The Emotional Rollercoaster of Derbies
Mark Lawrenson summed up derbies. “They’re horrible,” he said. “The worst thing is the fear of getting beat. It didn’t matter where anyone was in the table, top or bottom. It was brutal.” Liverpool can expect a certain amount of brutality at Anfield. Sean Dyche was made for old-school derbies and Everton will set up to make life uncomfortable for Jurgen Klopp’s side. They will get the ball forward quickly when the opportunity arises and hope to use their physicality from any set-pieces.
Cultural Integration in Football: Foreign Players in British Derbies
In Lawrenson’s day, the vast majority of the players were British and Irish. They understood the magnitude of these games. Yet anyone who thinks the influx of foreigners has diluted the intensity of these encounters is mistaken. Just living on Merseyside means they are subjected to the pressures that surround this local difficulty. Fans on both sides make it clear to their players that this match is special.
Xabi Alonso and Mikel Arteta were mates from childhood and both lived in the Albert Dock during their time in the city. They socialised on a daily basis. But, after one fractious derby, they fell out badly and didn’t speak for a while. Friends thought that nothing could come between the two Basques but this fixture briefly strained their relationship.
The Psychological Landscape for Players
If you’re nervous in the run-up to the game, the players have the same feelings. There are always scores to be settled. They’ll all be ready for the battle.
We moan about early kick-offs but I was thinking about my most memorable Anfield derby. That kicked off at 11.00am. It wasn’t because of the demands of police or television. Back in the 1970s and 80s, the derby sometimes coincided with the Grand National. The morning start allowed supporters to head to Aintree after the game. So, in early April 1976, a hungover Anfield witnessed one of the great derby moments.
Fairclough’s Legendary Goal
The previous four Liverpool-Everton matches had been 0-0 draws. It was an era of attrition, brawls and the only entertainment value was the blood-curdling tackles. Then, after 448 scoreless derby minutes, David Fairclough picked up the ball near the halfway line on the Kemlyn Road side and headed for the Anny Road goal. The substitute won back possession from an Everton throw, wriggled past two opponents and speared through the defence. Blue shirts surrounded him but the rake-thin redhead surged into the area. His shot from a narrow angle hit the far corner of the net. There were two minutes left to play. The Kop went wild.
Historic Victory and its Aftermath
The victory was crucial. Bob Paisley’s team were in a close title race with Queens Park Rangers and a dropped point would have given the west London club a clear advantage heading into the final phase of the season. Fairclough’s strike meant that if Liverpool won their game in hand, they would be level on points with QPR. This was Paisley’s second season. The team finished trophyless in his first. There were still people who questioned whether he had what it took to replace Bill Shankly. The previous Wednesday, Liverpool had beaten Barcelona – Johan Cruyff and all – 1-0 in the Nou Camp. In the next few weeks Paisley brought home the title and the Uefa Cup.
It felt like Fairclough’s goal ignited an era. The day wasn’t completely successful, however. Off we all went to Aintree to bet on another Merseyside icon, Red Rum, already a two-time National winner. The great horse finished second, though. Just like Everton.
Anticipating Liverpool’s Performance in Upcoming Matches
The next month will give us a great sense of how good this new Klopp team is. There’s a run of relatively straightforward games coming up. Everton are very beatable, as are Nottingham Forest and Brentford at home. Kenilworth Road will be like a visit to the past for many of the squad but Luton Town should be seen off. So far, the season has been strange, with weird refereeing decisions, red cards, injuries and freakish results making it hard to judge where the team is in its development. The Brighton game exposed some of the flaws that need addressing and perhaps put a brake on optimism. There is still enough evidence to think that the top four should be a relative doddle and there is potential for a title race. We’ll know where we are when the next international break arrives. Hopefully it will be quite close to the summit of the table.
It’s no good moaning about 12.30 kick offs. When you’re as popular as Liverpool, the TV companies will grab you for their slot whenever they can. Moving the Manchester City game to an early start is outrageous, though. The fixture was originally set for the evening but changed on police advice. That boggles the mind.
Reflecting on Fan Treatment and Security Concerns
It’s not 1984 any more, a time when you could expect anarchy when Liverpool visited Manchester. There is bad feeling between us and City but it’s hardly pitched-battle territory. No matter what the Greater Manchester Police say, this game is not a security threat. What it does tell you is that the authorities still have an unjustified fear of Liverpool supporters. They’ll never say it in public, but stunts like this are proof of the irrational contempt some in positions of power have for Liverpool fans.
Message to Everton Supporters
Let’s hope the stupid wing of Everton’s support behave themselves. Do they realise that when they sing “Always the victims,” that the trope includes them, too? Or do they think the “self-pity city” narrative is just about football and not an, er, entire city?
‘Derbies are different,” Craig Johnston said to me once. “They’re meatier.” Love it. Let’s feast on Everton tomorrow.