John McCormick writes: Tony Fay and I were colleagues once but our paths diverged a good few years ago and I didn’t know whether I’d be able to contact him or if he’d want to take part in the Who are You? series.
I’m glad to be able to report that I was and he did as Tony, with apologies to Blackadder, is redder than a red squirrel which fell into a bucket of red paint at a Simply Red concert. Here’s his view on all things Liverpool, and some things Sunderland:
John Mc: My introduction to Liverpool FC was at Roker on Boxing day 1964, when I swear Jimmy Montgomery lay down on the goal line and let the ball bounce over his arm in a 2-3 defeat. We’ve had many more disappointments since then, while LFC have gone on to do great things, which gives me the opening questions. How long have you been supporting Liverpool and what have been your highs?
Tony: I am fortunate to have been following Liverpool through the majority of our successful years. I was brought up as a red attending my first matches, with my “ald fella” and brother during the 1975-76 season. I have had a Kop season ticket since 1982. My real first memory is the 1974 cup final against your foes Newcastle, I was 7 at the time.
I have been spoilt having seen us win every trophy possible over the years but I suppose the most memorable trophy wins are beating Everton in the ’86 cup final and of course Istanbul turned out to be a great trip. I have a very fond memory of the 1984 league cup final against Everton which ended in a draw. This was the first “scouse final” and reds and blues travelled down together. The atmosphere was great all weekend and hearing all Wembley chanting “Merseyside” was fantastic. You have to remember at that time the city was in decline and continually attacked by Thatcher. We felt the south looked down their noses at us so a showing of collective unity was very much in order. We won the replay as well, so happy days.
And, Hillsborough aside, any lows?
Unfortunately, I was at both Hillsborough and Heysel so they stand out as real lows. In terms of football (I would class both Hillsborough and Heysel as much bigger than football) I would have said getting beat by Wimbledon in the ’88 cup final was my low until Stevie G slipped to let Chelsea in last season. For the first time in a couple of decades I thought we could actually win the league.
Last season must have been a bit of a bummer. Was it Rodgers’ fault or is there something else, maybe the shadow of history, getting in the way?
Like all fans we reflect on what could have been. I know hindsight is a great thing and I have heard people saying Rodgers got the tactics wrong against Chelsea. We could have sat back because Chelsea needed the win and a draw would have been ok for us. If he had done that and we lost everyone would have said why change the attacking style that had proved so successful all season. I also look at the offside decision on Sterling at Man City; if we had won that we would have won the league.
Now will be a real test of his coaching skills.
It’s early days but it looks like you won’t be repeating last season’s attempt on the title and Rodgers has faced criticism recently. Is he the right man to take the club forward?
I think it’s going to be a long hard season but hopefully we can still sneak into the top four. Other teams are also not showing consistency so the gap is not unsurmountable yet. Obviously losing our full forward line has created difficulty and the new signings have not yet settled. I am not sure he knows his best 11 at the moment which is a problem, but after last year I think he has earned the right to carry on. If we can get a few wins the confidence may return and we will move the ball quicker, creating more of a threat up front.
Any discussion of Liverpool must include Shankly and Paisley, and maybe even Kenny Dalglish. You might be too young for the Shankly era but which of them do you think was the better manager?
For me Shankly started it all and his charisma still runs through the club but Paisley was the best. His record was incredible and this was achieved following Shanks. Think of how everyone said that Moyes had no chance following Ferguson. It was the same for Paisley yet he managed to build and rebuild successful teams. Remember, he won 2 European cups at a time when you had to win the league or be holders to qualify. As for Kenny, one of the best players to ever grace the red shirt, he not only won the league with us but also took Blackburn to the title. As a manager he often confused me with some of his team selections but you won’t find many reds willing to criticise him.
Suarez – should the club tried to have kept him?
I would have loved to have kept him. Without doubt one of the best players I have watched. I accept he had faults such as going to ground too easily and a slight eating disorder but his ability was never in question. I don’t think we could have kept him. He wanted to go to Barca and we all wish him well.
Suarez apart, who are the best players you’ve seen – or wish you’d seen – in Liverpool colours, and are there any who shouldn’t have been allowed to wear them?
I am really fortunate to have watched so many great players: Heighway, Clemence, Hansen, Souness, Whelan, Barnes, Beardsley, Alonso, but for me Dalglish and Gerrard are the two best. If Suarez had stayed he could have been classed with these two but as we didn’t win the league and his time was brief I won’t put him in.
As for our duds you can select any from Julian Dicks, Konchesky, Kozma, Jimmy Carter, Traore, Kvarme, Sean Dundee, or Poulsen. I have a special place for El Hadji Diouf who dived more than Tom Daley and spoilt a great trip to Celtic by spitting at a fan. He was a legend in his own mind, spent more time in the hairdressers (because he would never use a barber) than on the pitch. I wish he had never worn our proud shirt.
I think I may also have to add Mario Balotelli to this list. Lazy and arrogant. Currently offering us nothing.
Recent moves between Sunderland and Liverpool include Jordan Henderson and Simon Mignolet, who both seem to have settled in well. What do you think of them?
After a slow start Henderson is now showing his ability and consistently producing good performances. He is missed when he doesn’t play as his energy creates space for others. You have to love a player who sits with his home town fans at Wembley. I thought it was great when he went to the League Cup final with you lot. As for Mignolet, I am not convinced. As a shot stopper he is good but the other goalkeeping arts such as dealing with crosses and distribution are poor. He is without doubt the worst distributor of the ball we have had in goal since I have been watching. (I can’t disagree with that, [JMc])
Danny Rose and Danny Wellbeck have recently become established Premiership players after loan spells at Sunderland. Will the same happen to Fabio Borini now he’s back with you?
No. Please come back in for him in January.
We now have Sebastian Coates. He’s been invisible for us but is back in training. Have you seen him play? Can you offer an opinion on what we can expect from him?
Who? ….he came with a big reputation. Player of the season etc but to be honest never really showed much for us. Had a few games in the League cup without much success. Can look classy on the ball but struggled with the physical aspects of being a centre half.
Do any other former Sunderland/Liverpool players spring to mind? I know a lot of people in the NE like Alan Kennedy, who had a great career with you, but have I missed anyone as outstanding? I’m not thinking of Djibril Cisse, by the way, (whom I think scored on his SOL debut for both clubs) but you might disagree.
I was a big fan of “Barney Rubble”. He may not have been the best left back but always gave his all and won us a European cup or two. I have attended a Sportman’s night with him and he was great. He started by introducing himself as:
“Alan Kennedy, who along with Kenny Samson had 89 England caps between us. Samson had 87 of them, the ba*t*rd!”
What about Dave Hodgson and the blonde bomb shell-Venison. Two of the worst mullets in our history!
What do you think of the plans for a redeveloped Anfield stadium and surroundings? Would it have been better to move to a decent new ground, given there will be some parts of Anfield untouched?
I actually think it would have been good to have a shared stadium but that’s not going to happen. The redevelopment will improve the ground and increase capacity but my worry is it will be very corporate based. I would like to see a pay on the day gate for kids. It is difficult for kids to get tickets and expensive of course. But if we don’t get them young they will not form the habit of going the match. I see people going into town to watch the home games. This is now their match routine, not actually going the game. When I was a kid you would queue up early to make sure you got in and am sure today’s kids would do the same.
The corporate fan brings in money but will desert us if things go wrong. The born, bred and dyed in the wool fan stays true through thick and thin. The club seems to value visitor fans more than the local fan. The only money they get from me is my season ticket and the odd kit for kids while the visitor will spend money in the club shop and go into the ground early, spending money inside. They seem to value that more than the local fan and no doubt a hotel will be added.
Colin Randall, aka M Salut, has strong views on diving. It’s the grappling and holding in the box at set pieces that gets my goat. Is it time to give up bothering about cheating and just write it into the coaching manuals?
Every fan hates diving by the opposition but celebrates a penalty won for their team. I would like to see fouls given when a player stays on his feet. Too often the honest player does not get the decision while if you fall over the decision follows. As for the grappling, we have an expert in our defence. I can tell you that we hate it because you are waiting for the penalty to be awarded. I wish he wouldn’t as your heart is in your mouth. It would stop if the refs decided to clamp down on it.
To move on, what will be this season’s top four?
Unfortunately I can’t see past Chelsea winning it and City second. Hopefully we will sneak in and Everton and United will miss out. Arsenal third and us fourth (ever the optimist).
If not mentioned, where will our clubs finish?
Sunderland will be safe, at a guess 13th.
Any thoughts on one step the football authorities should take to improve the ordinary supporters’ matchday experience?
Pay on the day gates as mentioned earlier and a price freeze/decrease. If I want to take my two kids it can be up to £150 just for tickets. I would also get rid of Tannoy systems trying to create atmosphere. It drives me mad that fans’ singing is drowned out by staged music, be it the Champions League tune or after goal celebrations. Also ridiculous kick off times to suit TV but not fans. Games finishing after the last train leaves back to Liverpool, for example.
But my biggest moan is the last day of the season. Why on a Sunday? All other games have finished so why not play them all at the same time on a Saturday.
While I am moaning why do all football statistics now start from the beginning of the Premiership? What about the previous 100 years
Time for your own back: your thoughts on Sunderland – the club, the fans, the city, the region.
I enjoyed my trip to the Stadium of Light last year but hanker for grounds in working class residential areas, not edge of town developments. I also found the stewards and police really good humoured and you don’t get to say that too often. I have always enjoyed the banter with the “Mackems” and the northeast to be honest.
Will you be at our game, and what will be the score
The way we are playing at the moment the only sure thing is we will concede a goal. I will be there and looking forward to it and hopefully a win. Forecast – a 3-2 win
And a bit about you to finish:
Ever the optimist
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