- "I always say, rather flippantly, but it’s not a million miles from the truth, that football supplies many of the requirements that other people seek and find in religion, with the difference that you can actually see the truth of it being demonstrated on the pitch every Saturday afternoon, and that’s enormously satisfying." - John Peel
- "I find that football provides any number of useful analogies for life." - John Peel
Listeners to John Peel’s radio shows were unlikely to miss his fanatical devotion to Liverpool football team, which went as far as wearing a red and white suit at his wedding and giving his four children names that included references to the Anfield club. Favourite players, such as Kenny Dalglish, also inspired something close to worship. As a fan, Peel attended many Liverpool matches – including three European Cup finals – and was deeply affected by the disasters of Heysel and Hillsborough. In later years he went to fewer games, mostly those involving Ipswich Town, his local side, but his on-air comments left little doubt that his heart remained firmly with the Merseyside club.
From a wider perspective, the DJ seemed heartened by the emergence of the new fan culture that grew up around the game from the late 1980s, epitomised by the emergence of football fanzines. Nevertheless, he remained distrustful of the increasing commercialism of the modern game, along the motives of those who ran it, drawing a parallel with music:
- Although both are run by vulgarians with nothing but contempt for the paying customers, the product itself in both cases retains the capacity to play upon the emotions in a matter entirely beyond the understanding of said vulgarians.
In both football and music, Peel appeared reluctant to dwell too much on the past:
- I’m more concerned about what Liverpool do next Saturday than what they’ve done in the past. Their past history, although matchless, isn’t of particular interest to me … It’s the same with the music, when I say I’m more concerned about those records that I have in the back of the car that I’ll listen to this weekend than I am really even in the ones I’ve played in this week’s programmes.
Peel also played football from an early age and frequently commented that his only unfulfilled ambition in life was that he had not played for Liverpool. When asked to name a luxury as part of his contribution to Desert Island Discs, he chose a football and a wall to kick it against.
Main article: Liverpool
Peel began supporting Liverpool in 1950 at the age of ten, when the team met Arsenal in the FA Cup Final and lost 2-0. Among other consequences, this caused him to place a ban on that team's supporters coming to Peel Acres (with the exception of Robert Wyatt and Alfie), which was "lifted" only in the mid 1990s. 
Manchester United were another club that quickly earned the enmity of the youthful Peel:
- At the first boarding school I went to, there were about 80 boys. Seventy-eight of them supported (Manchester) United, I supported Liverpool and there was one boy who wasn't interested in football. So my prejudice against United has been lifelong.
Everton, Liverpool's local rivals, were also on the blacklist, with Peel apparently deciding at an early age he would never go to their Goodison Park ground, even if Liverpool were playing there. This animosity, though, did not stop him from pulling on an Everton shirt during his appearance on TV's Room 101 in order to ensure one of his suggestions was accepted by host Paul Merton. He also remained on good terms with indie music fan Pat Nevin, even after the Scottish winger joined the Goodison club from Chelsea.
In Scotland, Peel's preferred team were lowly Meadowbank Thistle (relocated and renamed Livingston FC in 1995), whose matches he would try and catch if he could. Why?
- Entirely because a group of extremely droll supporters invited me to join them for a match and subsequently took me to Hampden Park where 300 benighted souls - and that 300 includes the Queens Park enthusiasts - huddled together on the open terraces across which snow stormed and the wind shrieked in a manner that would have had Amundsen sucking his teeth apprehensively. "Give us an F," they roared. "Give us an I, give us an S, give us a U, give us an L," they continued. "What does that spell?" they wanted to know. "Fisul!" they concluded. How could I have doubted, even for a moment, but I stood and suffered with the very cream of mankind?
Peel, though, left his top Scottish team on the sidelines when he decided to give his short-lived show on Radio Luxembourg the name 'Stenhousemuir 2 : Cowdenbeath 2'.
Main article: Ipswich Town
Peel also followed the fortunes of the nearest club to his home in Suffolk from the 1970s, particularly after his wife Sheila became a big fan, and occasionally went to their matches, including a 6-1 win against Barnsley on his 60th birthday.
Peel played football at public school in Shrewsbury, as a right winger. Many years after ending his education, he continued to take part in organised matches, including for the Radio 1 team, and often used to refer to his exploits on the field during his shows.
Nevertheless, when interviewing Ian Rush in 1992, Peel was modest about his own abilities as a player:
- I was great at just kicking the ball against a wall, but not much else. The one thing that I could do was kick a ball fairly hard and accurately, so I used to take all the corners and free kicks and stuff like that, but I was never good at anything else.
The DJ, though, was able to boast to the Liverpool striker that he had himself once scored a winning goal at Wembley.
Despite the thwarting of his youthful ambitions to be a Liverpool player, Peel never seemed to quite gave up his dreams. At a special gig to celebrate his 50th birthday, however, he finally admitted:
- Think my chances of making the Liverpool side are gone now. Might still be able to get a game at one of those London clubs, though.
Football and Music
You'll Never Walk Alone
Main article: You'll Never Walk Alone
The second act ballad from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel was adopted by the Liverpool FC fans as an unofficial anthem in the early 1960s. It held great significance for John, generating in particular (unrealised) plans for an LP of cover versions by session bands.
When Peel was asked to compile his first-ever mix album, it wasn't altogether unexpected when he included personal favourite and live set staple You'll Never Walk Alone, sung by the Kop. Perhaps even less welcome for non-Reds supporters, though, was FabricLive07 kicking off with the BBC radio commentary of Alan Kennedy's winner for Liverpool in the 1981 European Cup Final, played over Asa-Chang & Junray, while 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' by Joy Division also featured Kenny Dalglish's strike in the 1978 European Cup final at Wembley - both goals that Peel had witnessed live.
- "In the past couple of years, football songs have achieved a sort of curious respectability. Apart of course from those featuring Chas & Dave." (John Peel, TV Hell: Rock Bottom, 1992)
While Peel was always more than happy to play football-related records such as 'All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit' by perennial favorites Half Man Half Biscuit, he also enjoyed the cheesier side of football music, with selections from compilations such as Flair 1989 and the Bend It series finding regular plays on his show; in April 1993, he introduced a regular slot for such items when sitting in for a week on Radio One's Jakki Brambles daytime programme.
A Peelenium 1987 choice, 'Sharp As A Needle' by Adrian Sherwood's Barmy Army project featured the winning combination of samples from You'll Never Walk Alone and radio commentary of a Kenny Dalglish goal. It also reached #17 in the 1987 Festive Fifty.
A major live set favourite, not featured on FavricLive07 but played on numerous occasions on JP's radio shows, was 'Roger Milla' by Pepe Kalle, which celebrated Cameroon's goalscoring sensation of the 1990 World Cup. In The Ingerland Factor Playlist, written in 1999, Peel described 'Kicker Conspiracy' by The Fall as "probably the best football record ever, apart from Pepe Kalle’s ‘Roger Milla’.”
On 22 January 2002, Peel played 'Sweet Water' by Jeff Astle, "one of the few footballers who made a half-decent record", to mark the passing of the former WBA and England striker.
Perhaps predictably, the Welsh indie band who wisely named themselves after Liverpool striker Ian Rush were quickly rewarded with a Peel session. Other bands he played with names related to the beautiful game include Accrington Stanley, Saint Etienne, Boa Morte, Red Star Belgrade, Van Basten, Lorimer and Bocca Juniors (sic), as well as two called Pele. Meanwhile, the moniker of punk-era stalwarts Sham 69 apparently came from a fading piece of graffiti celebrating the successful 1969 season of Walton & Hersham FC. In more recent times, former Peel show faves ballboy found themselves trending on Twitter after Chelsea player Eden Hazard was sent off for kicking a youthful volunteer member of the ground staff during an away match against Swansea.
John Peel World Cup
An annual tribute five-a-side charity tournament has been held since 2008 as part of Liverpool Sound City. This followed the John Peel Memorial Trophy event, also organized by Peter Hooton from The Farm and Philip Hayes from the city's Picket venue, which was held on Peel Day from 2005:
- 2005 John Peel Memorial Trophy
- 2006 John Peel Memorial Trophy
- 2007 John Peel Memorial Trophy
- 2008 John Peel World Cup
- 2009 John Peel World Cup
- 2010 John Peel World Cup
- 2011 John Peel World Cup
- 2012 John Peel World Cup
- 2013 John Peel World Cup
- 2014 John Peel World Cup
- 2015 John Peel World Cup
- Football (Matches Mentioned)
- Football (Known Matches Attended)
- Football (Guest Reviewers)
- Interview: On Liverpool FC, Heysel, Hillsborough
- Chain Reaction: John Peel Interviews Ian Rush (Transcript)
- Football Compilations
- FourFourTwo magazine interview, 2003: Peel discusses Liverpool FC
- Tom Ravenscroft: My Dad John Peel - The Fanatical Red
- Sheila Ravenscroft: How John Helped Liverpool Win In Istanbul
- Kicker Conspiracy: Peel at Prenton Park
- redandwhitekop.com: Peel on Football: forum thread
- Football And Music: Peel pages
- ↑ Interview, When Saturday Comes, issue 10, Sept/Oct 1987, reprinted “The First Eleven”, a retrospective of the football fanzine's first 11 issues. Perhaps more regularly, Peel made similar comments drawing a comparison between religion and supporting Liverpool. See for example, Peeling Back The Years 5 (Transcript).
- ↑ Peeling Back The Years 5 (Transcript).
- ↑ See preliminary listing of his comments on Football (Matches Mentioned).
- ↑ His children were named Alexandra Mary Anfield; Florence Victoria Shankly; Thomas James Dalglish; and William Robert Anfield Ravenscroft.
- ↑ Peel claimed to have celebrated "Dalglishmas" for many years and said Sheila had to dissuade him from asking the Scottish striker to "bless" their children. (Guardian article, 1994, republished Olivetti Chronicles, hardback, pg. 47-8). Meanwhile, a newspaper flier signed by Billy Liddell, the LFC hero of Peel's schooldays, was kept in his father's old desk and referred to as 'perhaps the most sacred item I own.'
- ↑ After being present at Heysel, he stopped going to matches for several years. On his 10 April 1989 show, in the week before Hillsborough, he told listeners he had just been to his first match since Heysel - a non-League game between Stowmarket and Histon that ended 1-1.
- ↑ Liverpool-Ipswich matches were never easy, though, for reasons of family harmony. See for example, 15 February 1992, 11 April 2001, 12 February 2002, 14 May 2002.
- ↑ In Peel's foreword to 'The 1st Eleven", he wrote that fanzines "have rekindled and redirected my enthusiasm for football in a manner I would have gauged impossible after Heysel.
- ↑ In Peel's foreword to 'The 1st Eleven", he wrote that the proposed Super League [Premiership] "still looks like a load of shite to me" and was scornful about the holding of the coming 1994 World Cup in the USA. See also his 30 July 1979 on-air comments about shirt advertising.
- ↑ From foreword to 'The 1st Eleven". See also Peel's letter to WSC about meeting FA chief Graham Kelly outside the BBC (WSC 57, Nov 1991, also available online).
- ↑ Peeling Back The Years 5 (Transcript).
- ↑ For example, see both Chain Reaction: David Gedge Interviews John Peel (Transcript) and Chain Reaction: John Peel Interviews Ian Rush (Transcript).
- ↑ Margrave Of The Marshes, p. 72.
- ↑ BBC online: Funny Old Game. Peel's anti-United instincts, though, did not prevent him from selecting the Wedding Present album "George Best" as his favourite LP of 1987 (see 30 December 1987). The record was not only named after the former Old Trafford star but also featured a vintage picture of him on its cover.
- ↑ See 03 April 1979.
- ↑ This extended to playing the track "Pat Nevin's Eyes" by The Tractors. See Pat Nevin page for plays.
- ↑ See, for example, 29 December 1980, 23 March 1981, 17 August 1981
- ↑ Foreword to 'The 1st Eleven".
- ↑ See 23 December 2003. Photos of the event, including Peel wearing his Hibs shirt, can be found on ballboy's official site.
- ↑ See Football (Known Matches Attended).
- ↑ , He admitted, though, that his preferred position would have been wide on the left, like the Liverpool hero of his schooldays, Billy Liddell. (Margrave Of The Marshes, Corgi edition, p. 71-2).
- ↑ On the Sunday before his show of 29 September 1980, for example, he apparently played in Norwich, where Peter Powell scored a great goal and Peel himself had a few unsuccessful "digs" but also executed a brilliant cross.
- ↑ See Chain Reaction: John Peel Interviews Ian Rush (Transcript). As related in Margrave Of The Marshes (hardback, p. 52) the ability to kick the ball hard was something Peel had also practiced in the garden at home with younger brother Alan in goal: "With the ruthlessness and, I like to think, skill of a practiced executioner, I would turn and whack the ball straight at Alan. It usually hit him and carried him into the hedge. and when he had pulled himself out, he would run sobbing into the house..."
- ↑ Chain Reaction: John Peel Interviews Ian Rush (Transcript).
- ↑ 29 August 1989. Nevertheless, three years later, after LFC lost 5-1 against Coventry, he was wondering whether his services still might be needed (19 December 1992).
- ↑ See also FourFourTwo: Half Football, Half Rock, All Genius for a discussion of football in HMHB lyrics, as well as the HMHB Lyrics Project, including the Lists page for footballers mentioned and the Shit Band, No Fans page for HMHB lyrics inspired by football chants. Many examples can also be cited from The Fall, from 'Kicker Conspiracy' to 'Theme From Sparta FC'. The latter, #2 in the 2003 Festive Fifty and #1 in a different version in the 2004 Festive Fifty following Peel's death, was included on the posthumous release John Peel: A Tribute. It was also used as the background music for the BBC's Saturday afternoon football roundup and Mark E Smith was subsequently invited onto the programme to deliver that day's scores, as you can see here. .
- ↑ See Peel Is Brambles and Football Compilations.
- ↑ Peel praised its inclusion in the annual chart in an article (probably in the Observer available online at rocklist.net. On the 19 December 2000 special quiz show to mark 25 years of the Festive Fifty, he commented that the record should have been higher than #17 in 1987. Back on 29 December 1987, he had suggested he would have made it #1.
- ↑ See 08 November 2001
- ↑ The original record had been played on the 03 March 2004 show. According to Sheila's sleevenotes, the inclusion of 'Tom Hark' by Elias & His Zig-Zag Jive Flutes on the same release reflected its use for a chant by Ipswich Town supporters ("Top of the league at Portman Road...").
- ↑ See Ian Rush(2).