DERISION and laughter once again fill the room as our one time hero Fernando with similar force of a schoolboy on the playing field, strikes the ball toward goal, only to see it trickle away for an inevitable throw in, heads shake, eyes close and prayer is offered to the man in the sky!! Oh God.
So why is it that some of our former heroes can depart the Anfield Road with a fond farewell?
With happy smiling faces and songs filling their heroes ears with ringing endorsements from the Kop, and the notion they will forever be welcome back to the worshipping hoards, without a minutes’ notice. When recognition of their work and efforts for that beautiful red shirt with the bird on the badge will be forever remembered, when we will never be able to truly thank you for all you gave us, gave our dreams a reason to exist, having given our memories a place to rest.
Whilst on the other side of our psyche are those who have turned themselves away from our dreams, no longer dream makers, un-prepared to see it through to its conclusion. When all we needed were fellow fighters in our call to arms, where we had accommodated space within the trenches for our heroes, they go AWOL never to fight again for this great warrior that is Liverpool Football Club.
Kevin Keegan is probably where it all started, although Keegan rightly gets a fantastic welcome from the Kop and most Liverpool supporters, there are still a few, myself included who remember Keegan breaking their hearts, and in my mind running away to Germany. Why Kevin? We had the greatest side in European football at that time having just won the European Cup, I never hated Special K I just disliked him for a while – the while he continued playing. The main purpose of my dislike was built upon the fact I now had my new hero Kenneth Mathieson Dalglish, oh and could he play. Kevin Keegan may have departed for greater goals, but he had been forgotten the moment his replacement put on that number 7 shirt.
In the 1980′s we were once again to lose others who had feet of clay, and like Gods had strolled around the greenest grass on planet football, our grass, our Anfield. But they would be treated differently by us, maybe they had filled our hearts and minds with enough to keep us satisfied, therefore we did not feel they were ending our relationship, more that we loved them so we would set them free.
Graeme Souness would at the end of 1984 leave to pastures new, namely Italy which at the time would be the best league in the world, or what is more relevant the country that paid the best wages. Souness had given us 6 years commitment to our cause and for that we would wish him well when he would sign for Samdoria in Italy.
Unfortunately he would ruin this later on by firstly managing the club through an unsuccessful period, which in itself is bad enough, but he would go on to commit the ultimate betrayal. A betrayal that was and still is unforgivable to all true reds – he sold his story to The Sun newspaper which would be printed on the 3rd anniversary of The Hillsborough Disaster, giving all of us the impression that all Graeme really cared about was the Murdoch shilling, and not our football club, or more importantly its supporters and the victims of Hillsborough. Graeme Souness only took 20 years to apologise for this poor error of judgement.
Soon after this we would lose the greatest striker this club has ever seen, Ian Rush would also be offered the chance to fill his boots with the Italian Lira. At this time if Vecchia Signora (The Old Lady) which was Juventus Football Club came calling you very rarely said no, but because Rush was much-loved by all, they would only wish him well. Although Ian Rush would return to the club a year later after a somewhat unsuccessful stint, fans felt his pain in Italy. They would hurt when he failed to impress the Italians the way he had them, and I feel for that reason Ian Rush was gladly received back by his loving family. He always gets a great reception, a true sign of how Liverpool can treat its heroes.
In 1999 Spain had overtaken the Italian league as the place most footballers went when either chasing Lottery style wages, or in pursuit of the very best football could offer.
Steve McManaman would be the next Liverpool hero to test his status with his worshippers, unfortunately he would find it impossible to pass that test. McManaman would let his contract run out allowing him to leave on a free, with the club getting nothing for a player they had educated in football ways and formed him into the player he was, while McManaman would receive a signing on fee estimated to be in the Millions, when in 1999 he signed for Real Madrid. Many Liverpool fans have never forgiven McManaman, not for his leaving of Liverpool for one of the world’s greatest clubs, but more the way he sat it out for two years, and effectively turned the club over.
Two years after Steve McManaman was to leave for pastures new and of course currency, the Lord himself would break many hearts and minds. Robbie “God” Fowler who more than most had hero-worship status was to leave the club Robbie would sign for Leeds United in 2001. With Fowler being in and out of the side and unable to command a regular position a move had been on the cards for around a year or so. Fowler had signed a contract extension instead of doing what was termed a McManaman so Liverpool actually got £12 million in a transfer deal.
Whenever Robbie Fowler returned in opposition to Liverpool he would always get an excellent reception, he was once again signed by Rafa Benitez in the 2006-2007 season. God had returned and didn’t the fans love it.
This leads on to the modern-day deserters – those who no longer have a place in supporters hearts, those who only really thought about themselves whilst kissing badges and spouting rhetoric about this amazing club, whilst fans thought they were their only love, they had in fact, eyes for another.
Supporters can accept them having their heads turned by a prettier younger model, but what they can’t accept is an affair with a neighbour -their most hated of neighbours.
Owen was to only have one season in Madrid and would return to spend four injury hit seasons at Newcastle United, when his contract expired in 2009 he would be linked with a host of clubs. He certainly was not without many suitors, but what he was to do next puts him in the category of most fallen of all previous heroes.
On the 3rd July 2009 Michael Owen would cut all his former ties with Liverpool Football Club and erase himself from its history when he would sign a 2 year contract with its greatest rival, its most hated neighbour Manchester United, cheating of the highest order.
Football fans can forgive some things, they can forgive former heroes for moments of regrettable decision-making provided they don’t go through with those moments. Look at Steven Gerrard having courted and been courted by Jose when at Chelsea. So if the question were put to you about Fernando coming back with his tail between his former heroic legs, how would you receive him? Has he done something which was unforgivable? Is his hero status un-retrievable? Surely it is not the fact you leave, but the way you close the door behind you.
Many other former players return to Liverpool with welcomes befitting of the hero returning, some get a greater welcome than most, but all are reminded that they will not walk alone. And then there are the few whose treachery cannot be forgiven, deceit never erased from the memory, for those they will forever WALK ALONE.
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