Do I not like that . . .: Farewell to a myth: Richard Lander, a Manchester United fan, believes the laments for the passing of the Kop are unjustified

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The Independent Online
OH DEAR - they're pulling down the Kop. And there doesn't seem to be much doubt that we're all meant to mourn its passing. This past week has seen an outpouring of maudlin litanies on a scale unseen since, well, Liverpool announced they were going to pull down the Kop. You would have thought they were crushing the Elgin marbles to resurface the M62.

The reality, seen, admittedly, from one born 40 miles up the East Lancashire Road and a Manchester United supporter to boot, is rather more prosaic. An icon of the Swinging Sixties - initially fostered by an edition of Panorama of that era which insisted that the Kop was an integral part of the Mersey beat, and consistently propped up by the BBC with their desire to beatify the chorus singing 'You'll Never Walk Alone' - is being put to rest; yesterday's terrace belonging to yesterday's football team is being consigned to the bulldozers.

When Liverpool defined the standards for domestic and European football in the Seventies and Eighties under the benevolent guidance of Bill Shankly, Joe Fagan and Bob Paisley, this seething, raucous congregation was a suitable backdrop to the sublime skills of Keegan and Dalglish. Yet even then the Kop never was what we were led to believe: a home for football fans with different values from those at other grounds, who were blessed with the divinity of Mother Teresa and the humour of Ken Dodd. Now, in the snarling, mediocre Nineties - epitomised by Souness, Ruddock and Dicks - the Kop has become little more than an anachronism.

There are, indeed, plenty of wags on the Kop. But so there are on the terraces at any football ground. The Kop's spontaneous burst of 'Careless Hands', invented to taunt the hapless Leeds goalkeeper Gary Sprake, is rightly seen as one of the better examples of the savage humour of the football fan, but it's not quite enough to merit the particular canonisation of the Koppites. Most of the wit was and is of sub-music hall standard. How often has anyone laughed out loud at a joke minted on the Kop?

Perhaps it is wrong to blame the fans themselves. Having been presented with a self-image largely invented by the media, they felt the pressure to live up to it. And, given this obligation, perhaps it is only to be expected that they indulge themselves in the belief that everything about the place is utterly unique; nobody laughs like the Kop, nobody sings like the Kop, nobody cries like the Kop, this latter feeling intensified by the twin tragedies of Heysel and Hillsborough.

This is not to make light of the dreadful losses at both disasters, or to diminish the genuine outpourings of grief so movingly captured by the scarf-draped terraces at Anfield. It is merely to scotch the implication made by many Liverpudlians that somehow they lived in a city fated to tragedy and that Manchester, Leeds or London would have been less affected had it been their fans who had lost their lives in such numbers on the Hillsborough terraces. And as for Heysel, I was in the city the morning after that terrible night in Brussels, by which time it had been established that no Liverpool fans had perished. The indifference to the fate of the Italian supporters among those I spoke to as a reporter was astonishing and upsetting.

There will be much self-pity at Anfield for many months after the Kop's demise, perpetuating the myth that this urine-infested fortnightly nursery school for white, racist laddos was of singular significance in the culture of our national game. Yes, it was significant, but then so were all other terraces at all the other football grounds that the Taylor Report has seen fit to condemn.

The game has moved on, and it was Hillsborough that made radical changes in the way we watch football inevitable. What Liverpool - both the football team and the city - need now, along with a new Kop, is a new attitude.

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