This Is Not Football is giddy at receiving the first ever guest piece, written by Miles Shackley. Read on and you will understand why.
[The episode opens with a clip of Joe Garston, drinking a pint of mild in a nondescript shithole of a pub, staring wistfully out of a window. The look on his face suggests he’s a man reminiscing about a faithful old dog, or an elderly aunt taken cruelly early by a severe dose of The Clap. Viewers at home can almost smell the carpet.]
Narrator : Joe Garston is a massive fan of Liverpool Football Club, a club which plays football in the English Premier League, based in the City of Liverpool in the northwest of England. Joe is such a big fan of the club that not only has he supported it all of his own life, but he’s also supported it for a portion of some of his friends’ lives, too.
Joe : I like to think of myself as a bit of a philosopher, I suppose. I think there’s a lot of us like that out there that support Lipbewlfubbalclub. It’s what makes us different, and nothing like the fans of any other club in the history of any other sport, ever.
To me, Lyerbpyulefubbalclub is more than just a fubbalclub. It’s a way of life. Everything I do – everything we as fans of Libbubfubbalclub do – is in some way intrinsically linked to the success of Lerbyillfubalclub.
I think we all make a difference to this club. In every single thing we do – it’s transmitted to the pitch and the players and the game by brains and feelings, even on a day when we’re not playing. It’s all around us. It’s what we are. We are the faded red and grey of a King Kenny 1988 manager’s coat, the sound of ten thousand scarves dropped when we concede a last minute goal to FC Dynamo Knob’ead 1832, the smell of a cup full of shit flying lustily through the air. We are Lirbyerpulfubbalclupp.
Narrator: At Liverpool’s multi-million pound, expansive state-of-the-art award winning training ground and facility of Melwood in the gritty district of West Derby, manager Brendan Rodgers is in his expensive office which has oak panelling and a leather chair which spins around. It’s a far cry from his more humble previous surroundings at Swansea, which stank of desperation and Wales. Brendan is talking to one of his favourite players, young starlet Jonjo Shelvey, ahead of training.
Brendan: Jonjo! Jonjo, Jonjo, Jonjo. Here he is. Jonjo. I’m like the Lone Ranger and he’s my Jonjo. “Kemosabe”, he calls me. He doesn’t, he’s got more respect than that. For those of you who don’t know, this is Jonjo Shelvey. OK? He’s one of the best young lads we’ve got here – he is young, don’t be fooled by the skull, OK? Premature balding, sometimes happens. If… if a horse racing presenter… hang on… if a famous horse racing presenter ever got to a race meet a day early, she’d be Premature Balding. Clare Balding! That’s, er… sports. Topical. Anyway, Jonjo. You ok?
Shelvey: Yes, boss.
Brendan : All ready for the weekend?
Shelvey: Yes, boss.
Brendan : The hamstring’s not too tight, you’re not feeling it in training?
Shelvey: No boss, it’s fine.
Brendan: You want me to feel it for you? Kidding, I’m not Jimmy Savile. Which is a good thing, because he’s dead and no-one wants to be dead at the end of the day. But bear in mind, Jonjo, two points. First point [uses thumb to indicate point one] – even though he’s an alleged nonce, he’s still achieved more than you at this stage of your career. And that’s the benchmark I want for you. I want you to beat Jimmy Savile, if you will.
Shelvey: Yes, boss.
Brendan: Second thing. You’ll only do that by working hard, listening hard, and getting hard. Not in that sense, just toughening up. OK, good lad. Now come here, let me look at you. Good lad. OK. OK, let’s go. Good.
Narrator: Brendan has only been at Liverpool for a matter of weeks, but already he’s making his mark around the club. His philosophy is a simple one. “Be the person that makes the lives of every person you meet better, every time you meet them”. It’s not something he’s ever gone on record as saying, but it is a sentiment in keeping with the official Fenway Sports Group and its affiliates sponsored corporate philosophy for 2012. Underneath that gladiatorial, swashbuckling Errol Flynn persona, Rodgers… well, he just seems fat enough to think it. Star striker and team pin-up Luis Suarez is one of many who have been impressed by his hands-on approach.
Suarez: I could not understand the other manager. He was British, but when he spoke, it was like listening to a man throwing a brick into jelly, as we say in Uruguay. Brendan is different. He’s about having fair play. He’s about respect for your opponents, but he’s about winning for the club too. I have endured a very difficult few months in England and Brendan has backed me all the way and made me feel welcome. He phoned the referees for me a couple of weeks ago and was all “why don’t you give penalties for Luis”, and “they’re kicking Luis but he doesn’t get free kicks, which is wrong”. It was nice that he did this, and he has made it clear that in no way does he feel that anything I have done in the past has contributed to this state of affairs. So I won that one, hahaha! But joking aside, it was nice that he did that and I’ll probably feel bad if someone makes a good offer for me and I decide to leave. But for now, my heart is here.
Narrator: Liverpool is unlike every other club in the world, in that it has built a side not only on expensive foreign imports, and established and rising domestic stars, but a core of local homegrown talent. Players like club captain Steven Gerrard epitomise everything that local Liverpool fans, or “Kopites”, aspire to be, despite having no forehead. Younger charges such as Jay Spearing, who has been loaned out to Bolton, and Martin Kelly, who will probably never make it, are looking to walk the same path. Meanwhile, the club’s elder statesman Jamie Carragher was born in Liverpool but ironically grew up supporting local rivals Everton. Jamie, a known voice around the city, was keen to set the record straight about his “misguided” choices as a youth!
Carragher:“eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” [NOTE – subtitles likely to be required for southern states]
[Cut to pub from opening scene]
Narrator: The room is full of Liverpool fans, who have gathered around the television to shout at it as Liverpool face FC Magyar Milkman Select XI in the Europa League, which is a European trophy that sides who don’t win things can get into by virtue of getting to a final and losing, or by being a side that plays in the spirit of the game but doesn’t succeed in winning things. The faces staring at the television have been creased by moments of agony, folded with toothless grins of joy – these men have seen it all in their years of supporting Liverpool. Each has his own unique piece of history he’s eager to relay, a timeless moment enjoyed in the flesh only by those who were able to say “I was there. I was one of the lucky few, a ticket in my hand by fair means and, sometimes, foul. The costs were great – financial, emotional, spiritual. But I watched the unfolding of history in Rome in ’77, and the complete disintegration of logic and sanity in Istanbul in 2005 – and no price would ever be too great. For those days were days of majesty, days of lore, days that in their intensity and beauty would shame even Shakespearian poetry”.
Fan 1: FuckinTWAT’IIIIIIIMTHERFUKKINOB’EAD! Fuck’s sake, Lidlyeprule – you should have hit him on the halfway line. He’s run 50 yards there without a friggin’ challenge.
Fan 2: Fuck’s sake, these are worse than last season. This Rodgers is shite – at least Dalglish was a miserable twat. I knew where I was with that.
Narrator: Liverpool have lost again. The language is industrial. These are men’s men, saying things we won’t put into subtitles.
Joe Garston: “On days like these, you look around. Familiar faces in the ground. We’ve lost today, but never mind. These kids are young, their feet they’ll find. You pray and hope and hope and pray, tomorrow is another day. The faces here, they know the score. Two home defeats, one score draw. Surely Brendan’s got it in him, to get these lads all playing and winning. But then again, you never can tell. Pacts with the devil all end in hell”.