Life – Terror. Ecstasy. Fight. Denial. Flight. Failure. PAIN. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Hope. Love. Peace – Death.
The morning of a huge game of (national) football, the most significant game for English football for 55 years. Finally, an opportunity to banish the ghosts of ’66?
Sunday morning, it feels a bit like New Year Eve?
Kick-off is still ten hours and one minute away.
(Too much) time for reflection.
Rewind back a bit, to the Semi-final, only last Wednesday, surely not? Aubrey and I had been messaging during the game. He was watching in a proper ‘East End’ of London boozer! Full on ‘English’ Footy mayhem! Charlotte, his fiancé had never experienced anything like it. It reminded Aubrey of times, during his teens when we would watch most of the England games together, and how much we had enjoyed those times together. No local tribalism. Common ground supporting England.
It’s comin’ home it’s comin’ home, it’s fuckin’ comin’, maybe? But where did it all begin?
My dad supported Liverpool, ergo I was born a Red.
He wasn’t an egocentric supporter, he actually enjoyed it when the Blues were (also) doing well ‘it’s good for the City’ he would, (regularly) proclaim.
Born Red turned Blue, am I guilty of the most heinous of Scouse footballing sins‘ ‘Crossing the Park’, second only to buying ‘The Sun’.
a twisted jacket,
Crossing the Park – An exclusively Scouse phenomenon meaning a supporter, of either Everton or Liverpool football club, who makes, the short walk, across the area that separates Anfield Stadium from Goodison Park Stadium, Stanley Park. The metaphoric journey to become a supporter of the other, rival club. The equivalent of crossing the house in UK politics?
1966, the 1966 FA Cup Final, 14 May (a week before my 7th birthday. Everton v Sheffield Wednesday, Wembley. Everton were the first team since Bury in 1903 to reach an FA Cup Final without conceding a goal in the preceding rounds, clear favourites.
I watched the game at David Perry’s house, next door but one, 36 Downing Road. Dave’s older brother Ian, worked for Radio Rentals and borrowed a TV. It felt like the entire road were packed into Mrs Perry’s ‘parlour’ to watch the cup final.
The game did not quite go to script, Everton had to came back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 in what was a thrilling final.
Two months on, July, again too many people cramped into the small Perry’s front room this time watching the 1966 World Cup final England victory (I think it could have been in colour)?
That ‘game’ clinched it for me, I was now ‘in love with football’, caught-up & overwhelmed by the euphoria of the two finals, both victories and megga occasions. The drama. The occasion. The victories. But, most of all, a marvelous, unique, shared experience.
I decided to become a ‘Blue’ like my friend David.
I don’t remember ever discussing it with Dad (or anybody else). I just stopped being a red. If he was disappointed, even noticed, he never ever said. I regret (now) not ever talking to him about it. At the time there were so many other, more important, things going on in his life, all of our lives.
Twenty (plus) years on, history repeats itself.
Aubrey ‘crosses the park’, this time the opposite way, from Blue to Red.
He and I never discussed it, (still haven’t). At the time he did discuss it with his mum.
We had moved to a new house, Aubrey a new school, he was the only Blue in the school, and he was being constantly taunted. With a name like Aubrey, he was used to being taunted, however, the additional, constant ridiculing had become too much. He wasn’t a massive football fan anyhow, in his younger days he was predominantly intellectual, very creative, definitely not physical, ‘sporty’ he wasn’t arsed about football about Everton, or Liverpool so why put up with it?
He had asked his mum ‘if I would mind’, she had told him no, ‘I would not mind’.
She had not discussed it with me.
Aubrey ‘Crossed the Park’
It took him around another ten years before he became actively ‘interested’ in football, but when he did, he DID and Does. A passionate Red and knowledgeable football supporter.
We would often watch games, Derby games together, however, the tribalism, Blue v Red has increased over recent years, a less tolerant, destructive version of our historical and coveted rivalry. Once regarded as the only, genuinely, ‘Friendly Derby’ in world, top-flight, football has become antagonistic, feudal, spiteful and angry.
England, supporting England, together is our neutral ground, a shared, safe, football area.
Since the ’66 victories, England (and Everton) have broken me on so many occasions. Mexico ’70, straight off the back of the ’66 win, nieve optimism? A crushing W Germany defeat, 2-0 up then a 2-3 defeat, literally broke my fragile, 11 year old, football heart.
Over time, at each, subsequent, kick in the bollocks, my feelings, my enthusiasm for ‘England’ have diminished proportionately. I have literally stopped myself (for my own protection) from investing, emotionally in England. I have learned my lesson. Sadness will (always) come in the end.
Covid. Brexit. Capitalism. Neoliberalism. The rise of the right. The Bastard Tories.
Euro 2020 (21), so far I have tried to rain back my enthusiasm, my ‘hope’? To maintain enough emotional detachment, self-protection, self preservation. I have mixed feelings about the final, this final, the England team, England, Englishness, Britishness (jingoism), football nationalism, all of it? It is hard to separate it all from each other and that disturbs me.
Politics & Football
As a scouser and socialist it is impossible to separate the two? Both are, an equal, part of my DNA. There are so many analogies, comparisons and associations that both football and politics bring to my life.
Semi-final, last Wednesday night – Aubrey was reflecting on ‘our’ shared football experiences? Apposed on a club level, England allowed us a common ground, a shared experience that England provided that we could never have due to our opposing club allegiances.
He mentioned our ‘bonding’ how much he ‘loved’ watching the International games together? I concurred.
One such standout moment; an early start 6.00am rise for an 8.00am KO? We were heading to watch the big game in ‘town’ (the City), Scousers refer to the city centre as ‘town’, as Holly Johnson once said “you meet half of the people you know, on the way into town, on the 82 bus, and the other half, on the bus, on the way home”. We were off to the 147, a snooker club, big screens, (cheaper) Caffey’s beer, plastic glasses but an amazing atmosphere. Aub was just 14 years old, he was ‘twatted’ by 10.00am.
After the game, coming from the pitch black club, into bright morning sunshine, drunk, walking into a Sayers for some food to try to take the edge off the ale. A friend, Frank, was opening his tobacconist shop, literally starting work! Frank Maudsley (x Flock of Seagulls, bass player), we had a surreal, conversation about a planned Seagulls revival and world tour and he asked me if I would be interested in playing guitar, as ‘Reno’, my dopple-ganger and namesake, Paul Reynolds, the original Seagulls guitarist was still recovering from a ‘breakdown’?
Life and Football – Defining Moments
Germany 1 England 5, Olympiastadion, Munich World Cup Qualifying game, literally one of the best days/evenings of my life (without Aubrey) watched with a bunch of strangers, in Ibiza. One of those ‘where were you when Kennedy was killed moments’
Today, I want to go ‘out’ to watch and I am not sure, i’m afraid of the consequences?
I don’t want to miss out, there is always the slim chance we might win? Where were you when we won Euro 2020? Where did you watch? ‘In the house, alone’? Doesn’t sit right? If it happens, I want to ‘share’ that experience, or more importantly I don’t want to ‘not share’ it? We are currently 70,000 Covid cases per day, I have been double jabbed but I am still clinically vulnerable. WTF?
“Mr Shankly, Football’s a matter of life and death (here, in Liverpool) …..No son, it’s (far) more important than that’.” Bill Shankly. There is no record of Shankly saying those, now, famous words to a reporter during an interview, but many agree if he never said it he should have and would have? Those words, siad or not carried a very personal meaning to the Scot, not a wider one about life and football. As a Scouser (despite being a Blue), I 100% get those words. Just ask anybody who lost ‘somebody’ at Hillsborough, 1989.
My Dad, John Reynolds Snr. was a Red (and a Blue).
I am a Blue (formerly a Red)
My son, Aubrey Reynolds is a Red (formerly a Blue),
A close friend, a mad red, Paul was formally a Blue
It means Fuck all. It means Everything. We are Scousers
Thanks for Reading