Liverpool Football Club, Premiere League Champions! Ah that feels good to say and as fans begin to celebrate Liverpool’s triumph the reality of the Reds ending the 30 year drought for a league title is beginning to sink in. While emotions and feelings are running high and for some may be a little too much to handle the fact is that this is more than just Liverpool becoming champions of England, this means so much more to so many of us.
Growing up with the pain
If you are like me, a Liverpool fan in their 30’s, the lightly hood is you won’t be able to remember the last time Liverpool won a League Title and have probably had to grow up with the pain and burden of that history weighing you down season after season. In my case my whole family are Reds’s. my mum and dad both support Liverpool as did both of their parents as well as all my Aunty’s, Uncle’s and cousins, the “LFC Gangsters” we called ourselves, when I say we bleed red it’s not just a figure of speech, the club is literally in my blood and as a result our family have become entwined into the very fabric and DNA of Liverpool FC. I grew up listening to stories from my dad and my mum about the good old days of Shankly and Paisley, in fact on our weekly three and a half hour journey back from my boarding school every Friday dad would often tell me about where he was and what he was doing while watching famous matches during Liverpool’s glory days. Whilst it was exciting listening to those stories and imagining what it must have been like even as a kid you would still yearn to experience those feelings of euphoria especially with my family. Even playing football in the back garden, me, my sister, my cousins and my best friend Ikki who was also a Red would try to recreate that moment we dreamt of, Liverpool winning the league. The first-ever title challenge I can remember Liverpool being a part of was the 96/97 season and that famous game against Coventry at Anfield. We had just seen Man United getting blown away by Derby the day before and with only two points separating us in second from United in first my dad was convinced we were going to beat Coventry and end what was then only a seven-year wait for the title. We all know how that Coventry game went but the disappointment in my dads face when Coventry got their second and the heartbreaking moment we all experienced at the final whistle when we realised Liverpool had thrown it away is something that we would have to get used to as the years went on. In 2002 it was Tottenham, in 2009 Arsenal, 2014 Chelsea and last year Everton, no matter how many times Liverpool couldn’t get over that final hurdle the pain that came with it never reduced if anything it increased more and more as the years went on and the saying of “next year will be our year”, which in 97 was said full of hope and optimism but by the time 2014 had rolled around it became somewhat of a joke in our household. Year after year, season after season you had to go into school in May and try and hold your head up high and be proud of what the team had achieved. Yes, there was the odd glory year, the treble in 2001 and the Champions League in 2005 were rare highlights in what was one of the biggest droughts in the English game.
Changing the mood
2015 couldn’t have started any worse if Liverpool had tried. After that slip the summer before Liverpool went into the new year with the announcement that Steven Gerrard would be leaving the club at the end of the season and for me personally this marked one of the lowest moments I’ve ever experienced being a Liverpool supporter. Stevie G had become a personal hero of mine, I always looked up to him when things were tough and his goals had got me out of some pretty dark situations in my own personal life, most notably his goal against Manchester United in Cardiff in the 2003 Worthington Cup Final, which came four weeks after my mum had passed away. Me, my dad and sister had spent that morning going through mum’s belongings and by the time kick off came around I was emotionally drained. If ever I needed a Liverpool player to pull a rabbit out of a hat that was the game and in true fashion Gerrard didn’t disappoint. I can still remember shouting “hit it Stevie!” just before he took the shot that clipped David Beckham’s foot and looped over the keeper and into the back of the net. I swear I celebrated that goal unlike any other goal I’ve ever celebrated before.
It’s for this reason that I always looked up to Gerrard as more than just a footballer and his announcement to leave the club in 2015 not only broke my heart but left me with genuine concerns about the direction Liverpool we’re heading in, especially when rumours started to emerge that Gerrard had been forced out by the then manager Brendan Rodgers. Rodgers was already coming under heavy criticism from fans and pundits over the way Liverpool imploded on themselves at the end of the 2013/14 season and if the rumours of him being the one to force Gerrard out were actually true he was about to become the most unpopular person in the city, for me he had to go and after a disappointing start to the 2015/16 season the Liverpool owners decided to part ways with the Northern Irishman and Jurgen Klopp was appointed Liverpool manager in October 2015. Liverpool needed a new hero and from the minute the German appeared in front of the cameras for the first time I knew straight away he was the right man for Liverpool. He got it, he straight away understood what the club meant to us all. Mum and dad always used to tell me and my sister “you got your academic education at school but your life education you got on the Kop and football was more than just 11 men kicking a ball. It was part of our family’s culture, a way of life”. You could just see in Klopp’s eyes that he understood this, it was a weird feeling but I could almost see mum’s and dad’s words written all over his face, like I said before the only way I could describe it was he just got it, and as Klopp began to build his team it was obvious that he was going to be the man to end the long wait for a league title.
What a year
I don’t think anyone could dispute that it’s been a remarkable last 12 months for Liverpool, from becoming European Champions last June and winning the European Super Cup in August then the World Championship in December Liverpool were on course to finally end the wait for a League title. At the beginning of March we found ourselves 25 points clear at the top of the table and the team looked unbeatable, however Liverpool can’t win things the easy way and had to face the small issue of a global pandemic, world football came grinding to a halt by the middle of March. For the next three months we as supporters had to wait anxiously as rumours of a null and void season started to surface. On a personal level I would be lying if I said this didn’t course me a few sleepless nights I started to think “not again”. I didn’t want to feel that heartbreak that I had become so used to down the years and as the “Liverpool haters” began to come out of the woodwork my anxiety levels went to an all-time high regarding the season restarting. I couldn’t even watch any highlights from matches this season as I was so afraid that my worst fears might be realised. Thankfully they weren’t and in late May when we finally got a date for the Premier League to restart I let out a big scream as though Liverpool had won the league already. This wasn’t me prematurely celebrating but this was a massive outpouring of relief that maybe, just maybe, I might be able to see Liverpool win that Premier League title.
A moment in history
When the referee blew the whistle for the full time in the Chelsea vs Manchester City the outpouring of emotion was quite frankly the most incredible feeling I’d ever experienced, and yes I did go a little crazy. I ran out onto the street punching the air with my left hand and screaming at the top of my voice the emotion was just too much. It took me back to all those moments as a child in the back garden when you pretend to score the goal that gave Liverpool the title, those moments when you went into school after a heavy defeat knowing you had to just grin and bear it and those moments lying in bed dreaming of Liverpool becoming Premier League Champions. All these moments came flooding back to me in one great big emotional roller coaster of the last 30 years, When I came back in and as I rang my dad I was fighting to hold back the tears, I know exactly how Klopp felt during his interview with Sky Sports, I’m sure so many Liverpool fans felt the same.
As I looked out the window and up to the summer sky I swear I could hear my mum saying “nice one my son” and I know there will be hundreds if not thousands of Liverpool supporters who have lost loved ones in this last 30 years who will know exactly what I mean. Mum was a Red through and through and the more me and my sister got into football the more she did. I remember visiting her in the hospital one time after we beat West Ham and the first thing she asked me when we got in her room was did we win? Who scored? How did we play? She would have been chuffed to bits at what Liverpool have achieved not just in this last 12 months but in the last few days.
On a personal note, I would like to send my own congratulations to Klopp and the team, words can’t fully explain what this title means to all of us but I hope this article has done a little bit of justice in making that point. I don’t believe we will be waiting another 30 years to win another title and I do believe that this is marking the beginning of a period of dominance for Liverpool but I don’t want to make predictions at this point, it’s not the time, now is the time is to soak it all in and for Liverpool fans across the world to enjoy this moment. Yes, we may get the doomers and gloomers who will say we shouldn’t be celebrating because of the current pandemic and whilst they have a point the fact of the matter is they really don’t understand the fact that this means so much more.