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Liverpool 2.0 Unveiled: Pragmatist Rodgers Delivers His Vision Of ‘Style & Steel’

The feeling of euphoria that swept Anfield’s streets after Liverpool beat United was heightened by the sense that this was a watershed moment.

Here was a team that for large parts of the 2012-2013 season played a naive brand of cavalier football that was entertaining and easy on the eye but had a soft underbelly.

Vulnerable in transition and imbued with an inherent self-doubt that was consistently reinforced by a failure to beat top clubs, Liverpool were in danger of becoming little more than a football hipster’s wet dream. England’s Malaga. A collective embodiment of New Football’s ideal and a big red paragon of the passing game: ‘We may not win stuff, but my word, we’re pretty. Just look at Coutinho for God’s sake. Just look at him.’

That concept was squashed in the United game as our courtship with Rodgers’ new anti-Liverpool moved to the next level.

The team has developed 3 new qualities: resolve, aggression and cynicism. In Liverpool we’re happy to splice these three strands together and refer to it as nark. (More nark is very welcome and an entirely necessary characteristic of a successful side.)

As an articulate and, at times, alarmingly modern football manager, Brendan Rodgers loves a sound-byte. Merging “style with steel” was one of his aspirations for Liverpool this year.

It appears he’s starting to succeed.

Three 1-0 victories without, apparently, hitting high levels of performance is just what Liverpool fans needed to see to believe the team can progress to the next rung of the footballing ladder. Benitezesque pragmatism allied with Rodgers’ free flowing purist fundamentalism. It’s a potent recipe.

Not for the first time in recent years, United’s midfield struggled to cope with the energy and intensity of their Liverpool counterparts. Lucas and Henderson put in all-action performances and Gerrard moved beyond ‘imperious’ to become positively despotic. (He controlled not only the thrust of Liverpool’s attacks but also the tempo of the entire game.)

There was a resilience about Liverpool, a determination and a hunger that felt more than skin deep. Profound. Something has changed.

The streetwise way that Liverpool saw out the game showed that lessons are being learned and Rodgers isn’t content to settle for dominating possession. He’s more focussed on taking all 3 points and he now IS willing to compromise on his footballing vision to get them.

We have lift off.

Andre Wisdom’s breakneck charge to the corner flag in the dying moments of the game was wonderful to behold. (I wanted to reach for my Sky+ remote and rewind the real-world so I could watch it again.) As was the litany of small time-wasting contributions and constant barracking of the referee. We all want to see pretty football, but these villainous elements really do matter and in aggregation can make a big difference to a match’s outcome.

Pretty football + Nark = Win

Despite being understandably thrilled with the result, Liverpool fans will have spotted several areas that need improving if the team’s auspicious start is to lead to a successful full campaign.

Aspas made a lot of people angry. He was a weak link and looked out of his depth. He caught a lot of flak and for a short period I was as angry with the Spaniard as most of the fans sat around me. (Who were very angry.) I actually wrote the following angry tweet, but didn’t send it because I was angry and I thought it unfair upon reflection:

“Iago Aspas looks like an inspired signing. (For Liverpool U16′s.)”

I deleted the tweet because A) it was Aspas’s first real big game for Liverpool and B) I don’t want to contribute to increasing pressure on him. Though he did look like a boy amongst men for long periods, he has a fantastic work ethic and willingness to improve. Given time he’ll be a useful member of the squad.

In fact Rodgers’ primary concerns will be spread all across his forward line. The ball simply didn’t stick well enough when Liverpool played it forward and it consistently came back too quickly. That cranked up the pressure on a midfield and defence that were increasingly under siege as the game progressed.

Coutinho’s drop in form is mildly worrying (patchy form is to be expected from a 21 year old of course), Aspas looked lightweight and much more is needed from Daniel Sturridge in terms of his overall leading of the line.

Injuries and fitness levels mitigate this criticism, I know, but it’s clear that Sturridge doesn’t have the appetite to contest high balls or 50-50′s. He may think that goals will insulate him from criticism and excuse his occasionally laconic demeanour but he couldn’t be more wrong. If there’s one thing that will undermine his goalscoring efforts for Liverpool fans it’s a perceived lack of effort. We want to see goals AND graft.

Ian Rush is a legend at Anfield not only because he scored 229 goals in 469 games, but because he contested every ball and defended from the front. (Imagine the impact Sturridge would make if he showed Sterling’s recent level of determination and tenacity?)

So there’s certainly room for improvement in Liverpool’s forward line – thankfully Suarez’s return and Moses’ signing will provide welcome support and competition.

These concerns aside, Brendan Rodgers’ team is clearly gathering momentum and the signs of improvement are stark.

Rodgers had a shaky start and his first few months were tough. Understandable really, as the new managerial team bedded in and Liverpool faced an onerous early fixture schedule. Since January Liverpool’s performances have been, mostly, excellent. But strictly in terms of points Rodgers and his team have produced a remarkable turnaround in Liverpool’s fortunes since November 2012.

The average points total required to gain Champions League qualification over the last 10 years is 68.4 points. (Exactly 1.8 points per game.)

Liverpool have played 32 league games since 1st November 2012 and have secured 60 points, giving them a points per game average over the last 10 months of 1.88. (Contrast that with the previous 10 months, during which the Reds played 28 games and just amassed 28 points. The mathematicians amongst you will spot that’s a 1.00 point per game average. Relegation form.)

In other words, Liverpool have been delivering top 4 form over a period of 10 months. That’s not a flash in the pan, that’s a consistent pattern of behaviour and success over a prolonged period.

All the signs point to Liverpool mounting a serious challenge for a top four position this year. Now with added nark, surely nothing can stand in their way.

-Mike Kennedy (Find me on twitter)

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RedmenTV: Taking Big Strides Towards A Bright Future

RedmenTV is a website and YouTube channel created by Liverpool fans Paul Machin and Chris Pajak. The site was born 4 years ago and in its short lifetime RedmenTV has enjoyed steady success as the site has grown organically, from grass roots Liverpool fans’ recommendations. (Over 30,000 people currently subscribe to their regular YouTube videos – no mean feat in the crowded LFC online space.)

It’s easy to see why Paul and Chris have gained such a following; their honesty, boundless enthusiasm and sense of mischief clearly sets them apart from the mainstream and, in turn, their output is more entertaining than the vast majority of what we see in mainstream football coverage.

As a friend of the show I was invited to attend the launch of ‘RedmenTV 4.0′ on Friday night. The new season heralds a fresh start in many ways – the new RedmenTV studio is a significant upgrade and the investment in state-of-the-art equipment (and recruitment of extra team members) is testament to both the site’s growing success and the team’s dedication to continue improving the show.

Paul shared a showreel and highlighted new features for the forthcoming season and in terms of ambition, creative scope and production value this season will represent another big step forward.

It’s clear to me that this is just the beginning for a talented team that will progress to enjoy an even broader audience. If you’re not aboard the RedmenTV train yet, then jump on. You can find them here:

I’ll be reappearing on the show at some point over the coming weeks (follow me on twitter for updates).

10 Ways Brendan Rodgers Improved Liverpool In His First Season

The end of the season is upon us and months of football starvation looms large.

I miss the football action -the actual games themselves- and frequently find myself feeling at a loose end, but despite this I still ‘enjoy football’ during the close season because it’s a wondrous time; literally anything could happen next year.

A football-less summer is a time for renewal of hope and faith and suspending your disbelief to indulge in foaming-at-the-mouth-bonkers transfer speculation. It’s brilliant.

Another part of this fallow period that I thoroughly enjoy is looking back and reflecting on the season that’s passed.

As football fans we’re constantly evaluating dozens of elements of our team’s performance, but the end of season dissection is one to truly relish. After all, what better time to pass judgment than at the end of a full season?

So how has Brendan Rodgers performed in his first season as Liverpool manager? I think he’s done well. In fact, I’d go as far as to say he’s done an excellent job (much better than he’s widely been given credit for).

At times it feels there are a zillion things Liverpool need to improve to regain a seat at the top table of European football. But Rome wasn’t built in a day – it will take time. As long as we can see clear improvements we can at least be confident the club is moving in the right direction. (And can a fan reasonably wish for anything more than that?)

Thankfully, Liverpool most definitely are moving in the right direction. (No Premier League team improved more than Liverpool in 2012-2013, as we’ll discuss later.)

Here are 10 ways Liverpool have improved with Brendan Rodgers at the helm.

1) Rodgers has improved Liverpool’s ability to score goals

Last summer Rodgers took over a Liverpool team that desperately lacked goals. The Reds managed a pathetic 47 league goals last season, a tally that even relegated Blackburn Rovers beat. (Also-relegated Bolton scored only one fewer than Liverpool, finishing with 46 goals.)

Not only did Rodgers take over a side lacking goals, but the challenge to score more became significantly harder for him following the departures of Kuyt, Bellamy & Maxi (all of whom carried a goal threat). And then, in a farcical twist, Andy Carroll left with no replacement coming in.

So Rodgers took over a team desperately lacking goals and to compound matters, then lost 4 of the squad’s best goalscorers.

Faced with this grim task, how did Rodgers perform?

This season Liverpool scored 71 goals. That’s a 51% increase – a stunning improvement in goals scored, especially considering that for the first half of the season Rodgers was mostly using the same (albeit depleted) group of players as last year.

Rodgers achieved this increase by introducing a different playing style, new formations, some canny transfer deals in January and something else that we’ll look at shortly.

Bravo Brendan. You’ve made some mistakes this season (and worn some truly shit cardigans), but for this whopping improvement in goals we wholeheartedly salute you.

2) Rodgers has improved Liverpool’s home form

In 2011-12 Liverpool won 6 league home games. In 2012-13 they won 9.

liverpool tactics

Liverpool had become a soft touch at Anfield, so this is a welcome improvement indeed. It was enjoyable to see Liverpool swatting away lesser sides in impressive style. (It wasn’t too long ago that Liverpool were regularly struggling against the smaller sides…)

Bill Shankly wanted opponents to be terrified of playing at Anfield and for many years they were. This hasn’t been the case in recent seasons so it’s satisfying to see the pendulum swinging back in a favourable direction. Let’s hope the improvement continues next year.

3) Rodgers has improved the link between the first team and the youth team

If I received one message loud and clear during my visit to the academy earlier this season, it was that Rodgers’ arrival has heralded a much deeper integration between the first team base at Melwood and the academy youth facility in Kirkby.

The academy staff love him to bits. And viewed from their perspective it’s easy to see why. Rodgers’ faith in (and development of) young players provided a fascinating subplot to the season and reinvigorated a component of the club that had grown stale.

A huge amount of credit has to go to Rafa Benitez here, as the club has started to reap the rewards of seeds sown by the Spaniard. So we shouldn’t give Rodgers the credit for finding & developing this crop of youth players, or establishing an effective youth development framework, but we can applaud him for giving several young players a chance and developing them/demonstrating confidence in them.

4) Rodgers has improved Liverpool’s away form

Liverpool scored 15 more goals on the road this season and managed to stop the away-day rot that took hold so strongly last season.

Liverpool have become 65% better at scoring away league goals since Brendan Rodgers became manager. Which is a startling improvement and one that, again, I don’t think he’s been given enough credit for.

LFCAWAYFORM

Though Liverpool won 1 less away game this season, they secured 3 more points overall as they turned several defeats from 2011-2012 into draws.

5) Rodgers has got more out of key players than Dalglish did

Suarez – The Uruguayan has played well in the past, but he’s never played as well as he has this season. Rodgers deserves some credit for Suarez’s elevation from “excellent player” to “one of the best footballers in the world”.

Agger and Gerrard’s longevity – Although both players could have been rotated to better effect, Rodgers (and his medical team) have worked wonders this year in keeping these two fit and available.

Solid full backs – Johnson’s form in the first half of the season was his career-best. Rodgers managed to quickly stabilise Mad Enrique (remember how woeful his form became after January 2012?) and shape him into a more dependable and effective first-teamer.

Reina & Carra - Pepe Reina rediscovered some of his old form and restoring Carra to central defence took guts. Again, Rodgers deserves credit here.

Kenny’s buys came good - This season Downing and Henderson have both transformed into players I’d like to see Liverpool keep. Now that’s progress. (And testament to Rodgers’ man-management ability.)

Sturridge & Coutinho - Obviously not Kenny’s players, but let’s look at them regardless. To say both players have hit the ground running would be a huge understatement. Their form since arriving in January has been sensational. Again, Rodgers can’t take all of the credit for that, but we must surely give him plenty.

Not all players have flourished this season (see Skrtel, Borini, Allen) but overall Rodgers has done a good job of motivating and developing his key players.

6) Rodgers has improved Liverpool’s style of play

This is entirely subjective of course, but for me it’s clear that Liverpool play a more entertaining and enjoyable brand of football under Brendan Rodgers than they have done in years.

There have been some wonderful moments of team football this season and -a few notable games aside- I have thoroughly enjoyed watching Liverpool this year.

Compare some of this season’s swashbuckling attacking football with the faeces that Liverpool fans were served when Roy Hodgson was manger. Liverpool may have finished 7th -a Hodgsonesque position- but in terms of footballing entertainment the difference was night and day.

7) In 2012-2013 Liverpool improved more than any other Premier League team

In 2011-2012 Liverpool secured 52 points. In 2012-2013 Liverpool secured 61 points. This 9 point boost forward -in 1 season- represents the biggest year-on-year improvement by any Premier League team.

TYVSLY

The key stat here is the percentage improvement (not points), as that shows the variance as a proportion of last year’s total. Liverpool improved more than any other team in the league.

8) Rodgers eliminated the end-of-season slump

Last year’s run-in was dire as players preened in League Cup glory and saved themselves for the FA Cup final. The blame didn’t lie solely with Dalglish, this affliction had been present since Benitez’s last season, so I was delighted to see it banished as we approached the end of the 2012-13 season.

The 2011-2012 Premier League table for the months of March, April and May 2012 (Dalglish’s last 3 months in charge):

MAM-2012

14th. We didn’t exactly end the season with a spring in our step did we? (Incidentally, I think this was a key contributing factor in Dalglish getting the sack…)

Below is the 2012-2013 Premier League table for March, April & May (a clear improvement with Liverpool competing better, for longer):

MAM-2013

This underlines my earlier point that Rodgers is motivating his players well. Although motivational prowess is only one element in a manager’s skillset, it’s a vital one, and Rodgers appears to have this quality in spades.

9) Rodgers has continued to restore a sense of dignity to the club

Again, this is subjective, but I think Rodgers has continued along Dalglish’s restorative trajectory and Liverpool have begun to regain some of the dignity they lost following the Hicks/Gillett affair.

The Internet teases him for his dress sense and David Brent-isms and looking like a shark. While I can see where some of these criticisms stem from (the 3 envelopes thing was hideous) it’s unfair to continue citing them while the man is clearly succeeding.

It’s not enough for a manager to be good at his job and get results nowadays – he has to also have impeccable dress sense and say the right thing at all times. And not look like a shark.

To those people I would say this: Are you perfect? Do you look and dress fantastically at all times? Do you say and do the perfect thing, every time? Are you a talented football manager? Let’s give the guy a break and ease up on the personal criticism.

Along with a handful of other LFC bloggers I’ve been lucky enough to spend some time in Rodgers’ company this season and he’s a thoughtful and intelligent football man. I think that, overall, Rodgers carries himself well.

A modern manager needs to be an engaging public speaker. (Look at the uncommunicative Paul Lambert for proof of how things can turn sour.)

They must project a successful/capable/enigmatic persona and there’s a few different ways managers tend to approach the task:

  • They can be everyone’s best friend: eg Martinez, Rednapp, Holloway
  • They can be spiky & aggressive: eg Benitez, Mourinho, Ferguson (Amid the fawning stampede that was Ferguson’s retirement, too many people forgot what a tosser/bully Ferguson could be.)
  • They can try and conduct themselves with dignity and intelligence: eg Rodgers, AVB, Moyes

I think Rodgers’ personal character is a good fit for Liverpool and as he relaxes into the role we’ll see that more.

10) Under Rodgers, Liverpool are moving forward

It’s rare that a football club treads water, they tend to be either moving forwards or backwards. Liverpool are moving forwards at the moment.

For the record, here are Liverpool’s year-on-year league table stats.

LEAGEVS

Green numbers mean something has improved. Red numbers mean something has gotten worse. Black numbers are “the same or neither positive or negative”.

  • Liverpool won 2 more games this year.
  • Liverpool lost 5 fewer games this year.
  • Liverpool scored 24 more goals (and though they conceded 3 more goals, I’ll happily accept a ‘net’ boost of 21 extra goals each season).
  • Liverpool secured 9 more points this year.

People sometimes forget how young Brendan Rodgers is. He was 39 when he joined Liverpool. That’s bloody young to be managing Liverpool Football Club.

The man is a managerial foetus. He shows huge promise for someone so young.

There are negatives, for sure, and Rodgers has a huge football season ahead of him next year, but at this stage he can be happy with how he performed during his first season at Liverpool.

Micro Season Summary: We have a very promising young manager at the helm. He is learning all the time. The signs of improvement are clear.

You can find Mike Kennedy on twitter here and Facebook here.

A Red On The Road: Jakarta, Indonesia

[Note: This article was first published on the old site, in January 2011.]

The traffic in Jakarta is famously bad. It’s understandable really. (Shuffling 28 million human beings around is a tricky business.)

But even by Jakarta’s lofty standards the traffic jam I was in last night was a corker.

Thousands of brake lights stretched off into the distance and as my taxi inched its way through the manic Saturday-night heart of the Indonesian capital I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I reached my destination.

I was headed to the exotic-sounding ‘Hotel Sultan’ to meet up with the Indonesian LFC Supporters’ Club to watch Liverpool play Wolves.

First and foremost, I was thrilled to have found somewhere to watch the game (I’ve been on the road for 3 months and I’m sick of crappy internet streams), but I’d arranged to attend via some hasty last-minute twitter activity and as such, I hardly had any idea what to expect.

Who are these people? Will there be many of them at the event? What will the venue be like and will there be a decent screen? How do they even watch a football match in Indonesia?? (What exotic footy-spectating rituals might they have?) And most importantly of all, I wondered if I’d be able to get a decent pint.

I needn’t have worried. The evening was a huge success in every way (both on and off the pitch) and the experience will stay with me for a long time.

As an LFC blogger and ‘genuine’ Liverpudlian, I was afforded a very warm welcome. I was met in the hotel foyer by a group of Reds who follow my twitter feed.

We exchanged pleasantries and introductions as I tried manfully to hide my Evertonian-season-ticket-holding wife. Maddeningly, as with with most Bluenoses, she refused to be cowed and remained indignant at being ‘dragged’ to the event.

I told her I was more than happy to visit the Indonesian Everton Supporters’ Club in return, before quickly adding “Oh wait, there isn’t one.” It was a cheap shot, but sometimes you just have to dish it right back to an Evertonian. (Wife or not.)

The venue turned out to be a plush affair, with several big screens, a snazzy contemporary bar with life-size glossy Steven Gerrard cut-outs and LFC memorabilia adorning the walls and ceiling.

Not all events here are so civilised. This shindig had been bankrolled by Standard Chartered, who, lest we forget, are a Big Deal in Asia. The CEO of Standard Chartered’s Asia region was present (he tried painfully to blend in by donning an away kit shirt) and he said a few words prior to kick off:

“We’ve been doing business in Jakarta for 150 years and with Liverpool FC we have an ideal partner to grow, ensuring mutual success…” (Incidentally, he left at half time which was poor form I thought.)

No sooner had he finished speaking than the microphone was under my nose as I was interviewed by the MC. I tried my best not to come across as a total simpleton -tricky at the best of times- before making a bee-line for the bar and chatting with many LFC-supporting cousins.

In all my travels I’ve rarely encountered a warmer, more friendly, more open and welcoming bunch of people. Truly, I was humbled by their hospitality, curiousity and generosity.

Following a rousing pre-match rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone, we were underway. After 90 raucous minutes, and a Meireles screamer, the Jack Daniels was flowing freely. (Not to mention huge pitchers of Bintang beer.)

A decent band took to the stage and much dancing and celebrating ensued as we toasted the first 3 points of King Kenny’s second coming.

Reflecting on the evening today (with a slightly sore head), I’m thrilled I met them all and both surprised and grateful how quickly they accepted me into the fold. Total strangers, drawn together by a common passion. The reach of Liverpool FC never ceases to amaze me.

Having seen the enthusiasm that Liverpool inspires in the people here, it’s clear that FSG have a huge opportunity in Asia. Harnessing this type of support and chanelling it more effectively into practical benefits for the club must be their aim.

The Indonesian Reds put plenty of cynical UK football fans to shame. They embody what the spirit of supporting Liverpool FC should be about. Passion, unity, good humour and generosity.

Thanks for a great night guys, YNWA.

Modern Football’s Liverpool FC: Anti-Scouse Ticketing and the Wallet-Rape Hotline

5th April 2013, by Mike Kennedy

Ian Ayre Swimming In Pool Of Money

Today is season ticket renewal day. Two things will happen today:

1) Ian Ayre will strip down to his underpants and dive joyously into the Anfield Money Vault. (It’s his favourite day of the year.)

2) The football club I love will take me to the cleaners for a record amount.

The total cost of my season ticket at Anfield for the 2013-14 season will be £900.

There will be 19 league games at Anfield next season which means I’ll be paying £47.37 per game.

Having reflected on it at length, I think it’s an obscene amount of money for Liverpool Football Club to charge its fans.

Take a moment. Stop. Consider the point that we’ve now arrived at by a process of creeping normalcy. Almost FIFTY POUND per game. It’s outrageous.

Each person has a threshold they won’t go beyond, a pivot point in value based on their own personal finances and £50 per match feels perilously close to that point for me.

Contrast my £900 total cost with that of my father-in-law, an Evertonian, who will renew his season ticket at Goodison Park for just £318. (£16.74 per match.)

At the other end of the scale you may hear chastising southern voices: “Stop crying you wuss! Fans at the Emirates pay £89 per match to sit in the Clock End.” Well more fool them. They clearly have more money than sense. (And me.)

Of course the most powerful way any fan can send a message to their club is by voting with their wallet. Stop buying what the club are selling.

Simple, no?

Well it’s not quite that straightforward for me and I know there are many others facing a similar dilemma.

I finally got my own season ticket last year, having waited 16 years to reach the front of the season ticket waiting list. So am I really going to give it up after 1 year?

And of course, if I do give it up, it’s likely that a twatty upper-middle class bloke from Henley-on-Thames, probably called Tim, will fill the void.

Tim will be more than happy to pay top dollar, I’m sure. He’ll arrive at Anfield on match day in daring knitwear and a Barbour jacket and spend most of the match palming his floppy hair to one side. Tim will have a jolly nice day out at Anfield.

And thus the club’s anti-Scouse ticketing policy will continue unabated. The very people who built the brand that FSG market all over the world are being squeezed out. Week after week. Season after season.

Mind you, we’re already so far from the working class roots of Liverpool FC (and football in general) that at this point it’s barely even worth referencing.

Me? A lifelong Red from a working class Scouse family? I’ll likely be watching Liverpool’s home games in a pub on an Arabic satellite channel. Behind the incomprehensible warble of the foreign commentary spewing from the TV I’ll be able to hear the players shouting instructions to one another mid-game, clearly audible amid the placid silence of Anfield. (Tim and his chums are a polite bunch, they’re sitting quietly, they don’t like to make a fuss. Also the ‘Scouse pastries’ they ate before kick off are weighing heavily in their bellies and the 2 pints of dishwater/beer they each had have gone to their heads. Still they didn’t mind paying almost £10 for two beers and they visited the club superstore too, and even bought programmes, so they are welcome back at Anfield any time.)

Tim and his chums are John Henry’s ‘increased gameday revenue’.

So I’m not thrilled at the prospect of giving up my season ticket. Not just because of my personal loss, but also because of what it would represent in the big picture; another microscopic incision in English football’s death by a thousand cuts.

But the fact remains: I can’t afford to pay £900.

So I ruminate on all of this for too long and despite feeling thoroughly pissed off and alienated, I finally decide to call the ticket office and explore the middle-ground option of paying for my season ticket in instalments.

“What the hell are you doing?” I ask myself as I pick up my phone. “You can’t afford it.” I can’t help it. I’ve been raised this way. I need to go to Anfield and watch Liverpool.

So now, as ridiculous as it sounds, I start concocting theories in my mind in justification of the outlay, in defence of the club and I’m trying desperately to find an angle to make it ‘ok’ to spend the £900.

“Chelsea and Arsenal fans are paying a lot more, right? And all the season ticket revenue is going into the summer transfer kitty, ultimately. Isn’t it? So it’s, like, helping the club’s future. Isn’t it?”

(Football fans are sick really, when you think about it. This is the kind of behaviour drug addicts exhibit.)

My spurious justifications don’t change the fact that me and the missus genuinely can’t afford the outlay right now. (I recently became one of the UK’s 2.5 million unemployed.) “Sell something! I can sell my Wii U! That’ll help, do that and pay the rest in instalments. That’s the answer!”

(Honestly, being a football fan must be a form of mental illness.)

So I return to my phone, tortured but perversely compelled to see this through. I’m just about to hit dial when I see the ’0843′ prefix on the ticketline phone number. A super-premium rate line.

More wallet-rape from the club we love.

I’m wary of making the call from my mobile having been stung this way in the past. Suddenly I have a brainwave, I’ll call from Skype. Surely that must be the cheapest possible way to call the LFC Wallet-Rape Hotline?

I clock my Skype balance before the call: £10.05

I make the call, wait on hold for ages (‘Why not keep callers waiting a while? We’re adding to our bank balance every second they’re on hold!’) then I speak to a very helpful girl who explains all the options. I say ‘all the options’ but it’s ultimately a binary choice: pay the £850 in full or apply to pay in instalments and incur a £50 ‘fee’. I opt for the instalments.

At the end of the conversation I make a note of the call duration: 14 minutes and 58 seconds.

I refresh my Skype account page. My new balance is £5.22. Which means the phone call cost me £4.83.

15 minutes divided by £4.83 = 32p per minute.

(Don’t forget I called via the cheapest possible method. Christ knows how much it would’ve cost if I had called from my mobile. North of £1 per minute, I’d guess?)

Maybe I’m out of touch, just an old skinflint, but what’s wrong with using a standard geographical landline number? A number that begins ’0151′?

Is there no end to the club’s avarice? I mean let’s be clear on this, Liverpool are making money from fans calling them who want to give the club money while they’re giving the club money. It’s greedy and insulting.

So where does this rip off behaviour leave us? After all, these are just two small examples I’ve encountered in one day. A pair of tiny breadcrumbs in an endless trail of exploitation.

We pour our heart and soul into supporting our club and what do we get in return? We get taken advantage of. It really is that simple. We give, they take. And for the most part we lap it up.

Football clubs aren’t like the other businesses that we interact with. They’re special. Taking your custom elsewhere or jumping ship to support a competitor just isn’t an option. Your club can treat you like shit and you’ll still come back for more.

Do you feel good about this? Is it a healthy relationship or an abusive one? The more I reflect on it, the worse it makes me feel. About me, about Liverpool FC and about Modern Football as a whole.

But here’s the thing. It doesn’t have to be this way.

If we allow unscrupulous businessmen to ride roughshod over us and our game then unscrupulous businessmen will ride roughshod over us and our game.

If like me you feel passionate about this, for fuck’s sake, make your feelings known. Take action.

Visit the websites for the Football Supporters Federation and Supporters Direct. Sign up. Get involved.

For the LFC-specific issues I raised above, the easiest way to lodge your displeasure is to contact the Liverpool FC Supporters’ Committee which has regular meetings with the club’s senior management.

You can email Karen Gill who is the Committee Chair here: chair@liverpoolfcsc.com

Remember, be nice. Don’t send ranty emails at Karen. She’s on our side. She’s the spearhead that delivers our views, she represents you, so let’s give her the ammo she needs to effect change.

You can also email Robert Humphries who is the committee representative for season ticket holders here: Season-Ticket-Holders@liverpoolfcsc.com

The contact details for every LFC committee member are here. Make your voice heard, get in touch with them and tell them you aren’t happy about the ticket prices and the rip-off phone lines (and anything else that’s got your goat).

Seriously consider joining Spirit of Shankly which is the Liverpool supporters union. They fill an important role in holding the club’s owners to account and representing fans’ views. That has to be a good thing.

Nothing will change unless bread and butter fans like you and me do something about it. So speak up comrade.

-Mike Kennedy (You can find me on twitter here.)

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