SPION KOP 1906, An Education

There’s an old saying that’s famous amongst Liverpool FC fans and it goes “You got your education from The Kop” and this Fan Zine will give you an education on one of the most unique footballing fan groups in the world.

For young Liverpudlians who learned to sing and sway in unison with their fellow reds, for fanbases from across the globe that traded, borrowed, and straight up stole chants that were laced with equal parts pop culture reference and cruel Scouse wit, and for opposition players who so often crumbled at the hands of Anfield’s atmosphere, the famous old terrace provided a steep learning curve to follow.

Built in 1906, and named after a battle in the Boer War in which many Scousers died on a steep hill named Spioenkop, Liverpool’s Kop end has grown into a cultural icon all of its own. Through the swinging sixties, and Liverpool’s dominance of European football in the ‘70s and 80s, it gained a reputation for its raucous atmosphere, its off-the-cuff chants, homemade banners, and lighthearted haranguing of opposition players.

Kopites have long seen themselves not as owners of The Kop, but those who will eventually pass on their duties to a younger generation, whose task it will then be to evolve its traditions and shape them to whatever is happening on the pitch at Anfield, and in the wider communities across Merseyside. Now that The Reds are champions, and the links between those in the stands, and those in the boardroom, seem stronger and closer than ever, one element of Liverpool’s support is evolving.

Reviving The Atmosphere

Spion Kop 1906, formed in 2013 to help organise fan displays, and to be one of a handful of unofficial groups who deemed themselves to be some of the current custodians of The Kop, are stronger and more unified than ever, and are bringing on new, younger Kopites.

“Basically, we were just a group of lads who went home and away with Liverpool” explains Chris Hudson, a founding member of 1906, “a few of us had flags inside Anfield, and we were all dotted around the same section in The Kop. We wanted to make things better. The atmosphere in the ground was crap, and we thought if we worked together, if we got a bit of colour, a bit of tradition back in the ground, things might improve.

We decided to meet at the bottom of The Kop with our flags, to do it as a group, rather than individuals. We took it upon ourselves to start making flag displays. We just wanted to make sure everyone could enjoy the game, to make Anfield a better place, visually and in terms of atmosphere. It was that simple really.”

It’s this unique spirit of doing it for themselves and making real change that is synonymous with the scouse attitude and got this club back on top and fast-forward seven years, and a revolution has truly taken place at Anfield. Jurgen Klopp’s all-conquering Liverpool side have added to the club's already impressive European trophy tally, unbeaten in the league at home for three seasons, and finally brought home Liverpool’s most-coveted trophy, by winning the Premier League.

Solidarity Stirs Success

Off the pitch, and in the stands, things have been on a similar trajectory, and Spion Kop 1906, alongside Liverpool supporters union, Spirit of Shankly – named after Liverpool’s iconic manager who took the club from the old second division to English champions – and several other more casual, unofficial fan movements, have rejuvenated Anfield. The Kop, began to rebuild bridges with the club after a shaky period and appear closer to their heroes on the pitch than ever before.

“I'm 27, so this is something I've waited my whole life for” explains Max Stevens, another member of the group, “1906 is made up of lads who either weren't born or weren't really old enough to remember when we last won the league so this is a huge moment for all of us. It's been a long time coming. It's been amazing to finally do it.

I think now more than any other time that I can remember the same feeling flows through to the team as well, and I think that solidarity and togetherness is a key part of the recent success. We've all been brought up on the stories of Shankly, and his vision of socialism in both football and life, and it feels as though the team we have now is the closest thing to those stories we've grown up on.”

With everyone pulling in the same direction, and things on the pitch finally clicking, Spion Kop – as they always have done – have been able to turn their attention to causes beyond football, and beyond the confines of Anfield. Shankly’s socialism isn’t simply a tagline to them, and their values extend beyond slogans on red bed sheets.

Doing Things Differently

Community is obviously really important to the Kop, football is a sport that has the ability to bring a community together and The Kop is a community in itself. “We’re all part of the same city and it’s LFC that brings us together. Whether that’s keeping the atmosphere alive at Anfield, or supporting charities in the city” adds Chris, “Part of that is supporting local food banks and supporting the homeless community in Liverpool. We like to see ourselves as a unique football fan group and we like to think that we do things differently.”

The passion on display, from both Max and Chris is palpable. It’s not just for the football club, but it’s for the city itself. It’s for Liverpool and it’s people. It’s one and the same to them, and to everyone in Spion Kop 1906.

So, what’s next? They’ve seen it all. Both Chris and Max have seen their football club lift every trophy available to them, and been at the heart of a fan revolution in Anfield. What could possibly follow that?

“A huge part of what we do is protecting what we have for the next generation” adds Chris, motioning towards Sam and Lewis, and Jordi, three of Spion’s youngest members.

“We need them. We’re very fortunate to have that in a great set of young lads and girls to carry on what we do. We try to show that people don’t need to be intimidated by us, and that we are approachable, and that we’re looking for a new generation to make things better for everyone. Let’s face it, a few of us aren’t getting any younger, are we?”

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