It’s been said, admittedly not by anyone around here, that it’s quite strange I should be a Liverpool supporter. What with being from ‘the wrong side of the Pennines’ and all. "You should be a Leeds fan," they say, managing to insult my intelligence and preference for not spitting at people in one fell swoop. (Seriously. Ever been to Elland Road as an away fan? It’s mighty scary.) Then people conclude that I was just following the glory – I started supporting Liverpool in the late 80s, when they were a force to be reckoned with and Leeds (United! Leeds! Ah, the sound of 20,000 lobotomised gibbons chanting in unison) were languishing somewhere in old Division Two.
This is not true. In fact, it’s a gross slander. So I’m going to put these rumours to bed and tell you the whole, frankly embarrassing, story of how I crossed the divide and came to be a Red.
A proper Red. Not one of those Manc bastards.
It’s spring, 1988. I am 10 years old, growing up in a household free of sport, with the exception of snooker and formula one.
So, a household free of sport.
I know nothing about football. I’m not even interested in football. I certainly can’t play football. I am watching Blue Peter (for this was not only a sport-free household, it was a BBC1 children’s television household). Both teams that reached the FA Cup Final that year have released records. And they’re both on Blue Peter. And I get it into my 10 year old head that I should support one of these teams to win this FA Cup Final thing, but because I don’t know anything about football, I make my decision based on their songs.
You can imagine how bad Wimbledon’s song must have been, given that Liverpool’s effort was the abysmal Anfield Rap, notorious for containing the line "I come from Jamaica, my name’s John Barnes, when I do my thing the crowd go bananas".
Clearly recorded in the days before Kick Racism out of Football…
Shit, it’s so bad I can’t even get past the first verse.
Anyway, any scholar of sporting upsets will tell you that Wimbledon pulled off the shock of the decade and won. But I never managed to shake off the mantle and carried on supporting them… the next year I was in tears as Michael Thomas scored that last-minute goal for Arsenal to wrench the title from our grasp, and I still didn’t understand the game at all. (I ended up teaching myself the rules during Italia 90.) So there go your glory-hunting theories… my love for my team was forged in misery.
Which sounds about right for me.
People who know me a little better occasionally accuse me of being a Liverpool fan only because of the gloriously strawberry-blond curls of one Steven McManaman, but I point my geeky finger right back at them and say his first team appearance didn’t come until 15 December 1990 (and while I did google that date, it was only to double-check because I remembered it), a full two and a half years after that infamous FA Cup Final defeat.
It’s been 20 years. I’d like to say it’s been worth it, but I’m really not sure.