Sunday, February 22, 2009

Far Foreign Land

European Cup Final, Brussels, May 1985

Walking down a narrow street, I saw a crew of scallies laughing almost hysterically. Seeing my quizzical look, they pointed at a shop. It was a jeweller with no protective metal grating over the window...There was a supermarket by the bourse and, at the entrance, there stood a Liverpool fan. 'You're scouse?' he said. There was no need for an answer and he knew what I was there for. 'It's free to us today,' he said, handing me a tray of beer...On the way back to the square, the group of Liverpool fans by the jeweller had been replaced by riot police. Glass was scattered all over the street, studded with empty display trays. There was hysteria - and pride - in my laughter. This was turning into an excellent day.

We set off for the ground and there seemed to be more and more small confrontations...We boarded a tram to head north to the ground, slurring and swearing and exuding threatening, drunken boorishness. At our stop, we stood up to get off and Robert collapsed...We hauled him from the middle of the road towards the stadium, two of us with his arms over our shoulder while his feet dragged behind. He appeared unconscious. Then, on the approaches to the ground, a group of young men up ahead snatched the takings from a smallholder and ran away with his strongbox. The man went in pursuit, leaving the stall unattended. Without seeming to open his eyes, Robert deftly unhooked his arm from around my shoulder and pocketed a Juventus scarf...

People were staggering, collapsing, throwing up...We met a group of mates who had come by coach. A fellow passenger we all knew had leapt off as soon as they arrived and attacked two people, one an Italian, with an iron bar. That we'd long believed him to be psychotic did not lessen the shock.

This is Tony Evans's memoir of life as a Liverpool-supporting scouse 'scally'. It's a gripping insight into what, for many modern Liverpool fans, especially those from the South, will be a totally alien culture.

Evans is now Football Editor at The Times, where he recently produced a personal list of the 50 Greatest Liverpool players. It'll evoke numerous cherished memories amongst Liverpool fans, but my favourite is the following devastating line:

And, while we're on the subject of leaving people out, if you're looking for McManaman, he's on Setanta.

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