‘Good afternoon,’ the tall bespectacled man beamed, his thinning sandy hair shifted in the breeze. ‘Please take a seat for today’s paean.’ His hands indicated left or right, seating arrangements of little concern, the emphasis is on being present – the only thing of importance here. A congregation, worldwide, lusting for today’s eulogy.
Around the country – and the world – there are many such temples, a spectrum of different shapes and sizes. Yet there is a difference here, minor, in the grand scheme of things, but major to those united in attendance. This is Anfield.
Anfield is an ancient place, holding its first service in 1884. During the clubs infancy, the colours repulsed as an eye-sore blue, only for a dispute in 1892 to turn flammable, resulting in a sharpening of knives and a deep cleanse. Those who remained were left bloodied and bruised, the colour red, it seemed, was apt to take forth.
The creation of a new scripture required a crest. For some, it may have seemed strange. A cormorant, perched proudly, with seaweed gripped within its beak. Why not an anvil? A cannon? Something to signify power or strength? There are greater forms of power beyond aggression. The crest is a homage to the city’s port history and also a reflection of the city’s inhabitance – working class and proud. It has taken a dozen different guises over the past century, yet the Liver Bird is ever present – a mainstay in the city’s diet. From her humble beginnings to worldwide renowned. Yet the origins are borne from centuries long past, from a time when the much-maligned King John ruled England. The city was founded to be a port, it’s strategic location intended to support the Kings attack on Ireland in 1207. King John’s royal signet? An eagle holding a sprig of broom within its mouth. Over the proceeding chasm in time the eagle was mistranslated, the cormorant made its replacement, but the city’s usage stayed much the same. It is Anfield, not the city’s docks, which is now the launching pad for a relentless and continued European invasion.
Since 1962 the club has taken flight, feasting magnificently in some of the world’s finest locations during our endless crusade, conquering iconic enemies along the way. Real Madrid, Roma and A.C. Milan, to name a few. Some of the greatest clubs in the world, with followings almost as emphatic and rich with histories as our own. But not quite. Never quite as ingrained as Liverpool Football Club and its supporters who go on pilgrimage, irrespective of destination or cost, commitments or accessibility. It is at the hub of our religion, Anfield, surrounded by our singing, roaring, cheering fans, we are unrivalled. For good reason.
Walk through the hallways, listen to the whispering of the walls. Greatness, past and present, echoing loudly for all to hear. The smell of success palpable in the air. To outsiders, the stench is unbearable and unpalatable. To our most recent generation that sweet smell has, on rare occasion, turned sour. For there have been false prophets of late.
Countless faithful servants have been and gone over the course of our history. Some oversaw a prolonged golden era, dominating domestically and on foreign soil. A surge of new disciples followed, those willing to buy into the club and our fans working class doctrine. Some recruited from far-flung places such as Australia and the Americas. Many have acquired a torrent of their own stories featuring famous oracles of Shankly, Paisley, Dalglish, Gerrard. Those initiated and deemed worthy, commemorated, beloved, worshipped, like only Liverpool can, native or not.
Hard times have passed in recent memory. No faith can go untested. No hardships can go untried. It is through such adversity that we are rewarded. For no joy is as glorious as that stalking dismay. Thankfully there are signs of revival on the horizon, led by the indomitable, Prophet Klopp. Patience has been needed, but time rewards those willing to wait. Redemption is the sweetest milk to suckle if you are willing to drink from footballs emotional udders. Those paying homage in Anfield drink greedily. Hope is ever present.
The music swells and the chorus begins with tens of thousands joining in unison, with unity, as one, through rain or shine. Our weekly pilgrimage. We stand together, shoulders rubbing, scarfs waving, flags rippling, with our heads raised to the heavens where canonized Saints smile down upon us as we sing. A song wrote many moons ago, our song, another signifier of the club and it’s devout followers, as silent prayers are made, oaths are sworn and dreams are realised.
You need not be from the city, you needn’t even be physically present, for if you share our faith the city will embrace you as our own. Colour, creed, it matters not. All we ask is you share our passion, our love, our ups and downs, our crest. We as one. Together, no matter the result. For if you do that, you shall be welcomed into a family, not only in what we consider our Mecca, one embraced across the world. We, Liverpool, welcome you to join us.
This is my temple. My religion. This is Liverpool.