Jock Stein famously said, ‘Football without fans is nothing’, well, in the absence of fans due to COVID-19 restrictions, Spion Kop 1906 and a group of staunch supporters have got together to fill the Kop with the next best thing, fans’ banners. Not for them cardboard cut-outs of the Borussia Mönchengladbach fans (including Dominic Cummings it seems – can you spot him?!):
Or the more corporate approach of Man City (not knocking them, just saying):
Taking pride of place and ownership of the Kop instead will be a fantastic display of the fans’ own banners:
If you look hard enough during the match against Crystal Palace tonight you’ may spot some old favourites, mine include this one from @RichieG_LFC (never knowingly absent!):
Or the ‘Campioni’ one from Kevin Sampson (@KSampsonwriter) author of Awaydays one of the best books about (football) violence you will ever encounter. It was made into a film starring Stephen Graham in 2009 and, and, as I’m sure Kevin would be the first to point out, has a fantastic soundtrack to boot. I particularly like this banner because, of course, it’s always good to see something that is linguistically correct!
Businesses don’t usually fare well on the banner front but an exception is made for Homebaked, Anfield’s community-owned bakery that sprang into life in 2010 as part of the Liverpool Biennial art and initiated by artist Jeanne van Heeswijk as a comunity-led response to the question of how local people could take control of the development of their own area and futures. Now it’s the destination bakery for any discerning match-goer in search of the delights of a Shankly Pie.
Banners containing references to music, especially music made on Merseyside, are also an inherent feature as with this one citing the chorus of ‘Hollow Horse‘ by Liverpool band The Icicle Works, some of the lyrics by Ian McNabb seem so very apt to the moment:
Be careful what you dream of
It may come up and surprise you
I can’t confess my life’s a mess
I’ve come to idolise you
You liken it to walking on hot coals
I’ll keep my boots on
Wisen up and fly straight
There’s a shape on the horizon
We’ll be as we are
When all the fools
Who doubt us fade away
Other banners celebrate loved ones that are no longer with us but continue to be present through banners dedicated to their memory:
Again, we see how the use of social media allows someone to continue the conversation online, make the connection, share their sorrow and hope and gain comfort from the solidarity of fellow supporters, as witnessed not just by the act of placing the banner on the Kop, much as flowers or stones are brought to graves, but also by the likes and responses the Twitter post then attracts. Acts of mourning and memory as each individual banner becomes part of the quilt of unity across time and place.
There were also some brand new banners designed for the occasion, including this one from Peter Carney (@soccrinthecity) – his tribute to the NHS:
As ever, Peter has come up trumps with this design in tribute to the NHS/carers. Not just for the poetic text with its alliterative half-rhymes (love-life, care-cure) the grammatical parallelisms (your-our) and the highly apt use of lines from ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ , but also for the colour purple. I was trying to work out why he might have chosen that and my idle speculation is that purple, of course, is produced by mixing red and blue so making this a banner that both LFC and Everton fans would be happy to stand behind, but also because purple symbolises passion, creativity and wisdom and is meant to induce a sense of calm well-being. Whether that’s the mood of the fans tonight remains to be seen.
So as always, the LFC banners display a wide-range of purposes, from the purely celebratory to the crusading, from the poetic to the brutally direct because LFC fan banners always encompass the idea that there is a world outside Anfield that is (almost) as important as the one within it.
And how has the club responded to the display? Jürgen seems to think it’s boss tha la:
And looking at that long shot of the Kop with all the banners on display in their intricate network text and imagery, I do hope someone has thought of producing a 1000-piece jigsaw to help us get through the second and third spikes of COVID-19 that are surely coming our way…