A love letter to the European Cup and Reds from TAW's Neil Atkinson

ColumnA love letter to the European Cup and Reds from TAW's Neil Atkinson

Published 28th May 2022
By Neil Atkinson

Ahead of the Champions League final, The Anfield Wrap's Neil Atkinson has produced a special column for Liverpoolfc.com on his love for the European Cup and Jürgen Klopp's players.

The European Cup. 

Growing up in the 1980s, I watched the videos. Rainy half-terms spent in grandparents’ houses had the backdrop of nights in Paris and Rome, massive games on grainy video tapes watched over and over, made grainier with use.

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Highlights and compilation packages taped by me, my dad or my uncle Robert, Team Of The Decade, The History Of Liverpool; endless days were spent swimming in what was, in what had just happened, green pitches with electrifying reds, yellows, whites and blues.

What had happened was that Liverpool grabbed the continent, grabbed the imagination of the continent and of the country.

Now Europe is something which occurs regularly for English football but then, all the back thens, Europe was something which rarely sashayed into view until Liverpool dominated and in so doing opened the door for Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa. European football was indeed the banquet. It was the pinnacle. It was the time to shine.

Liverpool shone. Liverpool play in Europe. Liverpool win in Europe. There’s no argument with it. Read all the pamphlets, watch the tapes.

The Champions League.

What Liverpool have done across the last seven years is grab a continent once again. The charge to the final in 2018 was the most pulsating European run in years. The football was demolition derby stuff, full of speed, darting with colour and repeated collisions.

The year later Liverpool were better, refined, less dodgems, more Formula One. But after a harsh 3-0 reverse at Camp Nou, they needed the greatest night of them all to pull it round.

In the aftermath of that 4-0 victory against Barcelona, I thought of all the children on half-term, drizzle outside, wanting to watch that explosion of colour and joy over and over, never to be deleted from recording systems, impossible to wear out.

Impossible to wear out. The enthusiasm which seemed to oddly ebb from Liverpudlian European adventures between 2005 and 2010 has this time around been inexhaustible. It has increased, the yearning, the needing more than wanting, the wanting for all time.

Liverpool wringing the delight from every single situation, Liverpool wanting to be centre of attention. Parades and fan parks, explosions of joy and colour over and over.

The city of Liverpool where the party is at and the city of Liverpool being everywhere, because if we have learned one thing it is that Liverpool has to be everywhere or Liverpool is nowhere.

Impossible to wear out? At times last season that looked like it may not be the case. We were worn out, worn down but then the players bounced back from so much adversity on and off the pitch to retain their status to play in this competition and are now making the very most of it.

The heroes of 2018 and 2019 are mostly still here and more heroic, more joyous, relishing their essential significance in all of this outpouring, understanding it is all of us together because there is no other way to do it and have it mean the world.

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These players, these explosions of joy and colour are led by a manager who wants that sheer exuberance to be at every turn, who wants the best for us and for us to be the best versions of ourselves. What is the point of football if not that? Why bother?

We now have Paris and you remember Paris, don’t you? You saw the videos at half-term, you saw Phil Thompson and Alan Kennedy. But we have it again and we have it here and now with these wonderful footballers, who have decided to run amok through a continent.

There will be explosions of joy at a fan park and explosions of colour at a parade and there will be such pride in them, the players and coaching staff who have made it all happen again – dare I say it, such pride in the players and coaching staff who will make it happen again and again in years to come.

They are the best ones, the best ones about and the best ones we could have hoped for. The ones we waited for, the ones we conjured. In our collective memory, they will always be impossible to wear out. They have given us all we could have asked for and so much more this season.

This season will end and they will have taken every trophy to the last kick of the ball. In Paris, let the most meaningful kicks of the ball be Liverpudlian ones. They deserve that, they deserve to lift the trophy the way they have lifted us – with togetherness, panache and joy.

Published 28th May 2022