Your Team In The Media: Number Nine - Liverpool

Perceived to be beset by paranoia, chippiness, victim mentality, blind tribal loyalty and narrow-mindedness, but would any other set of fans have got justice for the 96?

Last Updated: 29/08/13 at 09:45 Post Comment

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What do the papers, the TV, and fans of other clubs think about your team? In this series, John Nicholson and Alan Tyers look at the stereotypes, coverage and media agendas for each team in the Premier League. This week, it's the turn of one of world football's most storied institutions, Liverpool Football Club.

Ex-player pundit presence
No club is better represented by old boys. Are ex-Liverpool players more knowledgeable and articulate than players who haven't played for Liverpool? Does being an LFC man invest a bloke with oratorical skills like no other? Or do they simply have the same agent? Who knows, but anyone - from Sir Fergie on downwards - who wanted to find a pro-Liverpool bias in British media could easily point to this list, mouth agape and shout "see? see?!"

Alan Hansen, Mark Lawrenson, Jan Molby, Michael Owen, Jamie Carragher, Danny Murphy, Paul Walsh, Steve Nicol, Steve McManaman, Robbie Fowler, Phil Thompson, Jamie Redknapp, Stan Collymore, John Barnes, Graeme Souness, Jim Beglin, Kevin Keegan and no doubt many more we have missed.

Celebrity followers
Where to start? Daniel Craig, Doctor Dre, Mike Myers (comic actor, not horror movie baddie), Sven Goran Eriksson, Samuel L Jackson, Caroline Wozniacki, Nelson Mandela, Mel C, Clive Owen, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie to name but a few. Dunno how many of them get along to the game, but still.

Back page leaders?
Almost everyone running the show at a paper or TV programme (i.e. people in their late 30s at the youngest) grew up during the era of Liverpool dominance. This is reflected in the club's enduring clout on the back pages, when everything Liverpool is a big story, even though it's coming up for a quarter of a century since they ruled the roost. Being able to match where they "should" be to where they are is always good grist to the journo mill. If Liverpool were not to win the league for a few more years, and a new cohort of journos and editors who have seen Liverpool only as also-rans takes charge of the football media, it will be interesting to see if the club maintains its place at the media top table. One reason to suspect that it will is the club's enormous online popularity, with anyone even vaguely familiar with the way websites work knowing that Liverpool = major clicks.

Gaffer's media skills
Doing A Brendan has fast become shorthand for talking in a dated, 1990s type of middle-management motivational style normally associated with loud-mouth Americans with iridescent white teeth flogging books with unfeasibly long titles like 'How You Can Have Everything You Ever Wanted And Not Feel Guilty About It Despite Being Hated By All Sentient Creatures And While Wearing Wrinkle-Free Dockers'.

However, the unusual verbal style does make Brendan different and different is good, or at least it is if he's not your boss. Rodgers divides opinion. He's either a modern man-with-a-plan or a hapless pretentious lightweight who, having spent his life around footballers, mistakenly thinks he's smarter than the average bear and regurgitates half-baked, half-understood notions as though they're original thought.

Most likely manager to say, after losing to West Ham, "the increased scope of the project compounded with our desire to maintain quality without increasing cost going forward means the project's conclusion will become more apparent as our focused tasks become increasingly more finite due to the progress of our out-of-the-box blue skies thinking is making vis-à-vis interpersonal dynamics and self-honouring fulfilment strategies."

Vox pop cliché fan
Liverpool is a broad church. Stereotypes include:

Scally who will steal the lens right out of the camera.

"Hilarious" wigged-and-tashed bloke in stolen leisurewear.

Watery-eyed old timer who remembers when the world was a Socialist paradise and cries every time he hears the name "Shanks".

Irate computer nerd from Malaysia with poor grasp of written English.

A man who makes incomprehensible phlegmy barking noises that no-one else can understand.

Post-modern ironist who understands how the club is viewed from outside and seeks to distance himself from the more irrational elements. Well-read, even-handed and intellectual.

Belligerent type who will insist you "do one." Never clear what "one" is. Similarly, a call to "jog on" may have little to do with urging you to take up a more vigorous exercise regime.

Keyboard warrior ferocity
The market leaders against whom all others with ambitions for a career in individual and collectivist outrage should be judged. Like the city of Liverpool itself, the online fanbase is popularly perceived to be beset by paranoia, chippiness, victim mentality, blind tribal loyalty and narrow-mindedness. And, in the case of some online fans, the cliché has some weight. More than any other club, Liverpool is noted for a small but loud minority that takes it upon itself to be the internet judge, jury and (hopefully not literally) executioner. Do Liverpool have more tribal nutters than other clubs, or does it just feel that way?

The seemingly endless Suarez sagas are perhaps the best example of very passionate fans defending what, to almost all outsiders, seem to be indefensible. A vast army of Liverpool supporters lurks online, ready to fight at a minute's notice in defence of players who don't for one minute deserve to be defended so vigorously and who surely don't feel deeply for the club no matter how much they say they do. The disparity between how much some fans care and how much the players care is probably widest at Liverpool. Maybe that's why some of them are the football equivalent of a milk pan forever about to boil over.

Incidentally, we have spoken to several prominent columnists and journalists who will, where possible, avoid reporting about or commenting upon Liverpool simply because the viciousness and volume of abuse for any perceived slight is so relentless.

That being said, some of the clichéd, supposedly negative aspects of the Liverpool personality - the sense of injustice, the siege mentality, the relentless pursuit of enemies real or imagined, the refusal to shut up - did lead to one of the most heroic and determined fights in the history of British activism. In the face of huge pain and huge odds, the Justice For The 96 campaign has forced the establishment to apologise: the truth has come out, justice may yet follow. Would any other club's supporters have been able to do what Liverpool fans did?

Club's brand
A sleeping giant that will one day will rise again to reclaim its rightful position at the top of the football pyramid. A family club, a community club driven on by strong community values and a sense of history. An institution, a religion. This is Anfield.

Outsider's view
Two armed camps. There are those who wish Liverpool would be great again and who fondly remember their glory days. And those who hate them, or perhaps rather hate their fans, seeing them as defensive, paranoid, hypocritical, self-mythologizing.

Archetypal news stories
'Important player begs to be released from contract after Rodgers team-talk sends him insane'

'Someone who used to play for them says they're no good.'

'Someone who used to play for them says they're great'

'Someone at the club says all these ex-Liverpool pundits know nothing and should shut up'.

'Suarez latest affront to common decency, see pages one to 27'

John Nicholson and Alan Tyers

Read Johnny's book, 'The Meat Fix' here

Alan on The Ashes and more here.

Follow Alan on Twitter here or Johnny here.

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