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Mersey soil place for Pool title joy

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POWERFUL: Liverpool Football Club is the most potent emblem of the city. Photo: Getty Images

POWERFUL: Liverpool Football Club is the most potent emblem of the city. Photo: Getty Images

POWERFUL: Liverpool Football Club is the most potent emblem of the city. Photo: Getty Images

Dominic Cummings, the Tory prince of smug entitlement, would occupy the lowermost rung on any fantasy ladder of potential House of Shankly knights in shining armour.

Yet, Boris Johnson's amoral Svengali's pompous own goal might - inadvertently - prove as beneficial to Jurgen Klopp as a 25-yard Mo Salah piledriver to the top corner.

The do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do politics of privilege exposed by Cummings cavalier lockdown breach - defended with trademark vacuous bluster by BoJo - is despised by Kopites as red in the polling booth as when Saturday comes.

Liverpool's industrial roots combined with the cruel, class-informed Thatcherite reaction to Hillsborough feed an ingrained and unbreakable Conservative/establishment loathing as deep as the waters of the stilled Mersey docks.

John Aldridge, forever haunted by that dystopian Sheffield afternoon in April 1989, sums up the prevailing mood in one cutting testimony summoned from his Scouse core: "Thatcher hated Liverpool as a city, hated Ireland as a country and had no time for football at all."

Constituencies

In last year's General Election, the city's constituencies from Walton (84.68pc Labour) to Riverside (78.16pc) swam against the national Tory tide in huge, unequivocal numbers.

Enmity runs both ways. It may be simplistic and clichéd to shine a light on an innate Old Etonian wariness of working class towns like Liverpool, but that doesn't make it untrue.

Authority's deep-seated suspicion of the city - as much as Covid-19 containment measures - always seemed at the heart of early calls to shift any fixture where Liverpool might win the Premier League far from their heartland.

The subtext was as outrageous as it was self-evident: These people can't be trusted to do the right thing.

Despite the Mersey police insisting they had absolutely no issue with Premier League games being staged in the city's two historic coliseums, the move to shutter Goodison (for the derby game) and Anfield gathered momentum.

The justification, the one that said supporters might gather in huge numbers outside the stadia, thereby breaching social distancing rules and, potentially, exposing themselves and others to the coronavirus, always seemed a tad lame.

It wasn't only Liverpool's more paranoid sons and daughters who adjudged the policy as one more two-fingers from the ruling classes to the black sheep city by the Irish Sea.

And, then, Cummings jumped in his car and drove the length of England.

The author of so much of the toxic statecraft, for which the Kop is such a frigid cold house, might just as well have broken into a chorus of "You'll Never Walk Alone".

Unwittingly, he has almost certainly ensured that the title ache Liverpool have waited a 30-year eternity to soothe will not unspool in lonely exile.

The moment he turned the ignition key (or, at least, the moment he was caught) for his voyage to Durham, flouting the very lockdown rules he had authored, was the moment the UK government ceded all moral authority to exile Liverpool's coronation.

Oliver Dowden, the UK's sports minister, recognised this on Saturday. In effectively passing the decision on match venues down to the individual cities of the clubs involved, he ensured Liverpool will have the chance to win the title in their own city.

It might be in the derby match at Goodison on Saturday fortnight or the home game that follows at Crystal Palace.

But it will not be in some forlorn, far-flung outpost, one with no links to the club or the city.

The symbolism of this matters intensely.

Liverpool Football Club is the most potent emblem of an Industrial Revolution town which, from the time its population was swelled by a cavalcade of Irish famine-time emigrants, has dwelt on the margins.

With apologies to Evertonians, the white Liver Bird set against a crimson background above the letters LFC is the national flag of a conurbation that has always imagined itself less a city than a kind of independent republic.

Cultural

Bill Shankly, Kenny Dalglish and Jurgen Klopp - none of them natives - are the town's cultural leaders, sun kings for a place that has known its share of darkness. The state of the football club largely dictates the mood of the city.

That the Kop and the rest of the stands must be closed to supporters at this high-water mark in history - two wins will secure a first title since 1990 - feels like a small cruelty in a time of joy that will invade the Liverpool bones. To then be summarily ordered out of their own city felt like a kick in the teeth designed to inflict maximum damage.

Arfon Jones, a senior British police officer, was so outraged by the decision that he filed a Freedom of Information request to discover the justifcation behind such thinking.

An expert in these matters, he was unequivocal in his withering verdict: "The push to play at neutral venues is nonsense and is not supported by evidence."

Jones could see the creeping authoritarianism, even the hint of a kind of cultural apartheid, underpinning the thinking.

But, though nothing has yet been officially declared, it seems the absurdist policy is set for imminent abandonment. An announcement revealing as much could followtomorrow's latest meeting of Premier League clubs.

Klopp, such a consistently impressive, emotionally intelligent figurehead, understood the delicacies of the situation when he chose last week not to make a major issue out of any potential dislocation.

But he may flash those famous pearly whites if, as expected, the neutral venue concept is quietly binned. His contribution to the resurrection of Liverpool deserves an Anfield, or Goodison, coronation.

Jordan Henderson should climb the football podium on Mersey soil. It would not even seem so preposterous, in a time of such giddy celebration, if he included a Tory dark lord in his thank you speech.