Everyone will have their opinion on Liverpool, the city, its people, its football clubs. I can only speak as I find. I grew up in Chester and it was a big event as a nine-year-old to go with my dad to Anfield. I’d enter at the juniors’ turnstile and meet my old man by a small wall about halfway down the Kop.
If I needed to go to the toilet at the back I’d be carried over people’s heads, one by one, until I got to the loo, and they’d then send me back the same way.
Looking back, it should have been intimidating for a kid temporarily on his own surrounded by thousands of football fans, but it wasn’t because of those supporters.
They were warm, friendly, everyone helped each other. Even in the pub before games they’d share a joke with me, make me feel part of it.
Liverpool fans in general are warm and friendly, and they have been supportive in tough times
Playing for Liverpool later on only confirmed what I thought of the Scousers. It was like you were a member of the family and always would be.
The fans were supportive in difficult spells, the feedback I still get if I go up there now is humbling.
Before I’m accused of idealising Liverpool fans, I know there are aggressive ones like at any club. But I can only tell you how I felt about them then, and still do today.
Liverpool could return to the top of the Premier League on Sunday if they beat Fulham. They have a great chance of being champions for the first time since 1990 yet many of their fans will feel the world wants them to lose out again, and that those neutrals prefer Manchester City.
I can understand why they would think like that — but I don’t agree. There is a lot more goodwill towards Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool up and down the country than they realise.
Once I was part of that north-west rivalry between Manchester United and Liverpool, which is so intense it seems to colour everything.
But now I live in the south and travel to all parts of the country working, I have a broader overview, and can assure the people of Liverpool that perceptions of their city have changed, particularly with the younger generation, and the football club is admired because of what Klopp has done.
It’s not the same situation as the Nineties when Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle seemed to be everyone’s second favourite team.
If Liverpool, pictured in training this week, beat Fulham on Sunday they will go top of the table
Why do some Scousers doubt that? Without getting political, you have to look at the recent history, where they have gone through tough times and often felt scapegoated for all sorts of things; crime, unemployment, hooliganism. Added to that, there was jealousy from other fans because their football team was so good and won everything.
For a long time Liverpool fans in general were castigated after Heysel and disgracefully tarnished after Hillsborough. But the city stuck together, including the Evertonians, and I remember standing on the Kop for the game at Anfield after Hillsborough, against Nottingham Forest. The togetherness and emotion was indescribable. I remember the tears and as a kid not really understanding.
People who love the game enjoy Liverpool’s energy and tenacity.
Jurgen Klopp and his team are more popular among neutrals than many Liverpool fans think
There is also the underdog element. The club haven’t won the title for 29 years and though they have spent heavily on one or two individuals such as Virgil van Dijk and Alisson, their investment is nowhere near Manchester City’s, or even United’s. I hear a lot of supporters telling me they wish they had Pep Guardiola or Klopp at their club.
United supporters told me they preferred Klopp to Jose Mourinho when he was at Old Trafford, and that must have been painful for them.
Whether they are using the siege mentality inside the club, I’m not sure.
I know Klopp used the phrase ‘you won’t get rid of us’ after beating Burnley last Sunday but I don’t think he is a manager who pre-plans his anger or frustration.
You don’t want a boring league, and it certainly isn’t at the moment.
Alisson (left) and centre back Virgil van Dijk cost Liverpool a combined total of £140m last year
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