Memories came flooding back as I watched the recent Liverpool v Manchester City football match on television. I sensed an air of hope and expectancy I haven’t felt since I was one of the (then) 26,000 fans who sardined themselves into the Kop for every home game in the 1970’s. Brendan Rogers has relit a flame of belief in today’s fans that Liverpool might once again be on the verge of becoming a major player in English and European football.
I recall the excitement I used to feel on a Saturday morning or a Tuesday evening during the build up to kick-off. My mate Spanner and I would jump the bus from Kirkby to Anfield and head straight to the pub, where we would split up and join a five deep crush at the bar, one signalling to the other when he had been served. Two brown and bitters was the order, two (hopefully) generous halves of bitter with two bottles of Forest Brown Ale. I can almost taste it. Do they still serve Forest Brown in Liverpool? Do people still drink brown and bitter?
Forty minutes or so before kick-off we would be carried along by the train of people headed along cobbled back streets for the Kop end of the ground. As with all fans, we had a favourite spot, ours was behind and slightly to the right of the goal. We would push and shove our way there, but not before we had pushed and shoved our way to the toilet, there’s nothing worse than getting to your spot then realising that you stood no chance of getting to half-time without peeing your pants.
All the usual songs would ring out then five minutes before kick-off we would launch into Gerry & The Pacemakers’ You’ll Never Walk Alone. I saw Gerry on TV the other day, wearing a FCTM baseball cap!!! Give it up mate; it’s been nearly fifty years.
After the game, the same thronging crowd would carry us down the steps at the back of the Kop to the exit. Pennies permitting, we would make our way back to the pub for another (usually) celebratory brown and bitter while the bus queues eased. Once our pockets were empty we would make our way home, sometimes on foot if we’d allowed ourselves to get carried away and spent the bus fare.
For the next few days we had no option but to allow work to get in the way while we waited for the next match. I haven’t experienced match day atmosphere for over thirty years and geographically it would be difficult to do it again, but in my quest to rediscover who I was and who I am, I have promised myself I will try.