us getting back off the canvas had we gone behind.

But we managed to not only survive but, thanks to Bobby’s late goal, even to steal away into the mist with all three points like a Will ‘O’ The Wisp. I’m thinking more of the strange mystical light of folklore rather than the Kenneth Williams version constantly being menaced by Evil Edna the big square angry telly, just after Grange Hill finished. To be clear (after a quick Google) I’ve just discovered that Disney remade Will ‘O’ the Wisp a few years ago and turned Evil Edna into a flat screen TV (complete with Netflix and BT Sport no doubt!). 

We faced six games in a row after Christmas, against teams in the top eight, and won the lot.  And, then we followed that up with what was a pretty much routine, nothing much to see here, win against West Ham (other than Trent at one point deciding to see how hard he could welly the ball against his own post just for the hell of it – answer “quite hard”).  Which does now mean that we’ve now done something that none of the great Liverpool sides of the past ever managed, and beaten every other team in the league in the same season (please see my last blog for details). Incredibly, Norwich now stand as the Premier League side who have gone the longest without losing.  All of five months and a grand total of zero games.  Daniel Farke must be proud of his boys achievement.

So even though the bitter winds of winter have yet to depart (or if I’m being honest yet to actually even show up at the door thanks to global warming) I’m calling it that we’ve got this thing won!  No if’s, no but’s.  Klopp won’t admit it but it’s a matter of when rather than if now. 

So, on to our favourite feeder club Southampton.  Out of all the clubs I’ve previewed so far, I have to say that this is the one I’m struggling most to remember anything memorable from the times I’ve watched us against them. I have seen them at Anfield a few times but the only thing that springs to mind is Matt Le Tissier, who apart from scoring some of the most beautiful goals I’ve ever seen also has to be possibly the laziest player I’ve witnessed in all my time watching football.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone move around less on the pitch (and I’ve seen Jan Molby play at Hereford, for Swansea, in his dotage and wearing what Norris McWhirter later officially confirmed were the worlds largest pair of shorts). 

What does stick in my mind though is us being handed our arse on a plate at the Dell on more than one occasion in the 1990’s, usually with at least one Le Tissier wonder goal and a Rod Wallace thunderbolt thrown in. It seemed to be a right bogey ground, up there with the notorious plastic pitch at Kenilworth Road, and Coventry City (who were just simply a bogey team wherever we played them).

This match won’t be the foregone conclusion it probably would have been a couple of months ago. Southampton have gone streaking through the field like Ayrton Senna trying to get to the post office before it shuts. It’s the sort of run Bobby Robson’s Ipswich always seemed to go on when I was a kid, suddenly going from the relegation zone to the top three quicker than Jimmy Hill could light his pipe. If Chelsea continue to wobble it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that they could even sneak into the Champions League places. I’m unclear what Ralph Hassenhuttl has done to turn things around but it’s certainly seems to be working. 

Part of the reason is of course the form of one Danny Ings, once of this parish and a rare example of our school exchange programme, with Saints working the other way (in return we got a moody French kid who just rolled his eyes and went “pah!” in a Gallic fashion every time he got taken to Nando’s as a treat. And then trying to get Curtis Jones hooked on Gauloise’s. Plus Sadio Mane).  A player I always liked and was at Anfield to witness him scoring a rare goal v Norwich (in the dying days of the Rodgers era in what also turned out to be the last time I failed to see us win at Anfield).  Huge shame that injuries meant he never really got a chance with us but it just shows how far we’ve come, that he’d be unlikely to ever get a look in these days.

The other best thing about Southampton is of course the fact that Ralph Hassenhuttl is apparently German for Ralph Hare-Hutch.  Not an expert on how things are hare-wise in Austria but from what I’ve seen of hares over here they are a damn sight bigger than rabbits. So, either they have very small hares in Vienna, very poor standards of animal welfare or the literal translation of huttl is really ‘small B&Q garden shed’.

Right, on to the match prediction.  But before I do so I’d like to blow my own trumpet for getting my last match prediction almost spot on for the second time this season.  Right scoreline and correctly forecast that Salah would finally break his duck against Manchester United. And, I more or less got the second goalscorer right as well (when I said Shaqiri would get it, I meant Virgil Van “Shaqiri” obvs. I was just using the nickname known only to me and the lads in the dressing room, thanks to his, ahem, strong resemblance to his Swiss twin, their shared love of things with holes in (cheese, dykes, Everton’s plans for their new stadium) and the fact that if you spelled out their names together on a Scrabble board, you can get rid of all the hard letters apart from Z (I always knew I’d find a use for Christian Ziege one day).

As for Saturday’s game. 3-1 to us to equal City’s record of 20 consecutive top flight home wins. Keita (after Klopp decides on a bit of rotation), Salah, and Firmino.  The inevitable curse of the ex-player meaning a Danny Ings consolation is inevitable. And then we go marching on into the winter break, needing a maximum of four (four!) points to clinch our place in next season’s Champions League. On the 1st February!

PS.  We’re going to win the League!

The Lost Shankly Boy: A New Title Coming Later This Year

Featured

I am delighted to announce my fourth book has been picked up by those wonderful people at Pitch Publishing. It is a collaboration with George Scott, one of Bill Shankly’s first signings. The book will be published in Autumn. Watch this space for updates.

Here’s a taster of what the book promises to deliver:

An enthralling tale of triumph in adversity and hope over despair. The story of a poor boy from a fishing village in Aberdeen, who dreamed of playing football and ended up rubbing shoulders with one of British football’s greatest, Bill Shankly.
Shankly would assemble a team to rival ‘Busby’s Babes,’ his very own ‘Shankly Boys.’ With Tommy Smith and Chris Lawler already at the club, he would add a raft of young players to the squad, including Gordon Wallace, Bobby Graham and a 15-year-old George Scott – the lost ‘Shankly Boy’.

Here Scott provides a fascinating and unique insight into modern Liverpool’s formative years and Shankly’s Anfield. His is an untold story of a dream crushed and of a career rebuilt in Scottish football and taken to new levels in the South African Premier League. The lost Shankly Boy: George Scott’s Anfield Journey, is a must read for every kid who dreams of football glory. It is a never-say-die tale of passion, commitment and hard work that will be identifiable to anyone who has ever tasted the pain of rejection – only to rise again and grow stronger.

Liverpool vs Manchester United: Benny Hill and the Big Red Boa Constrictor

Featured

By Simon Meakin

Simon Meakin takes a look at this Sunday’s titanic clash with Manchester United, in a match preview like no other.

And we danced all night to the best start ever!  Woo!  Yeah!  Big shout out to young person’s beat combo, One Direction for perfectly encapsulating what is now officially, The. Best. Start. Ever.  And, not only in the English top flight but in any of Europe’s big leagues. 

I’m now wondering how may more games we need to win to break the record in Europe’s small leagues (I believe that’s their official title).  Although I’d imagine someone like Dynamo Berlin in their 1970s Stasi-backed pomp probably managed to rack up 300 wins on the bounce without breaking a sweat (I can’t imagine who would have even dared try to take a point off them knowing that that the team, coaching staff and entire support would probably have been dispatched to the nearest gulag quick-sharp, while the result was “unwritten” in the paper next day.

Our football now seems to have entered a new dimension. The games against Sheffield United and Spurs felt unlike our previous matches this season.  Completely dominant in possession against sides that barely attempted to cross the halfway line.  It’s starting to become reminiscent of peak Pep-era Barcelona (see the 2011 Champions League Final against Man U as evidence.  I’ve never seen them so impotent.  And that’s when they were still quite good).  But (whispering it quietly) it does make for slightly sterile football matches.  I think we actually managed to send ourselves to sleep for the last twenty minutes at White Hart Lane (or New White Hart Lane, or Not White Hart Lane or Highbury or whatever they call it these days) given how easy things had been until then.  All part of Jose’s latest master-plan no doubt, and it almost worked. 

And to make it clear I’m not complaining here – I’d be delighted to send millions of Sky Sports subscribers to sleep if we romp to the title.  It’s up to the other team to try and stop us.  We are basically crushing the life out of teams.  So after my range of Big Red Combine Harvester merchandise mysteriously seems to fail to impress the LFC marketing department I’m planning to sneak back on to Dragon’s Den to unveil my latest new club nickname. The Big Red Boa Constrictor!  Although that does sound a bit Benny Hill-ish (“Hello there young lady! Would you like to come home and see my Big Red Boa Constrictor?”)  Although I might suggest to Jürgen that he could maybe mix it up in training by hiring a saxophone player, having Jordan Henderson dress up in a nurses uniform and getting the entire squad to run in and out of the bushes in Stanley Park really fast, all in a line, while Jordan’s clothes mysteriously fall off and everyone tries to slap Fabinho on the head.  Always worth trying something different to gain that little extra edge surely?

Anyway, back to by far the greatest team the Metropolitan Borough of Trafford (it’s not far from Manchester I believe) has ever seen. The auld enemy (not sure why I’ve come over all Scottish here.  It’s not the Old Firm Derby).  But ever since I was a small child these have been our biggest rivals.  These have been the ones I’ve been most desperate to beat.  More so than Everton or whoever we were fighting it out with for the title.  Even when they weren’t that good (although sadly I’m too young to remember when they were really bad and Denis Law managed to relegate them to a backdrop of their fans fighting, while wearing ludicrous trousers).

But even in those days we always seemed to struggle to beat United as often as we should have (sorry I should be clearer here.  That’s Manchester United.  There is only really one United and that’s the late lamented Hereford United RIP, God Rest Its Soul).  And that didn’t exactly improve when Ferguson turned up and they actually started winning everything. Okay, sometimes we might have been occasionally well beaten but I’ve lost count of the number of times we seemed to lose to scrappy late goals or their keeper having a blinder.  John O’Shea only scored about six goals in his entire career but I reckon about 14 of those were winners against us.

But that only makes the good times all the sweeter. Top of the list has to be the 4-1 demolition at Old Trafford when I thought Torres was without question destined to become our greatest ever player (rest easy King Kenny. Your crown is safe – for now).  Other highlights include a pile-driver from a young Stevie G, THAT goal from Riise and a hat trick from the mighty Dirk Kuyt from a combined distance that was probably less than the length of my big red boa constrictor (I’ll leave you to debate how long that might be).

Favourite memories from matches I was actually at include winning 2-1 at Old Trafford circa 1990. The first victory there for many years and the last for quite a few more, and achieved despite John Barnes deciding to go for own goal of the year by sending a lovely lob over the keeper from 25 yards.  And also last year’s 3-1 win at Anfield when Santa came to deliver an early Christmas present, including an extended Christmas break to a Mr J.Mourinho care of the Lowry Hotel, Salford. 

Less pleasant memories include seeing Jamie Carragher trying to outdo Digger by scoring two own goals.  And the aftermath of our 2-1 win at Old Trafford circa 1990, when we thought we were being clever slipping out of the police cordon leading us back to the Liverpool coaches to get back to my student digs, only to find that thousands of angry seething Mancs had all spotted our sneaky move and decided they were going to lynch us (in some cases trying to climb out of the back window of the top deck of a bus in their desperation to get at us). Rapidly coming to the conclusion this wasn’t the best thought out plan ever, we turned tail and just about made it back to the cordon unscathed (in my mind I cleared the central reservation Colin Jackson style although I suspect the reality was a little less graceful). 

I’ve always wondered what became of the one nutter who followed us, thinking we were up for a ruck, and went charging into the angry mob on his own, while wearing a Liverpool shirt. He actually thought we would be right behind him. It really can’t have ended well for him.

As for Sunday’s match I really, really want to win this one. Not only to take another step closer to the title, and not only because of the rivalry but also because these buggers have had the temerity to be the only team to have stopped us winning.  I’m not sure we’ve ever managed to beat every other team in the league in a single season (we failed to beat City last year, I probably don’t need to remind anyone about not beating Chelsea in the ill-fated Brendan Rodgers title bid season and even our record breaking 1979 team couldn’t beat those lot from Goodison). Win on Sunday and we’ll only have West Ham to go.

So it’s going to be tight.  But as ever I’m going to predict a Liverpool win. 2-0 to the Big Red Boa Constrictor.  Salah to finally break his duck against Man U and Shaqiri to reprise his act from the bench.  Although unlike Jose, Ole will remain at the wheel having perfected the art of winning just enough games to remain in his job without ever threatening to turn Manchester United into a force again.

Oh, and memo to Jurgen. As a Hereford fan, do not let the kids lose to the Slop in the FA Cup. Repeat do not let the kids lose to the Slop in the FA Cup. Don’t expect them to be as big a pushover as that shower from the last round. Curtis get your shooting boots on again!

Liverpool vs Sheffield United: Back to the Future with the Beautiful South

Featured

By Simon Meakin

Simon Meakin says farewell to the last decade and looks forward to the first game of the next one. The Reds take on Sheffield United on Thursday 2nd January and Simon gives us his unique take on the match.

In the words of the legendary football pundit Kate Bush, December Will Be Magic Again. I thought last December must surely rank as not only the greatest single calendar month in Liverpool’s history but most likely in anyone else’s ever.  Not only did we win eight games out of eight, they included a 96th minute derby winner (with added comedy goalkeeping), totally outplaying Man U and dispatching Mourinho, and hammering Arsenal 5-1.  Added to that the nerve shredding win over Napoli (and where would we be now, had Allison not made that last minute save?) and Man City’s sudden Christmas wobble which left us seven points clear at New Year (yes we all know how that turned out but that wasn’t the fault of December) and I’m thinking that we would never see such a fabulous month again.

And yet, just one December later and we could actually already have a better one.  Another eight wins, including scoring five in a Merseyside derby for the first time in over thirty five years, destroying our nearest title rivals on their own ground and becoming world champions (I might be repeating my last blog entry slightly here but hey why not!).  And with both City and Leicester wobbling we are almost over the hills and far away at New Year this time.  The only blot on our copybook was the Carabao Cup defeat to Villa but given the team we put out does that even count?

That’s our most intense month out of the way.  Although it won’t feel like it to the players as straight up its surprise package of the season Sheffield United (although to be fair they will have had an extra day than everyone else to recover from extortionate Uber prices and Jools Holland’s Hootenanny).  Relegation favourites at the start of the season they are instead battling for a place in Europe and remarkably are only six points off the Champions League spots.  Which means that we’re now in the middle of a run of six games on the bounce against the current top eight.  So another tricky match coming up.  The game at Bramall Lane was one of our toughest of the season and needed a goalkeeping howler to give us the three points at what is a bit of a bogey ground for us (that was our first win there since 1990 and ended a run of only three wins in 25 visits stretching all the way back to the 1940’s).

I’ll be paying only my second visit to Anfield this season for this one (the first was the City game which didn’t go too badly).  As far as I can remember, I have only ever seen us play Sheffield Utd once before in what was the dawning of a new era as it was the very first Premier League game at Anfield.  We won 2-1 but oddly enough the only goalscorer I can remember was Brian Deane for the Blades.  It turns out our goals were scored by Mark Walters and Paul Stewart, which may give some idea as to why it turned out to be the dawning of  a fairly rubbish new era from our point of view.

I didn’t realise watching on a balmy late summer’s evening that I was witnessing a football revolution.  Looking back it’s remarkable how quickly things changed from the late 1980’s to say the mid 90’s.  There are lots of theories as to the sudden transformation in football’s popularity, from the necessary post Hillsborough stadium reconstruction and modernisation through to Italia 90 and Gazza’s tears, the impact of Fever Pitch on the middle class view of football to the apparent sudden discovery of ecstasy by football hooligans who decided to stop punching each other and instead start phoning random numbers stuck to phone boxes and drive round the M25 for four hours trying to find a secret field with a rave in it.  But the impact of Sky Sports and in particular the money it brought into the sport (more so than the actual launch of the Premier League itself – much as the blissed out former members of the Inter City Firm in Ibiza and Islington Times Literary Supplement readers were enthralled by the changes in the league’s governance structures I suspect that if that’s all that had changed things wouldn’t have changed very much). 

I once read some Tory MP claim that the railways were basically an anachronism, should be shut down, and that had the petrol engine been invented before the steam engine they would never had needed to exist in the first place, as everyone would already have had cars (I would have liked to have seen him trying to battle his way into Central London every day in his chauffeur driven limo if that had been the case).  Nonsense in my view but in a similar vein I sometimes wonder what would have happened to football had satellite telly been invented before video recorders. 

It’s little remembered these days that when Sky first launched it threw all of its money into movies rather than sport and almost went bust before belatedly latching on to the Premier League cash cow.  But if people had not already had the option of nipping out to their local Blockbusters to rent out Back to the Future 2 on VCR would they have maybe rushed out to buy satellite dishes instead, saving Sky from bankruptcy and meaning they would never have needed to plough billions into football?  We’ll never know (unless some mad scientist manages to go back in time in a De Lorean, accidentally runs over the bloke who invents the video recorder and arrives back in the present day to discover Gary Newbon broadcasting to an audience of 95 from a shed behind some razor wire, for some TV station that looks something like that “Scorchio” one from The Fast Show, while Joel Matip is late for kick off as he’s too busy driving his Uber to supplement his minimum wage income, and has got stuck in the horrendous traffic caused by Lime Street never having been built in the first place).

I’d mentioned that I thought I’d only seen Sheff Utd once before, but now I’m not sure. I have this other memory of us playing them and seeing Beautiful South front-man and big Blades fan Paul Heaton in the Arkles pre-match (although far from being the born and bred Yorkshireman I thought he was, it turns out he was born in Bromborough and his Mum was from Woolton!).  The Beautiful South were playing at the Royal Court that evening and he was reportedly pretty well oiled by the time he got on stage post match.  I remember it was an evening kick off. That must mean I was also at the next home game which we managed to lose to a relegation bound team (and on my birthday as well!).  I’ve got absolutely no memory of the match itself but clearly the new era had not just dawned by this point, but had reached about 11 o’clock in the morning with Liverpool still in bed with a hangover and the sheets pulled over our head.

But setting the controls on the De Lorean to the present day things are looking a lot brighter.  I managed to correctly forecast a return to narrow wins and that Mane would be amongst the scorers against Wolves.  Just not that there wouldn’t be any other scorers (thanks to VAR that late Virgil bullet header wasn’t required).  I’m feeling a little more confident that we’ll manage a more comfortable win this time.  Let’s go for 3-0 for this one and the Caravan of Love to keep on rolling.  Bobby to continue his hot streak, Origi to start and score and Lallana to bag his second of the season. 

Happy New Year!  And to the dawning of another new era.  And a big thank you to the boss.  Jurgen Klopp.  He’s come to sparkle the dark up.

Cup of Coffee

Check out Andy’s musings on the Wolves game

Andy's Anfield Articles

Cup of Coffee

Liverpool v Wolves

29TH of December, 2019

I was coffeed-out.

There is only so much you can drink. I had half an hour to kill before going to Davie’s for the match.

The closest place for a hot drink was Sainsbury’s. It was still open and I got a hot chocolate and plonked myself down, the only person in the café. Flipped the Mirror crossword open and tried to do it. No chance. It was just one of those days where I had now failed to get going in all three of them. Or was it that my mind was being distracted by Liverpool – that was my excuse anyway!

The sweet drink went down a treat – I can recommend it.

I contemplated navigating into a proper car-parking slot – you know, between two cars; what do they call it, parallel parking. Well, I’m sorry…

View original post 1,614 more words

Liverpool vs Wolves: Crazy Horse, Judi Dench and the Debenhams Cup

Featured

By Simon Meakin

Another weekend, another home game and Simon Meakin is back to run the rule over a tricky clash between the Club World Champions and Wolves. Sit back and enjoy.

It is impossible to win the League by the day after Boxing Day!  It is impossible to win the League by the day after Boxing Day!  It is impossible to win the League by the day after Boxing Day!  I need to keep telling myself this. 

No matter how enormous our lead is, no matter how many times my non-Liverpool supporting friends tell me “it’s in the bag” and notwithstanding the fact that it was any other team this far ahead of us I would have given up hope by now.  I am not calling it that we’ve won the league.  What I am calling is that in my opinion this is the best Liverpool side I have ever seen.  Going back forty years.  Better than any of the title winning sides. 

To go to our nearest title challengers a few days after arriving back from Qatar (possibly with a bit of Christmas dinner and some port and cigars in between) and to blow them away in their own back yard (where they had not lost all season remember) was simply imperious.  And as for Trent he can be crowned player of the season now as far as I’m concerned.

Oh and did I mention Qatar?  Aside from everything else I now have the privilege of previewing the world champions.  It may be a glorified friendly to some but I’m delighted to have won the World Club Championship. It’s about the only trophy we’d never previously won after three failed attempts (under various different guises).  OK we never won the Cup Winners Cup but that’s been an ex-Cup for more than 20 years. 

I don’t ever want us to be in a position to win the Leyland DAF Cup (or whatever they call it these days) and I was never quite sure exactly what the Watney Cup was.  Even more intriguingly I remember once reading a Rothman’s Football annual many moons ago (do they still exist?  I assume that’s one more thing the Internet consigned to the dustbin along with the High Street, the Echo Pink Un’ being sold in the pub on a Saturday evening and quite possibly Razzle) that Chester once won the Debenhams Cup.  I’ve never heard mention of this mysterious trophy before or since and no-one else ever seems to have won it or even played in it.  Maybe it’s something that only came to me in a fevered dream?  Or a mysterious artefact with great power that you only hear faint whispers about in certain bars in the Congo and can only be claimed by surviving a three day trek through the jungle, pits full of snakes and a large rolling ball shaped rock just the perfect size to fit in a smoothly contoured tunnel with no uphill bits or sharp corners?

Anyway good luck to Chester for managing to do all that.  As for us, it’s on to the Wolves game.  Another tricky fixture as this lot are no mugs, as they have just demonstrated.  As well as doing the double over City they have beaten all the rest of the “Big Six” at least once since they got promoted, beaten our Under 12’s in the FA Cup and are closing in on a Champions League spot despite the supposed burden of playing in the Europa League with a small squad.  We did win 2-0 at Molineux just before Christmas last season but Wolves were probably one of the best teams we played all season.  That victory probably more than any other at that time gave me the belief that we really were the real deal. 

What else of Wolves?  They’ve got a famously distinctive kit (I like teams that have a kit no-one else has) and used to be quite good.  A very long time ago.  My ex-boss was a Wolves fan.  I can remember him coming into the office in a state of great excitement one morning as for the first time in his life he had actually found someone who was a glory hunting Wolves fan (well someone’s Dad anyway).  This guy was apparently in his nineties and had no connection with Wolverhampton but started supporting them in the 1950’s because they used to win everything. It might be hard to imagine for a Liverpool fan where half of Norway seem to support your club but for most clubs there is no such thing as a glory hunting fan (well bar Chester following their Debenhams Cup winning exploits obviously).

Wolves were also the second side I ever saw play at Anfield back in 1979.  The Red Machine won 3-0 (same score as my first game against Norwich – I was still to endure the shock of us actually conceding a goal at this point) and the history books tell me it was through two goals from Dalglish and one from Ray Kennedy. 

Yes, I actually found a picture of Judi Dench on a bench

The opposition line-up included Crazy Horse himself, Emlyn Hughes and future Sky Sports Anchorman legend Andy Gray (Stay Classy Richard Keys!).  And also, apparently, Geoffrey Palmer (what that Geoffrey Palmer?  Did they also have Dame Judi Dench on the bench? (although Dench on the Bench – could be a good idea for a TV show – Dame Judi visits various parks, sits down and reminisces about the golden era of parks, while shouting at you to keep your ball off the grass, Choppers and white dog poo – up there with Monkey Tennis that one). 

Anyway, despite this star studded Wolves line-up, the main thing I can remember was standing next to a woman who seemed to be covered head to toe in Alan Hansen badges and spent the entire match on the verge of hysteria screaming “Alan, Oh Alan” at the top of her voice every time Crazy Horse, or one of his hairy-arsed Wolves team-mates threatened to so much as slightly mess up Alan’s beautiful locks.

The other thing the history books tell me about the Liverpool line-up that day is that it was the the classic line-up I remember as a kid.  The one I could recite in the school playground from 1 to 11 without blinking an eyelid.  Because it was probably the same line-up as every single other week.  None of this namby-pamby squad rotation, squad numbers up to 66, names on the back of shirts stuff. 

At a push we’d bring David Fairclough or Sammy Lee off the bench. They were probably totally knackered by the end of the season (those team bonding sessions down the pub probably didn’t help either) but it didn’t matter because every other team was just as exhausted.

So on to the match then.  I’m expecting this to be as tough a game as last season’s Christmas encounter. Yet another hard fought 2-1 with a bullet header from Van Djik to win it following a  Mane equaliser late in the first half.  That speedy Traore chap, thinking he’s still playing Man City, to put them ahead.  Leaving us sitting pretty at the top of the table as the new decade beckons, Lords of all we survey.  Even if I live to be 150 we will never, ever be this far ahead at the turn of the year again.  Enjoy it while it lasts.

Liverpool vs Watford: Gary Lineker’s crisps, Elton John’s dress and Roy Wood’s merry Christmas

By Simon Meakin

Liverpool get ready to host Watford at Anfield this weekend, so it’s time for another sideways look at the weekends game. Simon Meakin does not disappoint.

Okay.  Now we’re getting into dreamland territory.  A 14 point lead over City is, lets not beat about the bush here, HUGE.  No team has ever come from that far behind to win the League Title, apparently.  Although whether this is one of those 1992 was Football Year Zero, nothing that happened before the Premier League ever actually happened type of stats I’m not sure.  I also don’t know whether this factors in the days of two points for a win (you try overhauling a 14 point deficit when that means the team above you has to lose seven more games than you – or come up with an unfeasible amount of draws).  Referring back to my Man City blog post (or is that blogpost?  Where can I find a millennial, snowflake grammar pedant please?) how far back where we at Christmas in 1981? 

That was also an exceptionally cold winter, so it may be we had a few games in hand at that stage (in the days when top flight pitches didn’t resemble bowling greens and under-soil heating wasn’t de rigeur – I seem to remember the Baseball Ground in particular spent half the season resembling either the Mississippi Swamp-lands or the Siberian Tundra).  I was living in Shropshire at the time, where the record for the coldest temperature ever recorded in England was broken twice in the space of six weeks. 

The memories of playing in defence against Wilfred Owen Primary School, wearing just a thin short-sleeved top in what was basically an away game in Narnia, is still burned into my brain (we lost 5-1 despite having Guardiola-esque levels of possession due to the fact that once they had broken our high press (or in less high-falutin’ terms, got over the half way line, they simply waltzed through our frozen solid back four).  Even the time I took an overnight coach through the Andes which no-one bothered to tell me effectively meant travelling in a mobile fridge-freezer on wheels and my coat and sleeping bag stuck in the luggage compartment didn’t come close.

Anyway, back to the game this weekend. We are at times playing some glorious football.  The goals against Everton were an absolute joy to behold (Okay, the Everton defence was also an absolute joy to behold from our point of view).  The ball from Trent, the ball from Lovren and Origi’s touch, Mane’s pass for the first.  And the fact that three days later we cruised past Bournemouth with virtually an entirely different front six. 

Unlike the past couple of seasons we’re also not so reliant on our usual front three.  The goals are coming from all over the place.  When Keita scored against Bournemouth it meant that every single outfield player who had played a minute of football (bar the Carabao Cup teams) had scored bar Joe Gomez (although Klopp then messed that stat up slightly by then sending Curtis Jones on who astonishingly somehow failed to score in the entire 14 minutes he was on).

I’m not writing Leicester off by the way, before Gary Lineker takes umbrage and throws crisps at me.  The Boxing Day game is shaping up to be massive.  Win that and the Holy Grail might possibly finally be in reach. 

But, before then we’ve the small matter of Watford to beat.  I make it sound like that’s all we’ve got to do.  I suppose there is also the small matter of becoming Champions of the World, while simultaneously making sure our Under 12’s take out John Terry and his Villa chums.  And all this after a trip to Salzburg when we did our usual leave it to the last game to actually qualify for the knock out stages. 

I have to admit, I had the sort of horrible feeling about that match that Han Solo had when they ended up in the Death Star sewage system with the walls closing in and tentacled things trying to drown them (I always wondered as a kid how they actually got out of there.  There didn’t seem to be a convenient set of steps).  Luckily Red Bull didn’t have a be-tentacled danger-man, so we are safely through.

Watford themselves are clearly struggling and – on paper – this looks to be the biggest home banker of the season.  Particularly given our last three home games against them have ended up 6-1, 5-0 and 5-0.  The first of those 5-0’s happened to be my son’s first ever visit to Anfield, at the age of 8, to watch Mo Salah run riot in the snow and bag four goals (it was the first time I’d ever seen someone score four at Anfield as well, and he goes and manages it in his first game). 

This all happened when the country was in the grip of the “Beast from the East” (insert your own joke about some big ugly centre forward from Norwich or Hull because I couldn’t come up with one). I’d never given it much thought before but it turns out the Kop faces North East.  I can safely say it was the coldest I have been at a football match this side of Wilfred Owen Junior School (although watching Hereford v Wigan in a fourth division match at the old Springfield Park – featuring future Everton managerial maestro Roberto Martinez with a full head of hair – runs it close). I basically missed the last twenty minutes desperately trying to massage my son’s legs to prevent a full on millennial snowflake meltdown (given he was the temperature of an actual snowflake at the time he would argue he had good grounds to be fair).

Watford of course famously came steaming up from the old fourth to the first division in double quick order under the guidance of everyone’s favourite England manager, the late Graham Taylor (a man who must wish he had been knocked out of the Euro’s by Norway, Luxembourg, Equatorial Guinea, or any team that didn’t sound a bit like a vegetable). At least Roy Hodgson did the sensible thing and got beaten by Iceland and no-one ever remembers that do they?.  And not forgetting the stardust supplied by their Chairman.  Ladies and Gentlemen Mr Elton John!  In my mind I always remembered Elton sporting ludicrously oversized comedy glasses in pretty much every picture of the pair of them together. But, a Google search shows that Elton disappointingly seems to be wearing quite sensible glasses (maybe picked up in a two for one offer at the Watford branch of Specsavers after blowing all his money on cocaine and Wilf Rostron). 

One of the funniest interviews I’ve ever read was of Elton in a music magazine a few years ago where, he supremely grumpily reflected on his ridiculous lifestyle in the 1970’s, which veered from drugs binges, to needing a full-on articulated lorry to deliver him to his own birthday party dressed as Marie-Antoinette. His dress had been the size of a hovercraft. Then there was the time he turned up at a match one Saturday to find the whole ground singing “Don’t sit down, while Elton’s around or you’ll get a penis up the a*se (the kind of chant that might possibly get clubs in a spot of hot water these days, and quite rightly so). 

Today’s chairmen have a lot to live up to really. Although, maybe, dressing up like Marie Antoinette and getting a boardroom full of Japanese Salary-men to sing about penises might help Ed Woodward seal the deal with Manchester United’s new avocado partner.

Time to sign off for Christmas with the match prediction.  A third consecutive 5-0 given we’ve finally remembered how to keep clean sheets.  Weather a bit more clement (possibly a light drizzle). Salah restricted to just the three this time, Keita to bag his third in three matches and a free kick from Trent.  The club head off to Qatar (I’ll stick my neck out and predict no Christmas snow there) to be crowned world champions (where I really hope we get to play New Caledonia’s finest Hienghene Sport – although I somehow doubt it) and I’m heading off to whack on some Roy Wood and Wizzard, knock back some Bailey’s and have a row with the in-laws.  Merry Christmas!

Strangers in a strange land

Featured

By Jeff Goulding

The 2019 General Election result has installed an openly racist, misogynist and homophobic man as Prime Minister. In doing so, it rejected a man of peace and a lifelong anti-racist campaigner for social justice.

The British media and those who refer to themselves as moderates have spent four years undermining Jeremy Corbyn and his manifesto of hope, and in doing so they have paved the way for Boris Johnson. The Prime Minister is a man who lies, while hides from scrutiny and who courts the approval of the far right.

I weep for our public services, for the NHS, schools and fire services. I am terrified of what the future holds for the homeless, the hungry and ethnic minorities in our country. I am also worried about the future of our children.

Scotland has overwhelmingly rejected the Tories. As a Liverpudlian, I have never understood more their yearning for self-determination. My City has also rejected Johnson and his Trump tribute act. Our city on both banks of the Mersey remains deep red.

We are unrepentantly Labour, socialist and proud. Liverpool knows what far right Toryism can do, we understand how free market ideology can hollow out cities and communities, leaving them prey to speculators and spivs.

As I walked my daughter to school and then raced to work, on the morning after the election, I saw stoicism and a gritty determination to carry on all around me. These are my people. I love them, I’m proud of them and I can think of nobody else’s company I’d rather be in, in this darkest of hours.

I saw two women hurrying along the road, herding their kids in front of them, they’re clearly running late but they’re locked in conversation and one of them is discussing the result with her child. I could only snatch a fragment of conversation, as I hurtled past on my own rush to join the daily grind.

“Nothing to do with us,” she is saying. “We didn’t want Brexit…” and then what sounded like “we’re not Boris Johnson…”

Then I’m gone. On my way and lost in thought

She was right, I thought. We’re not Boris Johnson or Thatcher or their ideologies. We’re us. That’s how it’s felt most of my life. It’s almost a source of comfort, in a world gone mad. We can always rely in each other, when the rest of the country is voting to destroy themselves. At least that’s not us we think. We’ve done the right thing.

It’s because we have long memories, I think. We recall how the Tory media manipulated and lied and we don’t listen to their crap anymore. Or maybe there’s just something in the water of this port city and cultural melting pot. Or is it in the make up of our immigrant blood. We’re from everywhere, us.

Our minds are not tied to a tiny, island mentality. We’re not English, we’re Scouse is a contradiction, I think. It sounds isolationist but in essence it is a rejection of that, I think. At least it is for me. To be Scouse is to gaze out across the ocean, to the world and all it has to offer. Not to look inward and be insular. Today that’s what Englad looks like to me. I think it always has.

Sadly many northern working class communities don’t seem to feel the same way. It appears that people whose towns and cities were once decimated by Thatcherism, have decided that Brexit and a retreat inland is a much greater priority than the NHS, medicine, education, housing and the food in their bellies.

Places like Blythe and Bolsover, Workington, Wrexham and Crewe have fallen to the Tories and Labour majorities in the North East and the Midlands crumbled amidst a pro leave wave. People like Ian Lavery barely hung in to their seats.

I may be be able to understand the deep socio-economic forces at play, that have led us to this point. But, I’m struggling to live with the consequences.

In other parts of the country there are pockets of hope. In Manchester, Labour remains strong. But Leigh, the seat of Labour MP Andy Burnham fell.

In London, the working class flew Labour’s flag with pride and in other parts of the South too. However, across England the picture is one I cannot comprehend.

As I woke on Friday 13th, I felt like a stranger in a land I simply cannot fathom. I’m not sure I ever will. I know many fellow Scousers will understand what I mean.

It feels like we are living in a cultural and political oasis, in the middle of a horrible, miserable and increasingly terrifying desert. I have felt this way for decades. However, the last four years gave me hope. Today, that hope has almost broken me.

Almost.

‘Scouse, not English’ has long been a rallying cry on Merseyside’s terraces, sometimes tongue-in-cheek, often in protest. For many of us struggling to comprehend and contemplate another five years of austerity, that clarion call sounds louder than ever.

Offer me a ballot paper with a box for Liverpool independence now, and I will cross that box without hesitation. Right now I would. As crazy as I know it is – I’d sooner cut my City off from England, forge bonds with Scotland, Ireland, Wales and mainland Europe, than spend another second in this little England.

That’s how I feel now.

I’m ranting. I know I am. Right now ranting seems the only rational thing to do. I want to scream but at the same time I feel like retreating into my shell. I want revolution, then I’m overwhelmed by resignation. It’s fine-lines everywhere.

Somehow, someday, I will find my true north again. I’ll rediscover my internationalism and figure out a way to understand the English working class. However, right now that place seems so remote as to be in another country altogether.

Liam Thorpe, writing in the Liverpool Echo, has called on us not to retreat into our Scouse bubble. He argues that we are an outward looking city. We are.

Liverpool is proudly exceptionalist, but we are not petty or nationalist. I believe that we see ourselves as citizens of the world. A world in one city with an internationalist spirit.

We are also fighters. We don’t stay down, no matter how hard it feels to get up. In the coming years the blows will once more reign down us. We’ve been here before. We survived by believing that unity is strength, not through division and self recrimination.

In another overheard piece of conversation today, I heard someone mention the election. “I’m done with this, ” said a woman at the counter in a coffee shop.

“Nothing we can do. We’ll just have to buckle up and get in with it.”

“This is it. You’re right. Yes.”

Again, stoicism and a refusal to be broken. In the months and years to come, we are going to need that in spades.

That has to be the way forward. As Scousers, we may feel like strangers, in a strange land, but we will have to be the change that we want to see in it, if there is any hope for us and the future.

We will need to respond to those who would divide with a greater commitment to community and solidarity, to hate with hope. And yes, we will need to look after each other like never before. That means supporting our Foodbanks and other charities with even greater vigour and working as one city to help vulnerable communities and the homeless, and being prepared to support our public services.

Liverpool must become a beacon of cooperation and community solidarity and a model for the rest of the country. The next Labour leader must rebuild the party and the movement on these principles and ideas, and not those of the right-wing and their little-England ideology.

If England has any hope of redemption for me, it rests on the unshakeable spirit of the Mersey.