Scouse Not English: What’s That All About?

As most of you know, I couldn’t care less about the England national team. I don’t necessarily want it to lose matches, I’m just not bothered how it does one way or another. It’s not a feeling that I have alone. A good majority of Liverpool supporters feel the same, with the only interest when international weeks like this one come come around being in our players returning uninjured. The suggestion from a TalkSport presenter this week that people should want their country to succeed more than their club was met with howls of derision from most Reds, with the majority quick to point out that we’d rather watch the Reds win a throw-in than England win the World Cup. I couldn’t tell you whether that feeling is shared by supporters of other international teams, given that I’m not from Wales, Brazil or Germany. I do know that plenty of Welsh fans are fiercely proud of being from there, though, so wouldn’t be surprised if they wanted to see their national team succeed.

I should point out at this stage that this isn’t an indoctrinated belief for me. I know plenty of Scousers have grown up being told that they’re Scouse, not English. That they’ve never had time for the England national team. That wasn’t the case for me. I remember my dad having England flags on his car during Euro ’96. I also know that I was right behind England in that tournament, feeling devastated when the Germans beat ‘us’ in the semi-final. It is only as I’ve got older and become more invested in my football that my dislike of the national side has grown. I remember one specific incident that caused me to reassess my feelings, which occurred during the World Cup in 2006. I watched England play Portugal in the quarters and the pub in Birmingham I was watching in, which had been singing Steven Gerrard’s name for more than 90 minutes, decided he was a ‘Scouse c*nt’ when he missed his penalty.

It’s About More Than Where You’re Born

The idea of being ‘Scouse not English’ is something that you’ll often see on social media, especially when international breaks or summer tournaments roll around. What this means, exactly, will be given a different description depending on who you talk to about it. There are some that think it’s a literal thing: that if you’re not from Liverpool then you can’t really understand the true dislike of the national team and everything that is associated with it. I don’t agree with that. I have never bought into the idea that only people from the city truly ‘get’ what it means to be a Liverpool supporter. There are plenty of people with Scouse accents near me on the Kop that often express ridiculous opinions, whilst Union flags have long been flown on the famous old terrace. I’ve been stood next to people not from the UK that have completely ‘got’ what it means to support the Reds and have been soaked in the culture of the club.

Whilst there’s definitely a breed of Scousers who think they’re given a divine right to dictate the way the club should be supported, the majority of Reds know that where you’re from isn’t as important as understanding the ‘culture’ of the club. If a bloke is from Liverpool, refuses to wear anything bought from the club shop and leaves the ground fifteen minutes before the full-time whistle, does he naturally get to be more closely associated with the club than a woman who takes a bag of stuff to the nearest food bank, wears the official kit, knows all the songs and stays to the end of the match and applauds the players off but has flown over from Ireland to watch the game simply because of where he was born? I don’t think so and I think the majority of sensible people would agree with me. The reality is that Liverpool Football Club is a global brand, with someone’s place of birth not being as relevant as their understanding of the culture.

The Divide Is Growing Wider

It’s not uncommon to hear people say that football should be kept out of politics, but that is a naive view in the extreme. Football is innately political and always has been. The modern-day father of Liverpool Football Club, Bill Shankly, whose statue stands outside the Kop, once said the following:

”The socialism I believe in isn’t really politics. It is a way of living. It is humanity. I believe the only way to live and to be truly successful is by collective effort, with everyone working for each other, everyone helping each other, and everyone having a share of the rewards at the end of the day. That might be asking a lot, but it’s the way I see football and the way I see life”.

Shankly Statue

There are plenty of people that support Liverpool and vote for the Tory Party. We can pretend that there aren’t but we’d be lying. Those people might want the club to do well on the pitch but they don’t ‘get’ what it means to be a Liverpool supporter. The city has always felt more European than English, thanks in no small part to the scores of immigrants that came to Liverpool during its more formative years. That’s not to say that it’s always been a Labour city, of course. Prior to the government of Margaret Thatcher Liverpool was actually something of a Tory stronghold. But in the decades since Hillsborough and the era of ‘managed decline’ the city has turned its back on the party that wanted to see us crippled.

You can say that football and politics shouldn’t mix but the simple reality is that it does and being ‘Scouse not English’ is to turn your back on the idea of isolationism and embrace other cultures and ways of being. One of my favourite lyrics of all time comes from the Gerry & The Pacemakers song Ferry ‘Cross The Mersey:

People around every corner
They seem to smile and say
‘We don’t care what your name is boy
We’ll never turn you away’

That is Liverpudlians, it is Scousers and it is those that buy into the culture of the city even if they’re not from it. As each year passes it seems as though the rest of the country gets further and further away from this ideal and instead has become entrenched in the idea of looking after number one. As England fans sings that they hate Scousers, it’s little wonder that Liverpool supporters couldn’t care less about the national team. The only question is why those that don’t support the Reds care.

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