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The Self Reclamation Society

by Daniel Nicolson

How often do you find yourself heading back to your ale house of choice after the match on a Saturday afternoon (or Sunday depending on your clubs Sky-ability) shaking your head in despair? Another dire performance. Passionless. Gutless. Out of touch. A severe lack of spirit on show. And that's just the post match analysis of the fans.

Football terraces (or what's now in place of where they once stood) are almost mirror images of each other up and down the country. Families donned in the same identi-kit uniform force fed to them by their football club of choice (often not of birth) spend 90 minutes sat in a trance like state of silence. If their team takes a lead they'll launch into a chorus of "you're not singing any more" whilst gesticulating wildly at the away following. Normally this will be supplemented with an eccentric seal clap synchronised with a raucous "eas-eh, eas-eh" chant. It's ever so predictable. It's ever so sad.

What happened to terrace culture? As a relatively young lad I can only look back properly on this through the views of my dad, older mates and the whole plethora of books and articles that celebrate going to watch football in the 60's, 70's and 80's. I'm guessing a lot of these recollections are seen through severely rose tinted glasses but surely, going the match back then was better than it is now? Someone commented recently “good fans no longer feel part of the increasingly shallow match experience”. And y'know what, even with my comparatively short match going career I know what he means. .

The match day demographics have obviously changed dramatically over the past 15 years or so. The working class male who once made the terrace his own domain is now almost a meagre bystander in modern day football. Ticket prices and availability, seating arrangements and the general climate of going the match are just a few of the many reasons why traditional lads, young and old have swerved going. Or at best sat there collectively shaking their heads as some whopper decked out like a Christmas tree dances round like he owns the place. Before perhaps bawling into a chorus of “who the f'#ckin 'el are you” to a minibus load of Romanians that have just spent the past 3 days travelling across the continent.

In October last year a handful of Liverpool fans cracked. Cracked under the strain of perhaps the ultimate small time chant. Cracked as a tiresome rendition of "who are ya" bellowed around Anfield. The target of these taunts? Three-thousand fanatical Bordeaux fans. Two weeks earlier these passionate Frenchman had welcomed us with open arms to their city. Now it was our chance to return the favour. They took a full ticket allocation. No doubt on the legend of the Anfield support. And what do some of our support see fit to put on display? Moronic chanting. I mean, "you're not singing any more"? They're still singing you beauts. They were also singing an hour before you arrived in the ground and they'll still be po-going up an down as you get on the motorway.

The following Saturday a group of us met in Liverpool city centre. Loosely associated through our years of home and away support but all firmly allied through the disdain and horror of seeming plight of our current support we decided something had to be done. Forming under the umbrella of Reclaim The Kop a group was formed to try and reinvigorate The Kop of a bygone age.

It's difficult to approach this situation without creating an us versus them scenario. For many a local the us and them will always boil down to Scousers versus Out of Towners. As a group we took the decision to avoid this thorny issue. For a start the Scousers are “better fans” than wools argument isn't always true. We all know many out of towners and even fellas from the the continent that boast an understanding of Liverpool football culture that eclipses some local lads. The more obvious target is the 'new fan'. Football scholars often point to the post-Euro 96 effect to illustrate the massive surge of interest in football from people who perhaps previously were alien to the sport. At Anfield some of us point to our own post-Istanbul effect.

The Kop at Anfield use to chant “yer got your education from The Kop”. With no attempt to hide it's elitist connotations the song was sung to away fans as Kopite's revelled in the fact that a lot of the country imitated it's innovations. And it was probably also sung as some sort of communal pat of the back. You see, the former patrons of the Spion Kop really used to get their education from the world's most famous terrace. The progress from mere watcher to fully fledged Kopite was an education system in its own right. Early learning taking place in the form of the Boys Pen before moving to the onto the Kop proper. On the out skirts of course. A lucky few might be deemed worthy enough, or eventually garner the confidence, to graduate to the melting pot of creativity in the centre.

The apprenticeships that were thwart out over a a number of years in a past era are now apparently substituted with a half hour viewing of Soccer AM. Today's modern fan has nowhere to turn to get a proper education..

No-one is doubting the enthusiasm of these new age fans, it's just that many of us feel their energy can be better spent on something that they haven't just picked is on a crass TV show. The first problem we pinpointed was these fans have no where to turn to get their education. An out of towner who logs onto the official Liverpool website daily for his dose of what shinnies Alonso is wearing in the next game and buys the replica shirt, curtains and toilet seat has every right to make his support known when he/she makes their bi-annual trip to Anfield. But in the correct manner, please.

It's not only what we sing, it boils down to things as simple as clapping the opposition goalie. An Anfield heritage that's existed for decades. Another is the singing of You'll Never Walk Alone to the dignified end. A tradition slowly being diluted as a whole generation of new supporters clap frantically half way through totally oblivious that another verse follows. This may seem trivial to the fans of other clubs but to the custodians of England's most successful and revered club it's our priority to uphold, retain and pass on these traditions that have been built up over the past hundred years. And not succumb to the homogeneous behaviour that's riddled almost every other football ground in the country. And stop sniggering at the back. Yer wanna take a look at your own support if you think the above is somewhat amusing.

We decided it was essential to pass on some of this knowledge. The most obvious medium we could employ to peddle our Kop propaganda was through the club's official web site. With relative ease we secured a ten week run out of RTK supplied content on lfc.tv. With are Goebbels hats firmly doffed we amassed a collection of Scouse influenced articles, poems and videos that will be published in the first quarter of the year. We also filmed a collection of classic Kop songs that will hopefully persuade the masses that the grim “f#ck off Chelsea FC' is not as jovial and accepted as they probably think.

The group isn't just about education. For too long now Liverpudlians fans have been guilty of spieling out adages of being the “world's most knowledgeable fans”. Whatever you make of this statement there's no denying that most of our support reeks of self importance but has no bite when it comes to the real issues. The apathy levels demonstrated over the years on several particular concerns have been amazing. This is something that we in the RTK feel can tackle. A few of us had a sit down with Rick Parry before Christmas. In the hour long discussion with Señor Parry we brought up many issues that effect not only LFC fans but football fans in general.

To say the reaction from the Chief Executive was positive would be an understatement of galactic proportions. He seems on our wavelength on a whole range of issues. Whether he was feeding our ears with what we wanted to hear only time will tell. One outcome of the meeting resulted in what is already being heralded as the biggest and most poignant football protest in recent times.

As part of our education process we felt we had to address the matter of LFC fans purchasing and reading the Sun newspaper. The boycott largely remains largely successful on Merseyside and sustained in small pockets across the country by out of town Reds. The issue has been propelled into the public eye again following the reiteration of the beliefs held by the odious Kelvin MacKenzie. With the full agreement and support of Liverpool Football Club and the Hillsborough Justice Campaign we decided to hold a protest against the down market tabloid and it's former editor. The man and the paper are almost beyond contempt. But only almost. This was not to be about self pity, or 'wallowing in grief', it was about raising awareness. Whilst MacKenzie continues to raise his public profile on the back of lies, lies at our expense it's our duty to hit back. On Saturday 6th January, FA Cup Third Round day, we responded in spectacular style. With scenes like nothing ever seen before in a UK football club a mass protest was held at the beginning of the Liverpool – Arsenal game. A match being screened live by recent employers of MacKenzie; the BBC.

Before the game dozens of Anti-Sun/MacKenzie banners adorned the foot of The Kop. As the pre-match rituals finished and the teams came on the pitch 12,000 A3 pieces of paper we're held aloft on the Spion Kop spelling out THE TRUTH. Of course in reference to MacKenzie's infamous 1989 headline. For the duration of the warm up and the full first six minutes of the match – the same amount of time a football match played out as 96 people lay dying just yards away - The Kop kept the mosaic held high and proud. A constant and strangely gratifying rendition of “Justice for the 96” rang out around all four sides of the ground.

The message got across. Motson explained and mentioned what was going on several times. Nearly every match report over the following days recognised it (with one noticeable exception) and I'm sure it made many Sun reading citizens, Liverpool fans or not, sit up and take a look at themselves. Tens of millions of people watching all over the world probably unaware of Hillsborough and it's fallouts now know. And hopefully it will make most media organisations, reputable or not think twice about employing the dubious wares of a certain Mr. MacKenzie again.

RTK Day 1. Mission complete. An unprecedented and successful protest and faith in our support restored a bit.

The RTK isn't about telling people what to wear. It's not about trying to change who's going to the match. It' not about stopping people not born in ear shot of George Sefton's voice following our club.

It' s about trying to make going the match a bit better. A bit better for the lads that created the environment in the first place. It's about ensuring that a century's worth of culture his not wiped out by Dagenham Dave's insistence on blurting out a rendition of “stand up if you love the Reds”. Yes, it has happened. Just the once. But it happened. Or even a Scouse lad launching into “eas-eh eas-eh” as we take a lead at home to Fulham on a mid-week December night. It's about making going the match a bit better for everyone.

Y'never know. It might just catch on.


*These views are not necessarily the collective views of the Reclaim The Kop campaign.





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