ANFIELD Wrap regular Ian Salmon is putting fingers to the keyboard after every Liverpool match this season for a new book that will document a campaign that already has included a change of manager, the signing of the second most expensive player in the history of the club, a walk-out ticket protest, the building of a new stand and one of (maybe even the) greatest European night at Anfield. They Say Our Days Are Numbered, published by Pitch Publishing, is due for release in August. But in the meantime, here is a chapter on Thursday’s magnificent comeback against Borussia Dortmund and the events around it before and after.
JESUS, even typing the score makes me want to cry. I seriously hope you’re not expecting this chapter to make any sense. You can’t make sense of nights like that; all you can do is live them, breathe them in, embrace them, try to hold on to the feeling, hope you can hold on to how it felt for as long as you live, hope that there will be other nights like this, hope there will be more moments, hope you can always feel this way.
I’m shaking. I’m still shaking. Some of it may be the lager but most of it’s the emotion, most of it’s the feeling, the miracle, the wonder, the sheer “we’re not letting this go” of the whole thing. We didn’t let it go. We looked like we’d let it go, looked that way a few times there, but we didn’t. We do not let this slip and all that. All that coming magnificently true.
Snapshots. It’s all snapshots at the moment. Brian, who sits in front of me, who despite knowing that my name is Ian, decided a couple of games into the season that I was actually called Paul and I didn’t have the heart to correct him because it felt rude so I’m still Paul to him and always will be (if you’re reading this, sorry Bri, never had the heart to put you straight, felt wrong), Brian is stood on his seat filming The Kop, filming the aftermath, filming the glory and the celebration after the fourth goes in. He’s stood, balanced, filming. He’s in his seventies and he’s stood on his soon-to-be-changed seat, filming the whole damn thing. He’s seen a lot, he’s filming this. This needs filming, this needs holding, remembering, treasuring.
This isn't getting old anytime soon. Up The Reds!https://t.co/cuDiGJKVSg
— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) April 16, 2016
I’m walking down from The Kop to County Road; we’re meeting in ‘The Frost’. We arranged it earlier, when we separated after the magic of the road to Anfield after the spectacular pyro party outside the King Harry.
I’m walking down and I’m working it out in my head and I’m going ‘Origi, Sakho, Lovren. Origi, Sakho, Lovren, Origi, Sakho Lovren’ and I know for a fact that there was a fourth lad there, a fourth lad who put the ball in the net and I know he must have been the second one in but I can’t remember him, can’t remember anything about the goal.
And I’m tweeting ‘I have no idea what just happened but it was fucking immense’ and I’m tweeting ‘There were goals. Lads scored them. Damned if I can remember more than three at a time’ and 140 characters isn’t beginning to hold the enormity of this, no matter how many times you post. And no matter how many times I post I’m damned if I can remember who that other lad that scored that other goal was.
Hell of a goal, that Coutinho goal. Hell of a goal. Wasn’t it, though? Kind of goal you never forget but I forgot. Absolute quality, pure football, no luck, no fortune, just joy. And Milner does so well to set it up and I want Milner pulled after 10 minutes, I want Milner and either Lallana or Firmino pulled and I want Sturridge and Allen on and I want changes immediately because we NEED them immediately and it looks like I’m wrong about that and Milner’s terrible all night and he should never take another corner ever but he has two assists and he has the vision to see Sturridge peeling away to take advantage of the free kick that comes in added time on one of those occasions that the ref decides to notice that the lads in yellow are kicking the lads in red quite a bit here and he has the vision to move into the box so that Dan can dissect the Dortmund defence and take three lads out with one ball and, when he really needs to, he puts in this cross and it’s the best cross you’ve ever seen and when he really needs to Dejan Lovren decides that the time to be poor at attacking headers has come to an end and he hits the target and he hits the target and he hits the target and he’s a hero and Brian’s on his chair filming the whole thing.
And that’s all one sentence and there’s no breath left in my body because that’s how this all feels.
And there’s a photo on my Twitter account. It’s a photo of a can of Skol and nobody realised that off-licences sold Skol any longer. “We’ve gone the game in 1987,” I tweet and we’re drinking Skol from an offie because we can’t get served in the ‘Arry because everybody that was on the street five minutes earlier is back in the pub now.
They’d called for it a couple of days before; the lads from Spion Kop 1906 had called for it, others as well, but God knows those Spion Kop lads get the job done and the flags, the flags, the flags — the flags are immense tonight and the Dortmund lot are good, the Dortmund lot are great, but we’re incredible and The Kop is something to behold.
They’d called for it; maybe meeting the bus before the game like we did that season might be an idea. And you think people will turn up but you know how many were there in that season and this is more, this is so much more and it starts so much further down the road and there are lads on scaffolding and nobody knows where the scaffolding came from but we think they may have put it up just to have a decent view of all this because all this is gorgeous and Alberto Moreno’s filming it from the bus and it’s all over Twitter later on and he’s filming the other lads all filming this and you realise that, behind those blacked out windows, they’re watching us, they’re seeing us, they’re affected by us. How could they not be affected by this?
This is unique and I feel sorry for anyone who supports any other team because they don’t get this. They don’t get this and they disparage this but they don’t have it, they’ll never have it, nobody does this like we do, nobody does nights like this like we do. What are we supposed to do after a night like that?
— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) April 14, 2016
We’re in Mathew Street. I’m buying beers in plastic glasses from a pub that I last went into sometime in the eighties and I’m talking to a lad at the bar in a Dortmund shirt and he reckons that we need better pressure on our pumps because they’re all too slow over here and the lager comes out too slowly and we’re comparing German lager with Carling and I think we all know who wins on that one and there’s a lad on an acoustic guitar with a bloody loud backing track playing Sex On Fire and honest to God there’s never any reason to play Sex On Fire and I’m in a good mood but I’m still not letting that one go.
I’ve never done a European away. I need to do a European away, NEED to. Really need to. This is what they’re like, isn’t it? This is a European away in the middle of our own city. And Mike came into town for the game, up from London, and decided he needed a scarf and bought one from the club shop and had it for five minutes before a Dortmund lad decided he wanted to swap it for his, a black and gold 2011 league winning scarf, and, afterwards, after it’s all over I’m telling Mike, “At 3-1 I was calling you and that fucking scarf for everything.” He’s framing that scarf. That scarf’s legendary.
At 3-1 it looked over. At 2-0, it looked over. At 2-0 and not even 10 minutes gone, it looked over. If we were only chasing one, we’d be okay but two meant we needed three and Dortmund looked magnificent. You looked at the pitch and you knew that they were everything that we want to be. They were everything that we wanted to be and we beat them. Everything that we wanted to be and we decided that we should just be more than them, decided that we didn’t like the way our hearts felt broken after 10 minutes and after an hour and decided to break theirs instead.
And in ‘the Frost’ I’m arguing that their first was way offside, that Mkhitaryan was off in the first phase of the play and I’m insistent, as insistent as I was in the ground, as everyone around me in the ground was and I’m wrong and Accy (or Akki or Akky, we didn’t discuss spellings of nicknames) is telling me I’m wrong and I’m arguing and we’re watching the highlights and I can see that I’m wrong but I’m still arguing it and I’m wrong. Mkhitaryan wasn’t offside and Mignolet saved well and he was just where he needed to be, when he needed to be and that’s what we want to be and that’s what we’ll become, that’s what we’ll become before the end of the night; where we need to be when we need to be, to be what we need to be.
And I’m hugging Fleety in ‘the Frost’ and dancing round singing ‘Jurgen Klopp, na na na-na-na’ and the last time we did that was in Wembley in ’86 and we were tumbling backwards down the steps going ‘we’ve done the fucking double’ and all this goes back a long way.
That wrongly assumed offside nature of the first is a hammer blow, a moment that feels like cheating, feels like injustice and is nothing of the sort, just a bloody good goal. The world-class Aubameyang finish on the second is a knife to the heart.
You’re looking at it going, Sakho should cut that ball out, why doesn’t he cut that ball out? And then it’s in the net and the lad’s somersaulting in celebration on our touchline, right under us, and it’s horrible. We’re looking for the impossible here, we’re pushing our luck one step further than we have any right to.
It doesn’t matter how many dreams we have, doesn’t matter how many songs to sing, at some point you have to stop dreaming, stop singing. They’re more than us, far more than us and we can’t drag ourselves up to their level. Dragging them down to ours, no matter how many claim that that is Jürgen’s enduring game plan, his mission statement, his reason for being, isn’t happening. We can’t drag a team this good down to anywhere and we’re not ready for the step up yet; we’re too early. Maybe a season too early, maybe years away, maybe we’ll never catch up. Dortmund look imperious, we look humbled.
Except, we don’t. We look like we’re going for it and from the point where, 10 minutes in, everything seems to be over, we’ve decided that nothing’s over and we’re more threatening than Dortmund. We need three though. We could get three though. We could do this. We have 45 minutes and anything could happen in 45 minutes. We’ve made anything happen in 45 minutes before now, we’ve made legends happen, we’ve made great European nights happen and we can add, we can add, we can add, we can equal, we can put our names on that list with those lads who were there for Saint Etienne, we can have heroes who will sit alongside Fairclough, we can have last-minute winners, we can take our place in legend.
We need changes though. We need half-time changes. We don’t get half-time changes. We don’t get Sturridge, we don’t get Allen, we get the same 11 lads.
And then big Divock’s sliding the ball under the Dortmund keeper and he’s the first name that I remember in my repeated litany of three on the way to The Frost while I’m trying to figure the fourth and we stand and try to figure out who played the sumptuous, perfect, gorgeous, beautiful, everything that you would want to be, as perfect as the slide rule pass for Dortmund’s soon to come third from Hummels to Reus to utter, utter perfection — I can say it now that it doesn’t matter — through ball. And we stare at the telly and we ask was it Firmino? Was it Coutinho? It’s Phil, isn’t it? Only Phil could play that pass and it’s this morning before I realise that it’s Emre Can.
And I haven’t watched the whole match back yet, I need to watch it back, I need to watch it forever, on a permanent loop, on a loop of daze and glory and giddy and I need to keep watching this, feeling this, forever.
And the 3-1 feels over. Feels over again. And we want to know why Mignolet’s not off his line and we want to know what Clyne thought he was doing and we don’t realise that what actually caused the goal was the Hummels/Reus axis being basically bloody brilliant and bought for nothing and made into something by the man who’s making us bigger than we thought we were, the man who’s stood at half time and told the lads in red what they need to do to his old lads in yellow and that Istanbul shows what this club can do and that they should go out and make bloody sure that they have stories to tell their grandchildren.
And they have.
They have the story of the Milner turn to feed Coutinho to prove that he can do what those other lads can do and we’re back in it and it’s what? An hour in? And we still have time, still have all this time and we can push and legend is calling us forward and Dortmund look less, look less, look smaller, look tired, look leggy and we look like we’re everything that we need to be and then we have a corner. Was it a corner? I think it was a corner and I need to watch this again and again, to check and to bathe in very single second and Sakho’s bending and he’s flicking that header and I don’t even remember how wild we went because suddenly we’re level and everything seems possible.
And the bloke next to me, the bloke who’s been next to me a few times now, is on a stick and he’s unsteady and he says, at 3-3 with no time left, he says: “I need to get off, I’m not steady enough, it’s been a cracking game though.”
And it has, it’s been a cracking game though and you’re thinking, ‘well, if we go out on away goals like this, there’s no shame, is there?’ We gave everything we had and that first goal was offside by a bloody mile so we were robbed, same as we were robbed in ’65’ and none of us know for sure how we were robbed in ’65 and if we do we’ve forgotten because all that matters is right now, right this second, this moment, nothing else, but we know we were robbed in ’65, we’ve been told and we accept it. And there’s no shame and we weren’t robbed, even if it ended there, we weren’t robbed but we’ve done everything and if we go out then it’s just one of them isn’t it?
And the bloke next to me’s gone. At 3-3, he’s gone and the night is about to enter glory.
It’s the header but it’s not the header. It’s Daniel Sturridge making the run that nobody else is thinking of making and it’s James Milner spotting him and playing him and Sturridge nearly falling over before playing that pass and Milner making that cross and you think the header is coming back across the goal but it’s not, it’s in the net and Dejan Lovren, the man who wouldn’t be king at any point last season, Brendan Rodgers’ expensive folly, is a hero. Dejan Lovren is winning this.
And we’re in Mathew St drinking with Germans before and we’re in The Frost topping up the lager levels after and thinking about kebabs and cabs home and watching the highlights and singing ‘Jurgen Klopp, na na na-na-na’ and we’re still at Wembley and we’re in our early twenties and some of us had had a really shitty day and we’re drinking Skol on the streets in our fifties and one of us is a grandfather and we’re all these things at once, at the same time, and we’ve never lived through anything like this. Never. None of us.
Nobody has ever lived through anything like this and Olympiakos with Rivaldo falling over every few seconds and Mellor and Pongolle and Gerrard and Chelsea with the ‘ghost goal’ and Accy wants to know why I’m calling it the ghost goal — “It’s not a ghost goal, it was a fucking goal” — and I do it because I know Jose hates it and we all know he can’t hear me but I like to think he can feel it and Saint Etienne, which none of us were at, and Istanbul, where our Keith, who’s on a run of getting tickets at the last minute for the big nights, for Augsburg away and for City at Wembley and for now, for this night, for the photos in Mathew Street which will be there for eternity of lads in their fifties who think they’re younger grinning and drinking and drinking and grinning and it’s all about being with your mates and your family and the people that you’ve known so long but never see for long enough, Istanbul where Keith convinced Fleety not to head back to town at half-time, at the point that we looked over and Gerrard and Smicer and Xabi did all that because we’re never over, and they’re saying that even that didn’t feel like this and they all fade in comparison and we’re pretty sure this is as good as anything has ever got and we have no idea what just happened but it was fucking immense and when we talk about the fact that nobody does European nights like we do European nights and nobody does comebacks like we do comebacks, this, this, THIS is what we’ll be talking about. This is what we’ll be talking breathlessly about and we’ll be trying to tell you how it felt and endlessly, endlessly failing because you can’t tell people how nights like this felt, you can only feel them, can only hope they felt them, too.
Nights like this aren’t supposed to make sense. Nights like this are just supposed to be and to let you know that you’re alive and that anything, anything, anything is possible and you can do anything and you can change anything and nobody can stop you when you believe and you know that you can be what you need to be when you need to be it. Nights like this are for glory and history and destiny and legend and for watching again and again and again and feeling forever.
Does that make sense?