The Trials of Ibrahim (as)

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You Will Never Walk Alone (YNWA)

Liverpool-FC

 I don’t remember Gerry and the Pacemakers and was too young to remember when their song You Will Never Walk Alone became a chart topper in 1963. But this has turned out to be my most influencing piece of music. It has constantly rung in my head or been on my lips, since a fateful day in May 1971.

FA Cup final day 1971 will live in my memory for all the wrong reasons, but it also created a passion, which has been a constant these 42 years. A young remade Liverpool side, another Shankly team, out on the Wembley pitch in front of 100000. Facing it an Arsenal side, which under Bertie Mee, had already won the League Championship. They now stood at the doors of immortality, in the possibility of being the 4th team ever to do the double. A prize which eluded many great sides in the past. The FA Cup regularly inspires lady luck. Like an untouchable lover, she plays and flirts with the teams and so decides who to bless on the final day.  Hence, many a great team had come to Wembley and gone despondent, cursing their lack of luck. So the double just happened to be a prized goal, rarely achieved.

On the day, Liverpool just seemed to freeze…the Wembley fear…but a 100 degree temperature led to a sterile 0-0 at 90mins. Extra time and the game became dramatic. Heighway jinked in from the left and delivered what looked like a killer blow to Arsenal. But we reckoned without the change of fortunes. One of my most abiding nightmares, watching Charlie George lying in the grass celebrating a wonder goal late in the game, which Arsenal took in extra time 2-1. The comeback did Liverpool in and I sat despondent watching a young team sadly trudging away. My curse. I always have supported underdogs and in neutral situations always felt sympathy for losers. I felt as if something incomplete had occurred and there must be more to go.

The summer of 71 was eventful anyway. Laver lost at Wimbledon and so did Pakistan at Leeds to England. It seemed that the losing streak continued for all my favourites. Come new League season, I found I had a new passion. It had come late to me in the scheme of things, but did it arrive with a bang. My despondency at Liverpool’s loss converted to support for them and I became one of Anfield’s millions of legions of followers. And what a fateful time to enter the fray. I am convinced I brought them luck.

Down the years of the 70s and 80s it was like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. That same young team under Shanks and then new recruits under Paisley, later Fagan, Moran and finally King Kenny, poured rich rewards into my lap. Some 11 championships, several FA Cups and League Cups and above all 4 European Cups later one almost felt satiated. Liverpool became the premier football club in the world.

The memories are magic. Fairclough scoring a wonder goal vs St Etienne, Tommy Smith desperately rising above the Borussia Munchengladbach defence to head home, to take the European Cup in Rome, Souness lording it over the Anfield pitch, Grobbelaar dancing in the goal to save Roma penalties and deliver another European Cup in 1984, Rush scoring a triumphant goal vs Everton to win the double finally in 1986, that wonder performance vs Notts Forest which dealt a 5-0 blow in 1988, and above all King Kenny holding trophies aloft and grinning his grin.

Its not just one way memories only. Passion cannot be built on success alone. It comes as a package. It requires failures and heartbreaks too. So the awful day in 1985 at Heysel and another awful one in 1989 at Hillsborough, death dealt in multiples, and in footballing terms that terrible moment when Michael Thomas rushed across the Anfield pitch to score and take away the League Championship in the dying seconds of the season in 1989, when they were probably putting Liverpool colours onto the trophy. Such heart wrenching moments…but it just grounded Liverpool more into ones heart.

So to return to Gerry and the Pacemakers. They are long gone, but there one abiding memory resides on the Anfield terraces and wherever the supporters go. They reside in millions of hearts across the world, who lie dormant waiting for The Liverpool dream to come back once more. The feel is right and the door is opening once more. One just feels this is 1971 all over again.

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