Dear Liverpool FC: A Love Letter to the Reds

Football is just a leisure activity, but one we all love and one I cannot imagine my life without (though it certainly sometimes ruins our whole weekend). We shape our lives in many ways around the club we support, which for me is Liverpool FC. As I once again look towards a spring with something to play for, I thought now might be a good time to write a love letter to Jürgen Klopp’s Reds—and I’ll start in an unlikely place.

I was initially dead excited when a friend offered me her ticket for Liverpool v Leicester in the Carabao Cup in December 2021. Not because the tie itself was overly exciting, but because it would be my first time in the ground for the League Cup. She couldn’t make it up from London so close to Christmas for the match and knew that I am around and perpetually looking for spares in the holiday period; I was just happy to finally be on her list of people to check with when spares cropped up.

On the day, though, I almost begrudgingly made my way to the ground. Though I had the whole day to build up to the 7.45 pm kickoff, I was in a terrible mood when it came time to book a cab to Anfield. See, I was suffering from the sour aftereffects of my choices the night before, which reached a nadir when I managed to irreparably break my engagement ring (I dropped it and then stepped on it). I was in no mood to be social, let alone to cheer on a much-changed Liverpool side in a seat away from anyone I knew.

But I went, because I’m not at a place in my life where I turn down unexpected spares based on my own bad moods. I went, too, because I had made a commitment to Liverpool Football Club and I meant to follow through on it.

Anfield was great, of course. I had never been as low in the Kop as I was then, which was a treat in its own way, and the older fella next to me was incredibly kind and in much the opposite mood as myself. Unfortunately, the football in front of us made it all a bit harder. Leicester scored not once but twice in the opening 15 minutes, with both goals seeming ridiculously easy against a very youthful back line; you could see Jamie Vardy’s second coming for a heartbreakingly long time before it was in the back of the net. This was certainly not what I wanted a front row seat for when I told my new seat neighbor that I was pleased at the lower spec.

Though Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored a quite good goal off a clever Roberto Firmino assist, Leicester made it 3-1 before halftime and I found myself on the concourse seriously contemplating getting off.

Luckily for me, despite feeling frankly horrific and managing to be in a worse mood than 45 minutes before—thanks, lads—I still felt I owed a commitment to Liverpool Football Club. Plus, I knew I would be in the same foul mood outside of the ground as I would be in it, and while watching Liverpool lose would certainly not cure a hangover, leaving and knowing they’d lost without seeing it would do no good either. It was my first ever League Cup game and I was going to watch all of it, because even if it was a dire time, I am old enough to remember when such dire times were not such rare occurrences, even if I didn’t have the luck to see them in person with many thousands of fellow sufferers, and it does feel a bit better as part of a collective.

During the second half, though, something strange happened. For reasons I will never understand, the away fans opted to intensify their singing about the non-football matters: it was December after all, so renditions of “Feed the Scousers” apparently seemed to them to be the best way to really hammer home to us that our side was being embarrassed. But all that the intense poverty chanting achieved was to awaken an Anfield that quite frankly had already given up. While none of those around me left at halftime, we had all settled into the comfortable silent disappointment that comes with watching your team get soundly beat. And then we kept hearing the chanting, over and over again. Gleefully. About that. And we started responding. We started cheering every small thing that went right for the Reds. It got…loud. Then Takumi Minamino and Diogo Jota put something beautiful together and suddenly it was Liverpool 2 Leicester 3 on 70′ and we could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

It was the first time I had been in the ground when the feeling of the fans pushed the players forward, pulling them over the line. Out of nowhere we were ravenous, and reacting as though we were not playing in the Carabao Cup in December, but instead were in the final 20 minutes of a European Cup knockout tie with a ticket to that quarter-final in sight instead.

When Minamino made it 3-3 in the fifth minute of stoppage time—right in front of us—it felt inevitable; where there was once grim silence, there was now rapturous hugging. The fella next to me emphasized in no uncertain terms that I would need to return to this unfamiliar seat for every subsequent game because our little collective had made a miracle happen.

For Leicester, it was entirely self-inflicted. We had already declared on 50’! No one was even that bothered to go out in a domestic cup in December! Instead, they got the crowd into it. We of course went through on penalties and of course Jota gave the Leicester fans the big one because he could feel it too.

I felt vindicated in the Glenbuck post-match when friends who are lucky to go to many more games than I do said that the second-half atmosphere was surreal. “That was one of the best atmospheres since Barcelona, in complete seriousness,” said one, looking like he could barely comprehend it himself, and I cannot emphasize enough that as unrealistic as that sounds I fully believe him—it was just the Carabao Cup, but you really had to be there; we were rabid.

It did cure my hangover in the end, by the way. Liverpool Football Club can do that kind of thing, even on the occasions where you really don’t expect it.


Liverpool FC, Jürgen Klopp, Anfield, Premier League, football fandom, the beautiful game, silverware, winning, football fans, Champions League, football legacy, trophies, Carabao Cup, You'll Never Walk Alone
Artwork by Charbak Dipta

That season Liverpool went on to win the Carabao Cup (and the FA Cup)—memorably with a Caoimhín Kelleher penalty—and went on to lose out on the Premier League on the final day, before losing the Champions League to Real Madrid.

Then we had a big parade. And I will talk about that parade and what it meant for us on that particular day in a bit, but first I want to say something that you’re not supposed to say:

The silverware doesn’t really matter in the end, not as much as we’re meant to think. It doesn’t really matter even when simultaneously it’s absolutely the most important thing, the pinnacle of sporting achievement, and is a celebration like you wouldn’t believe. It’s what we all—players and fans and managers and backroom staff and analysts and club staff and everyone—dream of. It’s in a very real sense what we’re all in it for.

But in an equally real sense, it’s not the only thing, or the most important thing, to give all of this meaning.

I have been alive since 1991. In that time I have seen my club, Liverpool FC, win more silverware than most clubs will achieve in a fan’s lifetime, and this all happened during a long title drought in the league. We are often forced to talk about what it means that Jürgen Klopp might well leave Liverpool with “only” one league title under his belt, all while our closest neighbors last won any trophy back in 1995. I was four. Of course, many things can be true at once. Silverware is a historical marker of achievement, of how we physically memorialise the best teams, and serves to recognise very real sporting success. It matters, and Klopp is very unlucky if he leaves with “only” one league title. This is true.

At the same time, silverware is also most useful for bragging rights. It was fun, just then, to send a stray to Everton. It is fun for fans of teams other than Liverpool, who have seen more than one league title since the big money reinvention of the top flight, to diminish Liverpool’s title in 2019/20 by referring to it as Klopp’s only title, and mean that as an insult. We are meant to be greedy. We are meant to want to hoard the wealth of silverware. We are meant to relish the fact that while we have six European Cups on display you can walk down the road a ways and see only a big clock. This is fun. These are bragging rights and they’re markers for our memories, and they’re what we’re all after every single season.

But they’re also just bragging rights and markers for our memories and the goal to aspire to. While silverware is the just reward for incredible teams, it’s also always given to teams after the memories are made.

As fans, we live and breathe in the vagaries of the season, in the match at the weekend and in the weeks where it seems there’s a match every day, something happening every minute. My memories of that game against Leicester would mean less in the capital-M sense of Memory had Liverpool not won the whole thing, just as the famous comeback against Barcelona—which is surely a recent match that’s more universally memorable than what I chose to focus on there—would have been a great lost effort rendered eventually meaningless had Tottenham prevailed in Madrid. But in an equally real but more personal sense, it would mean just the same. The memories in the moment are well and truly what we do this all for as well. It’s a bit of fun. We make friends and forge great days and nights with built communities all around this leisure activity that brings us a lot of joy as well as a lot of heartbreak.

I have written elsewhere in praise of potential; in the unspeakable highs we get to feel when just about everything feels possible. Liverpool FC, particularly under this most recent manager, have given us a lot of this. In a very real way, we have been spoiled recently. In 2013/14, Liverpool also came within touching distance and lost, but did so without achieving anything even resembling perfection. We were allowed, expected to lose games, even at home. What this present Liverpool side has given us (with two seasons being exceptions) is an unimaginable perfection. In watching the title challenges against Manchester City, including and especially the ones we lost on the final day, we’re watching something that is superhuman. It has been a gift, and it’s been such an overwhelming gift that I forget what it was like before. I know it was not always like this; I remember waking up in Berkeley, CA at 4:00 am to watch Liverpool lose to Crystal Palace on low volume so as to not wake my housemates, and I remember that being a massive disappointment but also not unusual.

For the Liverpool that we have been lucky to watch over recent years, losing to Arsenal at the Emirates is an almost unspeakable tragedy, even if we play so badly that we are unrecognisable. It’s such an unthinkable result that Arsenal celebrate scoring their third with an exuberance many seem to refuse to understand; an exuberance that to me suggests they remember the recent past when if you refer to “Liverpool’s 5-1 over Arsenal” the response would be, “Which one?” These Arsenal fans know that perfection is unusual, and celebrate cutting it down.

Teams will not always celebrate against us like this.

It is not always this way, and even though it’s not always easy, we simply must relish the gift we have been given by this Liverpool side. We see things many will never see, even if, sometimes, it doesn’t end with lifting a big silver thing.

Liverpool had a big parade after losing the Champions League final. Andy Robertson was worried that no one would bother to turn up to celebrate Liverpool’s domestic cup success and Liverpool FC Women’s promotion given that the parade was so very far from those achievements, and so very close to the big losses.

We showed up. We very much showed up.

A couple of members of our group joined us directly from their return trip from Paris, and I want to be very clear that they were still shaken up. The scenes outside of the Stade de France were horrific, as fans of both teams were let down by the authorities meant to make the occasion safe for all involved. It was a surreal experience to be watching from a pub in Liverpool while not knowing whether everyone was safe, and the atmosphere was subdued long before the result of the football became clear. There is a cultural memory amongst Liverpool fans that makes an experience like the one in Paris compounded by memory, though thankfully the cultural memory of Hillsborough amongst Liverpool fans simultaneously ensured the safety of fellow fans, as many on the day knew what to do to remain calm in dangerously packed spaces.

Those who joined us directly from Paris were not sure they did the right thing showing up, in returning to a crowd so soon after what they’d experienced. They largely turned up out of a sense of commitment to the club. And the parade was healing. It was good to be in a crowd that was at once safe and extremely celebratory. There were so many of us but everyone was there to celebrate the achievement of the teams on the buses, and to celebrate the memories we made with each other.

Being with each other is the whole point in the end. It does sound touchy feely, and as someone who does absolutely have six hash marks on my arm I would be lying to you if I said the silverware matters not to me. Of course it matters. It’s just not the most important thing.

I don’t love Liverpool Football Club because of its continued successes at the highest level of English sport. Frankly, Liverpool has not been the most successful club at the highest level of English sport for most of my life, actively, in front of my eyes.

I love Liverpool Football Club because it takes me on journeys and introduces me to people I would never meet otherwise—including my husband, who I met standing on a table in Motel after one of the Arsenal 5-1s (Bobby Firmino’s to be exact). Fans of many clubs would tell you something similar about the memories their clubs have afforded them; I’m sure, though, that those of us holding up banners that say things like “SOZ ABAR US” and “THEM SCOUSERS AGAIN” might just think we have something particularly special. I don’t think any other club gives you, for instance, a Divock Origi. Liverpool FC might not always provide us football miracles on a near weekly basis—not big ones at least—but what I love about them most is that they might. They really just might.