The End of the (Anfield) Road

The debate about the future of Anfield continues to rumble on. The truth is, the war is over. The Club has decided to move to pastures new, and no amount of effort by Alan Edge, Will Melia or anybody else is going to change that. They never listen to us, and perhaps they are right not to. If the fans had their way, we would never have signed Emile Heskey. Now we’re crowing about him being the best striker in the universe. We don’t elect the manager and thank goodness for that. We’d all want to be manager and nothing would ever get done. At least not without a Proportional Representation (Single Transferable Vote) system, which is impenetrable to all but the most anal of politicos.

Yes, the war is over. All that is left is for the spoils to be distributed to the victors. But the debate will continue, and that’s what this is about. I’ve written about it before, in this sites previous incarnation, and at the time I pronounced myself agnostic on the subject with leanings towards staying where we were. For what it’s worth (absolutely nothing) I’ve decided to jump off the fence. We should stay.

This hasn’t been an opinion lightly arrived at. I eagerly anticipate reading the columns of both David Neve (pro-move) and Alan Edge (anti), and I wouldn’t wish to offend or alienate anyone. Both love this club dearly and you couldn’t slide a bald man’s folicle between the differences in their respective affection for this great institution. But – and I dearly hope David Neve understands this – it was the words of Alan Edge that finally tilted the argument in his favour (see It’s Just Not The Same, 5th December).

Alan will probably be amused by this; it was a seemingly offhand comment of his that clinched it. This can be found about a third of the way down the page…

These are places that have evolved with us. It is what makes them unique. Of course they change. Just as we all change. We still remain the same entity though.”

Pretty bland, eh? No more memorable than any one of Alan’s impassioned pleas on this subject (nor David’s, for that matter). As axioms go, it’s extremely axiomatic.

Yet it reminded me of an interview conducted by Jonathan Margolis with the astronaut Alan Shepherd many moons (hoho) ago. Jonathan felt it a great honour to talk with one of only twelve men – only twelve, unless you are a fan of Fox Mulder – to have walked on the moon. At the end though, he mischievously observes that since all the cells in Alan Shepherd’s body that were on the moon have died and been regenerated since, the only part of that person he interviewed which had been on the moon was his teeth!

Pure bunkum of course, and he knew it. It was not Alan Shepherd’s animated corpse that walked on the moon. It was Alan Shepherd himself. He had changed beyond all recognition in the twenty five-odd years since his moonwalk, old, grey and palsied with a few of those aforementioned teeth gone (and he would pass on to that Great Astronauts Junkyard in the Sky not long after), but he was still the same entity.

And through all the changes that have occurred at Anfield, it has remained the same. A man loses all his hair, he is different and yet he is still the same. People are the sum of all their experiences, and a football club is no different. And all of those experiences are inexorably bound up with Anfield. To leave Anfield is to jettison a large part of the club that forms the totality of our existence as an institution.

Let’s put it another way. The Galway branch of the Liverpool Supporters Club went over to Anfield recently. Two of my friends went there for the very first time, and when they returned, you could see the light in their eyes. They had not just gone to a football match, they had engaged in a pilgrimage. I’ve done it myself on four occasions, and everything about the whole place gets to me. By the time the whole crowd launches into You’ll Never Walk Alone, I’m honestly afraid that I might burst into tears. Now, no one can convince me that it would be the same if we were to move. Can you imagine telling a Muslim about to perform the Haj that, actually, you’re not going to Mecca; we’re sending you to Bradford? Oh, but there’s so much more space in Bradford and you can buy even bigger relics of the Prophet there, and the view of the Ka’bah Stone is perfect from all angles and…it doesn’t work, does it?

The truth is, I’d miss Anfield. It was only talking to those aforementioned friends that I remembered just how much it means to me, how it has burrowed its way under my skin and won’t let go. I may be a day-tripper Red, but surely our voice is worth hearing, or is it only a Scouse issue? When Anfield is gone, I’ll still be as loyal a Red as ever, and I’ll no doubt pay homage at the new shrine of Shanklyism with the same frequency and gusto.

But it won’t be the same.