Ahead of our final trip away this season to Anfield, we caught up with Peter Hooton, front-man with The Farm (they are a popular beat-combo for those with some revising to do on the subject of contemporary British working class music) and of course mover and shaker behind seminal Scouse fanzine of the early 80s, The End.
TF: Sorry Peter, only one place to start, what happened at Palace?
Peter Hooton: It’s one of them, I’m disappointed, we all are but this whole title push was completely unexpected anyway and it’s been a brilliant season. We’ve played great football … not unlike Keegan’s Newcastle side of the mid-90s … you score two, we’ll score four. It kind of started with the Chelsea game, we’ve all felt deflated since then. That game was only ever going to be 0-0 but for Gerrard’s slip. They were playing for set-pieces. Palace? We were 3-0 up and cruising and you might say we could have brought Agger on but hindsight is a wonderful thing and everyone in the away end was saying let’s get four, five. But we can’t complain really.
TF: Could Liverpool done anything differently this season?
Peter Hooton: A few things yeah … Carragher must be kicking himself because if he had been on the pitch at Palace there’s no way we would be conceding three goals with that time remaining. He’d have been in there – organising, cajoling and making sure we were ready for anything. But that’s been the story for a bit of this season … we were hanging on at Norwich as well.
Who knows but we really could have invested in the January transfer window, bought a couple of defenders and shored it up but we chose not to and I think that’s cost us. The club has this transfer committee and I don’t think they have done a great job for us. But in my opinion the decisions should be made by the manager. Rodgers wanted Gerard Deulofeu who has been brilliant for Everton but the transfer committee voted against him and we missed him. Imagine him coming on at Palace … Something has to be done about the transfer committee because I don’t think it’s working really. Roberto Martinez declined the Liverpool job because of the transfer committee .. let the manager, manage.
TF: What about Rodgers this season?
Peter Hooton: He’s done a great job but he’s still learning and hopefully will keep improving and keep taking us forward. I think what we’ve seen this season is the benefit of good coaching both at Liverpool and Everton. Two good coaches have improved their players and got them up the league. Atv the other end of the scale, Moyes has proven that bad coaching can ruin a team but it perhaps demonstrates just how great a coach Ferguson was as well – I agree with you .. any of the top four teams managed by Ferguson last year would have won the league. It’s all about the coaching. It’s a bit like a school improving with a good Headmaster … the kids are just the same but something has changed.
TF: Is there a sense Liverpool have lost a great opportunity?
Peter Hooton: I dunno, maybe .. as you said earlier, Man Utd and Chelsea are going through transition and Arsenal just don’t seem to have that staying power. It’s going to get more difficult over the summer because you can guarantee Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea, Everton, Spurs and Arsenal will invest and strengthen their squads. It’s going to be difficult. I think neutrals wanted us to win the league because of the football we play but also because well, look at City at home to Villa and there’s loads of empty seats and its all about the money. Maybe I’m kidding myself but Liverpool winning the league would have been great for football.
TF: JW Henry?
Peter Hooton: They are okay – they are still a Hedge Fund though who don’t like spending money. They are a million times better than the last lot though.
Peter Hooton: There is going to be massive temptation for him to leave. He has been phenomenal for us, he’s crazy mind, but you get that with genius – Cantona, Best, Gascoigne but if Real Madrid offer £90m, you know we could sign 3 or 4 really top players with that kind of money and improve further but you never want to lose your best players.
TF: What are your thoughts about Sunday and the visit of Newcastle United?
Peter Hooton: Well, we’re all a bit deflated but we’ll want to finish as best we can and Newcastle have lost 5 out of the last 6 so, it points in our favour. I’d expect the Newcastle players will be thinking about Brazil or their holidays. You’d expect Liverpool to win though there are always queer results at this time of the season – look at Sunderland at Chelsea, Man Utd, Man City and Palace with us. That’s what makes it such a brilliant game, you never know really.
Peter Hooton: The Inquests are ongoing at Warrington at the moment. They have been doing pen portraits of the victims, demonstrating that those who died are real people and not just numbers. A friend of mine has been and it is harrowing, very emotional. At the moment they are gathering evidence about the people who died. The IPCC is examining the role of the West Midlands Police in the investigation that followed the tragedy and Operation Resolve is examining the facts leading up to it – all of the factors that were ignored in the run up to the disaster. We know there were close-calls for Spurs, Leeds and Liverpool the year previously. You have told me about Newcastle’s problems there in your 83/84 season when you had one of your massive away followings and the problems in the central pen, only solved by your fans fighting with the Police to get into the paddock near the stand. It was well known the Leppings Lane End was a bad end by any experienced travelling fan. But Professor Scraton has identified the situation was basically one of inertia – the problem fell between the Police, the Council and Sheffield Wednesday FC .. so many things were wrong with the ground … no safety certificate, even the gradient of the terrace was wrong. It was a disaster waiting to happen and like you have said many fans who knew the score, knew there but for the grace of God went they.
I don’t buy it was made a cover-up because if was Liverpool but it was easier to get away with because it was Liverpool because of the politics of the day but they would have done that to anyone.
Then again, you know it is two years since Cameron made his public apology and those responsible are still out there playing golf. These type of people are always fonetaking the knighthoods and the honours but a little less ready to accept responsibility for their actions.
Like you I’m disappointed we had 13 years of a Labour Government and this wasn’t sorted on their watch. The then Home Secretary, Jack Straw was shameful really whilst even Cameron described it as looking for a black cat in a dark room. I’m told Gordon Brown’s response to Andy Burnham’s pressure was to ask how much it would all cost and it only went ahead after promises about which budget the money would come from to pay for it. But Burnham’s logic and argument was so over-powering it has to be re-opened.
You have to give credit to the Hillsbrough Justice Campaign and the Hillsbrough Families Support Group but someone like Steve Rotherham (who used to be a Mod), Mayor of Liverpool succeeded in getting the issue back up the political agenda with the memorial song.
Can I just thank all of the Newcastle fans who have been brilliant with their support for Justice for the 96. That’s been absolutely fantastic and many people in Liverpool are aware of it and very appreciative. It’s been superb. Thank you.
TF: What are you up to?
Peter Hooton: Bits and bobs you know, doing some festivals, the band are involved in separate things as well – like films with Terence Davis. Karl has set up a record label via Edge Hill University in Leeds and is attracting bands from West Yorkshire. Keith, Steve and I are writing again for the first time since the mid-90s because we’re angry at what is going on around us. I think we are going to do something with the 100th anniversary of the Christmas Truce in WW1 (Altogether Now) I think as a counterpoint to all of the “celebrations” of the First World War which was just one great slaughter of ordinary working class lads due to the greed and pettiness of governments and Royal families … all these Pals brigades from places like Liverpool and Newcastle conned into getting blown to bits for no good reason. It shouldn’t be a subject for celebration.
TF: I’ll apologise in advance for some of our thicker fans singing “sign-on” shite on Sunday?
Peter Hooton: Don’t worry about it, its the lowest common denominator and we all know what the proper Geordie lads think of all of that rubbish.
TF: Spirit of Shankly?
Peter Hooton: It sounds very similar to how you are starting off with the action against Ashley. At first we had the kind of support for action like you had with the walk-out after the 69th minute .. similar kinds of numbers, so you have to stick at it. Hope to see you at the ticket prices protests at the Premier League over the summer.