Liverpool has history when it comes to flags. Some have been downright insulting, as Frank Bruno, Pete Price and Ron Atkinson’s infamous long leather can all testify. Some have been obscure and others philosophical but Union Jacks and other nationalistic symbols are conspicuous only by their absence.
When Liverpool travel anywhere in Europe they do so in an inimitable style all of their own, they do not copy and nor do they seek to be copied. A book celebrating the banners that have been flown all across the continent, from the Nou Camp to the Ataturk and from Wembley to the Olympiski in Kiev has recently been released but of all the hundreds pictured, these are the my top 20 LFC flags…
20. This Is A Sheet
A pomposity puncturer if ever there was one given its self mocking tone and sheer simplicity, I can vividly remember the laughter that accompanied this flag being unfurled in a square off the Ramblas ahead of Liverpool’s famous Champions League victory at the Nou Camp in 2007. Certain banners evoke memories of certain games and this one will always stir memories of Bellamy and Riise scoring the goals that toppled mighty Barcelona in their own backyard.
Again, simplicity is the key to this one. A picture of Sami Hyypia, one of Liverpool’s greatest ever servants, set against a red background. The fact that the money for this tribute to an Anfield legend was raised from contributions from fans with the surplus being handed over to Arrowe Park Hospital, one of Hyypia’s favourite charities, makes it worthy of inclusion in itself. The fact that Hyypia loved the flag makes it even more so.
Newspaper headline writers love to try and produce plays on words and this backhanded tribute to Igor Biscan would grace any paper. It’s funny because it’s true, Igor wasn’t the best of players but he certainly played his part on the run to the Champions League Final in 2005 so it was fitting that was afforded a banner all of his own in Istanbul.
17. Liverpool FC Irregulars ‘We Only Went Out For A Loaf’
There are countless stories about Liverpool supporters popping out for a pint of milk or a loaf of bread and then not being seen for days – or weeks in some cases! – because they’d ended up going to a European away game in some far flung location after bumping into a gang of their mates on the way to the shop. It’s always hard to say no to an away trip, even if your missus is waiting for you to come home so she can have her tea and toast!
16. S**t Banner No Tickets Who Cares
Like the ‘This Is A Sheet’ flag this one is self mocking but it also sums up the attitude of so many Liverpool fans who follow their team to Europe, a ticket would certainly be more than welcome but if one doesn’t come along then you’re just going to have a good time and support the Reds in any way you can (in all likelihood in a bar serving cheap ale, enjoying a dozen pints or so).
15. Siempre Es Possible
There can’t be too many banners that have helped convince a leading club manager to sign a new, long term contract but this one did. Rafa Benitez admitted as much after putting pen to paper on a new five year deal having seen the flag featuring his image and the phrase ‘siempre es possible’ which basically means ‘All things are possible with him’ in the build up to Liverpool’s victory over Real Madrid at the Bernabeu last season.
14. Shankly’s Champions
Simplicity is beauty. Evocative of a bygone age when (a) Liverpool were champions! and (b) when flags were kept to the very basic. There’s a lot to be said for the straightforward approach and this banner lets the world know exactly what Liverpool were under the great Bill Shankly.
13. Spirit Of Shankly Liverpool Supporters Union
If he were around today, Shankly would be proud to have a Liverpool supporters union named in his honour that fights the cause of Reds fans all around the world. He would be even more delighted to see their standard flown on match days on his beloved Kop. The image of Shankly in silhouette with his arms outstretched in an iconic pose makes the image as evocative as the message.
12. Yet Another Amazing Night Out With My Bird
Another one that always raises a laugh whenever it is seen. There aren’t too many Liverpool lads who don’t refer to their other half as their ‘bird’ but many of them would claim – in some cases tongue in cheek, in others not – that the Liver Bird is the one that matters most to them. Note the KFS motif as well, the Keep Flags Scouse movement has resulted in Union Jacks and other such signia being all but removed from the lexicon of Liverpool banners. Thankfully.
11. The Truth McKenzie Liar
Rarely can a bed sheet have carried such a powerful message. It may be controversial but in four simple words it captures perfectly the feelings of Liverpool fans towards Kelvin McKenzie, former editor of the Sun newspaper, whose peddling of mistruths in the aftermath of Hillsborough caused so much distress. Obviously no-one at the BBC has taken heed of this banner because if they had they wouldn’t keep on giving him a platform from which he is able to spout his bile.
10. Liverpool FC A Bastion Of Invincibility
Read the banner and you can almost hear Shankly uttering those immortal words and making a statement to the rest of the world that he intended on turning Liverpool into a team of such power and skill that everyone else would have to ‘submit and give in’. A magnificently resonant soundbite which deserved a flag of its own and it has been given one.
9. Look Alex Back On Our F*****g Perch
No prizes for guessing who this one is aimed at, nor what the message is. Displayed proudly in the away end at Old Trafford the season after Liverpool had lifted their fifth European Cup – the number was even recorded in stars in between the first and last letters of a particular word for extra effect – it used a quote from a certain Manchester United manager against him. A celebration of your own achievements and a put down aimed at your rivals in one very clever message.
8 = Success Has Many Fathers and Great Minds Think Alike
Paying homage to the past while being grateful for the present and looking forward to the future has always been a key theme for Liverpool’s banner makers as these two flags highlight. Images of legends like Shankly, Paisley, Fagan and Dalglish cannot be anything other than iconic and the tribute of featuring current manager Rafa Benitez alongside his illustrious predecessors will surely have acted as a source of inspiration to the Reds boss.
7. For Those Of You Watching In Blue And White, This Is What A European Cup Looks Like
Banner banter at its most cutting. No foreign trip by any club would be complete without a dig aimed at least one of your rivals. Reminding your mates at home who support your neighbours that you’re in Europe again and on the road, hopefully, to even more success is all part of the fun. Reds Go Catalan, Blues Go Matalan is another classic of its kind.
6. Them Scousers Again
The brilliance of this one lies in the fact that it sums up exactly what the rest of the country was thinking as Liverpool arrived in Istanbul with hopes high of a record fifth European Cup being landed. After almost three decades of unparalleled success Liverpool’s trophy winning days had been more limited following their last league title in 1990, but there they were again on the biggest stage about to win the biggest prize. Sighs of relief turned into cries of anguish, Liverpool were back and everyone knew it.
5. Welcome To Hell My Arse If You Think This Is Hell You Should See The Grafton On A Friday Night
An object lesson in how to take the sting out of a potentially hostile situation with the use of humour. Liverpool’s visit to Galatasary’s notorious Ali Sami Yen Stadium in 2002 had been preceded by dire warnings of the fate that awaited their fans at the ground known as ‘hell’. The moment this banner was unfurled all tension was lost and anyone who has been to the Grafton on a Friday night will not need the joke explaining to them.
4. Celtic’s Justice for the 96 banner
When Liverpool and their fans were at their lowest ebb in the aftermath of Hillsborough they were shown a solidarity from rival clubs and fans which still resonates to this very day. Along with Everton, Celtic came to the fore and the relationship which was forged in those dark days was so powerful that it is still in place today. The fact that this flag is still flown at Celtic Park on occasion and was actually brought down to Anfield for the 20th anniversary memorial service earlier this year speaks volumes for the compassion that shown by the Celtic fans for two decades.
3. You Are Always On Our Mind (96)
If you ever see this banner close up, read it. The number 96 has been displayed using the names of every single one of the victims of Hillsborough. It is a brilliant piece of design as not only does it incorporate an incredible image, it also encourages anyone who sees it to take a closer look. The fact that it carries a message that the 96 will never, ever be forgotten makes it one of the most moving banners that anyone could ever see.
2. We Never Walk Alone: Hillsborough
Peter Carney is a genius when it comes to making flags. His Memoria e amicizia (‘In memory and friendship’) banner was paraded on the pitch prior to the home leg of Liverpool’s European Cup quarter final tie with Juventus in 2005, twenty years on from the horrors of Heysel. Having survived Hillsborough he knows only too well the pain of tragedy but through his art he has been able to channel his emotions in the most positive of ways. This banner was made to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Hillsborough and features the Christian names of all those who perished on the Leppings Lane End on that fateful day and pockets in which flowers can be placed. A message and a memorial.
1. Joey Ate The Frogs Legs Made The Swiss Roll Now He’s Munching Gladbach
32 years on from being displayed at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, this banner remains the most memorable of all that have been flown in Liverpool’s colours throughout their incredible history. To this day, Joey Jones must feel ten feet tall whenever he sees it. The story of Liverpool’s journey to Rome and their first ever European Cup has been told so many times and in so many different ways but this is the most succinct and evocative.