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Tomb raiders; Shankly will be turning in his grave over Gillett and Hicks.

Byline: Michael Calvin

THERE used to be a football club at Anfield.

It was a shrine to workingclass heroes and a game of intoxicating simplicity.

Now there's a shell, an empty tomb desecrated by grave robbers from an alien culture.

The Liverpool of Shankly, Paisley and Dalglish is an illusion, a hologram created for the 21st Century nostalgia industry.

Anfield is, like the Cavern Club and Penny Lane, a relic of Beatlemania.

Roll up, roll up, for the Magical Mystery Tour.

Appearances will deceive this lunchtime. Flags will be unfurled. Familiar anthems will shake the old ground to its foundations.

The world will sit back and watch, enthralled, as toecurling romanticism collides with teeth-baring rivalry.

Nothing will change, even if Manchester United win by a cricket score and Gary Neville pees on the goalposts in a voodoo ritual enacted for the benefit of the Kop.

Sacking Rafa Benitez would be pointless. Liverpool cannot become a club again until it is rid of George Gillett and Tom Hicks.

You'll know the story, understand the reasons behind today's protest march by supporters infuriated by their insignificance.

They're a pair of ugly Americans, linked by mutual loathing and a lust for a fast buck. They've betrayed a legend, hawked a sporting and social heritage around the bazaars like a sullen slave.

They don't understand football as a communal crusade. They couldn't care less about its glorious irrationality. It is a corporate asset to be traded like so many pork bellies.

It's easy to mock the afflicted, to pour scorn on Scouse sentimentality. But your club might be next. If Liverpool can be hijacked and forced to pay the masters' mortgage, it can happen to anyone - even United.

The Manc nation, which stretches from Chertsey to Kowloon, might care to dwell on the priorities of Joel Glazer.

He will be at Wembley this afternoon watching his assetstripped NFL franchise, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Anfield is nowhere near his agenda. His type views such landmarks as the 50th anniversary of Bill Shankly's installation as Liverpool manager, on December 1 1959, as mere marketing opportunities.

Shankly will be portrayed as a man of the people, a cross between Che Guevara and Clarence Darrow.

It will not do him justice. One of my most treasured mementoes is an autographed double album of him talking of his life and times, recorded just before his death in 1981.

Best to let him speak for himself, from beyond the grave. This was what he said when asked how he would wish to be remembered: "That I've been basically honest in a game in which it is sometimes difficult to be honest. I'd like to think that I have put more into the game than I have taken out.

"I was interested in only one thing, success for the club.

"That meant success for the people. I wanted results for the club, for the love of the game, to make the people happy."

Inspirational stuff.

Like listening to the last survivors of the Somme, it reminds us of what we have lost, tossed aside in the name of progress.

Ironically, the exaggerated emotions of allegiance to a football club have shielded greedy men like Gillett and Hicks from retribution.

The Royal Bank of Scotland couldn't afford the fall-out from pushing Liverpool into administration by refusing to re-finance their loans.

Shankly didn't have to deal with braying bigots on the phone-ins, or charlatans in the boardroom.

He had an uncluttered set of priorities: "At a football club, there's a Holy Trinity - the players, the manager and the supporters. Directors don't come into it."

Read that, Liverpool fans, and weep.

CAPTION(S):

HERO.. AND VILLAINS: Liverpool fans loved the legend that was boss Bill Shankly (above), but they would be glad to see the back of owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks (right)
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 25, 2009
Words:640
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