To paraphrase Brian Clough, Liverpool and Manchester City might not be the greatest teams in the history of English football, but they’re in the top two. Fans of both teams are living in privileged times, watching two incredible trams slug it out for major honors, while the rest of football gets treated to sporting excellence and drama of the highest quality.
The Blues finished as champions, but the world fully expects Jurgen Klopp’s team to beat a lesser Real Madrid team at the weekend and add the Champions League trophy to the two domestic cups they have already won. Normal Liverpool fans are celebrating that fact, looking forward to an unforgettable night in Paris, and revelling in the knowledge they have a team that not only stands up there with their great sides of the 70s and 80s, but is probably better.
They are just unlucky to share the era with an exceptional City team, otherwise the dominance would be undisputed. But there are others, a noisy minority with a platform, rather than the sensible majority, who see fit to denigrate the achievements of Pep Guardiola and his team, and pour scorn on a fanbase that has repeatedly proved itself to be one of the most loyal in football.
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Which is fine, everyone is entitled to their opinion. But one article in an Irish newspaper this week tapped into something which gets the goat of not just City fans, but supporters of other clubs the length and breadth of the country, and explains why there was a groundswell of support for the Blues on Sunday that reached far beyond Manchester.
It explains why Everton fans, celebrating their escape escape from relegation, were singing about having a party when City win the title, and why some Chelsea supporters were chanting their support for the Blues during their final game against Watford. The article talked about City being classless, and suggested that, while City might have won the title, “they’re not Liverpool and they will never be”.
Thrown on top of the vomit-inducing club motto of “This Means More”, it gives an insight into the thinking of a certain type of Liverpool fan, and illustrates exactly why Pep Guardiola was dreadfully wrong when he said the nation wanted Liverpool to win the title. Pep can be excused – he later clarified that he was talking more about the media, than the country at large.
This is by no means a pop at the ordinary Liverpool fan who, like ordinary fans everywhere, loves their team and their club and is proud to be a supporter. That is as it should be.
But there is an element of support that believes this drivel – that their quality of support, their status as a club, and their very existence, bears greater significance. It is a superiority complex which seems to come with success. Plenty of Manchester United fans although again a shouty minority – have suffered from it, too, although their dismal recent existence is currently weeding out the arrogant glory-hunters among them, or at least giving them a dose of reality.
City fans need to be on guard against the same thing happening to them, as the trophies pile up, although for them the memories of much leaner times are still fresh in the collective psyche, and that helps to keep you grounded. Liverpool fans can rightly point out that they would expect Chelsea and Everton fans to want anyone but them to win things, while United fans’ lukewarm backing of City on Sunday had the added incentive of not wanting to see the Scousers seize a Quadruple that would have out-shone their 1999 Treble, and equalized their record 20 league titles.
But the desire to see City win the crown goes far beyond that. Traveling around the country this season, as in 2018-19, when the title race was also intensely close, it was surprising to hear ordinary fans who you would not expect to have axes to grind, express a wish for the Blues to prevail – at places like Norwich, and Leicester, and Southampton.
There is one central theme to it all, which is the unbearability in which that particular sect of Liverpool fans – again, not the run-of-the-mill supporters – react to every success. To be fair, those Liverpool supporters who bought into that and produced a flag declaring themselves to be “The Unbearables”, owned it magnificently. THAT means more!
The statement that City are not Liverpool, and will never be, reveals the mindset of these strange people. The very idea that everyone else wants to be Liverpool, is laughable.
Not because they aren’t a great club, with a wonderful team and a likeable manager who has bought into the Merseyside community and his club’s ethos quite beautifully. From Sadio Mane’s work in his homeland of Senegal to Jordan Henderson’s community work, to the way the club rallied behind the fight for Hillsborough justice, there is much to be admired off the pitch as well as on it.
And it is understandable to believe that what you have is special – everyone thinks their kids are the cutest, smartest and funniest around, and it’s the same with your football club. But people with a sense of perspective recognize that this does not extend to everyone else wanting to be you, or be like you.
Tell a Stockport County fan that his club lives in the shadows of the two Manchester clubs, even in the darkest days of their slump to the sixth tier of English football, and they will be outraged. They are proud of their club and their identity within it – the last thing they want is to be Liverpool, or United or City.
The word “history” is terribly misused by arrogant fans of big clubs. The history of Liverpool and United is littered with trophies, but any Stockport fan will tell you that fans of those clubs can never experience the joy of a big cup upset, or – as County fans recently discovered – of earning your place back in the Football League after an 11-year absence.
City get described as “soulless” from time to time, which is ridiculous. This is a club with a 128-year history, with support that has not only survived the days of Red domination, but thrived with a loyalty and humor that won them many friends. Those fans are the heartbeat of the club.
Fans of Stockport, or Accrington Stanley, or City, no more want to “be Liverpool” than Liverpool fans want to be them. Liverpool are a great club with a brilliant current team, and their fans have every right to be proud – it’s when that pride spills into arrogance that they truly do become “The Unbearables”.
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