Avalanche of f-words take away from all that’s good in fans’ site, The Anfield Wrap

ERIC BROWN reviews a book which focuses on one of the most eventful years in the history of Liverpool FC from defeat in Kyiv to glory in Madrid.

For those who, like me, have no idea what The Anfield Wrap means let me enlighten you with an explanation from the cover of a book chronicling an eventful last year in the history of Liverpool Football Club.

Since its inception in 2011 the Anfield Wrap has grown from a website and single weekly podcast to a respected media outlet with 11 full-time staff, over 100 contributors, over 12,000 subscribers to their “TAW Player” subscription service and now produces podcasts, writing, video, a weekly radio show and “live shows for Reds all over the land.”

Their output is by fans for fans. I can already hear alarm bells ringing with seasoned hacks concerned about the ancient maxim “beware fans with biros.”

It must be admitted some of the book is written in “Anfieldspeak”, a language readily understood only by those who turn up regularly at the stadium and follow Liverpool wherever they go.  

However there is much merit in “Numero 6” which takes the reader from Liverpool’s misery in the 2018 European Cup Final against Real Madrid to glory in the same competition 12 months later against Spurs. Along the way comes another Premier League heartache.

Matches are painstakingly previewed by Rob Gutmann and reviewed by Neil Atkinson in erudite fashion following an excellent foreword by television match commentator Clive Tyldesley.

Unfortunately sandwiched between these fine examples of journalism comes a section of such juvenile scribbling it’s unworthy even of a school exercise book. Player ratings on each match by Ben Johnson sadly tarnish the efforts of the other writers, seem totally out of step with the rest of the book and are at times completely indecipherable.

Anyone understand this: “Fiesta. Anyway. Yer, jibbed the Reds there, didn’t I ?” No, me neither.

Mr Johnson’s vocabulary seems so limited he might have collected much of his material from the walls of Merseyside’s public toilets. He uses the F-word over and over again. And again. And again. And again. One sentence contains the F-word eight times. Oh and there are a couple of C-words too.

If the intention was to shock he fails dismally because endless repetition simply becomes boring. Swear words are not so much sprinkled throughout Johnson’s text as released like coal gushing down a chute from an old steamship onto a dockside container. Then there’s the graphic descriptions of male and female genitalia in action. Working out what this has to do with player ratings will continue to keep me awake nights.

Such tripe defrauds the reader robbed of learning more about player performance by a meaningless and endless tirade of filth.

It’s difficult to imagine how or why editor Josh Sexton let this uncontrolled blasphemy through and even harder to understand how respected publisher deCoubertin approved it. If there is ever a reprint the book would be much enhanced with Johnson’s ratings binned.

Hardcore Liverpool fans will love it as it’s a book with the happiest of endings.

Meanwhile many of the rest of us will wonder what Liverpool and Spurs were doing in the Champions League. Both finished outside the Premier League’s top two in 2018 and have never won the competition. Yet genuine champions from countries like Northern Ireland, Finland and Estonia must fight though a long series of qualifying rounds having finished at the highest league level they possibly could. That cannot be right. European club football is surely due for a complete overhaul.

Numero 6, Reliving a historic year following Liverpool FC. The Anfield Wrap, edited by Josh Sexton. Published by deCoubertin, price £14.99 softback.