Liverpool are one the most successful teams in English history. Their rivalry with Everton is legendary – and yet there is no logic as to which team is supported. The grounds are separated by a smallish park, there are no class differences, no religious divide. In Liverpool families are split by allegiance to one or other team – the only thing one cannot be in Liverpool is neutral. Ironically, the history of Liverpool Football club begins with their greatest rivals and neighbours, Everton, for it was from a dispute with Everton in 1892 that Liverpool Football Club was born.
Everton were already an established League team (see their story) playing at the ground at Anfield Road, but an argument broke out between them and John Houlding which led to Everton moving on to a new ground and a new future at Goodison Park. Houlding was unceremoniously booted from the Everton board. Anfield remained shamefully empty and still in the possession of Houlding but he was not to be outsmarted. If you own an empty football ground, there is only one answer, he decided, to form a football club. And that is precisely what he did. Along with a handful of Anfield loyalists who had not departed to Goodison, he formed the Liverpool Association Football Club in May 1892. Some legal wrangles ensued between the embryonic club and Liverpool Rugby Club over the name, but the club took root and the rest as they say is history.
The team in their first seasons turned out in blue and white halved shirts, a point often missed by the fanatics that pour into Anfield week in week out. Their saving grace being that their Evertonian arch-rivals at the time wore ruby-red shirts. Reds and Blues? Confusing from this point in time, to say the least. Liverpool soon adopted the now familiar, and feared, red shirts, and took League championship after League championship – but always failing in the FA Cup until 1965.
White shorts were de rigueur throughout the history until European competition, and a manager by the name of Shankly, innovatively introduced the red shorts that are now known throughout the world in the mid-Sixties, and remain to this day. When looking at team colours perhaps we can allow ourselves one digression – in 1966 Liverpool wore yellow shirts away in a European tie in Amsterdam against Ajax. They lost 5-1, and yellow shirts were not seen on a Liverpool player for another 20+ years.
Unimaginatively, Liverpool have been known as the Reds from early days. Occasionally the nickname the Pool has surfaced, but in English football, despite the plethora of scarlet shirts throughout the League, the Reds belong to Anfield.
The badge similarly has had a single-minded theme – the Liver bird. By the time of the formation of the Liverpool Football Club in 1892, the Liver Bird was well established as the emblem of the city, so it was the natural choice as the badge for a club of the same name. There is no such thing as a Liver Bird as far as birdwatchers or ornithologists are concerned – it is a mythical creature. The Liver Bird is an imaginary cross between an eagle and a cormorant. When Liverpool was granted city status by King John, the Liver Bird was used as a seal. The eagle was the ancient symbol of St John and it was adopted by King John as his emblem.
The origin of the name Liverpool, known as Lerpoole in the early 13th century, from the Old Norse “hlathr pollr” meaning the pool of the dirty water, caused much debate over the years, and experts were split over the options of the name being derived from a mythical bird, the Liver bird, which bore a striking resemblance to a cormorant, or to the old word for seaweed “laver”. In a compromise, the elders of the city adopted arms of a Liver bird bearing in its mouth a sprig of laver.
One piece of folklore concerning the Liver bird states that the two large metal birds roosting on their perches on the Liver Buildings at the Pier Head will flap their wings whenever a virgin walks by! Another local legend has it that if they ever fly away then something terrible will happen. Fortunately they’re sitting tight!
The football club’s badge has encompassed the Liver bird throughout the years – in early days encircled by the club’s name, but then in the Seventies placed on a shield. For the Centenary of the club a new design was produced, the liver bird’s prominence slightly reduced. It now includes the year of formation, the representation of the iron curlicues of the Shankly Gates, reflecting the supporters’ most famous anthem “You’ll never walk alone”, and eternal flames in remembrance of the club’s darkest day, the tragic loss of life at Hillsborough.
Stability is a major element at Anfield and in the success over the years of Liverpool Football Club. There is talk of moving from the ground to find more space elsewhere – but one thing is certain. Many years from now there will be a successful team called Liverpool, playing in red shirts, with a Liver bird in their badge. Bill Shankly would not allow it otherwise.