In the 1970s, when Liverpool's football flourished in England and across Europe, I gathered that we were all human but not on the same team. Liverpool became mine. I don't recall Leyton Orient submitting a tender. It was a simple law of probability. The small ration of football on television available in one-channel land had a lot of Liverpool content. I can remember a Match of the Day presenter half-apologising for showing Liverpool again one particular night, explaining that they had earned the right to be seen both through results and the quality of their play.
My allegiance could have been drawn to Man Utd or Arsenal or Leeds, though the Elland Road club was fading, because there were a good few of those followers knocking about, some Chelsea too. A more interesting mix than you find today.
Aston Villa produced an outstanding side. Ipswich became a serious challenger. Nottingham Forest would win the league and European Cup. Everton sparkled. Spurs had a strong cup pedigree. But Liverpool it was. Nobody in the family supported them. The brother ended up with Arsenal.
And once you made the call that seemed to be that. It had to be total fidelity. In recent years, I have heard my son say that such a friend has switched from Chelsea to City, or from Arsenal to United, and I've had to explain that this is not how it works. I take to the pulpit and give a snap sermon on promiscuity having no place in football. If you chose Leicester in 2016 then, I'm afraid, it is Leicester till you die.
On Thursday, when Liverpool won the league after 30 years, the garden that had laid covered in weeds suddenly blossomed and looked radiant. The environment was not conducive to mass celebration and joy, with pubs shut, communal gatherings restricted, and a league being decided on the result of another game, played behind closed doors. Deep down we must have all known the league would be won, it was only a question of when given then enormity of the Liverpool lead. It would have been preferable to wait and win it at City, or at home in front of a full house in full song.
But none of that mattered all that much, strange to say. You didn't need the ceremony. As Jürgen Klopp said with trademark perception, it is in the head and in the heart and that's what counted. So you texted the guy you lived with 30 years ago in another lifetime when you both followed the team and shared a bit of that feeling. God, 30 years. Who would have thought?
Your favourite taxi man that you call on from time to time, he got sent one. Needless to say, he was feeling pretty damn good. You messaged friends made along the vast empty space between title No 18 and 19. The WhatsApp group a few of us created over the years which has changed names a few times, now called, 'Liverpool Fans Forever' (formerly 'Liverpool Fans Despair' or something along those lines). That became a little hotbed of activity. All those arguments over Rafa Benitez - it's over now.
Liverpool had me transfixed as a child, its players and history and people. Jimmy Magee may have had a big hand in that, when he was proudly saluting Steve Heighway and the Irish connection. A curiosity was sparked and off you went. There was Match of the Day on Saturday nights, the theme tune from The Late Late Show being the signal that the time was near. And that jingle still transports you back into that world of innocence and awe: Ray Kennedy, Souness, Rush, Keegan, I can still hear their names in my head, mingled with the noise of the crowd.
It is in the head and it is in the heart. It took many years before I got to go to Anfield, but it didn't matter. That's how it is. My son started following them because I did and then you think you have landed him in it for the rest of his life because his friends seemed to be hitched to more successful teams.
You'd feel a pinch of guilt, like you were being a bit unreasonable in not calling him aside and explaining what the options were and letting him make a sober decision based on all the facts and latest form projections.
But sure where is the fun in that, when it is all head and no heart? It is too late now anyway. It was well after closing time when Liverpool won the Champions League last year and there is no way back now after Thursday, not that you would want there to be. There is disappointment, always, and there will be more. When Coutinho left, the jersey my son got with the Brazilian's name on it suddenly became so last year. How I ranted that day about the vulgar world of merchandising and the soulless marketplace football had become.
I was in Turf Moor last year to see Burnley play Chelsea. The ground is small and parochial. There are murals to players from the past and they honour fans who have died on the big screen during the games. Burnley is a proud club in an area that once was a place of thriving coalmines but is now somewhat left behind as the world moved on. The football in Burnley is more than a game.
In Liverpool, though bigger and more successful, it hardly needs said that it is too. To go 30 years without a title which became a specialist area of achievement under Shankly and Paisley hurts to the core. They set standards appallingly abandoned in the years that followed. When does the expectation start to dwindle? Is there a chance it might never come back?
Villa don't win leagues any more. Ipswich's blue is no longer as visible as it was. Forest are found among the journeymen. Television money has created a divide and a super elite. Clubs like Burnley struggle to stay the pace. Huge cash injections can turn Man City, artificially, into something overnight, needing no more than an oligarch's conceit.
But this is from someone who felt that Barnes and Beardsley coming to Liverpool endangered what they were about, corrupting the old bootroom-up principle. Klopp has managed, in all this madness, to create something human and humble and more rooted.
He has also assembled a team of exceptional players. It took a long time and a lot of failed attempts over 30 years. If there was a legacy from the period from 1990 and before it was that nothing would rest until Liverpool were champions again. No amount of Champions League wins would remove that ache. The league to Liverpool is everything.
Sunday Indo Sport