Interview: Jeff Goulding

The Anfield Talk’s Chris (@EmreCanderson) sat down with Jeff Goulding, the author of Red Odyssey, an affection history of Liverpool FC.

Red Odyssey can be purchased here.

The Anfield Talk: So, first off, tell us a bit about yourself and about the book, Red Odyssey.

Jeff Goulding: I was born in Liverpool in 1967 and have lived here ever since. I’ve been supporting and watching the Reds for more than 40 years, and in that time I have seen them win everything. The game I grew up following was very different than it is today, of course. In the 70s and 80s I felt much closer to the club and standing on the Kop was an almost religious experience. However, as I’ve grown older and more cynical I found myself questioning what it was I actually supported. The club seemed distant and successive ownership dramas, attempted ticket price hikes and increasingly obscene player wages made me wonder what it was all about. The book reflects my journey from childhood wonder to cynical middle age and back again. 

In researching the stories that have gone into the book, I’ve rediscovered my love for the club. I’ve also come to realise that, in the end, most of us connect with the club through it’ many stories, heroes and tales of adventure. I hope those reading it can also rediscover that sense of childish wonder at following our club.

TAT: Was there any specific inspiration behind the book?

JG: The main inspiration for the book was the 125 year anniversary of the club. However, I was keen not to write a historical text book, with lots of notes and academic references. It’s a book of 125 short stories, if you like. I also wanted it to tell the story of the club through the eyes of the supporters and heroes who built it. Hopefully it provides the reader with a unique perspective on one of the biggest sporting institutions on the planet.

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The more I wrote, the more I realised that our story was like an odyssey, an epic tale full of heroes and villains, great battles and tragedies, victories and defeats and glorious homecomings. Not to mention conquering heroes returning from adventures on foreign shores, arms laden with treasure. That’s where the title comes from, it’s about our epic Red Odyssey.

TAT: Who’s your favourite Liverpool player and why?

JG: We are blessed at this club. There are so many truly incredible players who have graced the turf at Anfield. However, my all time favourite is Kenny Dalglish. As a player he was immense, but obviously went on to be a great manager too. His contribution goes way beyond even that though, and having rebuilt the club’s reputation in the aftermath of Heysel and then shouldering the enormous responsibility of carrying the club following the Hillsborough disaster, his legacy is beyond compare.

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TAT: What’s your favourite Liverpool memory?

JG: Again, so many to choose from. I guess I’d have to say full time in the 2005 semi final against Chelsea, at Anfield. Of course the final itself was incredible, but that moment when the referee called time on such an emotionally draining encounter, after six exhausting minutes of injury time, when I realised that after 20 years we were back at the top table – that will live with me forever. The noise too. That sound was incredible and it really had to be experienced to be believed – I can’t find the words.

TAT: What are your thoughts on the current Liverpool team, and how this season has gone so far?

JG: The improvement is there for all to see. I genuinely believe we are on the cusp of something truly special. This team is more exciting than Houllier’s, more attack minded than Rafa’s and far more reliable that Rodgers’. With another season under their belts and a couple more top quality additions in the summer, I really think we might have one of the best Liverpool teams of my lifetime.I recognise that’s a bold claim, but I really believe it.

I think this season has been about consolidating that place in the top four. It’s a shame we haven’t really challenged City more though. It’s really easy to point to a number of results that could and perhaps should have gone the other way. The Chelsea game at Anfield, Arsenal at the Emirates, Everton grabbing an unlikely point and that late penalty for Spurs are just a few moments where you feel, had we had a little more luck, the season could look a whole lot better. That tells me we aren’t that far off mounting a serious challenge. Of course, reaching the quarter final of the Champions League is also a good barometer of our progress.

TAT: How did you first get into writing?

JG: I’ve been a story teller for as long as I can remember. I first started writing stuff down in my teens, but didn’t make a serious attempt at being published until much later. I initially worked on producing fiction and horror was my genre of choice. I had some modest success publishing stories online and got a short story published in an anthology. That gave me the impetus to keep going. I published my first Liverpool F.C. related piece on This is Anfield almost 10 years ago and have written extensively for them, and sites such as The Liverpool Way, as well as fanzines like the late great We Are Liverpool ever since. 

I try to write creatively and infuse as much emotion into the words as I can. I like to think there’s an air of the story teller in my football articles too, but not much horror I hope. I’m not sure I could stop now, even if I wanted to. Writing keeps me sane.

TAT: Any advice you’d have for aspiring writers?

JG: I’d say you have to enjoy it. Even when I’m writing a piece that challenges me, I still relish it and the sense of achievement when it’s done makes the struggle worthwhile. There are obviously pieces where objectivity is required. However, there’s usually room for passion in all forms of writing. 

If you can find a subject matter that really grips you, makes you angry, pissed off or deliriously happy, and let those emotions seep into your work, your writing will be all the more compelling for it. I think people want to believe the writer gives a shit about what they are saying. They may not agree with you, but if they feel the passion in your words they’ll be entertained as well as informed. 

In addition, listen to your critics. You can learn from all of them, even the downright horrible ones. However, never let them stop you from writing and progressing. It’s all about perseverance and sheer bloody mindedness.

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