Nobody else does hero worship quite like the Kop. Indeed ‘the King of the Kop’ has long been a title bestowed only on the very best of those fortunate enough to wear the red shirt and for Luis Suarez it seemed the crown might fit, or at least that is how it was meant to be.
Every club or country has ‘that’ special shirt they adore, whether it be the Newcastle number 9 donned by Milburn and Shearer, the Dutch 14 graced by the great Cruyff, or the Argentinean 10 made great of course by none other than the greatest of them all, Diego Maradonna and more recently the imperious Lionel Messi. Indeed some shirts seem to take on a greater significance for the fans as a result of what other men did to make them great. There are just those shirt numbers synonymous with brilliance and here in Liverpool it is undoubtedly the number 7. After Clough, Kewell and McManaman deciding to leave in between them two, we finally had a man befitting of that famous number once more. Following in the footsteps of Liddell, St John, Keegan and Dalglish, Luis Suarez didn’t just possess all the capabilities of a player able to fill those boots, he was chosen to do so.
In the aftermath of that bite on Branislav Ivanovic and the disproportionate 10 match ban dished out by the FA, those on the Kop gathered to unite in support of the new heir to the throne. It is this kind of unconditional loyalty towards Luis Suarez by the Kop, holding him out as somebody who despite all his pitfalls and character flaws, will always be afforded a redemption he will find in no other place. See it’s a unique quality of the supporters of Liverpool and of the city’s people generally, that they look after their own when everybody else in the country is doing otherwise.
It was the next home game following that dramatic two all draw with Chelsea, a Merseyside derby no less, when the “Garra Charrua” banner was unfurled; an old South American saying which translates to mean “to get victory in the face of certain defeat”. It was a show of solidarity behind the number 7, which the Kop wanted the world and in particular Snr Suarez to see.
It is hard to explain just what Suarez has done to deserve such loyalty or recognition but if you’ve ever seen him kick a football then you’d know he celebrates and plays just like a fan would. His celebration away at Chelsea in the reverse fixture last season when he scored a headed equalizer in front of the travelling Liverpool fans was done with as much emotion as if the sky camera had panned to even the most fanatical Kopite. It almost seemed detached from what was happening on the pitch when the rest of those in red simply trotted back to the half way line to leave Suarez celebrating alone. That’s just what it means to the man.
It is these components of Suarez’s character such as his will to win and child-like enthusiasm for the game, not to mention his world class ability, that mean rightly or wrongly he will always garner support from his own fans.
Even after a summer of headlines in which the club and its supporters had to endure one story after another about Suarez making his feelings known so publically that he wanted to elave, the Anfield crowd still managed to sing his name at the pre-season friendly against Bayer Leverkusen, a game in which the national press watched with bated breath whilst listening out for a chorus of boos. A sound that much to their surprise, was never heard.
That Luis Suarez should be dining at the top table of European football is not in any doubt, a fact acknowledged by skipper Steven Gerrard when making an appearance on Sky’s Goals on Sunday last season “Luis Suarez deserves to be playing Champions League football” was the blunt and ever honest remark of the Liverpool captain.
Ironic then that Suarez himself has recently come out to place on record his gratitude to Gerrard for persuading him to stay at the club he seemed so desperate to leave just two months ago.