Author: Andrew Fox
Music: You’ll Never Walk Alone
Composer: Rodgers and Hammerstein
Artist: Elvis Presley
This is a show tune. I don’t enjoy musicals and I don’t like show tunes very much but I love this song for reasons that have nothing to do with musicals and everything to do with sporting tribalism.
I have been a fan of Liverpool Football Club for more than four decades. Although You’ll Never Walk Alone has been sung by many great voices – Elvis and Judy Garland among them – it’s the Gerry and the Pacemakers’ version that I and every one of the hundreds of millions of Liverpool fans worldwide revere. They recorded the song in 1963 and incongruously, I suppose, the fans at the ground – Anfield – adopted the song as their (and by extension) the club’s anthem and have been singing it ever since, before and after every home game and many, many away games. It’s always sung. But. Sometimes it’s sung with more passion, devotion, desperation, joy, or myriad of other emotions or motivations and those times elevate the experience of being a Liverpool fan. I’m getting goosebumps just typing this.
Famously, at half-time in the 2005 Champions League final in Istanbul, Liverpool were three goals down to a very powerful AC Milan side. 3-0 down. Irredeemable. The fans in the stadium, in a show of solidarity with their heroes, began to sing their anthem. We had some great players that season but didn’t have a great side so it was an achievement to even reach the final. The fans were saying ‘It’s alright lads, that was a terrible half of football, but it’s OK, we’re still with you. Thanks for getting us this far’ A true reflection of the meaning of the song.
It was heard in the dressing room where the team was spending half-time. The second half saw those heroes become legends. They turned the score around within a six minute period and – despite what you’ll read in some quarters – handily contained everything that Milan threw at them (with the help of a superhuman double-save from Jerzy Dudek) and went on to win the title as a result of a penalty shootout. I cried my eyes out. I often cry when I hear You’ll Never Walk Alone. The day after the final I watched the homecoming parade of the 2004-2005 European Champions with my not-quite three year-old daughter on the couch of our house in Dublin. That was one of the most special times of my life. 10 years later I took her to see Liverpool play Manchester City in a pre-season friendly at Yankee Stadium. I sang You’ll Never Walk Alone with her and cried my eyes out the whole time. She though I was mad but I wasn’t the only one.