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LFC History: made not bought

History made n ot bought James Cutler

This flag was on show on Wembley Way at the League Cup Final on Saturday (Feb 28, 2016). I believe it was originally made in 2007 (?) in response to other clubs (notably Chelsea) that have cheap plastic flags provided by the club rather than any tradition of making their own.

The guy in the photo is a fan having his picture taken with the flag. This is another interesting feature of them, that people signal their identification with the sentiment by having their photos taken with them.

It fits in with the larger tradition amongsT LFC banner makers to resist marketisation of the fan base and the club more generally as with this banner, one of my all time favourites:

Money can't but me, luv.png

I think this one was made at the time Chelsea were sniffing round Steven Gerrard again. What impresses me, apart from the apposite Beatles lyric and the 5 cups left to make their own statement, is the use of the comma. Such attention to detail! And, of course, the assertion of a Scouse identity through the spelling of ‘luv’. So, on  all levels – multimodal, intertextual, linguistic, orthographic – just a brilliant banner. Would love to know who made it.

Flags as tributes

Its off to the match we go

This banner was created by Spion Kop 1906, a group of fans who are responsible for many brilliant LFC flags. Here’s a link to their Twitter account.

It was created in honour of Owen Mcveigh, an 11 year old fan who died in December. It was unveiled at Anfield last night at the League Cup semi-final match against Stoke.  Owen was a keen Liverpool supporter and often helped Spion Kop on match days. You can read more about him and the flag here:  Owen McVeigh

I think it’s an amazing banner, visually very simple but also highly allusive. The text.’It’s off to the match we go’ is sung on the terraces and presumably chosen both because it relates to the Seven Dwarves’s song  Snow White as well as also being a reference to Owen’s own regular match-going.

The boy on the flag is wearing a shirt with Owen’s surname on it and the number 12, which suggests he will continue to be present on the terraces as a member of the LFC family into the future.

The choice of simple black silhouettes for both figures heading off away from us into the white/light might also be seen to signify moving in to a life beyond.

Anfield has seen similarly affecting tributes to other supporters who have died, showing that banners are not just used to glorify the team on the pitch, but also to affirm the importance of the individual fan to the club. This is echoed in the photograph as the fans applaud the banner in the time honoured tradition.

 

Liverpool is our religion…

It being Sunday, my mind turns to religion and how football has taken its place for many people.

Liverpool is our religion

Liverpool’s Irish and Welsh heritage has imprinted the city and its people with some positive Christian values such as solidarity and awareness of the higher things in life, but if most people now only have  sort of homeopathic memory or organised religion, it has transferred some of its practices and ability to act as an outlet for the expression of the spiritual to the football terraces. (And on a more serious note, the annual Hillsborough memorial actually sees the ground take on all the functions of of a church, with the Kop forming the choir.

Fans banners run with this religion metaphor, mainly in terms of elevating players to sainthood or even divine status as in goal-scoring hero Robbie Fowler’s case,  who was called quite simply ‘God’. This one in honour of Jamie Carragher is a good example:

   JC our saviour    

Of course, it’s very convenient that Jamie Carragher’s initials are the same as those of Jesus Christ, and it’s interesting to wonder whether the people who made the flag were seeing him as the natural heir to Robbie Fowler as the next prototypically working class Scouse player in the team (hence ‘son of God’). Other players have been accorded saintly status:  This banner, again mainly in honour of Jamie Carragher, once again makes oblique reference to Fowler as God, but also brings in a reference to former striker Michael Owen.JC God Ruled

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Talismanic Captain, Steven Gerrard, has also enjoyed his fair share of biblical bannering. My favourite is this one, which illustrates another strand characteristic of the creativity of LFC fans’ banners and that is the use of cultural references outside of football, in this case, cinema.

Ezekiel 25 17

Well, that’s my assumption anyway, It could, of course be, that the person who created the banner was simply citing the Bible, and more specifically, Ezekiel 25:17, but I think it’s more likely to be a reference influenced by the movie Pulp Fiction and the famous scene in which Samuel L Jackson quotes these words before he and John Travolta blow away their opponents. Here’s a link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-K8qi_AoXI

So, we have Carragher representing the New Testament, and Gerrard as the vengeful God of the Old. I’m not aware of any banners that identify the Holy Spirit, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some. Doubtless, when Liverpool appoints its first female manager, we will witness the advent of a whole new strand of Marianic banners. Something to look forward to. ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord’.

Managers are also credited with miraculous powers, as in this banner in praise of Rafa Benitez, who steered Liverpool to their fifth Champions League title in 2005 after a twenty-one year wait:

Water into wine

Of all great fortmer managers, however, there is no doubt that Bill Shankly enjoys the status of the ultimate Divine, and as he is the manager who led Liverpool Football Club out of the wilderness and his clever way with words has left many remarkable quotes that act as a sort of scripture for fans, and created what often gets called ‘The Liverpool Way’ (often misused by contemporary false prophets who form the managerial class at Anfield like latter day Pharisees, more interested in the profits they see than fulfilling any Shanklyan prophesy). Still, Shankly’s influence lives on as fans style themselves ‘Shanks’ disciples’

Shanks disciples

It’s almost forty years since Shankly retired in 1974 after Liverpool won the FA Cup, but he still dominates the imaginations of fans and it’s his words more than any other manager’s that fire the imagination of succeeding generations of believers in the club. Here are a couple of my favourite ‘scriptures’ from the great man:

At a football club, there’s a holy trinity – the players, the manager and the supporters.
Directors don’t come into it. They are only there to sign the cheques.

Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very
disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more
 important than that.

The word ‘fantastic’ has been used many times, so I would have to invent another word to fully describe the Anfield spectators. It is more than fanaticism, it’s a religion. To the many thousands who come here to worship, Anfield isn’t a football ground, i’s a sort of shrine. These people are not simply fans, they’re more like members of one extended family.

The socialism I believe in is not really politics. It is a way of living. It is humanity. I believe the only way to live and to be truly successful is by collective effort, with everyone working for each other, everyone helping each other, and everyone having a share of the rewards at the end of the day.

Amen to that.

 

 

A new blog as a new season begins…

Success has many fathers

I’m an applied linguist working at the Open University and I’m also a fan of Liverpool FC. This site is mainly dedicated to documenting the creativity of the club’s fans as expressed through their banners, but I also hope to put up other examples of how LFC fans use language in all its forms to express their particular creativity and identity. 

I’ve chosen this banner as my first example because I think it’s brilliant and I know the person who created it – Paul Gardner. I talked to Paul about the banner and my interpretation of it. He wasn’t convinced.

The use of the Russian proverb ‘Success has many fathers, failure is an orphan’ is a very salutary one for all football fans. It’s easy to stick by your team when they’re in their pomp, but less so when times are tough. I also like the way Paul used the first part to connect it to the image of Shankly and four  other great managers. It emphasised both community and continuity.

I read the image as a religious one, too, with Shankly as God and the others has his four gospellers, spreading theword, keeping the faith. Paul didn’t agree and said he’d chosen four because he felt that gave it a better balance. He was also making an oblique reference to the five Champions League Cups LFC have won, a recurring motif in fans’ banners..

You decide. And let me know what you think; I welcome contributions from anyone who shares my enthusiasm.