‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ – More than just a saying

This may be a bit late but in honour of the TRUTH behind Hillsborough tragedy and the aftermath of that famous comeback against Borussia Dortmund I had worked on an academic writing piece based on Liverpool Football Club and the famous anthem of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. Enjoy!

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Pciture by Rafid Fatkhurohman

 

In this essay I will discuss as well as analyse one of the most iconic songs in sport and the various images, emotions and conceits that it contains and evokes out of its listeners and singers alike. The song that I will discuss in this essay is one that has become as iconic as the sport and club with which it is associated, Liverpool Football Club’s anthem of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” by Gerry and the Pacemakers.

This song carries inexplicable amounts of sentiment to those who revere and cherish the beauty of this musical master class. Sung by millions all over the world regardless of their ties with Liverpool FC or not this song has reached out to individuals in the most difficult of times. Before divulging into the main topic of discussion, here is an extract of the song’s lyrics below:

When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high

And don’t be afraid of the dark

At the end of the storm, there’s a golden sky

And the sweet, silver song of a lark

Walk on through the wind

Walk on through the rain

Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on, walk on

With hope in your heart

And you’ll never walk alone

You’ll never walk alone

Walk on, walk on

With hope in your heart

And you’ll never walk alone

You’ll never walk alone

(Gerry and The Pacemakers 1963)

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Picture by Kieryn Thompson at Anfield

Firstly, some background history about the world-famous Anfield anthem in order to contextualise the matter. The song was originally written by the pair of “Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein who wrote it for their musical Carousel in 1945” (Kop Left 2016). Hammerstein wrote the lyrics while Rodgers had composed the required music. In the same year, Frank Sinatra had become the first well-renowned artist to do his own rendition which eventually ended up being ranked ninth “on the Billboard charts in 1945” (Songfacts 2016).

The Football Supernova’s Antoine Choueri provides a more in-depth look at the song that is no0w etched in Liverpool folklore, not just the football club but the city as a whole. He looks back to a time just after World War II had begun where “what [was] arguably the biggest empire in history is on the brink of defeat. In the North-West of England, between the River Mersey and the Irish Sea, Liverpool is witnessing the heaviest destruction it has ever seen, being the most bombed city in the Nazi Blitz after London” (Choueri 2012). In addition, Antoine Choueri much like me is “a die-hard Liverpool fan” who has a better knowledge of  and claims to know “the club’s history inside out” (Choueri 2012).

According to Choueri, “Fast-forward a couple of decades later, and Liverpool has barely recovered from the Blitz and post-war crises. The birth of the Manchester Ship Canal means the ships coming from America and the rest of the world would bypass the destructed Liverpool Docks to go straight to Manchester. What was once the Empire’s second-city and the biggest seaport in the world is on the verge of extinction, half of the city’s inhabitants having fled to London or the US” (Choueri 2012).

This may all seem overly-contextualised but the aforementioned explanation courtesy of Antoine Choueri makes reference to the lyrics, “When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high” (Gerry and The Pacemakers line 1). The proverbial ‘storm’ refers to the tough times that England’s once proclaimed “second-city” (Choueri 2012) were experiencing.

A once-great city in a state of turmoil and under threat of becoming obsolete had then begun to see an upturn in their fortunes as the early 1960s rolled in.

Liverpool the city, began to see its “the golden sky” (Gerry and The Pacemakers 3) like the song goes, as pivotal events had taken shape. A 47-year-old Scotsman by the name of William Shankly had entered the helm “to manage a mediocre Division Two Liverpool FC side. On July that same year, four teenagers change their band name from “Silver Beatles” to “The Beatles”. Liverpool was meant to change history forever” (Choueri 2012).

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Bill Shankly in front of the Kop following Liverpool’s 1973 league title win. Courtesy of Skysports.

Almost like clockwork, Shankly’s Liverpool FC were back in the top-tier of English football challenging for the title while The Beatles had a host of number one hits which had lead “the Merseybeat movement” (Choueri 2012) by 1963.

“At the end of the storm, there’s a golden sky” (Gerry and The Pacemakers 3) points to the upturn of Liverpool’s fortunes as The Beatles’ top-chart records accompanied by Bill Shankly’s mighty Reds had helped put the once extinction-bound city back on the map.

Choueri (2012) explains how  Liverpool’s world-famous ‘Kop’ end, the terrace where the Liverpool home fans are seated had erupted to the tune of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” “on one cold November afternoon” (Choueri 2012). “The Kop suddenly erupts into singing a tune one would have thought they’d known for ages” (Choueri 2012), this had added to the romanticism associated with Scousers and music but the irony of it all was that the fans had taken to the tune like a fish to water.

“As the years went by and silverware ridiculously piled up in the Anfield Trophy Room, the song vigorously accompanied the men in red, win or defeat, home or away, locally or abroad” (Choueri 2012). Liverpool FC’s home ground, Anfield had become a cathedral of 30,000-plus fans singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” in unison before, during and after matches. The atmosphere that this sheer, awe-inspiring tune had created was nothing short of bone-chilling, goose-bump filled moments that helped usher in the club’s most successful period in its rich 124-year history.

It was in the midst of Liverpool’s ‘roaring 60s and 70s’ that the “You’ll Never Walk Alone” had become the club’s official anthem while, “a banner containing the song’s title was added to the Liverpool Football Club’s official emblem” (Songfacts 2016). Other football clubs such as Scotland’s Celtic Glasgow and Germany’s Borussia Dortmund soon followed suit and adopted the famous tune as a club anthem and pre-match ritual.

In a sense, Liverpool FC and more importantly Gerry and The Pacemakers can be regarded as pioneers of the modern football atmosphere as what was once just a theatre for football and noisy clapping and roaring had transformed. Transformed into a cauldron of “noise volume, humour, generosity, banners, flags, scarves, originality, creativity, and most importantly, its unity made it the most famous football terrace in the world” (Choueri 2012).

This song made fans unite in chorus and has been regarded as ‘the 12th man’ that has been known to get their men in red across the line on numerous occasions throughout history.

“Walk on through the wind/ Walk on through the rain” (Gerry and The Pacemakers 5-6) are the persevering words that inspire not only Liverpool FC fans but the players as well to continue to fight and believe with passion. “Though your dreams be tossed and blown” (Gerry and The Pacemakers 7) points to the evident struggles of both the city and the club which had been met with the persevering “Walking on through the wind [and] rain” (Gerry and The Pacemakers 5-6).

Undoubtedly, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” has united fans worldwide and willed the players on through the toughest of times.

Nothing is more evident of this than the club’s periods of ultimate high and ultimate low. This being the ‘Hillsborough tragedy’ in 1989 and The Champions League Final in Istanbul 2005 respectively. “On the 15th of April 1989, 96 Liverpool fans went to watch their beloved side go through to yet another Cup final, but never made it home”. The city of Liverpool stood together and “united, mourning and standing by its own, those 96 brothers who lost their lives at a football match. The first football game Liverpool played after the disaster was a friendly at Celtic, set up as a tribute to the 96, and both sets of fans went on to sing their anthem in unison in the most emotional way. Similar scenes at Wembley, just before the FA Cup final between Liverpool and Everton, where 90,000 Scousers sang YNWA, reminding the world that there are things that are just bigger than football, and their rivalry was only on the pitch”(Choueri 2012). The events of Hillsborough still live long in the memory of those who were there that day and those who continue to show their support with the common denominator being the famous words of, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.

The evening of May 25th 2005 marked Liverpool FC’s first European Cup final in over 15 years and had kicked off in ‘tragic’ fashion after being ‘left for dead’ at 3-0 to Italy’s AC Milan. Almost as if they were scenes from a Hollywood box office best-seller, The Reds had emerged from the half time break to the most emphatic, emotional and passionately sung “You’ll Never Walk Alone” that had spurred the Reds on to come from behind and win the cup on penalties in the most dramatic of finals in history.

It is abundantly clear that this anthem, a hymn if you will, passionately unites people beyond more than just the game of football. It evokes emotions out of the most stern of characters in time of deep sorrow as well as incredible jubilation. It is more than just a song or anthem but rather a symbol of hope and remembrance.

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Picture by Kieryn Thompson at Anfield
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Anfield Time Running Out For Rodgers As Klopp is Ticking

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Could Brendan Rodgers’ time at Anfield be up?

Under-fire Liverpool Football Club manager Brendan Rodgers is feeling the pressure after a stuttering start to Liverpool’s 2015/16 campaign. After a seemingly good start to the season claiming 7 points from a possible 9, the cracks began to show after a dismal home display as they lost 3-0 to West Ham at Anfield. Since then the Reds have lost out 3-1 to Manchester United at Old Trafford, claimed a 1-1 draw away to Bordeaux and settled for an unconvincing 1-1 draw at home to Norwich. With the Anfield faithful losing their trust in Rodgers week in and out, the Northern Irishman’s time on Merseyside could very well be up.

Rodgers is currently in his fourth season in the Anfield hot seat and has spent an excess of over £200m to build his own squad after the sales of star players such as Luis Suarez (to Barcelona) and Raheem Sterling (to Manchester City). He recently described this season to be a ‘process of rebuilding’ however after four seasons in charge of one of the world’s biggest football clubs and England’s most successful club one would think that Rodgers would and should be challenging for silverware on all fronts. The key target for Liverpool Football Club is getting back into the UEFA Champions League and featuring in Europe’s most elite football competition consistently. In Rodgers’ time in charge of Liverpool, he’s only delivered on that target once in which they were knocked out in the group stage of the competition.

The demands and expectations at Liverpool Football Club are very high with a large fan base worldwide. At first the supporters were patient with Rodgers’ approach considering the fact that he needed to find his feet at a new, bigger club with his only other managerial experience coming from clubs like Reading and Swansea with all due respect. He inherited a squad that did not fit his philosophy and style while having a major squad overhaul during his time. In his first season, his Liverpool side ended in a modest 7th position, with many promising signs of improvement. In his second season he pushed Liverpool to what would have been their first league trophy in over 23 years but fell just short of the mark, losing out to Manchester City in the final weeks. His Liverpool side were a force to be reckoned with dispatching a team like Arsenal 5-1 by scoring the four inside the first 20 minutes. In the summer after the 2014 FIFA World Cup the club sold their best player in Luis Suarez for a hefty fee of £75m to Barcelona and Rodgers made the decision to build up his squad instead of finding a suitable replacement for the talismanic Uruguayan striker.

That move proved costly as Liverpool struggled for goals in the 2014/15 campaign, looking like a shell of the side that scored over 100 goals in the Barclays Premier League the season before. That campaign started off with a lot of optimism with a bigger and improved squad playing in the Champions League. The new-look vibrant Liverpool side went on a three month unbeaten run in the Premier League which was ended by rivals Manchester United back in March in a 2-1 home defeat. That result seemed to take the wind out of the Reds’ sails as they lost their grip on the top four, got knocked out of both the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League and lost out in two domestic cup semi-finals to Chelsea and Aston Villa respectively. Add to the mix, the news of long-standing club captain and legend Steven Gerrard’s departure at the end of the season there was a very dark cloud hanging over the Merseysiders.

Gerrard’s last home game at Anfield ended in a disappointing 3-1 defeat at the hands of Crystal Palace. To add insult to injury, Gerrard’s final appearance in the Premier League ended in a dismal 6-1 defeat away at Stoke City on the final day of last season. That result meant that Rodgers made history for all the wrong reasons as the Reds recorded their worst defeat for half a century on a day that was supposed to be scripted as the perfect send off for Steven Gerrard. On a day when Liverpool were poised to end in 5th position in the league they had slumped to their worst defeat in 50 years and ended up in 6th place in a disappointing season overall.

The club and its supporters were not impressed to say the least with nothing to show for Rodgers’ three seasons in charge at Liverpool after he himself said, “Judge me after 3 years”. The club’s owners Fenway Sports Group held a meeting with the Northern Irishman in July which resulted in them allowing him to stay on as Liverpool manager, however his coaching staff from the previous three seasons had paid the price.

Before the start of the new season Rodgers had assembled himself a new coaching staff and gone out and brought in 7 new players to the club following the departure of club legend Steven Gerrard and pacey forward Raheem Sterling.

The new season started off with the Reds putting to bed that awful display against Stoke City on the final day of last season by defeating them 1-0 on the same ground where they last conceded six. Although it was not a very convincing win, to start the season off with a win is always ideal especially when you put your own demons to rest. That result was followed up by an unconvincing 1-0 home victory against newly promoted Bournemouth on August 17th.

Those results were followed up by a decent away draw at Arsenal and two defeats to West Ham and Manchester United respectively, while recording 1-1 draws against Bordeaux in the Europa League and Norwich in the Premier League. The fact of the matter is that Liverpool have not won a single game since beating Bournemouth back in August and the fans are starting to rally up against the Liverpool manager. To add to the Reds’ woes is that they have not been able to score more than one goal in a game so far this season which is unacceptable by the club’s standards. Fans are flocking in to Anfield very anxious and as the games drag on, they become restless due to the Reds’ poor run of form.

The fans are clearly unhappy with the current manager and the number of dissatisfied ‘customers’ keep growing as they feel that Rodgers has had more than enough time to put things right and help the club move forward. At the minute, it seems like a two steps forward one step back type of atmosphere at the club which needs to change and fast.

There are however two possible replacements that the fans have identified and sounded out as favourites to take over from Rodgers, Carlo Ancelotti and Jürgen Klopp, both of whom are currently out of work. Both managers are very experienced in world football and have been successful at their previous clubs. Ancelotti and Klopp both fit the profile of what it takes to be the manager of Liverpool Football Club with both previously managing Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund respectively.

Klopp

The fans would be pleased with the appointment of either of these world class managers with Klopp being the more favoured of the two. Liverpool fans have even gone as far as arranging that a large group of the supporters dress up like Klopp at Liverpool’s next home game in an attempt to ‘fill the Kop with Klopp’ in an attempt to appeal to the club’s owners to sack Rodgers. Klopp’s authoritative figure and high tempo of pressing and attacking play would suit the current crop of players at Liverpool and the Anfield faithful would welcome him with open arms.

Ancelotti on the other hand is a proven manager in the Premier League after a successful stint with Chelsea Football Club in which he won the Premier League and FA Cup double. He is also the second manager in history to win the UEFA Champions League thrice following in the footsteps of ‘the father of Liverpool Football Club’ Bob Paisley which really hits home for the Liverpool fans.

Carlo-Ancelotti

It is no secret that current Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is on thin ice at Anfield and his time could very well be up. With the supporters getting on his back and calling for a new manager it’s only a matter of time before the owners of Liverpool Football Club start looking at replacements and end the Rodgers reign at Anfield.