Pre-Season’s Greetings

Well, blow me (not literally, unfortunately). It seems that the charming web site I signed up for all those months ago has undergone a metamorphosis into a huge corporate monster. Which is entirely fitting when you consider how football has gone. To all those newcomers from Pass And Move, I bid you welcome. I imagine only two of you will bother reading this irregular rant of mine, which should double the readership. At the moment I have two loyal readers: my sister, who to my eternal shame is a Manc, and my ex-girlfriend, who only tunes in to point out my spelling mistakes and remind me that she hates me and hopes I choke on my own vomit and…

Ahem. As I explained to James when I first started this lark, I have no intention of writing a review of recent events. Other people do that perfectly satisfactorily. What I do is twofold: 1) I talk through my arse, and 2) I give a slightly eccentric view of all things Liverpool, a view from way out in left field as your American cousins might say.

To demonstrate this esoteric way of thinking I would like to offer you this quote from Kenneth Kuanda . . . don’t fall over each other in a rush to ask who he is. Big Ken was the ruler of Zambia from around 1960 to 1991. In fact, if you dig out your official club video, he can be spotted at the 1983 Milk Cup final (that was what the League/Littlewoods/Rumbelows/Coca-Cola/Worthington Cup was called when Liverpool were invincible in it). Kuanda is the big bald dude behind Bob Paisley as he receives the trophy, giving a very slow round of applause. I don’t know if he is a Manc giving a desultory clap to reflect his disgust at Liverpool’s triumph, or whether diplomatic niceties prevent him from vaulting out of his seat and giving Bob a massive bear hug. I prefer to think the latter.

Anyway, KK was ask one of Africa’s more enlightened despots, and eventually gave up power after an election in 1991. When asked how he felt about losing power to a man he had had tortured in the 1970’s – I didn’t say he was that enlightened – Kenneth shrugged and replied “you win some, you lose some.”

24 carat bullshit, of course. This kind of cod-philosophy can be applied to just about everything in life, and football is no exception. Fans develop a skin harder than a rhinoceros and the pseudo-intellectualism of “you win some, you lose some” becomes the anthem of the embittered cynic.

But one person is immune to such a phlegmatic attitude. That’s me, the world’s greatest fatalist. My philosophy is “you win one or two, you lose all the rest”. Football exists merely to inflict pain on me. Let’s look at an average week in my footballing life. The Reds play Leicester at Anfield on Wednesday. They lose, and embarrassingly so. I have barely enough time to recover from being plunged into the Seventh Level of Hell, where Satan keeps his most vile toasting fork to endlessly prod my Pods of Power. On Saturday, we beat West Ham at Anfield. Big deal! We always beat West Ham at Anfield. This is only enough to raise me to the Fourth Level of Hell, where the punishment is being endlessly chased by manic American Footballers with wet towels. Then midweek again, and a humiliating defeat to some utterly useless pile of French merde in the UEFA. Upon arrival at the Thirteenth Level of Hell, Satan admits that he hasn’t found a suitable punishment since nobody has ever been so low, and puts me on hold, the music being a looped version of Glory, Glory Man United.

As you can see, the last few years have been hard on me. By the end of the season, just looking at a Liverpool shirt is enough to have me screaming like a man being rogered by an elephant. For this reason, I must one of the few Reds who will admit to actually enjoying the bland wasteland that is the close season.

The close season is that one time of the year when everything is perfect. If you are champions, you don’t want the new season to come because the only way is down. Think how Blackburn Rovers fans must have felt when they found out the season after winning the League that they were actually supporting the ultimate group of one-hit wonders. How they must have cringed when we stuffed them 3-0. If you are anything other than champions, the close season features a wealth of signings which you are always – and I mean always – hopelessly optimistic about. Gary McAllister? The old head for the long road. Nick Barmby? We always knew he was great. Bernard Diomede? Er, he’s French so he must be brilliant. The arrival of the new season only reminds you of how rash such judgements inevitably were.

The close season features those gloriously irrelevant pre-season friendlies. Back in 1993/4, we beat Tranmere 7-1 and were crap in the season that followed. The following season, we lost 1-0 to Tranmere and had the only season in the 1990’s where we exceeded expectations. Consequently you can dismiss terrible performance and luxuriate in great wins, like the recent hammering of Parma. Fans in Norway and Ireland can demonstrate their irrational love for the boys in Red, while the club cements the relationship, ensuring a steady stream of punters across the North and Irish Sea to Liverpool, wallets bulging with kroner and euros to buy Bill Shankly Toby Jugs in Liverworld. And surely we can all agree that Woolybacks taking all the seats in the Main and Centenary Stand is a healthy state of affair, right?

So let’s raise a glass to the close season. A time of peace, brotherly love and democracy. When the football season starts and the revolution begins, you know it will be us fans who will be first up against the wall.