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Reflecting on Liverpool's 'cult heroes' (ESPN article)

by Dave Usher for ESPN


Every club has it's cult heroes, players who are a million miles away from being the star of the team yet for whatever reason command more affection from the supporters than many of the top players surrounding them do.


Cult heroes come in all shapes and sizes; there's the infectious, enthusiastic character who uses an unmatched work ethic and fierce determination to make up for what he lacks in talent; there's the easy going, fun-loving type who brings joy to the stadium; and there's the fire and brimstone, fist clenching cheerleader sort who'll get the crowd whipped up when the going gets tough.


Liverpool have probably had more cult figures than most; Kopites love to root for the underdog and are rarely shy in bestowing "cult hero" status to those players who differ somewhat from the norm. I can think of at least a dozen who have had some level of cult following among the Anfield fanbase.


Probably the earliest one I can remember is Joey Jones. Joey was an accomplished full-back for the Reds in the 1970s, but he'd be the first to admit that he was the least talented member of the side that lifted the European Cup in 1977. Yet he was unquestionably one of the most popular and for many is the very epitome of what a 'cult hero' stands for.


In a recent interview with a Liverpool fan site, Jones was asked why he was so popular with the fans: "It's not going to be because of my football skills, is it?" he answered in typical self-deprecating style.


"I appreciated playing for Liverpool Football Club because it was a boyhood dream of mine playing for the team I supported. I think the fans could identify with myself in terms of: 'If Joey can do it, maybe we can do it as well.'"


There's a story told by some older Reds of how Jones once started dancing in the middle of a game at the request of the fans! "The ball was out of play, though!" Jones explained. "They asked me to do the pogo. Sometimes I did things a modern footballer wouldn't do. I never distanced myself from the fans. I was only a fan on the pitch. I always like to be remembered like that."


Bruce Grobbelaar was another who would engage with the supporters whilst the game was in full flow. "Brucie, Brucie what's the score?" the Kop would ask in unison, and he'd reply by holding up the correct amount of fingers behind his back. He'd also occasionally walk around the edge of the penalty area on his hands, just because he felt like it. Even by 'cult hero' standards, that's taking things a little far!


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