Alex Mansfield - Liverpool Fan
Liverpool Fan & host the LFC Transfer Room Podcast on Anfield Index
FATC: What made you first fall in love with football?
AM: It was the first sport I ever played, even in the States. For the life of me, I don’t know who steered me in that direction or why, but I’m eternally grateful he/she did. I grew up idolizing our local semi-pro teams (the New Mexico Chiles and the New Mexico Geckos) — went to every game, bought every program, learned as much as I could about every player. When the team was bought up and moved to Sacramento, I was devastated. I don’t think it’s much of a coincidence that, a few years later, my interest in playing the game began to wain a bit.
FATC: How did you come to support Liverpool?
AM: Oddly enough, it was watching Steven Gerrard in a World Cup qualifier in 2002. I’d stopped playing competitive football for a few years and was strictly playing for fun with my buddies, but something about the way Gerrard played the game — the power, the poise, the intent — just had me transfixed. All I could think was “That’s how I imagine the game being played.” There wasn’t much exposure to the Premier League in the States at the time, but I did my best to follow the Reds just so I could follow Gerrard at club level. It wasn’t too long before I was endeared to the club as a whole.
FATC: What are your earliest football memories?
AM: Chaos and orange slices! Only half-jokingly…
But seriously, the first truly indelible memory for me is of the first standout player I ever saw. I couldn’t have been more than 6 years old at the time, playing for a team called the Tigers with glowing orange kits. We knew next to nothing of positions and even less of strategy — all we wanted to do was have a turn with the ball. So when that whistle blew, we invariably clustered around the ball amid rabid shouts from our parents and did our best to get a slice of the pie. Somehow, no matter what direction we were going, no matter how many pairs of legs were frantically kicking out around that lonely size 3, there was always one player who managed to emerge with it and break free from the pack — she was the only girl in the league. And my god was she good! While the rest of us waddled and trotted after the ball, she bounded. She scored goals by the hatful. She actually KNEW what she was doing — it was as incredible as it was humbling. Though it was a modest and comparatively unimpressive sample, I can definitely say I’ve never seen a player that far above the competition.
FATC: What is the hardest thing about being a Liverpool fan?
AM: The weight of the shirt. It sounds petty — if not borderline stupid — coming from a fan, but in the midst of a relatively barren run like we’ve had in the past few decades, it’s hard not to reflect back on fonder times. But with that comes the inevitable question: what happened to us? I think following a club with such a rich history and tradition not only creates those sometimes unrealistic expectations, but it also creates a bit of an inferiority complex that makes it difficult to enjoy anything other than results. I credit Jürgen Klopp with helping to diffuse this stigma a bit since his arrival, as the overall footballing experienced he’s managed to deliver has remarkably helped the focus over to the process as much as the outcome. Am I happy because we haven’t won any silverware? Of course not! But the path and the progression have produced this almost tangible energy that has made watching Liverpool football club an experience, once again.
FATC: What is the best thing about being a Liverpool fan?
AM: The pride. I got into the social media game pretty late, and I wasn’t exactly surrounded by fellow Liverpool supporters growing up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. But since I’ve tapped into this ever-expanding network of Reds, it’s reminded me of how powerful that camaraderie can be, especially when you’re united by a universal language like football — or in this case, a specific dialect like Liverpool. Every corner of the football world has incredible fans, and every fan base is likely to be equal parts biased and naive about the value of their club and their peers, so this might come across as a stock answer. But I can tell you what solidified my awe of the Liverpool community — sitting in a parking lot outside the Big House in Ann Arbor on a sweltering summer day, nestled beneath a tent with Reds on all sides of me, listening to the collective bellow of “Allez, Allez, Allez” with Jamie Webster at the helm. I was pouring sweat, I was cooking from the inside out, yet I had goosebumps the likes of which I’ve never had in my life.
FATC: What is your favourite football memory?
AM: Watching the Champions League home leg against City. Klopp’s mantra since day one has been about belief — mine has grown by the day, but I genuinely wasn’t sure we had the mettle and the savvy to hold off such an indomitable force. Not only did we hold them off, but we eviscerated them in one of those 20-minute spurts that defined our 17/18 campaign. I was watching the game at work and when Oxlade-Chamberlain fired that absolute salvo in front of the Kop end, I knew I was watching something special. We’ve been fortunate enough to have several of those moments in the Klopp era, but that was a moment that, for me, truly transcended more than a decade of following this football club.
FATC: What is your worst football memory?
AM: This one is actually rooted more in empathy than anything else, but I was in England during the 2004 Euros and happened to be there for that fateful loss to Portugal — more specifically, that fateful penalty loss to Portugal. I didn’t really have a dog in that fight, so I was watching strictly for the sake of the football. But few things I’ve experienced as a sports fan will stay with me the way that cumulative devastation will. The anguish I saw on the television could only be matched by the anguish I saw immediately around me. To see an entire nation shift from a state of ravenous expectation to a state of paralyzed mourning was so surreal. And it’s interesting because I’d been part of a fanbase that lost important games, part of a fanbase that had experienced seemingly comparable lows — I’d cried because of my team’s fortunes before, yet nothing resonated with me like that did. Maybe, in some way, it helped or even forced me to moderate my emotional investment in sports — I was crushed after the final in Kiev, but far more for the players than for myself as a fan. I think, ultimately, it helped me keep sport in perspective above all else.
FATC: Who is your favourite Liverpool player of all time?
AM: Roberto Firmino. There are so many legends who’ve come and gone and written their names in the annals of Liverpool history, but no one player has captivated me the way Firmino does. Everything he does from the sublime to the selfless is on another level. It’s so rare to see a player who thrives on flair and has an visible appetite for the audacious, but is willing to do all the legwork to earn those opportunities. At least not in a forward, anyhow…
I've loved how Liverpool as a club, as a city, and as a culture have come to embrace him and appreciate all that he brings. To me, he’ll ultimately come to symbolize this generation of Liverpool players, regardless of what others may go on to achieve. It might be that Klopp has finally helped point this club in the direction of its history and its success, and nobody personifies his on-field philosophy better than Bobby.
FATC: Who is your favourite non-Liverpool player of all time?
AM: For me, it’s down to Ronaldinho and Andrea Pirlo. You probably couldn’t have two more dissimilar phenotypes, but I just have far too much appreciation for what each of them brought to rank one over the other.
In Ronaldinho, I just loved the epitomization of brazen, direct football. There was only ever one thought in his mind, and it was run toward goal. Probably as gifted a player as we’ll ever see, and he had the perfect blend creativity, arrogance, and sadism. What really sets him apart from today’s crop — not to name names — is that he was totally willing to accept the consequences of humiliating an opposition defender. He knew people were going to be taking nibbles at him every time he touched the ball, and he knew that grown-ass men wouldn’t take kindly to being embarrassed. But dammit, he never went down unless he had no say in the matter…
In Pirlo, I can’t see anything but the most cerebral footballer of all time — someone who could think the game far faster than his frankly limited physical gifts could normally execute it. It was like watching someone who had a three-dimensional, real-time schematic of the pitch — his spacial awareness was almost superhuman. I’m not ashamed to say that his ball from Crespo’s second in Istanbul is my favorite pass of all time…
FATC: Kenny Dalglish or Bill Shankly?
AM: What’s the UK equivalent of the Fifth Amendment?