I speak on behalf of the Shankly family when I say that we are wholeheartedly behind The Spirit Of Shankly. - Karen Gill, March 2008
When Tom Hicks and George Gillett strode through the Shankly Gates and promised to be the ‘custodians’ that our ‘storied club’ deserved, many of us looked forward to a bright future. The reality was somewhat different.
When Rick Parry said “Trust us” and spoke of how you only sell the family silver once, many of us felt that David Moores selling the club was the right thing. We had seen our rivals move forward whilst we lagged behind. Many supporters believed it was the beginning of a bright future.
The initial press conference promised it all. Tom Hicks told us how it wasn’t a “takeover like the Glazer deal at Manchester United” and George Gillett told us how a spade would “be in the ground in the next sixty days or so.” They promised their backing of the manager and said how they would respect the traditions of the club. We afforded them the opportunity to deliver yet within months it had all begun to unravel.
From May 2007, Liverpool FC as we knew it was changed forever. The first public protests began, but not in anger at the ownership of the club, but the continued mismanagement that resulted in the Athens ticket fiasco and farcical ballot. Tom Hicks compared our club to a breakfast cereal, "When I was in the leverage buy-out business we bought Weetabix and we leveraged it up to make our return. You could say that anyone who was eating Weetabix was paying for our purchase of Weetabix. It was just business. It is the same for Liverpool." Rafael Benitez said he needed to be backed in the transfer market and George Gillett promised him “Snoogy Doogy”.
Months later, the unravelling had accelerated. Sixty days had been and gone. The position of manager was undermined as Hicks and Gillett went behind Benitez’s back to speak to Jurgen Klinsmann about taking up the role, whilst Benitez showed his anger with his ‘coaching and training my team’ press conference. The cracks were growing bigger and so was our concern.
The announcement that the debt used to purchase the club was to be refinanced with the club used as security, effectively a mortgage, was the tipping point for many. Growing anger on forums, in pubs and in the ground showed something had to be done. A meeting in the backroom of The Sandon and the formation of Spirit Of Shankly provided angry voices with a banner to get behind, united in our attempts to have our voices heard and our presence felt.
What followed was unprecedented, unexpected but ultimately necessary. Mass protests, inside and outside of Anfield, before, during and after games, and action both on the streets and online, were a regular and common occurrence. Our club found itself on the front pages of newspapers, just as much as the back. No longer were conversations centred around what was happening on the pitch but what was (and wasn’t) happening in the boardroom.
The football club we all love and cherish was damaged by internal strife, a civil war between the owners and the supporters. Despite the damage being done, the Liverpool Way being smashed apart and the dirty linen being washed in public, we could not sit back and do nothing.
Our actions, as a Supporters Union, and the actions of our members helped saved our football club. We stood steadfastly behind our beliefs and our views, offering our unwavering support to our club whilst fighting to prevent its extinction.
We won that battle eventually, how is detailed in our protests section and elsewhere, but future generations of supporters will be able to look back on this dark period in our history and be grateful for all those who stood up, spoke up, fought back and helped us succeed.
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