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Liverpool - the glory, glory days
By Martin "Calm down" Kelner on Nov 13, 2014 - 6:29:07 PM

Fings, according to the great composer of popular song Lionel Bart, ain't what they used to be, a sentiment endorsed by Bob Dylan in his work, The Times They Are A' Changin', and underlined this week by Sky Sports who built up to their coverage of Liverpool's Champions' League match against Real Madrid with footage of the team's glorious past.


Two documentaries on Sky concentrated on the days when Liverpool could do things like win European Cups, and defend corners.   When Liverpool Ruled Europe told the story of their 1-0 win over Real Madrid in 1981 in Paris, while the unlikely triumph over Milan in Istanbul in 2005 was covered in Carragher, a Liverpool Life, a fascinating not-quite rags to not-quite riches story of the defender's progress.


Not that Carra is short of a few bob, but ostentation is not in his make-up, either in wallowing in childhood poverty, or in flaunting his new-found wealth.   We followed him driving round the more-or-less mean streets of Bootle where he grew up, and saw him shouting across the road to Nick the barber, who still cuts his hair - "Some players go to fancy hairdressers, but Nick's always cut mine" - and joshing with Everton fans in the street, his easy manner seeming in no sense put-on.


Carra's mum, dad, grandparents, and wife all came from these streets, although the family, Jamie said, has mostly moved upmarket to Crosby.   His mother won't move, though.  


"She'll never move from Bootle," he said, "We've offered several times, but she loves it here," (Which put me in mind of an old Peter Sellers sketch, where some newly prosperous rock 'n' roll singer was asked how money had changed him.   "Well, I've been able to move my mum and dad to a little house in the country.   They were furious 'cause they had a big house in the country.")


Carra's mum didn't appear in the programme, but his dad Philly played a prominent part, and if Jamie played down the meanness of the Bootle streets - "I mean, people say it's a tough place to grow up, but it's just like anywhere really." - there was a faint touch of Wackford Squeers about Philly to give the narrative a Dickensian flavour.


Jamie told a story about a game he played when he was around seven years old, against boys of 10 and 11, on a freezing cold day in a hailstorm, how he went down under a tackle and then left the field feigning injury.   His dad, he said, was furious, saying he'd let the team down.


"He got me home and battered me," said Jamie, "Leathered me."  


A pause, before a disbelieving Geoff Shreeves responded:   "You say 'battered,'" "Do you mean verbally?" "No, physically," replied Jamie.   "Really?" gasped Shreeves, as the programme briefly threatened to turn into the Jeremy Kyle show.  "Yeah, it wasn't that bad," laughed Carra, defusing the tension.


"He's exaggerating," said Dad, "We had some words.   I took his new boots off him. 'You're not wearing them again,' I said."  


I've always been more of a Dr Spock parent myself, but if Carragher's education in the school of parental hard knocks helped him develop the flinty defending that saw Liverpool through the tense last minutes of the 2005 final against AC Milan, some rethinking might be in order.


We heard less about the upbringing of the 1981 winners, their main hardships being the moustaches the Government, I think, forced them to wear.   I may be wrong but I believe it was the law back then that all Liverpool players had to have a moustache, a perm, or a mullet, the really important ones like Graeme Souness sporting all three.  


The programme began in time-honoured fashion with establishing footage of the period; Prince Charles marrying Diana Spencer, Mrs Thatcher giving it plenty, and while Carragher, who would have been three at the time, said his childhood streets were not too bleak, according to this show, Liverpool was burning, to a soundtrack of Ghost Town by the Specials.  


The show was billed by Sky as 'the perfect appetiser' for Wednesday's group match against Real Madrid at Anfield but proved to be the exact opposite, merely reminding fans of what they have lost in this era of footballing mercenaries.


I mean, nobody's suggesting that if Mario Balotelli had been knocked about by his papa a bit more he would have shown the esprit de corps that pulled Liverpool through in Paris, and later Istanbul, but once Ronaldo gave Madrid the lead, the "special Anfield atmosphere" presenter Jeff Stelling constantly invoked during the one-and-three-quarter-hour build-up to the match began to fall flat.


Massive respect to Stelling though for the most carefully scripted ad-lib of the week, describing Ronaldo as "the man who puts the 'ph' in 'phenomenal,' and tonight will provide the acid test for Liverpool's defenders." Epic fail is how I believe the young folk would describe the result of that test.


Finally, while on the subject of neologisms, when was it decided to replace the word 'attack' with 'offence,' often pronounced 'O-fence' like in American football?   Managers increasingly these days describe forwards as 'offensive' players.  Carlo Ancelotti, for instance, in his pre-match interview, rued the absence of Gareth Bale who he described as 'a more offensive player' than others available to him.  


There are offensive footballers, of course, but that's more likely to because of what goes on in hotel rooms rather than on the pitch.









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