I cannot claim to have followed every twist and turn of the Liverpool FC saga, but it says something about what top flight football has become that fans now find themselves doorstepping banks, courts and law firms, rather than merely stadia and team buses arriving to offload the players before a match.
You don’t have to be in Liverpool for long – I was there yesterday to speak to the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy – to feel the intensity of concern among both Liverpool and Everton fans about the current state of their clubs.
The slide in Liverpool’s fortunes has been fairly dramatic, and something in me says that the euphoria that seemed to grip the law-firm-doorsteppers last night may be misplaced. There is something about 12-inch cigar-smoking American multi-squillionaires that doesn’t sit easily with the LFC brand (in its successful guise).
We shall see. What the volume of coverage of this saga has shown, as manager Roy Hodgson observed yesterday, is just how much a football club like Liverpool means to so many people. But the lesson of recent months, no matter how well this particular chapter of the story has ended, is that no club is totally immune from the forces that have been unleashed upon the football world. Further down the football food-chain … ask supporters of Dundee FC, whose staff and players are currently staring at p45s.
But the faith of the fan tends to be enduring. So I write this as I head to Bramall Lane to see whether Burnley can get their first away win of the season at Sheffield United.
I am normally an away end person. But in part because I want to catch up with my old mate Dick Caborn, former sports minister and a lifelong Sheff U fan, and also because my son Calum can’t make it today, I have decided to slum it in the directors’ box.
And here’s the thing. Just as those fans who turned up at Slaughter and May law firm thought they were influencing events – and may well have done – there is a little part of me thinking my one-match shift from away end to posh seats and prawn cocktails might just be the tactical shift we need to get that elusive first away win. I will be texting manager Brian Laws shortly to ensure he factors this in to his planning. If we win, you will be hard-pressed to persuade me I had nothing to do with it. If we lose, I will be back in the away end at QPR for our next game on the road.
What do you mean football fans are illogical?
And may I thank the organisers of the Ilkley Literature Festival for organising my event tonight so it fits perfectly with the timings of our first away win … the sun is shining, the match will be won, and the mood will be good in Ilkley.