30 years. A literal lifetime for me and many others. Some follow a football club because it’s the team their parents support, others like me live 80 miles away from Anfield but were submerged in Kopite culture from around the age of 6 or 7, thanks to an older brother who was obsessed with the title stomping Reds.
Of course, my brother had the right idea, follow the Reds in the 70s and 80s, titles come along like buses. Look up silverware in the dictionary and you’d probably find a Liver Bird crest beneath it. Little did I know, I wouldn’t enjoy this same feeling, my life as a Liverpool fan living in Wolverhampton would be an absolute emotional rollercoaster.
My first obsession over a footballer would begin with Michael Owen, he’d later break my heart, but that didn’t stop me buying anything with his face on and naming my female rabbit after him. Owen tricked me into thinking this was our time. The Houllier treble convinced me that I would soon have the bragging rights. I could walk into secondary school and dish out the stick to all the kids in United shirts but no, I’d have to wait much, much longer for that.
In 2005, I sat in the living room with me Dad, taking in all the build-up to our pinnacle moment in Turkey. Led to the final by a man who can only be described as a tactical genius and the first Liverpool manager I truly loved: Rafael Benitez.
At half time, I ran to the bathroom, unable to hold back the tears after watching us go three-nil down. I didn’t think I could bring myself to watch the second half but Dad with his wise words persuaded me otherwise.
By full time I was dancing in the street outside our council house, draped in the same Liverpool flag that I held aloft this Thursday just gone. The neighbours didn’t understand but at that moment, that was true vindication of what it meant and how it felt to be a Liverpool fan. Even when everything is against you, you never give up, you keep fighting. I was basking in the glory of the Miracle of Istanbul, one of the greatest football matches that has ever been played.
Again, Rafa and his magic had tricked me into thinking this was our time. Liverpool would finally be able to push for that elusive Premier League title. How wrong I was. Rafa, of course, went close, but it wasn’t to be.
By 2009 I had left sixth form with some dodgy A-Level results, I couldn’t get into Uni and was on the dole looking for a full-time job. To keep me occupied, I set up this blog which would eventually go on to win awards, unbelievable. One of the first blog posts I put out was a description of my first ever match at Anfield in 2010, hearing You’ll Never Walk Alone reverberate around L4 is still etched in my mind.
I blogged constantly, the writing was a release, I never expected though that there would be so much negative. What followed was post after post on Roy Hodgson, relegation zones, missed chances, dodgy owners, court cases, utterly terrible signings and no real light at the end of the tunnel. Still, the wait went on.
By 2012 I’d completed a college course and got into University. I was chuffed to bits, but while a big part of my life off the pitch was somehow getting itself in order, could it be as Liverpool announced Brendan Rodgers as the new boss, Liverpool were getting themselves in order too?
It didn’t take Rodgers long to provide us Kopites with a serious, serious title challenge. By the end of the 2013-2014 season, I had written the following in a summary blog post: “I’ll never forget coming so close to the title with Rodgers, I’m 26 in November and that is easily (aside from the Champions League final in 2005) the most excited I have ever been as a Liverpool fan.”
It truly felt like the tides had turned when the Northern Irishman steered us so close that season. But, you guessed it, I’d fooled myself again into thinking this could actually be happening, the title had never felt so far away by the time Rodgers was sent packing in October 2015.
Gerrard said goodbye and over the years we’d lost some of the iconic players who I associated Liverpool with while growing up. There was no Carragher anymore, no Gerrard, no Owen, Fowler or even Riise (another player I was obsessed with). Yes, there’d been the likes of Torres, Suarez, Alonso, even Dirk Kuyt and some brought a sparkle to Anfield that made you believe but only for a moment.
It would take a complete change of tack, a new manager with new ideas, and a set of owners willing to throw in some cash in order to create the catalyst.
In October 2015, “The Normal One” showed up at Anfield. I can’t deny that if you went searching through the blog’s archive you would find a paragraph somewhere where I said, in a choice between Ancelotti and Klopp, I’d lean more towards the Italian. Thank god the club chose Jurgen…
As Liverpool supporters, it’s never been just the football that moulds you into a fan. The Hillsborough Disaster happened in April 1989, seven months before I was born, but a story my Mom recalls reeling at after seeing it on the news. On that day, 95 football fans went to a game and never returned home, a 96th victim would later lose his battle in hospital. In 2016, after an agonising fight for justice, a jury concluded that the fans were unlawfully killed. Raw emotion of a different kind. Justice for the 96.
By the end of the 2015-2016 season, Klopp had taken us to two finals, the League Cup and the Europa League. His impact was almost instant and although we lost those finals and there were a few initial hiccups at the start (some of which I probably also discussed on the blog), it soon became clear that this man had a plan.
His rapport with the players was phenomenal, his understanding of the club and the fans? Perfect. He knew exactly what he wanted to build and how he wanted to build it. Rival fans scoffed at us spending megabucks on the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Alisson but Klopp knew precisely where his team’s flaws lay, he addressed them and boy did it work.
As a Liverpool fan, I spent the majority of the 2018 – 2019 season with a massive grin on my face. Yes, I’d faced heartbreak the year before watching Mo Salah leave the pitch injured and crying in the Champions League final but this season felt different. It felt as though we were finally ready. I believed again.
A phenomenal effort saw Klopp’s side finish on a massive 97 points, just one sole point behind City. In the years gone by, we’d finished second on a handful of occasions in my time as a Liverpool fan, but I never truly went into the following season thinking we could surmount a credible title challenge, the Rodgers season was probably the closest I’d felt to that.
This time though, I knew we’d be battling for it. The trio of Roberto Firmino, Mo Salah and Sadio Mane were virtually unstoppable, we’d purchased a brick wall and plonked him in the centre of defence and our goalkeeper was the best in the world. It was time.
I hoped it would be our season but I could never have predicted the distance we would put between ourselves and the opposition this time around. We’re yet to know the points gap we’ve won by but to finish with seven games to go as Champions? This is the stuff dreams are made of.
In March, the horrendous Coronavirus pandemic that has shaken the world put things into perspective. I love my football club and I struggled to function without them but some things were more important.
The rumours of “null and void” began to swirl and I just kept thinking, that would be peak Liverpool, wouldn’t it? My time as a Red has taught me that things often go against you and the asterisk brigade were out in force. “Oh if you’re gifted the title it won’t be a REAL title.” I was fuming, I’d not waited 30 years for some tin pot fans to spout “fake title” at me for the rest of time. Thankfully, football was allowed to safely restart.
The Reds took a game to settle in after a draw with Ancelotti’s Everton (can’t say I predicted he’d end up at Goodison when I was considering him as our own boss) but won emphatically against Crystal Palace. The gauntlet was laid.
Fast-forward 15 years on from when I was a tearful almost 16-year-old, sat at my parents’ house, wrapped in that Liverpool flag, praying for the right result to gift us the first huge trophy I’d seen us lift. Here I was, now in my own flat living with me Wolves mad fiance, sat on the floor, wrapped in that same flag, nerves shot to pieces.
There’d been several points over those 30 years that I’d convinced myself I will never see my side lift the Premier League title, but in the moments I believed we may do it I never accounted for the fact our victory could be confirmed by the result of our rivals match.
It was a bizarre evening Thursday night, watching on a phone screen, I squinted to make sure Willian’s penalty had definitely gone in and that the crowd noise bloke hadn’t accidentally pressed the wrong button again. It was in, and there were 10 minutes to go.
I’d held back the tears at this point but after screaming my head off at the final whistle I switched over to Sky on the tele. A montage of Liverpool from the year I was born to the present day was shown and I was an absolute mess.
This is me moments after our first Premier League title win was confirmed.
A lifelong wait, but nobody can ever, ever take that feeling away from me, pure and utter joy.
I drank and danced around the living room well into the early hours, despite having work the next day. While I dreamt of celebrating in Liverpool, in the end, it didn’t matter, I was elated.
I just hope I don’t have to wait another 30 years for the next one…
Read More: A Lifelong Wait: Liverpool FC, Premier League Champions
Source: The Liver Bird