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Damn the carpetbaggers at Anfield and Old Trafford

To say that there has not been any love lost between Manchester United and Liverpool fans for many years is stating the bleeding obvious. But to say that it has always been that way is a gross exaggeration because history shows that it’s far from being the case. Legendary godfathers at both clubs like Bill Shankly and Matt Busby shared a long standing, close friendship, so to feel a degree of empathy is not at all unnatural. The two most decorated football clubs in England are currently going through a crisis not of their own making and for one to derogatory sneer at the other is well beyond the dignity of each. Quite frankly, the humiliation that Liverpool Football Club is going through at the moment could turn out to be the same that Manchester United will be forced to endure in the not too distant future – thanks to greedy carpetbaggers who saw football in general, and two great clubs in particular, as easy pickings to try and make a fortune.

Not to put too  fine a point on it, and to be absolutely blunt, the shit hit the fan at the Royal Courts of Justice in London where Oliver Holt from the Daily Mirror filed a report that should send shivers down the spine of fans from both clubs – it may well have been Liverpool today but there’s no guarantee that Manchester United will not be forced to face the same chaos in the near future.

As Holt reports – The lawyers in Court 16 at the Royal Courts of Justice sat squashed into five rows of nine seats. Now and again, junior counsels weaved in, staggering under the weight of stacks of folders they carried in their arms. They call them bundles and they piled them so high on the desks that the QCs could barely see over them until they rose to speak. Claimants and defendants, applicants and respondents, squeezed in between them, blank and beaten down, staring up at the high vaulted ceiling, the leaded windows and the oak panelled walls.

Mr Justice Floyd came in at 10.30am sharp. He was dressed all in black with the happy exception of two strips of red cloth that dangled from his neck to his chest. He disposed of the ordinary stuff first. The small fry filed out, allotted to another court, told to learn their fate elsewhere. Lloyds TSB v Williams Gee Yeung Law was over in half an hour or so after a lot of talk about Hong Kong dollars and a mention of ‘affidavits that are questionable in the extreme’. And then it was the Royal Bank of Scotland PLC v Hicks and others. The main business of the day. The benches emptied a little.

The RBS counsel, Richard Snowden, stood up and began to talk. People passed yellow Post-it notes back and forth between the desks and whispered instructions or advice to each other. Papers rustled, people fidgeted, opposing lawyers sniggered or shook their heads dismissively or exchanged knowing glances.

Paul Girolami, QC for Liverpool owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, interrupted almost every sentence he spoke with the words ‘as it were’. Lord Grabiner, QC for Liverpool, pronounced Gillett’s name three different ways in the space of a couple of minutes which seemed to suggest he was hardly a student of the game. And so the full glory of the law was visited upon Liverpool Football Club yesterday. It felt like a descent into Hell.

A place where usurers are the closest thing you can get to the good guys because the alternative is Hicks and Gillett. A place where old barristers who charge £3,000 an hour, men dripping with cynicism and contempt for everyone around them, get cheap laughs by talking about a football club’s civil war. A place where Liverpool is cut open and its guts spread out before the court for these people to try to settle their petty disputes and claw back some of the millions they have lost because of their greed.

That’s why it felt like hell in Court 16 yesterday. Because it felt as far away from the passion and the glory and the spontaneity of Anfield as it is possible to be. It felt wrong that Liverpool should have been dragged here to this sinister, eerie place that has hardly changed since Charles Dickens set part of Bleak House here.

It is a place of clandestine conversations in hidden alcoves, of heaving sobs, of deceptions exposed, of Gothic creepiness and grand designs sent tumbling to earth. It is a place of verbal contortions and extended hopelessness and frustration. RBS v Hicks is scheduled to finish today but there were times yesterday when it felt as convoluted and depressing as Jarndyce and Jarndyce.

“There are not three Jarndyces left upon the earth perhaps since old Tom Jarndyce, in despair, blew his brains out at a coffee-house in Chancery Lane,” Dickens wrote in Bleak House, “but Jarndyce and Jarndyce still drags its dreary length before the court, perennially hopeless.” The Hicks-Gillett saga has started to feel like that, too. Perenially hopeless. Endlessly depressing. Brutally poignant. Maddeningly frustrating.

The Liverpool fans who stood in their Liverpool shirts with their arms folded high in the gallery, above the court, above all that detritus, must have felt like that. They must have stared down on that scene, that depressing scene of yet more men making yet more money out of their club, and wondered how it had come to this.

How had a great club like Liverpool, one of the greatest, proudest, classiest clubs in the rich history of English football, been brought so low? How had it been dragged so far from what it once stood for that it was being argued over by a group of men who care nothing for it in the High Court in London?” Holt concluded.

Some, and I do mean only SOME, Manchester United fans may feel a degree of satisfaction from that report but please understand that what faces Liverpool fans today is precisely what could be facing us in the not too distant future. Their despair could be ours before too long so let’s show a little solidarity so that if ever it’s required, we can be shown the same in return.

Is United likely to end up in the same mess as Liverpool has?


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