Mickey Blue Eyes
"The art of needling is to get somebody to the point where they want to hit you. But to be sitting down when you do it."
HUMPHREY BOGART, American film actor, (1899-1957).
It's derby stew-time again.
We've all had an idyllic week extracting the mickey from analfield pinkies......and in the words of the Chicago song, they had it comin'. Nor can they say it is undeserved. Royal Blue enemas were also administered for their own good because too many of them have constipated on a surreal high-fat diet for far too long. Somebody had to infuse the treatment, if only to dislodge a total blockage of common sense. Also, many of their financial skeletons had to be publicly ripped from their closets. They should consider this dual medico-accountancy procedure a comradely long-term social service, for if the common man knows enough, will he not overcome his illusions, restore his health and overthrow his masters? In this case, two classic American wrecking spivs (aka "investors") who make Gordon Gekko look like Alan Titchmarsh. So an added derby rogering could be just what they don't need. Chauvinist possibilities are making Evertonians dizzy. At this rate tribal satisfaction is almost guaranteed in the face of some of their previously unrestrained hubris. We even hijacked the colour pink and made a better job of it than they did. Accordingly, oh how we chuckled when they fell below us in the league table. Well, you have to take your cheap laughs and make even cheaper jibes where you can: they might be short lived. Moreover, things will not go on as they are. They never do.
But I do not "hate" our oldest and fiercest footy enemy, though I understand completely those who do. After all, the pinkies share our roots, albeit not as deep......as we never cease telling them. However, one of the signs of unhealthy obsession is an inability to tell the difference between what matters and what does not. And obsessive hatred should have no place in a rational (sic) footy fan. On the other hand it is absolutely healthy to direct this emotion to much more important areas outside the game. (This is why I do not hate liverpool football club - yes, you must always use lower case initial letters when referring to them, drives them up the wall and across the ceiling - but do, for instance, share the same feelings expressed by Nye Bevan against the Tories in his famous speech of 4th July 1948. See http://www.sochealth.co.uk/Bevan/vermin.htm). To indulge it in derby footy is to hand a propaganda weapon to our city's enemies in their strategy of divide et impera. They already have enough of a lead because both teams languish for once at the wrong end of the table. Already the media gloaters are working on the pejorative "Miseryside." It is foolish to give them more ammunition, especially those metromeffs who, incredibly, still burn with resentment at the football domination exercised by both clubs in the late 1980s. So, best by far to use humour where you can.
This is one reason why people from outside our city are completely unable to understand why we can be so intense in our rivalry but next minute tolerant, if not enjoying each other's company as true friends or family. Sadly, matters are not as they used to be thanks to toxin thrown in a public drunken fit in 1977 by the late Emlyn Hughes, and concentrated by others on both sides since, though there is still enough of the antidote available to prevent it becoming terminal. To be fair, it is probably expecting too much of antiseptic suburbanites or non-Scousers to comprehend if they are willingly subject to lower middle class pettiness and funk in the Daily Mail/Daily Telegraph et al., or sunk in a local culture completely divorced from ours. You cannot expect them to do other than identify with extremities to prove their "loyalty." Or something. And the New Age Internet Virtual Fan can know almost nothing of face-to-face give-and-take which Scousers do better than almost anybody else. Of course all of this is subject to a sense of reality.
However, since when has reality or reasonable education intruded into the vexed question of football loyalty? Example, the other day I heard one fifteen years old say to another, "I'm more loyaller than what you are," thus demonstrating what a bang-up job his English teacher did. And no, the acned teenager wasn't joking. At its most incongruous it becomes pure comedy along the lines of the subterranean terrorists in Life of Brian. In reality if you are footy loyal you don't have to "prove" anything to anybody at any time because you know it is just a game.
And that means we always desperately want to beat liverpool as much as they want to beat Us. When it gets visceral the thing you want most in the whole world is to walk away from the match with their arse in your pocket. Do not believe any alleged pinky or Royal Blue who says these games don't matter. Anybody who says that just isn't one of Us. Such an attitude usually means somebody is pre-positioning himself in case of defeat, whereas a real Scouser nails his colours firmly to the mast and either sails into a glorious sunset or goes down saluting. Unless it is a draw, in which case you resort to battering each other with verbal bail-out cans. Moreover, records mean absolutely zip in these games. The only thing that matters is the next ninety minutes. It always reams a 300mm tension hole through your intestines, and so it should. If you can't feel anything for a derby game you are probably flat-lining anyway. This is why the two Cup Finals still leave a dull ache all true Evertonians long to ease. Placebos will not do. Full measure is required.
Betting on derbies is a mug's game too because anything can happen, even more than a "normal" game. For you are just as likely to win 5-0 as you are to lose 5-0 or draw 0-0 or 4-4, and for no immediately apparent reason. Great players can vanish, ordinary players can become unforgettable folk heroes, great teams turn to mush and mediocre teams suddenly become indomitable warriors. Nothing is certain. Your heart soars with a break down the wing, just as it plummets when the enemy crosses the half way line. You live and die every tackle and pass. As soon as it starts you want it to end so you don't check out with a coronary and go feet first into Broadgreen. Or, worse, suffer enemy barbs until the next derby. If you lose you are off your food and drink for long periods afterwards. You put on a brave face but kid nobody, least of all them. Win, and it is the greatest footy emotion of all. You tread air for weeks. These feelings never change even when it is a thoroughly abysmal fear-ridden game. Why we put ourselves through this kind of thing is one of the great mysteries of human existence. But we do, and truth to tell we love the whole damned specious exercise. Bloody sado-masochists the lot of us.
By now we have got used to jeering at liverpool fans' external decorations and fancy dress that is mini-baroque fascism or a tenth rate Morris Dance. This is quite out of whack with our own traditionally muted choice of match-going outfit, perhaps a small item of Royal Blue clothing and maybe even a Royal Blue scarf. Anything beyond that is considered too gauche or chav for words. We don't do Nuremberg rallies: they do. We do spontaneous enthusiasm: they do Liebestandarte Adolf Hitler. We do Z Cars: they do a dirge from Carousel. At least these are the folkloric myths and stereotypes we try to propagate from our Ministry of Truth in Evertonia. All is fair in derby match run-ups. It is all trivial and pointless but in the fox holes it keeps the bravado-pot simmering, humour on the agenda and apprehension at bay. We hope too it keeps the straitjacket on miscreants who attach themselves to both clubs, though naturally we claim they have a good deal more of them than Us.
Despite facts to the contrary, every now and then some external sectarian crackpot tries to allege religious differences. But it is complete and utter nonsense and mischief of the worst kind. There has never been any religious factionalism at any time between the clubs and now thankfully there never will be because religion is fading slowly from English society. The best thing you can do if anyone tries to suggest otherwise is immediately set them straight. We don't want Rangers-Celtic type cancer in our midst.
We both have enough financial problems, though ours, bad as they are, pale into insignificance compared to theirs. Why David Moores fell for Texas snake oil is a matter for him and his conscience, though a little research would have shown the incoming grifter donated to Bush politics, Nazi-connected grandpa 'n' all, and Texas is universally regarded as the home of extreme right-wing, gun-toting, conman America. Add that to the other bandit's Wisconsinite state demographics of over 40% German origins and you have baaad karma from the start. If you are in mischievous enough mood you can even suggest they did it on purpose because they were envious of The Beatles. However, even by footy standards their Americans seem to have done some fearful damage in a few years of ownership despite making transfer funds available. Whatever else happens you can guarantee there will be fury from other ex colonials - they tend to take gang-burning of their flag rather seriously. For pinkies the danger is their owners (present or future) will simply dig their heels in even harder than did the Glazers at Manchester United. It doesn't take much imagination to conjure an image of the Americans muttering darkly about "commie influence" amongst analfielders, "commie" being Yank boardroom code for anybody, even sandal-wearing libdems, who opposes anything the culprits try to get away with. Still, for now that is their problem alone and they are welcome to it. We have enough difficulties of our own.
I have only mild interest and slight information on their reported fans shares proposals. Whatever they are, they are unlikely to work in the present climate. As I have written elsewhere, such a one-off proposal for a Premiership club is almost certain to fail without major changes of European Union law. Changing owners is merely a stay of execution, or the movement of a condemned man from one cell to another. It has to be all clubs or none on a majority community-owned basis. Anything else is self-deception and doomed. And failure in the current system could be catastrophic, a plummet similar to the footy disasters at Portsmouth, Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United. This might suit our worst chauvinist and vengeful instincts but it wouldn't be good for our city or the game in general, though it might give impetus to the notion of a shared stadium in Stanley Park. Certainly the way things stand neither club can afford a new stand-alone stadium of enough capacity to make a significant difference to revenues. And that offers a bleak playing prospect during the next decade for Us and them. Short of a seismic change, best get yourself ready for the gruellingly obvious.....Unless of course you prefer to sleep-walk through footy life.
As we brace ourselves for the coming collision I cannot recall a previous occasion where both clubs have been in the relegation zone, so that gives it a different and sharper pique. It makes it even more unpredictable too. As always it will boil down to who wants it more and who is hungriest amongst the players, particularly the few local players. In truth, league placings don't matter a row of beans in derbies. We all have our favourite stories to confirm this. In my case there are two from long, long ago. In 1964 we played at analfield with half a reserve team and were expected to lose heavily; we won 4-0. In 1969 we had a truly great team acknowledged by everybody as such, even pinkies in disarray at the time; we lost 3-0 at Goodison. There are many other examples of similar consternation. When it happens it certainly sorts the men from the boys.
Last season was a derby baddy for Us, both games lost and no goals, an appalling performance at Goodison and a weak show against ten mediocre men at analfield. And we lost Marouane Fellaini for months to a criminal assault from their Greek thug. Really, it couldn't have been much worse. We were still living off the famous FA Cup victory the previous season. In theory it is our turn, except turns have never mattered in these games and they never will. You never know who will show up at kick-off and who will still be quaking in the dressing room. Only those with the strongest stomachs will survive. And there is no point thinking a bladder full of ale will help you - all that does is test the drains capacity at half time.
So go ahead and make your brash forecasts. Me, I'm keeping my smug grin to myself in case I have to abandon it sometime on Sunday, 17th October 2010. If we win......I told you so. If we lose......snail mail me in Alpha Centauri. If we draw......you couldn't make a good team out of the two of them. See, I can cover all the derby angles as much as anyone. But pass me the Soma, the bail-out can and extra batteries for my pacemaker. The derby jitters are here already. Meanwhile, beware the wounded animal......