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

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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

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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.

Liverpool vs Everton: Oleg the Serf, Bubonic Plague and the Smurfs

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By Simon Meakin

OK.  So at the start of an insanely busy and hugely crucial month it’s that lot from down the road up next.  Despite Alisson clearly getting a bit bored and deciding to liven things up by channelling his inner Grobbelaar, we start December maintaining our eight point lead at the top but more crucially are now 11 whole points ahead of Man City (and 14 clear of an increasingly irrelevant Chelsea).  Leicester may now be our nearest rivals but it’s still City I’m most wary of.  I simply don’t trust the blighters not to suddenly perform some sort of witchcraft or hocus-pocus like deciding to reel off 20 wins on the bounce.  Can’t take your eyes off them for a second, I tell you.

If we can make it past the Sheff Utd game at the end of the Christmas and New Year period with our lead more or less maintained, and hopefully having (finally) won the World Club Championship, got through to the knock-out stages of the Champions League and our kids having got us through to the semis in the League Cup then I’ll be a very happy man (I don’t subscribe to this trying to get knocked out of cup competitions early to concentrate on the League – I want to win everything!  In particular it would seem a waste of the lunatic win over Arsenal if we went out with a whimper).

And so we’re in rude health as we face our blue-hued friends (I suspect I mean friends here in the same way that Boris Johnson constantly refers to “our European Friends” every time he talks about Brexit).  Although I have made them sound more like the Smurfs.  Proper or Barron Knights version (“Where are you all coming from?  We’re from Dartmoor on the run!) available.

It’s still not clear by the time we get to Wednesday whether Marco Silva will still even be in charge as Everton are clearly not in rude health (lots of rude words raining down from the Gwaldys Street yes, I’ll grant you that).  This is despite allegedly winning the last couple of transfer windows.  I hadn’t previously been aware this was a thing and I’m not sure whether it means they get awarded an actual window to go into their ever bulging trophy cabinet, along with the arched window from Playschool and some of those ones Ted Moult used to flog possibly? 

Or, maybe their trophy cabinet is just made out of windows?  All the better to see their massive haul of big shiny cups. They’ll be searching for their first win at Anfield since approximately 1276 when Oleg the Serf, returning after six weeks out with bubonic plague, scored a controversial winner which was allowed to stand after Martin Atkinson’s VAR review took two hours, mainly because he had to catch and slaughter his own chicken in order to read it’s entrails.

I have to admit at this point that I had a narrow escape from being a poor benighted Everton fan myself, given that my Mum came from a long line of Blues (despite having been born in Anfield).  Luckily she was never really interested in football (as far as I can work out she has only ever been to one match, the main highlight of which was “Rowdy” Yates attempting to throttle a Fulham player. 

She still gets affronted when I tell her that Everton are not my second club (or third club really – she does accept the Hereford supporting bit) as she seems to work on the principle that how much you support a club should be in direct proportion to how close the ground is to where you were born.  I’ve decided to go with this and adopt an irrational hatred of Robbie Fowler’s Brisbane Roar on the basis that Brisbane is a “good hike” from Fazakerley Hospital. 

My Mum also claims that my Dad’s family must have been the Black (Red?) Sheep of the Scotland Road catholic community, given she swears blind that Everton were the catholic club, but I’ve met many people who seem to think it was the other way round.  I’m beginning to suspect that there was no actual religious split at all.  Liverpool were famously formed by a breakaway group from the Everton club (after an argument about whether it was better to win the Champions League on a regular basis vs winning the transfer window and sacking your manager every October) so I’m kind of guessing they probably all went to the same church anyway.  But I’m sure someone with far more knowledge of the history of both clubs can put me right on this.

Highlights against Everton?  Too many to choose from, from Rushy’s four goals to Origi’s comical winner last season.  But one of my favourites has to be Gary McAllister’s 40 yard last minute winner in 2001 which was crucial in sparking off the late surge to snatch our first ever qualification for the Champions League (although I’m told we might have previously done alright in the same competition in a previous guise). 

It’s interesting to speculate what would have happened to Gary’s old club had he not scored that goal as it effectively condemned Leeds to their near-death spiral given it turned out “Publicity” Pete Risdale had mortgaged the house, including posh goldfish and Seth Johnson, on Champions League qualification.  We probably wouldn’t have got Harry Kewell for a start and then where on earth would we be?

Another favourite memory dates from the last Merseyside derby with standing on the Kop, when leaping forward to celebrate coming from behind to lead 2-1 courtesy of Brisbane Roar’s (Booo!) Robbie Fowler, the entire Kop seemed to part in front of me and I went hurtling about 20 rows forward before actually finding some supporters to crash into.  It took me most of half time to actually battle back up to my mates.  And looking at the fixtures that season I think that must have been the last ever goal I celebrated on that old Kop.  Don’t think I made it to another game until the last day against Norwich when we failed to score at all.  The last goal that standing Kop ever did celebrate turns out to have been by Julian Dicks of all people.  Penalty against Ipswich.  Now there’s a quiz question you never knew the answer to.

I do have to admit that this game doesn’t quite carry the same weight it did when I was living in Liverpool and surrounded by Everton fans at work (along with a Stoke fan who pooh-poohed the idea of it being a proper derby at all on the basis that the players never got hit in the face by pasties hurled from the crowd – apparently par for the course in the world famous Potteries derby – I do wonder if in the big Truro-Falmouth Cornish derby they throw Wedgwood China at the players instead?). 

But we still need to win it of course.  I’ve given up trying to predict clean sheets at Anfield so I’m going to go for a 2-1 win because that’s what we win all our games by these days.  Let’s say Firmino and Wijnaldum.  Late scrappy consolation from Richarlison.  Everton manager sacked again (Where is Marco Silva coming from?  He’s from Goodison on the run!).

Liverpool vs Brighton: Lady luck, black cats and Kloppmobiles

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By Simon Meakin

Since my last blog, we’ve kept our long unbeaten Premier League run (and our long unbeaten run against City at Anfield) going in ultimately magnificent style last week. Although, it has to be said we rode our luck a bit early on. And, I’m trying to remember whether there is some sort of grammatical rule about the maximum number of sets of brackets allowed in a single sentence – (I’m not sure my old English teacher “Hipster” Hothersall would be approving of this).

Salah’s goal in particular was fabulous, evoking memories of the goal my Dad used to rave about above all others in the 1970’s, Terry McDermott’s famous header in the 7-0 demolition of Spurs.  Watching it again it’s amazing how similar they are.  For David Johnson’s raking crossfield ball and Heighway’s sublime cross just insert Trent and Robbo.  It’s the first thing that came up when I typed Terry Mc into YouTube. 

I didn’t even type the “Dermott”.  Although I clearly needed to include the “c” as disgracefully when I only typed Terry M he’s shunted down to third place behind a bloke playing Boogie Woogie piano at St Pancras station and some sort of American TV Evangelists with what appeared to be the world’s worst Irish accent (despite coming from Dallas).  Neither of this pair of jokers I wager ever even managed to get on to the subs bench v Spurs.

Crucially, we followed the City win up by somehow dredging up yet another win against the odds at Palace.  I’m not sure what the opposite of running over a black cat is but I’m sure Klopp must have done it recently.  Maybe he found a squashed black cat in the road while out cruising the streets of Formby in the Kloppmobile (most likely with the windows rolled down, Wayfarers on and listening to “Summertime” by Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince while on the way to Waitrose) and took it to the vet? 

Whatever it is, Lady Luck seems to be smiling on us.  The old adage says that winning while not playing well is the true sign of champions, but I’m fairly sure that champions also manage quite a lot of winning while playing well too. It seems ironic that the only team we seem to have beaten relatively comfortably in the last couple of months has been City themselves. 

And, given the insane schedule we’ve got coming up in the next month, the lads could surely do with a few more relaxing, less emotionally draining wins (the sort where Van Djik can slap on a face mask and some cucumber over his eyes, put a big towel on his head and whack on some whale music with twenty minutes to go).

I’m hoping that Brighton will be one of those games.  I couldn’t write this preview without commenting upon what was obviously the most exciting fact about Brighton growing up in the 1980’s.  The fact it had a nudist beach!   When it was announced that it was opening it was the most mind bogglingly exciting thing my schoolboy mind had ever heard of.  I immediately set about trying to figure out how to suggest a family holiday to Brighton and then to somehow “accidentally” chance upon the Swedish women’s beach volleyball team, who would just happen to have chosen the very same day to forsake Malmo for team practice right next to our deck chairs. 

It wasn’t until many years later when living in Sydney, that I did finally get the chance to stumble unexpectedly onto a nudist beach (on more than one occasion in fact) only to discover that your average nudist turned out to be a lot more old, male and wrinkly than in my fevered teenage dreams.

As I’ve noted previously on this blog I’m also a Hereford fan and the mere mention of Brighton brings back painful memories of the crucial do or die match on the last day of the season in 1997, when the loser would go crashing out of the Football League into Conference oblivion.  I missed the game as I was in Australia at the time.  Specifically, I was visiting a German speaking village outside of Adelaide (I’d taken a day off from tracking down naked men on nudist beaches). Instead of finding an Oompah band and lots of thigh slapping Bavarians, or even a young Jurgen Klopp cruising around rescuing black cats, I somehow managed to find a pub full of Brighton fans. 

This being back in the dark ages, I also had to try and follow the game on the BBC World Service in the middle of the night.  A World Service which incorrectly kept telling me that Hereford were winning until after the final whistle. I have to apologise to the poor German girl who woke up in alarm thinking Adelaide was suffering an earthquake following my string of expletives when I finally found out we’d gone down.

I’d like to think it was some sort of Sliding Doors moment where had the World Service been right, I’d now be faced with split loyalties as Hereford were preparing for their visit to Anfield and it would be Brighton who were looking forward to the visit of Farsley Celtic.  Gwyneth Paltrow would be playing the role of the Farsley coach driver trying to work out quite why she’s faced with a fifteen hour round trip to the south coast in the National League North.

I do have happier memories of a Brighton game when I was at Anfield on the last day of the season a couple of seasons ago.  A 4-0 walk in the park in glorious sunshine with Mo Salah scoring his 32nd goal of the season to set a new Premier League scoring record (for a 38 game season before you start writing in to correct me Mr Alan Shearer).  And Mo Salah’s daughter becoming surely the youngest person ever to score at the Kop end.  Checking back it also turns out that Dominic Solanke scored what, remarkably for a player we managed to sell for £17m on the basis that he was a striker, still appears to be his only ever goal in English football.

Anyway.  On to my match prediction.  Liverpool to repeat the scoreline of a couple of years ago and win 4-0, finally keeping a clean sheet at Anfield. Two goals from a fit again Salah, one for Firmino and Harvey Elliott puts down his copy of the Beano to come off the bench to break Mo Salah’s daughter’s record as youngest ever goalscorer at the Kop end. 

Jordan Henderson will be so relaxed he has time for a facial, a deep tissue massage and some boiled beetroot soup.  Klopp cruises home a happy man listening to Warren G on his in-car sound system and imagining he’s in South Central Blundellsands.

Hillsborough verdict, 30 years of pain in Britain’s pathological State

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Thirty years ago British football witnessed the worst sporting disaster in its history. On the 15th April 1989, 96 men, women and children died Another victim of the crush in the Leppings Lane end of Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough Stadium, Tony Bland, a Liverpool supporter who was in the fatal crush, died from injuries he sustained that day, which placed him in a persistent vegetative state, died in 1993. He became the 97th victim of the disaster, but the true toll goes way beyond that.

Survivors of the disaster, the families of those who lost their lives and countless others have suffered three decades of needless torment. Some, were unable to bear the pain, and took their own lives. Meanwhile, energy that should have been spent rebuilding lives was instead devoted to fighting against an establishment that simply wanted to sweep the disaster under the carpet and move on.

Men, women and children carrying the unbearable weight of grief and loss were forced to become campaigners, study legal texts and relive the disaster in minute detail in courtroom after courtroom. It should never have taken two public inquiries, civil and criminal proceedings, two coroners inquests, an independent panel report and over 11,000 days to right the wrong that was done to these people and their community. However, despite all of that, that wrong has still not been put right.

The ‘not guilty’ verdict, delivered in a drab courtroom in the North West of England on the 28th November 2019, meant that the only man to face criminal charges for the deaths of all those people was acquitted. It also meant that families of the deceased and survivors had sat through days of testimony and evidence, much of which dredged up traumatic memories and rehashed long discredited theories and conspiracies, and all for nothing.

The coroners verdict had exonerated the supporters. It had found that David Duckenfield’s decision making and actions on the day directly contributed to the deaths of 96 people. It concluded that those who died – many of whom could have been saved had expert help arrived sooner – were unlawfully killed.

After the verdict in Preston, families are left asking, if Duckenfield is not guilty, just who was it that unlawfully killed our loved ones? The answers to that question will now have to wait. Further proceeding are pending and all of us will have to hold our tongues, something we’ve all dutifully done throughout this whole process.

Not so the internet trolls, however. This verdict has emboldened those who would once again seek to divert culpability to people whose names have long since been cleared – the supporters. As a result, the hurt and the pain is set to continue for people who have committed no crime, and who have behaved with such dignity and strength for so long. It is a national scandal.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, a healthy State would have wrapped its arms around them all. Every service and aid would have been placed at their disposal, justice would have been swift and learning would have been profound.

In a healthy State, the survivors would have been cared for from day one. They would have been offered the comfort and support necessary to rebuild their lives. Today, they and the families would be able to have made sense of the disaster and while they would never forget, they would be able to live in peace – perhaps enjoy life once more. Instead, they fight on, in needless pain and suffering.

Because, Britain is not a healthy State. Instead it is one that is deeply pathological. A healthy state treats all of its citizens equally, from top to bottom all people are equal in the eyes of the law, and institutions are accountable and act in a way that is caring and supportive when they get things wrong. A healthy state is open, transparent and holds its hand up when it falls short of the standards expected of it.

In a healthy State, government and institutions serve the people and answer to the public. The injured and bereaved do not have to fight for truth and justice. It is seen as a minimum standard, a legitimate expectation and a human right.

None of that is too much to ask. It was achievable in 1989 and it is today. The cost of delivering care and justice promptly is far less expensive than the protraction of agony, the intolerable suffering and the lining of lawyers pockets that has occurred during thirty years of injustice. Yet, to the establishment and the system it propagates, all of that is preferable to real scrutiny and accountability.

The British State is pathological, in my view, because in the face of catastrophe, it’s first instinct is to protect itself, the powerful and institutions. The need to do that far outweighs any other consideration. There are no lengths the State won’t go to in order to avoid taking repsonsibility.

Faced with the Duckenfield verdict, I am left with the seemingly inescapable conclusion that there is no equality before the law, only a pretence of it. Ordinary working people are clearly treated differently, and often with an indifference that borders on the callous.

When an anguished relative, struggling to cope with the enormity of the not guilty verdict, yelled out in court, pleading with the judge to tell him who unlawfully killed the 96, he was ignored and the court was simply adjourned. Those who have been so terrible wronged are left to pick up the pieces without succour from the State. They’re expected to find their own way in an uncertain future.

They facd yet more hardship and struggle. Meanwhile, the judge could find no words for this distraught a being, in pain, in his courtroom.

It should be beyond comprehension that the State and its institutions can be so lacking in basic compassion – yet none of this surprises any of us. My whole life has been spent witnessing evidence of the pathological State. I only really opened my eyes to it after Hillsborough, but it has been there all the time, and it doubtlessly predates me.

The list is endless, Bloody Sunday, The Birmingham Six and Guildford Four, Orgreave, Hillsborough and more recently Grenfell. In all these cases, we see the same pattern. A lack of openness and transparency, attempts to shift blame and even falsification of evidence in order to protect institutions and powerful figures. Justice is rarely served, and if it is at all, only after decades of struggle by people who lack the resources to fight.

Sometimes they struggle in isolation, often they are vilified and every obstacle is placed in their way. Only if they have the stomach to overcome all of that, can they get close to justice. However, even then, they can have it snatched from view in the final hour.

This should concern all of us, whether we are personally affected or not. For humanitarian reasons, sure, but not just that. Because the States pathology means that it never learns, things don’t improve and the injustices continue, handed down from one generation to the other.

Anyone who has lived through the aftermath of Hillsborough will have been horrified by the eerily similar patterns that have unfolded following the Grenfell fire. A complete failure to care for the victims by the government – many have still not been rehoused – compounded by attempts in the media to blame the victims and even the rescuers for the tragedy. And, two years on, many high rise buildings in the UK remain unsafe, despite evidence that they are covered in the same dangerous cladding as Grenfell. The pathological State doesn’t learn.

Its primary motive is self-preservation, and it is too remote to care about anything else. That is true today, and frankly it has been true for as long as I can remember.

The time for peace-meal reform is long past. The State is in need of fundamental reform, if not a complete revolution, which would allow ordinary people to hold the powerful to account and usher in a compassionate State. Only then will we be able to have faith in government and its institutions.

You can wear your Daddy’s scarf today: Tim Godden

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Tim Godden’s emotional illustration

Of all the images shared online to remember those who fell during the two world wars that blighted the 20th century, I found this one deeply moving.

It depicts a familiar scene to all of us. A parent and child getting ready to go to Anfield on match day, only in this one the boy has been robbed of the chance to attend with his father, who in turn has lost all of his tomorrows. The mother has lost a husband.

For me, few images sum up the utter futility and all-pervasive impact of war as much as this one. Thank you Tim.

Please support Tim, you can find his work here:

https://timgoddenillustrations.bigcartel.com/product/you-can-wear-daddy-s-scarf-today

High Stakes at Anfield: Liverpool vs Manchester City

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By Simon Meakin

As the Reds gear up for a huge encounter with title rivals, Manchester City at Anfield this weekend, Simon Meakin is back with another completely unique match preview.

So we’ve staged a well earned comeback against Spurs, a dramatic late comeback
against Villa and a frankly ludicrous comeback against Arsenal. Then, we followed all of that up with a mundane, run of the mill win against Genk – who I had to admit I had to check was an actual real place when the Champions League draw was made; a bit like Neil the dim one out of the Inbetweeners having to ask “what is Swansea? Is it some sort of animal?”

And now, this is it! The big one! It’s not even Christmas but it’s time to roll out the
cliches; Title decider! Championship six pointer! Season defining encounter!

Speaking of Christmas and cliches does anyone remember the one about West Ham always coming down with the Christmas decorations? They always used to somehow be challenging at the top of the League until December. Usually with Dave Swindlehurst bagging an unfeasible number of goals. What Hammers fans these days wouldn’t give to at least have the chance to be dragged from the loft, checked for faulty bulbs that might knacker the entire circuit (more than likely the Andy Carroll light) before being put up with the Christmas decorations in the first place.

Dave Swindlehurst

Right, now that I’ve gone and blown my Christmas bolt in early November (what the hell am I going to write about for the Boxing Day match) let’s focus on the Man City match (I was just going to say “City” there but I don’t want fans of Norwich, Kansas or the City of London accusing me of arrogance). Normally the above cliches would be just that, cliches, but given the performance of City over the past couple of years any chance to take points off them feels crucial.

It was arguably our failure to take more off them last season that did for our title hopes. And, given our performance since the start of last season, the possibility of going nine points clear of them while only having to play them once more would start to get me just a little bit excited. Unlike some Liverpool fans with a hatred of anything “Manc,” I’ve never minded City (that red lot from the Metropolitan Borough of Trafford are a different kettle of fish entirely).

I’m not sure whether it’s because “my enemy’s enemy is my friend,” the fact I liked their kit growing up or just their past comedy tendency to arse up and shoot themselves in the foot at every opportunity (deliberately playing for a draw against us on the last day of the season and promptly getting themselves relegated for not being able to add up anyone?). Sadly this trait seemed to rather irritatingly disappear at the exact same time large bundles of dodgy Qatari oil money appeared.

I also went to university in Manchester and (whisper it very quietly) really liked the
place (apart from the Metropolitan Borough of Trafford of course – which is famously
not in the City of Manchester). I used to cycle past their old training ground in Moss
Side every day (hoping to sneak a glimpse of legendary players like Andy Hinchcliffe
or Ian Brightwell). My mind might be playing tricks on me in my old age but, from what I remember, it pretty much consisted of what looked like a bunch of Goals five-a-side pitches. Pep would be choking on his Jamon Iberico and Patatas Bravas had he had to put up with those kind of facilities, and with me pedalling past and trying to gawp through the fence to try and spy on his Tika-Taka based tactical genius

Mind you, given that he would have also had to put up with Niall Quinn playing up front,
I’d imagine even his Tika-Taka levels of genius might have been stretched a bit. Man City do not have the best of records at Anfield it has to be said and that’s putting it mildly. I read somewhere a couple of years ago that Anfield was the only ground they had failed to win at since they became billionaires, but it’s actually much worse than that.

They have incredibly only won twice at Anfield since beating us in an FA Cup tie in 1956 on their way to winning the tournament, despite Bert Trautmann famously playing most of the final with a broken neck. This is a game still used by football fans of a certain age – i.e. so old they looked like Tommy Hutchinson in his prime – as exhibit number one in why modern day footballers are a bunch of namby-pamby pansies, who wouldn’t know what had hit them if they played in the good old days, along with other exhibits such as shoulder barging, having a crafty Woodbine mid-match, compulsory 14 hour shifts down the mine before kick-off, tackling from behind, and being allowed to infect the opposition centre-half with Smallpox.

One of those wins was due to a last minute Anelka winner in the Houllier years. The
other, more famous win (to my mind at least) was the 3-1 win on Boxing Day 1981.
I’ve got vivid memories of this game as a child, as I clearly remember the fact that it left us 12th in the table over Christmas (fully 11 places behind a Dave Swindlehurst inspired
West Ham no doubt). Equally, I can clearly remember the 10 year old me not being
worried about it as, in my youthful naivety, I simply assumed we would still win the
League, because “that’s just what Liverpool did.”

The incredible thing was that I was right. We did. I believe we hold the record for coming from further back at Christmas to win the title than anyone else ever. Although my memory isn’t quite as clear as I thought as I’ve always had it in my head that an inspired Trevor Francis scored two of their goals. Having just watched the game back on You Tube he didn’t actually score at all.

The win was more to do with performances to forget from Grobelaar and Phil Thompson. The game also apparently involved Big Joe Corrigan being hit on the head with a bottle thrown from the crowd according to my mate.

As for this weekend’s game it’s going to be quite a nervous one, for me at least. Hopefully, Klopp will have the players sorted. There’s a chance to go nine points clear or potentially have it cut to just three.

I was toying with predicting my first draw but let’s go for yet another 2-1 win. Hopefully not leaving it as late as Villa. Firmino and Mane with Gabriel Jesus getting one in return and us sitting pretty, eight points clear of Leicester.

Rees Mogg and Grenfell: Callous or detached indifference? — Ramblings of an Ordinary Man

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Were Rees Mogg’s comments on Grenfell the result of callous or detached indifference? Either way they make him unfit to govern

Rees Mogg and Grenfell: Callous or detached indifference? — Ramblings of an Ordinary Man

Whose side are you on?

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By Jeff Goulding

So, if you’re a Red in the UK, you’ll be all too aware that we face a General Election in six weeks time. Within hours of Parliament agreeing to go to the polls, Boris Johnson was being booed out of a London hospital, the Lib Dems were blaming Labour for almost a decade of austerity they helped to facilitate, and Brexit – which austerity helped to facilitate – and Jeremy Corbyn was asking a nation to choose between disaster capitalism or a future in which we cooperate to solve our problems.

He repeatedly asked, ‘Whose side are you on? Is it the bad bosses, who grow rich by avoiding tax while exploiting their workers? Or are you on the side of the real wealth creators, forced to compete for zero hours contracts and supplement their income with visits to a foodbank? Are you on the side of unscrupulous landlords who force tenants to live in squalor, or the media barons whose squalid coverage has polluted our politics and sewn hatred and division? Or do you side with those who want decent homes for all and a media that deals in truth instead of lies.

The Tories, meanwhile, have boldly suggested that, after they’ve spent a decade in government, ‘Britain deserves better.’ I could not agree more.

After years of failed Brexit negotiations and broken promises, three successive Tory Prime Ministers have failed to deal with a single one of the country’s ills. And, they want us to believe that all of that is the fault of the opposition, not those who’ve been in power throughout it all. It is a spectacularly brazen con, but it will be dutifully aided and abetted by their friends in the print and broadcast media – particularly those who donate millions to the Conservative cause.

By now, if you didn’t know already, you will be beginning to see where my allegiances lie, where I’ll put my X on 12th December and whose side I’m on. For the avoidance of doubt, I’ll be voting Labour.

You may feel this post seems out of place on a website devoted to my love for Liverpool Football Club. Well, let me tell you why it isn’t.

To readers who reside in Liverpool, I know you require no explanation. We have long understood our relationship with the British establishment. If the sleep was not cast from our eyes by their policy of managed decline of our city during the Thatcher years of the 80s, we became fully awake in the aftermath of Hillsborough.

Managed decline: A Tory vision for Liverpool

In the years that followed that terrible day in 1989, we were treated to the full spectacle of the press, the police, the courts and the government acting in concert to shift blame away from those responsible for the tragedy, and on to the people who suffered most. We responded by being even more united and determined than they were in our quest for truth and justice. And, we won.

We beat MacKenzie and Murdoch and we outlasted and outfought Thatcher and her successors. That banner on the Kop – the one that says ‘Unity is Strength’ – is about so much more than football. It’s a message to all who visit the away end at Anfield too. And, it’s a lesson for life.

We can be sporting enemies for 90 minutes, but in life we are cut from the same cloth. Those in Yorkshire who remember Orgreave and those living in the shadow of Grenfel know only too well that our struggles are the same.

Manchester United fans, or fans from any other club who support their teams on Anfield Road, return to the same daily grind as those who stand on the Kop, when the final whistle blows.

In the next six weeks we will once again be faced with a barrage of lies and distortions. We will be told we are ‘leavers’ or ‘remainers,’ ‘Workington man’ or ‘London elite.’ These are labels intended to divide and convince us to vote against our interests.

Then there is the ‘people versus parliament con trick’ – the one that suggests that privileged and powerful people like Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg have our backs. That has frankly never been true, but it has never been more laughable than it is today.

If that fails, then the Tories will rely on the most dangerous lie of all taking hold among voters. It’s a falsehood that is already gaining traction, and it can be captured in just four words:

‘They’re all the same.’

We’ve all seen these words writ large on social media pages or uttered almost proudly in coffee rooms or on public transport. It is the rallying cry of the apathetic and a justification for disengagement and inaction. And, it is music to Tory ears.

To be honest, I almost sympathise. If you’ve been treated to scenes of parliamentary pantomime on your TV screens, to MPs in suits shouting and bawling while the country goes to rack and ruin, if you’ve watched the opposition leader struggle to be heard amidst the melee, while some posh bloke in a gown yells ‘Ordeeer!’ Then I can understand why you might think it’s all a farce and that it means nothing to you and doesn’t solve your problems.

I also understand that if every major news outlet accuses the opposition of incompetence, and worse still treachery, you could be forgiven for throwing in the towel and escaping to the make-believe world of Strictly and Celebrity X-Factor. But, that would be a terrible mistake.

Because, they are not all the same. This election is about two very different visions of our future.

In this Parliament there are those who are there to serve the interests of the wealthy, the landlords, the billionaires, the bosses and their backers – let’s call them ‘the few.’ And there are others who seek to represent the rest – we’ll call them ‘the many’.

In my view this has been the case for more than a century. Yes, it’s true that sometimes those charged with fighting the corner of the masses have let their constituents down. The current crop of Labour MPs may not be perfect on that score either. You may feel their leader doesn’t seem strong enough, wears the wrong tie, has a beard and oh, don’t they say he’s a terrorist?

Frankly though, if you won’t vote for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party because you honestly believe that he is a jam-making, terrorist racist, despite him campaigning his whole life for peace, and being arrested once for fighting against South Africa’s racist apartheid laws. Or, because he’s somehow simultaneously a terrorist and a pacifist who refuses to incinerate the planet in an all out preemptive nuclear attack, then this blog probably isn’t for you anyway.

However, if you’ve seen through all that stuff, but remain unconvinced that Labour will do any good in office, then I urge to look at their programme. Seriously, it is one that offers something radically different to anything we’ve seen since 1945 and it could transform your life for the better.

It is a stark difference to the slashing and burning of workers rights, pensions, environmental and consumer protections on offer from this government. You may have wanted to take back control from Brussels, but did you really want to hand it over to Trump and his backers, allowing them to buy up our public services and turn them into profit machines for the super-rich?

I don’t believe you did. I believe you want the same things that I and millions of other people want. You want to live in peace, you want your kids to be educated well, in classrooms that help them to fulfill their true potential. And, you want a decent home and to live in a society that cares for you when you need it and where you have the wherewithal to care for your family, instead of being one paycheck away from a loan-shark or a foodbank.

Actually, you want more. And you should aspire to have more. You should find work rewarding. It should satisfy you financially but you should also feel valued in the workplace and have a voice at work.

And, when work is over, you should be free to enjoy your leisure time, which should be affordable. People should be able to play and watch football or take part in their community or the arts without going into debt or sacrificing other things.

We should all have a voice in how our neighbourhoods or our football teams are run and served. It should not be left solely to billionaires and speculators to monopolise our free time, in order to extract profit from us.

If you’re young, you should be able to look forward with optimism, not fear about whether you can afford an education or what state the planet will be in. You should expect to leave University free from debt and look forward to a career and a life that is fulfilling.

These aspirations are not too much to ask for. We’ve been told they are for too long. The 14 million people living in poverty in the UK today, have been made to feel it’s their fault, while the super-rich avoid tax and the rest of us are asked to accept there’s no other way.

Curtailing the excesses of privilege is robbing people of aspiration, we are told. It’s a perverse logic that prefers the hope’s and dreams of those tiny few, already bloated by excess, at the top of the pile, while depriving the rest of all hope for a better life.

It’s a lie that your desire for a decent and fair life is unaffordable. This is one of the wealthiest nations on earth. The challenge for us is not one of managing scarcity, but of seeking social justice, and striving to achieve greater redistribution of wealth and power.

We can meet all the challenges facing us, if we work together. It won’t be easy but we can deal with the climate emergency, regain control over our working lives and of our communities. We can share the wealth we create and look after those who can’t look after themselves. We can do all of that despite what the media and some politicians tell us.

It’s all within our grasp. All we have to do is vote for it on December 12th. Only a vote for Labour will deliver this vision. No other Party is offering real change.

The club we follow today is built on the principle that if everyone works together we all win together. And, on the simple idea that the spoils of victory are shared by all. This was of course Shankly’s mantra but it belongs to an old and noble tradition of socialist thought that has the potential to benefit us all, regardless of who we are or where we’re from.

This is also a vision regained and held, at long last, by the Labour Party today. It’s in every word of their manifesto and the hearts of their half-a-million members.

So, in this election there has never been a clearer choice at the polls. When it comes to the political parties in this country, they are absolutely not all the same and there is no justification for apathy.

All of us need to decide whose side we’re on. Are we on the side of the many or the few? There is a bigger picture, bigger than Brexit and bigger than any individual politician.

Our collective futures are at stake in this election. A vote for the status quo will deliver only sustained decline. So, I know I’ll be voting Labour, for the many. I ask you to do that too.