Liverpool Celtic Connection – Is There One? (Discussed)

Celtic and Liverpool flags

Having written a blog post looking at the relationship between Liverpool and Rangers, I thought it was only fair I even it up by looking at the other side of Glasgow.

So is there a connection between Liverpool and Celtic?

To me there seems to be a more natural link between Liverpool and Celtic, but am I right?

Well, let’s find out.

Is There A Liverpool Celtic Connection?

Liverpool and Celtic do share a bond in many ways. Both have strong Irish followings, both had their histories shaped by Scottish managers, they share two of the same songs, and Kenny Dalglish is a hero at both clubs. On top of this the first game Liverpool played after Hillsborough was a charity match at Parkhead against Celtic.

Glasgow and Liverpool Are Similar Cities

We covered this in our article on the Liverpool Rangers connection, but Liverpool is often referred to as the English city most like Glasgow.

They are both working-class cities built upon the industries brought to them by the rivers they sit on, Liverpool being the Mersey and Glasgow being the Clyde.

Both tend to lean towards the left politically and both are known for residents with broad accents and a jovial sense of humour.

And each city of course is home to two big football clubs.

Both Have a Strong Irish Connection

The Irish Potato Famine of 1849 led to many people leaving the country to seek a better life across the Irish Sea.

A vast majority of them made new homes in Liverpool, with it located just across the water from Dublin. In fact, it is estimated that within a decade Irish citizens made up 40% of Liverpool’s population.

That is why, to this day, Liverpool still has a huge Irish following.

At the same time, Glasgow was even closer to Belfast, so large numbers of Irish people flocked to the west coast of Scotland and took up residence there.

In fact, when Celtic was founded in 1887, it was by an Irishman Andrew Kerins, better known as Brother Walfrid.

The club was actually formed with the purpose of alleviating poverty in the immigrant Irish population in the East End of Glasgow and the name, Celtic, was intended to reflect the club’s Irish and Scottish roots.

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Liverpool and Celtic Share the Same Songs

Both Liverpool and Celtic share the same popular fan anthem, You’ll Never Walk Alone.

Despite it being written by Rodgers and Hammerstein for the 1945 musical Carousel, it was the Liverpool band Gerry and the Pacemakers that popularised it in 1963.

The group released it as a single, and it reached number one in the UK Singles Chart, staying there for four weeks.

Prior to games at Anfield the stadium DJ would play the top 10 records in descending order, culminating in the number one single being played just before kick-off.

The Liverpool crowd would sing along to each song. Except with You’ll Never Walk Alone something different happened.

When it dropped out of the top 10, the fans didn’t forget it, instead they would launch into it just before kick-off paying no attention to the new number one!

It had become forever associated with the club.

Then a couple of years later Celtic and Liverpool were pitted against each other in the semi-finals of the 1965/66 European Cup Winners Cup.

Liverpool would win the two-legged tie, and then lose to Borussia Dortmund in the Final, but Celtic left the competition with something. A new song.

After hearing You’ll Never Walk Alone at Anfield in the second leg of the semi-final, Celtic adopted it and started playing it before their home games.

But whilst Celtic ‘borrowed’ You’ll Never Walk Alone from Liverpool, Liverpool did the same with a song traditionally associated with Celtic.

The Fields of Athenry is an Irish folk ballad about a family torn apart because the husband stole corn to feed his family during the Irish potato famine in the mid-19th century.

It was written in 1979 and as the 1980s progressed it was picked up by some of Ireland’s sporting teams, culminating in it being sung widely during the Republic of Ireland’s successful first-ever World Cup campaign in 1990.

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By now the strong Irish-Scottish community had picked up on it too, and it was being sung before Celtic home games. 

In 1995 Liverpool travelled to Celtic for a pre-season friendly. Liverpool fan Gary Ferguson, who was in attendance that day, was so impressed by the song when it was belted out pre-match he set about re-writing the lyrics without the religious undertones.

The adapted song made its way onto the terraces at Anfield, and today it is probably second only to You’ll Never Walk Alone in terms of popularity amongst the fans.

In fact, it is so synonymous with Liverpool that in 2009 local musician John Power penned a third verse and the song was released as a charity single to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Hillsborough.

Hillsborough

Perhaps there is no stronger indication of the bond between the two clubs, than the fact that on 30 April 1989, two weeks after the tragedy of Hillsborough, Celtic hosted Liverpool in a friendly game.

The match was the first Liverpool had played since the disaster, and was organised to raise funds for the families of those affected, and also to show solidarity between Celtic and Liverpool.

Over 60,000 supporters packed Parkhead for the event, with fans coming together for an emotional rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone.

Pre-match a Celtic fan laid a floral tribute at the Celtic end of the ground, a tradition that is carried on every year to this day at the nearest Celtic home game to the anniversary of the event.

At the time Liverpool Chairman John Smith said: “Over the years we have had a happy relationship with Celtic but that relationship has become much warmer today. I can’t speak too highly of the warmth between the two clubs and also between the two cities.”

A Connection Through Players and Managers

There have only been nine players that have pulled on the famous green and white of Celtic and the famous red and white of Liverpool since the war.

But they have been some big names including Craig Bellamy, Gary Gillespie, Stephane Henchoz, Robbie Keane, Frank McGarvey, Kolo Toure and Virgil Van Dijk.

But of course, the most famous of them all, and the reason why many Celtic fans have a soft spot for Liverpool and vice-versa, is King Kenny Dalglish.

After eight years, 338 appearances and 173 goals he left Celtic in 1977 to join Liverpool.

His impact was even bigger there and when he retired in 1990 he had played 515 times for Liverpool and scored 172 goals. 

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Then there are two managers who shaped the future of each club. Two men who were similar in a number of ways.

Both Bill Shankly and Jock Stein were working-class Scotsmen who worked in coal mines before getting their break in football.

Shankly was the only manager of an English team to attend the Estadio Nacional on 25 May 1967 when Celtic beat Inter Milan in the Final of the European Cup to become the first British team to win the competition.

The bond between Celtic fans and Liverpool was undoubtedly strengthened by the pivotal role a born and bred Scotsman played in the history of the team.

Final Thoughts

When I was researching the question on Celtic and Liverpool forums, there were a number of fans who claimed there was no link between the two teams.

The argument was put forward that there are Celtic and Liverpool fans, just as there are Celtic and Manchester United fans, or Celtic and Everton fans or Liverpool and Rangers fans.

And that is undoubtedly true.

But I think the evidence points to somewhat of a connection between the two clubs, certainly more so than between Rangers and Liverpool.

There is the strong Irish following, the same songs, King Kenny and of course the fact Liverpool’s first game after Hillsborough was a charity game against Celtic.

Maybe the Liverpool Celtic connection is not as strong as it was in previous decades, but I do think it exists.


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