Out Of Town supporters of English football clubs like Liverpool F.C.

I got a question from one of the other contributors to this blog, “I’m always interested in how Non-Scousers fell in love with Liverpool. How you keep in touch, feelings about the OOT shouts and how that makes you feel, etc”

My response: “OOT shouts? What do you mean?”

The explanation I was given; Out of town supporters. Sometimes OOTs are derided by born & bred Scousers as not true Reds.”

Dear me! Or rather, oh dear? I’m chuckling here as I sit. And where do I sit? Right now I am sitting in a good chair. Everything is quiet. I have a bit of a cold. It is four o’clock in the morning. 4am and I can see we are heading towards Autumn here after a chilly and rather wet summer. No midnight sun no more. Two months from now, winter is coming.

It’s not daylight yet, and this is just north of the Arctic circle. It’s autumn here. Some 100 km from the closest town Bodø – a small town with a population of no more than 40.000 inhabitants – a town well-known for one thing only, and that is a football club called Bodø/Glimt: the first North Norwegian football club that achieved some success here in Norway, winning the cup trophy in 1975 as the first North Norwegian club in history to ever win a national trophy.

Quite naturally I am a fan of Bodø/Glimt, although not a very passionate supporter. I do not actually live in Bodø. I live close by, that’s all, in a little village to the south east called Rognan. 2.500 people live in this village, and I certainly look forward to moving away from this little hell hole. Oh, don’t ask! It’s a very long and complicated story.

I have been a Liverpool supporter – a hardliner in that respect – ever since I was nine years old. This club is my club. Bodø/Glimt is nothing more than a local curiosity. There are tens of thousands – or rather hundreds of thousands of people just like me. People from a little village, a small town or a bigger town, who have this local curiosity they follow in the summer months, but don’t really care much about unless they themselves actually are from a variety of Norwegian towns with a team that has a history and real foothold in the area.

Oslo has a few such clubs, Drammen has one, Skien has one, Kristiansand has one, Stavanger has one, Bergen has one, Molde has one, Trondheim has one, Bodø has one, and Tromsø has one.

There are other smaller towns that also host a big club of their own, alright, but every supporter of this one club in question will quite naturally also have a club in England that resides close to their hearts, be it Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham, Arsenal, West Ham, Queens Park Rangers, Newcastle, Wolverhampton, Stoke, Aston Villa, Sheffield United, Southampton or Portsmouth. Norwich or Ipswich. Whatever. Whichever. Every club will have a fan base in Norway. Everton, yes, Manchester City, yes. Leicester City, Nottingham Forest, Derby County, Coventry, Chelsea, Millwall, Notts County, you name it, the answer is yes. Oh, I must never forget Barnet. Little Barnet has a large fan base in Oslo.

It all began around the time I was born. I am forty five years old, and that was about the same time as the first English Saturday matches were being broadcast live on Norwegian televison. At first all the matches from where TV cameras would be providing Norwegian viewers a chance to watch an English first division match live on TV on Saturdays, would always be played in the Midlands. It became easy for Norwegian viewers to become fans of clubs in the Midlands from the early stages of the 1970s and onwards.

Liverpool F.C. then. The very first Norwegian fans of Liverpool would have to be people who were young and took a keen interest in football in the 1960s. 1966 is a big year for Norwegians, too. That was when Geoff Hurst scored a hat-trick in the World Cup final at Wembley and West Germany were beaten. As a matter of fact, I did see young Norwegian supporters of many teams being desperate and almost in tears when Norway shockingly beat England on September 9, 1981.

The 2-1 victory certainly made it look like England once again would fail to qualify for the World Cup, this time in Spain. A few of these people were friends of mine who were Liverpool supporters like myself. Kevin Keegan was the captain, Terry McDermott made an error which made it easy for Hallvar Thoresen to score quite a typical Thoresen goal. Tom Lund’s cross into the box a little later made Ray Clemence look a bit silly as Roger Albertsen stood in front of him and the ball went into the net behind Liverpool’s former keeper. Phil Neal didn’t play well. Neither did Phil Thompson.

One English player seemed very good: West Brom’s young midfielder Bryan Robson. Many Norwegian players played as good as expected of them. Many others played much better than anyone expected. Norway were closer to winning by 4-1 than England were to equalize. It was simply amazing, yet there were Norwegians in front of television screens who were weeping a little. At a later stage in life, Hallvar Thoresen came to admit his dream always was to play for Arsenal as he had been an Arsenal supporter for ages. Well, he started out for Larvik Turn, but moved to The Netherlands and Twente Enchede as a youth player.

It didn’t take long for him to become a better player. Arnold Mühren (later Ipswich Town and Manchester United) had a very great influence on Hallvar Thoresen’s development. He was signed by PSV Eindhoven and became a big star in The Netherlands, playing alongside Ruud Gullit and other well-known players as his career there became longer, he became better and many trophies were won. Liverpool’s own Glenn Hysén was also a teammate of the Norwegian forward and Arsenal supporter for a while.

I was nine years of age when I became a Liverpool supporter in 1980 – November or thereabout. I lived in a small North Norwegian village. There were many Liverpool supporters in my age group. Some were Everton supporters, some were Manchester United supporters.

Among the folks a little older then me, there were Liverpool supporters, too, then also some Stoke supporters, Leeds supporters, Q.P.R. supporters, Birmingham supporters, Aston Villa supporters, Nottingham Forest supporters, Ipswich supporters, Norwich supporters and so on. After a while I got to know some local Manchester United supporters. I was among those having a weekly go at them as Liverpool kept winning and Manchester United did the opposite. Glory days!

From 1984 – 1992, I believe, I had a few penpals in Merseyside. Three girls around my own age. One in Southport, one in Skelmersdale and one in the city of Liverpool, I don’t remember where. Some upper middleclass district. I didn’t quite get along with the upper middle class girl, and after a year or so we stopped writing letters to one another. I kept in touch with Melanie in Skelmersdale and Vicky in Southport for many years. We didn’t have many things in common, apart from the fact that we were all Liverpool supporters. In 1988 I got a special gift from Vicky. Just a big sheet of white paper with twenty autographs or more. Almost the entire Liverpool squad. Fabulous!

Vicky had asked all these players to sign this paper for her to give away as a gift to a Norwegian supporter. I wasn’t all that interested in these autographs, but many people wanted to buy this sheet of paper from me. I didn’t sell it. No way! It was kept in my belongings until I moved to Trondheim as a student in the autumn of 1990. It must have been one of the first of the many old belongings of mine that got lost as I were moving from place to place in Trondheim. It wasn’t too important, but okay. It was great fun having this valuable sheet of paper for as long as I did.

I have only spent one day in Liverpool together with my penpal Vicky in the early summer of 1990, as my North Norwegian high school class went for a school journey to England. We were based in London. As the others went to Oxford and Windsor for a day trip, I was allowed to visit my friend in Merseyside instead. Vicky and I walked around town, from pub to pub in Liverpool. I talked to all sorts of people, amongst them an old man at a local working class pub who showed me pictures he had in his wallet. Pictures from World War 2, when he was in North Norway. Pictures of the ship, snow and all. Very interesting.

The old man also told me about the veterans’ protests taking place at the time. He was among the protesters. He refused to receive any pension, as the veterans’ pensions amounted to close to nothing anyway. Then later we went to Anfield. I bought a brand new coffee cup there. The last Liverpool F.C. League Champions memorial cup ever made. 1989/90.

Well, anyway. There are hundreds of thousands of Norwegians to whom my story will sound very familiar. People who have followed an English football club and supported this club through thick and thin since they were school boys and school girls. Little children. I believe the vast majority of these very true supporters of any English club have never actually watched a single football match involving their favourite club from the stands of a British stadium.

I certainly haven’t. I do have a few supporters club mates and other good friends who have been in England and watched Liverpool play a few games. Some at Anfield, others at other stadiums. I don’t know any of the rich supporters who I can understand might be mocked in Merseyside at times. I don’t have to ask myself a question like “how would I personally know any one of them?” No, that would be impossible for me.

I know, of course, there are plenty of Scousers who just cannot afford to buy tickets for many home games at Anfield. When they see these rich people from Norway and other Scandinavian countries coming to Liverpool a Saturday morning driving a rented car (not exactly a Rent-A-Wreck deal) rented at the airport in Manchester only to take them to Liverpool for a good lunch and a couple of pints before the home match kicks off, then after the match enjoying a very good dinner at a first class restaurant, take a stroll in the streets of the inner city, find their rented cars parked in a very convenient location, drive back to Manchester and take a late evening flight back to Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger or Trondheim thinking to themselves ‘that was a very good match!’ or possibly ‘f**k it, we should have won that match!’ … yes, I certainly can understand that some of these very rich and extremely foreign fans may be spotted at Anfield too often …

Some of these Scandinavian football tourists can easily be seen as responsible parties when serious questions like the price a Scouse fan Merseyside born and bred needs to pay for a season ticket. On the other hand it must also be understood that one cannot be a global force of a football club at the same time as having local fans only. Yet the issue has been going on for many, many years already. The football tourists do not know the songs.

Also, the football tourists do not quite feel like the locals do. The football tourists’ attitude is a bit different. Plenty of things. And the football tourists do not leave the stadium in time, either. They want the complete experience of being at Anfield for a home game against, say, Tottenham, Stoke, West Brom, Newcastle or (hey, hey!) Everton? Manchester United? There are many factors here.

Norwegians constitute the largest Non-English group of LFC customers. Norway has the largest mass of Liverpool fans in terms of per capita of country population. Norwegians also constitute the largest group of foreigners that visit Anfield. It’s not only Norwegians though. Swedes and Danes travel, too. Finns, Dutchmen, Belgians and Germans.

But please realise, my dear Scouse friends and readers, there are millions of Liverpool supporters around the world who have never even been to England. Some of us may have been in England a couple of times in our lives. There are quite an unbelievable number of us around, and we all watch as many Liverpool matches on TV as we can possibly do. Being a Liverpool supporter in Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland isn’t a joke. Far from it. As supporters we are all as serious as any Scouse supporter can be.

Some few of us foreign supporters – Liverpool supporters from childhood and onwards – have been lucky enough to get to play for their favourite club: Liverpool. Most famously Jari Litmanen made a name for himself in Amsterdam and Ajax. When he was signed by Liverpool he must have been just feeling like flown to somewhere above to moon and into the galaxy.

As a kid his idol and childhood role model was Kenny Dalglish. The big star of the team he most fervently supported. As his most obvious shirt number of choice was taken, he wanted shirt number 17. That one was taken. As was shirt number 27. Jari Litmanen’s shirt number had to be 37. I can guarantee you all Jari Litmanen felt much the same things as people like Tommy Smith, Phil Thompson and Steven Gerrard felt when they made their home debut in front of an audience of young and old fans like themselves. A feeling that must be just amazing.

Written by Magne Leo Karlsen (@MagneLeoKarlsen)

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