The line was clearly intended to not be taken too seriously, but one can't help feeling far too many people have taken this as a mantra and can't quite see the folly in it.
Just over a year ago I wrote about my growing dissatisfaction with certain aspects of the modern game. After that, I had a slight change of heart. My home team almost got to the final of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, which may be laughable to some, but to a club that's been through what we have recently, it meant a huge amount. The record attendance for a non final match in the history of that competition is something that will probably stand for a long time. Alas it was that crowd that witnessed us demolished and dumped out of the tournament. It also showed the level of disunity between sets of fans with so called 'plastics' having verbal abuse hurled at them purely because they dared to want to see a match when their team is doing well.
The subsequent move to Northampton has further divided us at a time we ideally ought to put the overall long term future of the club at the forefront of thought and action. I can see both sides of the boycotting home games issue, but fundamentally it's created deep divisions which may never heal. To use a poor analogy, albeit one which does demonstrate the difference between football and actual life quite well, there are families who still don't talk to each other due to their chosen paths in the miners' strike in the mid 80s. The sentiments, arguments and reasoning behind the split is the same, but in this case, it truly was people's livelihoods that were at stake and families were torn apart and remain so to this day, such were the deep feelings involved. Whether Coventry return to the Ricoh or end up in a new stadium, the rifts have been formed and will remain long after we depart Sixfields. The damage has been done and in some cases will never be repaired.
While I don't wish to trivialise people's love for their clubs, it's the level of unreal importance that seems to have invaded the football followers' mindset that disturbs me. I'm not saying that people shouldn't care or that it's "just a game" as it's not, it is indeed a huge part of people's lives...but that's my point...it's a part of life, it's not life itself, yet the sense of hysteria and entitlement that seems to go alongside everything football seems to be at ludicrous levels.
The following tweet from @wearethetwins sums up what I'm talking about.
"#Chelsea considering a change of strategy to salvage their season?!Last 16 of CL + 2 points off 1st in PL. Someone explain how this is bad?"
Someone please do!!! Seriously, how can this be regarded as anything approaching a situation requiring salvage?
What frustrates me most is that, while this hype has been generated for years by media with a product to sell, the sheer volume of fans who have swallowed it whole and spit it back out again verbatim is truly disheartening. The wailing and gnashing over Moyes at Man U after a few months, AVB booted out after a 'run' of poor results etc etc etc.
I'm not for one minute suggesting that managers have always been given time or indeed that some of the sackings haven't been right, what I'm trying to illustrate is the sheer level of noise about it all. Naturally, social media and the availability and anonymity of channels to vent such spleen is a contributing factor, but again, it's the fact that fans feel this way in the first place, that it's somehow rational to be so outraged and disgusted that your team isn't top of the league and that your worthless piece of shit manager hasn't won every single game he's ever taken charge of! People regularly lose it completely with such unhealthy levels of anger it's sometimes quite shocking, literally shaking with rage that some refereeing decision wasn't 100% spot on or that their star player didn't score with every shot. This sense of indignation that everything isn't perfect is simply staggering: such a misplaced sense of entitlement so grossly out of proportion with events back in the real world.
Again, I'm not saying we shouldn't invest emotionally in football; that would be to completely misunderstand the nature of being involved in competitive sport, but when every single 'injustice' (oh and the use of the word injustice?...c'mon!) leaves you in a state of heart attack inducing apoplexy, it's maybe time to take a step back and consider what it does mean to you. Don't stop loving, just maybe turn down the noise a little.
For those wondering why I'm ranting about the modern game on a nostalgia site, while not simultaneously taking the tack of 'it was all perfect in the old days', the thought train that led me here was this...
I was pondering writing a piece to publish on Christmas day, just a nice little message of thanks and all that usual stuff. I then pondered writing something about the famous Christmas day game of football between the soldiers on the front line in World War I and the tragic slaughter that resumed days later. That led me back to Shankly's quote.
Football is a game. It's also more than a game, but it isn't life or death.
Maybe next time you're lining up your sights on your current target of anger, for a second imagine that instead of there being a phone in your hand, there's an actual rifle; that instead of sitting on your comfy sofa, you're in a mud filled trench and the person you're taking aim at is the same guy you shook hands and swapped gifts with the day before. Consider these two situations for a second, consider your lot in life and how much that refereeing decision, that missed shot, that sending off truly affects you and see if it actually means quite so much anymore.
All that said, we at the Attic hope you do all have a great Christmas and that the New Year brings at least one lot of 3 points and for some of you lucky ones, some actual silverware! Enjoy the highs and roll with the lows. Life is not that bad :)
Til Christmas Day, Merry Christmas!