Why I Decided To Follow Liverpool But Support Tranmere Rovers
Walking to Prenton Park for Friday night match day, I walked an unusual route through Birkenhead, one I’d never taken before. As I made my way to the ground I bumped into an old family friend who lives nearby.
Steve was the first person to take me to a football game at Anfield. From that moment on I was a Liverpool fan, having previously only ever seen football on television. It was my confirmation. Navigating the streets of Birkenhead on my way to the match, I began to think back to how I arrived at this point of supporting a side that began the evening 22nd in League Two.
In between supporting Liverpool over the years previous, I managed to get to a few Tranmere games, albeit generally televised FA Cup or League Cup ties.
Interest waned locally without the attraction of the media. Generally speaking, the majority of my friends on The Wirral are Liverpool or Everton fans, despite Prenton Park being situated nearby. Those that venture to the Liverpool/Everton games do so infrequently and they’re a minority. Most are content to watch from home or chant at the projector screen in the pub on a Saturday afternoon. The local pubs get very busy on match day.
The 2013/14 season was, for me, a split season. Liverpool began the with a string of mixed results, but it was to get progressively better. It was around this time that I found myself, weekend after weekend, streaming a Liverpool game - desperately trying to keep up with the game in between occasional glitches, freezes and mostly bad pixellation - that I began to think about my relationship to football.
I felt that I was disconnected from the game in a major way. In recent years ticket prices have become a source of despair for dedicated fans in the UK. Compared to those in Germany and Spain, they’re paying a crippling amount of money to watch their team play. In two decades tickets at Anfield have gone from £4 to £43.
The previous year a story broke that distanced me further from the club I grew up supporting. It was revealed that in an attempt to extend the capacity of Anfield, LFC had been buying houses since the mid-1990s in the immediate area and leaving them vacant with a view to demolishing them.
In an area which receives the brunt of any economic downfall, the club actively accelerated the decline, mapping the already blighted area with more derelict houses.
Liverpool were guilty of purchasing properties with the backing of the council and the threat of ‘compulsory purchase’, sometimes under the pretence of third party individuals in order to cloak their long-term strategy. “You’ll Never Walk Alone” - unless you’re a nearby tenant, in which case, could you please vacate the premises.
Ultimately, I asked myself if I support Liverpool, in what way do I support them? It’s safe to say that defenders of Liverpool’s occasional indifferent form are overpopulated on social media. My job is redundant. I don’t support them financially, and frankly, I’d feel morally obliged not to after the shameful housing episode. I can, however, claim that I follow Liverpool.
It was after this evaluation of my ideals as a football fan that I turned to my local team Tranmere, years after my last visit. It felt good to support a team whose most promising starlet grew up at the top of my road. It’s not glamorous, but it’s real. It’s not pixellated. I went from following Premier league title challengers to a relegation dogfight at the wrong end of League One. From a faceless corporation sponsor in Standard Chartered to Home Bargains.
I know Tranmere fans who have been dedicated supporters their entire lives, and they’ll probably read this along with other Football League fans and roll their eyes at what for them has always been patently obvious: that singing songs at the TV in the pub is a disconnected form of fandom, which ultimately hurts the lower leagues.
These clubs fight for scraps, struggle for airtime and are often threatened with liquidation. In an analogy with society in general, they’re reliant on ‘trickle-down’ economics from the major leagues.
You may be one of the lucky ones who live next-door to The Emirates or The Etihad, Stamford Bridge or even St Mary’s, but, if like me you’re a genuine fan of football and want to see it prosper, then you may want to reconsider the implications of who you follow, and who you support.