Why Detroiters should support Liverpool
Today (Monday, March 31) is Opening Day. The sun is out and Detroiter’s are emerging from hibernation following a particularly brutal winter. You can be sure that this is going to be one hell of a party. But across the Atlantic, something fascinating is happening in the English Premier League (yes, soccer), and Detroiters would do well to take note.
On Sunday, Liverpool Football Club beat Tottenham Hotspur 4-0, and that victory saw them rise to the top of the Premier League. There are a fair number of EPL soccer fans in the area who probably already know this. A lot of people reading might have already picked a team to support. If you have, you stick with that team. No quality is more important in sport than loyalty. If you haven’t, if you perhaps have a passing interest, here’s why you should care about Liverpool’s unexpected and meteoric rise.
Prior to the mid-1970s, the majority of the population of Liverpool worked in the ship-building industry. However, the docks became largely obsolete with the growth in popularity of containerization, and so the industry suffered a sharp decline. Unemployment numbers were among the highest in the UK by the ’80s, and the city has battled to steady the ship (no pun intended) ever since. To this day, when Liverpool FC play against rivals like Manchester United, opposition fans reword the LFC anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone” to “You’ll Never get a Job.” The people of Liverpool are taunted because of the lack of opportunities that the city has been able to offer after a huge industry went dry.
Does that sound familiar? Switch “ship building” for “auto” and the parallels between Detroit and Liverpool start to become apparent. The Guinness Book of World Records labeled Liverpool the “World Capital City of Pop” thanks to the popularity of Merseybeat in the ’60s (The Beatles, Cilla Black, Gerry & the Pacemakers, the Searchers), plus acts down the years like Billy Fury, A Flock of Seagulls, Echo & the Bunnymen, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Elvis Costello, and the Lightning Seeds. It’s been said that, when times are at their toughest, great art will emerge. The people of Liverpool and Detroit Rock City can attest to that.
Back to sports. Liverpool FC was the dominant force in English soccer in the ’70s and ’80s, and then something went wrong. We don’t need to get into too much detail, but the early ’90s saw club favorite and former player “King” Kenny Dalglish leave his managerial post because of stress, and he was replaced by another former player Graeme Souness. Unfortunately, Souness wasn’t as good a manager as he was a player, and the club’s fortunes started to turn. Other manager’s have come and gone over the last couple of decades and, while there have been some bright moments (winning the European Champions League in 2005), there has been little reason to smile.
But the club hired a new manager, Brendan Rodgers, at the start of last season and, by May of last year, he was starting to have an impact. Fast-forward to now, and there are just six games left of the season (although Manchester City are two games behind). There is much work to do; Liverpool still has to play Man City and Chelsea, though those games are at Anfield (Liverpool’s home stadium). But right now, LFC sit at the top of the table and stand a real chance of winning a league title that has eluded them for 24 years. Even if they don’t win the big prize, the groundwork is there for future successes.
Meanwhile, once again, it’s opening day and the Tigers have a new coach. Like Rodgers, Brad Ausmus is young and has been entrusted with a huge job by the team’s owners. Be patient – this year might be his bedding-in period. But Liverpool fans will tell you that the rewards, the genuine belief in your team rather than a vain hope, can be well worth it.