“Shut yer gob, wack!”

February 20, 1967
Take that thunderous, ear-mashing fortissimo they call the Hampden roar. Add the gentle music of a thousand grinding concrete mixers. Mix it in the sweet chorus of a herd of bull mooses calling to their mates on a sultry afternoon in the nuptial season. And to this gigantic rocket add the ambrosial touch of well-vinegared chips by the groping fistful, meat pies a la mode and a hot blush of sausages bursting at the seams.

Where’s all this?
And where in Liverpool?
The Kop.
The what?
The Kop, sir. And to ask any wack, scouser (local inhabitant to the great outside) about the Kopi s like quizzing a Roman on the Colosseum, a Greek on the Pantheon, or Miss Mansfield on the Bust.

More than twenty thousand customers – capped, scarved, hoarse and happy – occupy this vast section of the Liverpool Football Ground, creating the most eloquent, musical and mildly blasphemous audience in the entire world of Soccer.
No referee can be absolutely certain of his parentage, no goalkeeper of his man hood, no linesman of his eyesight before this whooping forum of fun and four letter words.

Here in this crush of whooping well-wishers is a jaunty microcosm of all that is Liverpool – the heart, the lungs, the salt and the vinegar.
Every wack a humourist. Every scouser an expert. Among this cheerful, chanting multitude, you will find the most vociferous if not the most melodious male voice choir on earth.

Soccer is the soul of Liverpool. And though every wack will fight to the death for Her Majesty, when the game is on their fervent anthem is “God save our team.”
No grinning parody either. They belt it out as though the Crown itself was shimmering over the turf, stiffly to attention and Honi Soit Mal Y Pense.

Once on a wayside pulpit a notice read: “What would you do if Christ came back to earth tomorrow?
To this challenging question a Liverpool fan chalked the stirring reply: “Move St. John to the left wing.”
No blasphemy intended. All this happy disciple wanted to show was that Liverpool’s idol was worthy of his halo.
The Italian team that though playing Liverpool was tough enough were genially thrown off-balance by this offering from the Kop’s chorus:

We won the war,
We won the war –
Ee – aye – addio.
We won the war.
(There are other earthy variations on this theme as patriotic as they are unprintable.)

They call this extraordinary enclosure for the steel-ribbed and the strong of voice the Kop after Spion Kop, a battle in which British troops, including a Liverpool regiment, suffered defeat by the Boers.
The weak and the uninitiated go there at their peril.
I went.

And since I wished to pass myself off as a real scouser, weaned on boot studs, I equipped myself with a booklet – Lern Yourself Scouse – How to Talk Proper in Liverpool, by Frank Shaw, edited by Fritz Spiegl.
In this splendid handbook are all the phrases the wack needs, from chatting up a bird (“She’s gorra mouf like a Parish oven”) to summoning a waiter (“Eh! Yew wid de ‘ead!”).
But the chapter “At the Football Match” concerned me most as I entered the ground – or more accurately as I was shovelled with the rest of the human hardcore into the bone-crushing melee.
“Gissaitte.” I said to the voice behind the elbow in my rib. And I added: “Ta, wack” (my gratitude is boundless) as he lit my cigarette without taking his eyes of the magic turf.
The noise hit the recoiling eardrums like a mountain of coal sliding into the Grand Canyon.
Half a meat pie splashed on my brogues. A roll of toilet paper flung on to the pitch missed a policeman by a perforation.
A wack offered me a greasy handful chips, with a grin on his face, salt on his mittens.
Red and white scarves. Glistening nose-ends. Andy Capp gents with their molls in mini-skirts.
Stuck there inside the whole hollering anonymity that is the Kop makes a wedge of sardines look mighty stand-offish.
And when the whistle set the ball rolling I thought a stair-rod had gone through both ears, my immediate neighbours hanging on the ends.

The fellow next to me, observing a Liverpool player on the ground, roared: “Gerrup der, on yer feet. Dar’s money in the game!”
“Yer,” I said, “he’s behavin’ like he’s got both legs in one knicker!” (Acknowledgments to Mr. Shaw, Frank not Bernard.)

“Shut yer gob, wack!” suggested my kindly companion. And when an opposing player tripped his idol advised: “Belt him so he stays belt!”
“Yer,” I said without conviction, “pull ‘is leg off an’ ‘it ‘im wid de soggy end!”
“Give yer chin a rest,” the man said.
“The ref ain’t got his winders open!” I said by way of mitigation.
I was in.
“Yer right,” beamed my Siamese twin. “Wurz yer white stick, ref?”
“God Save Our Gracious Team,” I sang.
“Liver…pewl forever!” roared my pal.
And I wouldn’t doubt that for a moment.
(Source: Daily Mirror: February 20, 1967)

One comment

  1. ” . . . like quizzing . . . a Greek on the Pantheon . . .”

    Ack! Fortunately, a dodgy understanding of ancient architecture rarely prevents a football writer from hitting his stride.

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