Thursday 28 August ~
Some Liverpool fans have seen their team score 13 goals in three league games so far this season. This is not of course Rafa Benitez's side who have stumbled to three lucky wins but AFC Liverpool, the non-League club taking part in its first season in the North West Counties League Division One. After winning a pre-season Fans' Cup against another supporter-run club, Runcorn Linnets, they drew a crowd of 442 for their first home league match, a 5-0 defeat of Darwen and have since taken 100 or so travelling fans to their subsequent away games.
AFC Liverpool was formed by a group of supporters who could no longer afford to watch Premier League matches but still wanted to maintain a link to Liverpool. Indeed they are endorsed by what is in effect their parent club whose official website carries news of their progress, while they have received goodwill messages from Kenny Dalglish and Benitez.
The club will expect to make swift progress through their current league where their gates will dwarf those of rivals teams – the average crowd in their current division is less than 100 – but they have not yet generated anything like the public interest caught by FC United of Manchester who averaged over 2,000 for home matches last season, which ended with promotion to the Northern Premier League, two levels below the Conference. In part, this is because FC United has a distinct identity of its own, forged from deep-seated anger at the Glazers' takeover at Old Trafford, rather than being seen as a cheaper alternative to the Premier League. But it is also the case that Liverpool fans' discontent is mostly being channelled in another direction which may have direct bearing on the running of the club.
Before Liverpool's Champions League qualifier last night the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Andy Burnham, spoke at a meeting of ShareLiverpoolFC, the supporters group who are trying to buy the club. The group was launched last season but has so far fallen well short of the funds needed to mount a serious bid for control. While the club's qualification for the Champions League group stage will guarantee them at least £10 million, it seems likely that there will be a continuation of the in-fighting behind the scenes that marred last season, with the American owners struggling to refinance the loans required to fund a new stadium. Failure on the pitch, in the form of an early exit from Europe or another faltering League campaign, would probably hasten their departure – but they will be around as long as Rafa's luck holds.