Peter Hooton: Football fans are very fickle. What Suarez did was completely wrong (the biting) and had to be punished but we had supporters defending him to the hilt at the time. They were likely to be the same ones who slaughtered him about the transfer stuff in the summer. We all know though, a couple of wins and all that stuff is forgotten. Who knows what happened, maybe it was an agent badly advising him about what kind of offer was coming in for him but he should realise that Liverpool stuck by him, supported him and he should repay that. He’s a flawed genius but he’s a tremendous player. He scores goals.
TF: There is something a bit clownish about Rodgers, the self-portraits, talking in the third person about himself and those massive new white gnashers – what do you make of him?
Peter Hooton: Yeah, the teeth job has had a good going over, fair enough but I don’t think Liverpool fans see him as a clownish figure at all. The Being Liverpool programme had been agreed to before he arrived at the club so he can’t be blamed for that though admittedly, it was a bit Partridge-esque at times, wasn’t it? I think the thing is it was made for a US audience and you can tell. The stuff with the envelopes, I believe he’d had some kind of conversation with a disabled fan at Swansea and promised to do something … I don’t know. But you know in the days of 24 Hour rolling news items, it turns people into cartoon figures. I was asked to be a part of the programme but declined because I know how these things work out and if you aren’t part of the editing process, there is a really good chance you’ll be stitched up.
Peter Hooton: He’s very, very popular amongst Liverpool fans but he’s likely to play the role of a figure-head at the club. It’s a political move on the part of the club. As a manager, well, in his last spell he won us the League Cup and got us to the FA Cup Final where we had a good go against Chelsea. For me, it was a good season and an enjoyable one as a fan. We won something for the first time since 2006 and that was important for Liverpool fans to win something because that’s something we’re used to. But for Fenway Sports Group, who own Liverpool, that’s not what it’s about, it’s about qualifying for the Champions League, that’s they want us to be and that’s all about the finances obviously. Ironically, we had a manager, Benitez who had taken us to two to Champions League finals and won one of them, a phenomenal achievement but then came in Hicks and Gillett and that made Benitez’s job to progress Liverpool very difficult because of the restrictions placed upon him. For some reason, the board felt Roy Hodgson was the better man to take Liverpool into the Champions League. They were wrong about that.
TF: In my lifetime following football (40 years) I make Steven Gerrard the best ever Liverpool player, agree / disagree?
Peter Hooton: He’s got to be up there, definitely in my top three with Kenny Dalglish and John Barnes. Barnes, around ’88 was a phenomenal player, the things he did were unbelievable, he brought a bit of Brazilian football into English football but yes, close call, Steven Gerrard is up there and I have to wonder about the impact he’d have had like Dalglish playing with better players.
TF: What’s the target for Liverpool this season?
TF: Given the financial doping of Chelsea and Man City as well as the dominance of Man Utd the ambition of Spurs and the financial strength of Arsenal is Liverpool’s fall from “their bloody perch” a permanent one or do you see a time when your club will be as dominant as it was in the 70s and 80s?
Peter Hooton: You have to recognise Liverpool FC’s global appeal. Liverpool is one of the most famous clubs in the world and I’d say in the UK one of the three most prominent clubs with Man Utd and Celtic. Obviously, to compete you have to get the finances right, the club has to increase its revenues so it can compete for players which is difficult up against the billions of Chelsea and Man City now. Really, the rot set in at Liverpool in the late 80s when we should have been making better decisions as a club, you know moving to another larger stadium or increasing the capacity of Anfield etc .but we just stood still. Peter Robinson, the old Liverpool Chairman warned us that if that lot up the East Lancs Road (Man Utd) got their act together, we were finished and looking back when we are pulling in 44K for home games and they have 73K, making £1m more per game than Liverpool, you can kind of see what he meant. There are certain moments in a club’s history where they reach a crossroads, so we were at one in ’77 when Keegan left, our best player and we wondered what would happen but then Dalglish arrives and we went further on again. Maybe we had a similar moment when we played Auxerre and Michel Platini spoke to Graeme Souness .. and this is documented … about a player that wanted to play for Liverpool. He was called Eric Cantona. But Souness researched him and didn’t like the ill-discipline, which is ironic given his own history .. breaking someone’s jaw on a football pitch but it didn’t happen .. he went to Sheff Wed for a week but couldn’t train because of frozen pitches, they dithered, Leeds got to hear about him and he went there and you know the rest. He was very interested in Liverpool, the sacel of the club and the politics of the city would have appealed to him. We had another moment in 08/09 when Benitez’s team was the best in the league, I’m convinced about that but Man Utd just went on one of those incredible runs. That season with Benitez should have been the springboard but …
TF: Where do you see the strengths and weaknesses in the current Liverpool set-up?
Peter Hooton: Attacking-wise we have some great options with Suarez and Sturridge obviously. I think our weakness is in midfield now that Coutinho is injured. He gave us that spark, that creativity. We’ve got Mignolet, who is a good shot stopper but I didn’t particularly see goal-keeper as a priority and I was happy with Reina. Rodgers went after Willian but we just wouldn’t go to that level for his fee. The defence is fairly solid though Johnson has been out for a while and Enrique is decent going forward but I was worry about him defensively. Obviously we’ve got Henderson in midfield and he’s coming on but he’s a water-carrier really … we lack creativity in the midfield.
TF What’s your view of Newcastle United?
Peter Hooton: I think there was an affinity amongst the fans back in the 70s and 80s, a kind of working class thing but that’s been lost to a greater extent now. You go on holiday and Scousers and Geordies seem to get on really well and that but at the football I think things have faded really. I’d put it down to all of the “Sign-on” stuff that Liverpool fans get at St James’ Park and your away fans bring to Anfield. That’s very difficult to understand given the North East is a depressed area with the same kind of economy and problems as Merseyside and it just doesn’t seem right in my eyes and my mates you know. We have a great relationship with Celtic and it would be unthinkable them singing any of that stuff. I do understand that a lot of Geordies, like you and true faith are really embarrassed by all that, I think we understand that but I do think it has loosened that affinity, you know.
In terms of the club, just chaos really! It’s difficult to make any sense of what’s happening. I think of what were you like in the mid-90s with that team and it’s fair to say while being everyone’s favourite second team pushes it a bit but certainly I enjoyed watching Newcastle more than anyone else on the strength of the football you played.
Peter Hooton: We just wanted to bring something out that was about the things we were all interested in, you know like football, music and clothes and that. People told us we’d never sell it but it did sell. Before The End all of the fanzines were student rag-mags and The End grew out of the Punk scene, Do-It-Yourself. We sold outside Anfield and Goodison, it was a mix of Liverpudlians and Evertonians putting it together. It was targeted at people who went to away games. Yeah, we gave Geordies some stick. That came from one of our mates ending up at a Young Offenders Institute in Barnard Castle when we thought up the Tattoo Men as our mate told us so many of the lads in there had tattoos. With Leeds, the more we took the piss, the more they bought the fanzine so it encouraged a kind of sensationalism. A few years ago with The Farm, a load of the Leeds Service Crew turned up for a gig and I thought they had come to get us for all the piss-taking but I went in on my own, to see them in a nearby pub, not because I’m brave or anything, just because I thought if I’d gone in with roadies and that, it might have created the wrong atmosphere. But they were good as gold, were into the band and I’ve kept in touch with them for many years. I think with The End, it gave people the confidence to write, to express themselves about the things that interested them. I think that’s been its legacy. We published every issue of The End in a book last year which has gone down well but I think bringing it back would be too much now, it would need too much work, time and I can’t commit to that. I’m not sure it’s a great idea now because of all the online stuff, the forums and that. When we started The End, the only way to get read was through the printed word, obviously, it’s all completely different now because of the internet.
Peter Hooton: Well, it’s a bit exaggerated. But for all that, Wade Smith in Liverpool sold more adidas trainers than every other shop in London put together at the start of the 80s, so there was something going on. A mate of mine actually tried to get on it earlier. He worked out of a shop in the Arndale Centre in Manchester and he could see what was going on, what was happening but it was a little early. The term Casual came from a piece in The Face and there were claims that it had come from London, which wasn’t true. There was a piece about West Ham being into the scene … what we’d have called the Liverpool-look but like you Michael, I agree West Ham’s identity was as a Skin club and they got into the dresser scene around 1983. The first London club we saw who looked like us, which was looking into a mirror was Arsenal, though I agree Chelsea were into Pringle and Lyle & Scott in the early 80s with jewellery, gold chains etc. Ironically, my mate, Kevin Sampson, the author had written a piece for The Face eighteen months earlier but it hadn’t been used, when it was published in The Face, it was presented as though the scene had come from London.
Peter Hooton: Yes, it came as a result of Hicks and Gillett’s ownership of the club. They had come in and promised they weren’t about to do at Liverpool what the Glazers had done at Man Utd, namely load the purchase price of the club onto the balance sheet as debt but that was exactly what they were doing. So basically, money going into the club was going to repay a debt they had created by buying the club and that was creating massive problems for the club and the support. Ironically, when we were discussing what to do in terms of marches, protests etc there were some who described it as all a bit like Newcastle and that was seen as not being a good thing. But my argument was the Newcastle fans love their club, they are out there protesting because of that … in the end we had 5000 supporters joining the march and its gone from there. I think we all know the only people who love football clubs are the supporters .. Gillett described Liverpool as being just like any other business … like Weetabix and that shocked Liverpool supporters that he should think of Liverpool Football Club that way but it shouldn’t have really. I think we all know the only way forward is for supporters to own football clubs though realistically just a partial share would do … I think it’s going to take legislation and transform English football and we know the model is the Bundesliga .. you look at the German game and it’s no surprise it’s becoming stronger all of the time. The SoS is very well-organised and recently we had an incident at Old Trafford when but for SoS intervention supporters would have likely been charged and found guilty of something they were completely innocent of – the Police, completely out of order there. I spoke at the “Football Without Fans Is Nothing” in Manchester and SoS moved a motion calling for a march on the FA’s offices on the same day the fixtures were announced. As a result of that and the talks that followed involving the FSF, that’s how every club will have £200K per season to spend on projects for away fans every season for the next three seasons. You can achieve things if people get off their arses and do things. You have to be well-organised though.
Peter Hooton: We still do gigs, mainly festivals, that’s what we like and it’s all we can do as the band is involved in other different things so, it would be very difficult to do tours. When we did The End there was a lot of anger around but I’m feeling that again with what’s happening now in the country. I don’t think I’m alone. I was on the march for the NHS in Manchester to coincide with the Tory Conference and the Police estimated there were 50,000, well we all know how they under-estimate things so you can safely say there were around 70,000 on the march. Not that it got any media coverage, probably because there wasn’t any arrests or trouble and well, because the BBC and the Tory Party’s PR people seemed to connive to give the march only minimal coverage. At the end The Farm played a gig with Stalybridge Brass Band, who are claimed to be the oldest brass band in the world and played on the day of the Peterloo massacre in Manchester. It was an interesting experience.
TF: Can you pick out your favourite and least favourite visits to St James’ Park?
Peter Hooton: I think the Michael Owen hat-trick is one of the two and the 5-1 game are the two favourites. I think the worst was the one we lost 3-0 to an Andy Cole hat-trick. It was freezing, snowing and I’d turned out in completely the wrong clothes. A bad day that.
TF: Prediction for the upcoming match?
Peter Hooton: Hmm, Is Remy fit? I’d say a 1-1.
Peter Hooton: I think just messages of support to the Hillsbrough Justice Campaign and the Hillsborough Families Support Group are always appreciated. I think the conversation we had about Newcastle visiting Hillsborough in 83/84 season for your promotion game with Sheff Wed is an interesting one and maybe your readers who were at that game could give their accounts of that match because the only game that is recorded is the Spurs-Wolves FAC Semi Final. Get accounts of that game to me and I’ll pass them on to the right people.
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THRU BLACK & WHITE EYES – Calm Before The Storm – 13/Oct/13