ANFIELD is a changing. From open spaces to the north, to the south, east and the west, it is visible because of the machine beast that is suspended above it: the truss — a word that Liverpool’s home has taken ownership of.
Anfield’s regeneration is there when you wake up and there when you go to bed. It seeps into your thoughts, an inescapable object.
Get closer and the more incomprehensible it becomes. The Main Stand car park is now a void between two worlds, a shadowy indeterminate place with an emerging edifice on one side and a famous structure being stripped on the other. Ancient buttresses are exposed at the top of the terrace, naked for the first time in more than a century, like the underbelly of an old ship in a Cammell Laird slipway.
Inside Anfield, the trophy room has gone: replaced temporarily by a press area. On match days, the cups, the medals and the pennants are displayed, instead, in a hospitality tent. On Monday night, before Liverpool hosted Bournemouth, I thought about this for a moment, wondering what the new trophy room will look like when restoration is completed this time next year and whether, indeed, there will be an immediate need for one.
Seeing Anfield change is exciting. Fenway Sports Group are in the process of doing something that neither David Moores or Tom Hicks and George Gillett were able to do. It is 15 years too late but Liverpool, at last, are moving into the 21st century.
I remember standing on the Kop as a child and being completely overwhelmed by it. The mass of people was frightening and when a goal went in, everything seemed to go dark. I remember too when the Kop became an all-seater stand and the outrage that followed when a McDonalds was dropped into its bowels. Matchdays smelt different thereafter: the scent of Big Macs and chicken nuggets wafting across the terraces rather than hotdogs, Bovril or urine. This was the future and I didn’t like it. Nobody really liked it. Urine felt comfortable: a reminder of when Liverpool were very good.
Presently, no club in world football is a prisoner of its past as much as Liverpool. Nowhere else has experienced a 50-year cycle where for the first half winning was made to seem as natural as breathing or sex. And then the second half: a build up of frustration, which sharpens as the seasons pass without a league title. We’re at 25 now.
The Liverpool manager’s job is one of the toughest. The mission to achieve success drains on the body and mind. Bill Shankly supposedly died sad and troubled at how his association with Liverpool ended. Bob Paisley developed dementia, which can be triggered by stress. Kenny Dalglish resigned because of pressures, while Graeme Souness and Gerard Houllier had life-threatening heart operations when they were still in charge.
Roy Evans dreaded going out with his wife Mary after defeats even though he had not seen her much during the week — the sense that he’d let everyone down feeling too enormous. Every supporter has an idea of the team they would choose, the philosophies they’d impose, the great man-management skills they’d show but as Evans wisely says, “You might have an opinion but yours will never get put to the test.”
The next manager that wins Liverpool a league title might be awarded the freedom of the city, giving him the opportunity to herd cattle, if he wants, through the streets of L4. There will be calls for a statue to be built in his name outside Anfield.
Yet unless Liverpool are careful there will be an element inside the football world that takes more of a hard-eyed view of the club’s continuing claim to greatness, and there will be a younger generation unmoved by the nostalgic bonds of history.
The theory, in some ways, explains Raheem Sterling’s departure to Manchester City. Yes, Liverpool have won more European Cups than any other English club. But the last one was a decade ago and 30 years have passed since the one before that. That was then and this is now.
Memories of Istanbul will never fade for those who were there, making it always feel like yesterday. But for those who were not — those without an emotional connection to the club — it is someone else’s remarkable story rather than a personal experience.
You could have strapped Sterling to a wooden chair in a padded cell playing from a projector Betamax videos of Liverpool season reviews from the 1970s and 1980s with You’ll Never Walk Alone on repeat in the background for a week but no amount of brainwashing would have changed his mind.
Upon Sterling’s release, he would still have desired a move away. And Sterling is not the first to have angled for a transfer in recent times is he? His ambitions and behaviour is becoming a worrying pattern among Liverpool’s best players.
It is not just the stadium that needs to change.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo