By Paul Gardner
(reproduced here with Paul’s permission)
Last couple of days’ developments particularly with the rise in ticket prices has made me think more about this.
All of it simply comes down to my Dad. Everything he instilled in me and everything he taught me, not only about Liverpool FC, but about life. My Dad went home and away in the 60’s and 70’s, spending all his wages on going the match. Hitch hiking to matches if he didn’t have enough money to get to the aways, but always finding a way to go the games domestically. If he couldn’t go to an away he would go to Goodison or Prenton Park to get his footy fix. Passed his Season Ticket onto my cousin around the time I was born though so he had more time and more money for me. Took me to my first game in 1990 and a few others now and again in the years after it, but couldn’t afford to take me that much even at the lower prices then.
Another of my cousins (not much younger than my Dad) went the match occasionally and my Dad let me start to go with him in the Upper Anny Road on a Dad’s and Lads ticket. Could see how it pained my Dad to miss out on the chance to take me the match, but he couldn’t afford for both of us to go and had to work on Saturdays to ensure we had enough money for other things. He used to give me extra pocket money when he could for washing the car and other stuff and went round getting little other jobs to get enough money together to go the match when I could with my cousin. If I was short of a few quid from the ticket of a match my cousin was going to he would create a job for me to do so I could earn it. Used to be able to get to around 5-10 matches a year like this then as a teenager.
When I turned 16 and got a job I suddenly had a lot more money to be able to get tickets then. As soon as I got a part time job I put myself on the waiting list for a Season Ticket and was told I would be waiting 3-4 years. Thought I might be away at University then, but signed up still because I didn’t want to miss out on the chance and I had then had the chance to save up money to be able to get a Season Ticket myself. Started going to all the cup games when I could and as many league games I could fit around my weekend part time job. Felt great going the match with my mates. Remember going to the Charity Shield in 2001 by myself, just because my cousin was on holiday so I got his ticket and being allowed to go a game like that without someone from my family.
It was great to enjoy things like the treble season and then even more so the run to Istanbul and having worked enough part time to be able to scrape together the money to go to Istanbul, something my Dad wasn’t able to do in Rome in 77, but made up for it the following year. I got to see things I never thought I would see and I owe it all to my Dad. He could have not taken me at all, or not made those sacrifices of stopping going himself and giving me an extra few quid when he could to ensure I could go to an extra game or two a season. But he didn’t, he made those sacrifices because he had seen it all and he wanted me to see it all.
My Dad turned 60 in December 2008 and wanted to get him something special so I said to him to choose somewhere he wanted to see a match in Europe and I would take him. Realistically I couldn’t afford it, but I wanted to as I wanted to give back to him in some little way what he had given to me. We set out to go in February 2009 when his next holidays were, but we could have gone earlier after he got made redundant a few days before his birthday. We set the weekend and I told him to look at the fixtures around Europe. He decided on Barca v Espanyol in the Nou Camp. So I booked the flights and when I could I booked the tickets. Sorted. Chance to repay my Dad a little. He hadn’t seen a game abroad before nor been abroad that much because of the cost and here I was taking him to a game in the Nou Camp. As the game came closer the draw for the Champions League was made. We were leaving Barcelona on the Monday, but Liverpool were due to play Real on the Wednesday in the Bernebeu. Was an opportunity not to be missed. Dad couldn’t really pay for the extra few days so I told him it was less and I paid for more of his half. Sorted tickets for the Real end through a girl in Uni whose brother was a Socio then sorted tickets for the Athletico v Porto game as well. Seeing my Dad’s face as we got into the Nou Camp, seeing his face when we stepped into the Vicente Calderon and then seeing his face after beating Real in the Bernebeu was probably just a tiny bit of what my Dad felt seeing my reaction when he took me to my first game in 1990.
Was glad I had the chance to repay him in some way, but the main reason I fight is not necessarily for my Dad, but the sacrifices my Dad made for me. The sacrifices he made so I could go the match, the sacrifices he made which allowed me to have memories like Istanbul. From that I can count myself lucky to be 26 and to have seen us win a European Cup, to go to another final, to go see us win in all the domestic cup finals and see some amazing matches and moments.
I’m still young and I don’t have any kids, but I cannot let my children, grandchildren and any future generations miss out on what I have seen and what my Dad has seen just because I am unwilling to fight or just happy to savour the present with no thought about the future. I want to be able to take my children to their first match and see that look on their face, that look I saw on my Dad’s face in the Nou Camp and the Bernebeu. That same look he saw on my face in 1990 and that same look all Dad’s see on their Son’s and Daughter’s Faces when they take them through those turnstiles at Anfield. I want to be able to afford to take them and then subsequently for them to be able to afford to go the match themselves. For them to be able to see things like I have seen and for them to pass that baton on to future generations.
It would be easy for me to go as long as I could afford to and enjoy the last of it and not worry about the future consequences, but that isn’t The Liverpool Way. The Liverpool Way isn’t about giving up and letting someone win, whether it be Everton, United or two money greedy owners. It isn’t about just thinking of your own personal enjoyment for that 90 minutes. It definitely isn’t about being priced out of going by the club.
The Liverpool Way is about the tradition, the history, the heritage. It is about not just dwelling on that, but to instil those values in your children and your children’s children. To steal a phrase from Catalonia, Liverpool is more than a club, but is at risk of just becoming another club if those values aren’t retained.
If we don’t fight for it now there may be no Liverpool Way for our children to protect, to live to and to pass on just as my Dad taught and passed on to me.
The Liverpool Way is why I support Liverpool, it is why I love Liverpool and it is why I will fight for Liverpool.