I REALLY fancied this one. A brand new away in a poxy little ground full of old world charm. And it’s virtually all standing there. A real trip down memory lane awaited.
Unfortunately, inherent in the appeal of this jaunt is ticket scarcity. So unless someone turns up a modern day ticketing fairy tale for me in the next few hours, I’m watching this on the box. I suspect you are too.
This is the end that the Liverpool fans will be in tomorrow night. 3 sides of the stadium standing pic.twitter.com/cS7v1E91eT
— Matt Critchley (@MattCritchley1) August 22, 2016
There’s no doubt that the bulk of the draw here was the chance to roll back the years and be on a standing only away terrace, again. If you’d told me back in the day, that I’d one day get nostalgic and long for a good long stand up, rather than a sit down, I’d have given you the wanker hand gesture.
My formative late 70s/early 80s going to matches years were virtually all spent standing on terraces. I didn’t consciously enjoy the act of standing at all. It was just a bit tiring and protracted. You’d have to get in the ground dead early in a vain hope of engineering yourself a half decent spec. Me and my brother and my best mate would usually opt for a position dead centrally behind the goal, and against a crush barrier halfway up the terrace steps. That position, then as now, seemed optimal.
Not so high up that you felt removed from the action, and not so low down that you were all but looking up the ‘keeper’s shorts. Plumb centre. That’s where the smart money was.
Except by kick off the best laid plans of over-thinking teenagers usually lay in tatters. By 3pm (for it was then, and only then) the grown ups and the bigger boys had rocked up. The adults had been in the boozer and buoyed by the pub’s sustenance thought nothing of cheerfully forcing the issue, and muscling lads like me out of their way, as they claimed those prized best specs for themselves.
Grumpily, we’d settle for too near and too far to the left or right of the goal. At least the forest of taller and thicker bodies was that bit less dense in those positions, and we might actually see a bit of the game.
And we’d sort of remain there for the duration, until a goal was scored. A Liverpool goal. The wild rumble and tumble that would ensue in the celebrations would lead to a total re-ordering of the terrace stasis. It was always a mad piley-on. Dangerous but brilliant. What you actually came to the game for. That moment when the world seemed to lose it as one. When we weren’t big grown up scouse men, or awkward fish out of water middle class teenagers from London, anymore. We were Liverpool FC warriors. We were a battle scene from Gladiator. A Caravaggio of intertwining limbs, wild eyes and borne teeth.
And when the goal storm passed, and you re-found legs long since whipped from under you, and your head periscoped upwards and re-orientated, you’d realise that you were now completely the other side of the terrace. How you’d moved so far would be something hard to comprehend. Like when you’re messing about in the sea as a kid and you’ve fixed your mum’s position on the beach, and five minutes later you’re looking straight ahead to a different scene. Carried by the tide to a parallel reality.
But it was a long time on your feet, an afternoon on a terrace.
The respite, of sorts, came during the halftime break. The point at which the lads who’d arrived direct from the pub before the game now badly needed the bog. As they exited stage left the pressure would ease, and you could see daylight in the stone steps. You’d sit down on that hard floor as if it was a sumptuous velvet ottoman. Bugger the trickles of piss, fag ends and pie detritus, that muddied your palms and stained your keks. You were off your feet, and that was enough.
And the Reds would come back out and you’d spring up, ready to go again. And then the big lads would return from their pisses with new pies, skinning up – no pints in an 80s football ground – to shuffle and muscle you back to your tertiary positions.
Hopefully by full time all had gone well, and we’d all rolled around on that weeping terrace floor a couple more times. We needed the wins, that 80s Liverpool so willingly provided, to fortify us for the extra half hour or so of standing required for the police to clear the rest of the ground of potential assailants.
By the time they herded you off that terrace you might have been on your feet for around three and half hours in the ground alone. You could then expect to be on those same feet for a good while longer, being marched to the train station to alight carriages that would inevitably, again, be standing room only.
‘Did you have a good day son?’ ‘Yes mum. The Reds won.’ Quietly thinking – I stood up like a cunt for best part of six hours, all told, mum. I got pushed around, pissed on, jumped on top of, kissed by grown men when we scored, and only a thin blue line stopped us from getting a kicking and a stabbing afterwards. And it was fantastic, mum. I can’t wait to do it again, mum. It was the best day of my life, mum. Again.
You should’ve been there, mum.
The Reds standing tall at Burton:
Mignolet; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Matip, Moreno; Can, Grujic; Coutinho, Firmino, Mane; Origi.