Football is in my blood but I'll be honest I came to it late. I only supported a team because it was a question that was asked so many times at school, ‘Who do you support?!’ It was like choosing a gang. There's nothing worse than not being in a gang, even being in the wrong gang is more palatable.
Neither of my parents had any interest in football, so I had no team passed down to me. I grew up in the Midlands and my Mum was from Sheffield, I suppose looking back Aston Villa would have been the logical choice, maybe Birmingham? Proximity wise. But no, I liked the colour red, I couldn't support Manchester United, they won too much and the people demanding my allegiance, who from here will be referred to as ‘the dickheads’, supported United. I didn't want to support Arsenal, they also won too much, believe it or not. Liverpool though, they played in red and seemed to be knocking around near the top. Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard. They were electric and they played for England, and let's be honest those were the few games I actually watched.
So my support of Liverpool was a shield more than a badge.
Who do you support?!
No more piercing questions.
So, really I didn't understand how big 2005 was for the Club. I'm not even sure I watched the final, in fact, I think I didn’t. I remember the Chelsea game though, etched carefully into my mind because ‘the dickheads’, that didn't support United, supported Chelsea.
The night of the Semi-Final, I was in Year 6 and we were away on a school trip, and these people. I did not always get on with these people, in fact, I was staying in a room by myself because these people didn't like me, and for the most part, I didn't like them. I had friends there but it was a rough time for me. So here we were, in this barn in the middle of God knows where, a play-barn, a handful of armchairs and a huge 14 inch TV. Kids, sprawled out everywhere. Prepubescent couples, together for status only, sitting on each other’s laps. When the game kicks off, Chelsea are the Premier League Champions and Liverpool weren't even in the top four.
Then three minutes later Chelsea were losing. Silence mixed with sounds of arrogant disbelief from the Chelsea fans filled the barn. What they and I didn’t realise at the time, of course, is Mourinho’s Chelsea had just rocked up to Fortress Anfield on European night and it didn’t matter how good they were supposed to be, in that ground, in that competition, against that team, they were underdogs. 90 minutes later, and that shield of supporting Liverpool had turned into a badge which I wore proudly.
That is the root of my football fandom. I was 11 and back then I didn’t really know about Liverpool; I didn’t know about Kenny Dalglish, or Bobby Wilcox, or Bill Shankly, I didn’t know about Hillsborough, or boycotting the Sun, or the Justice for the 96 Campaign.
But over the next decade, I learnt that that shield I’d chosen at random to protect myself from 'the dickheads', was my ticket to joining the most passionate, frustrating, loyal & rewarding gang in the world; being a Liverpool fan.