JOHN Gibbons is aiming to attend EVERY Liverpool league game this season. With that in mind, we bring you Home And Away – Gibbo’s story of the season following the Reds. And so, the trip to Turf Moor.
MY away day starts with the realisation that I haven’t got the match tickets. That should have been an omen right there. They are in the office, where I left them.
The problem is you need a fob to get in the building and, in a case of terrific forward planning, I’ve given mine to Social Media Shaun (SMS) so he can come in, watch the game and do the social. It’s 8:30 on a Saturday morning. SMS is 21. Now, if he is anything like me at 21, he doesn’t see AM on a Saturday. I don’t want to bother him.
So I ring Neil. Neil not only sees 8:30am every day, he has normally sent me 12 emails by that time. Neil has me a fob, a cup of tea and a sausage butty by 9:15. He really is a king among men. As I eat and drink him out of home, we talk days, nights and the footie. It always comes back to the footie.
After picking my tickets up from exactly where I left them I drive to The Hope Street Hotel to pick up my friends Patrick and Burnley. That isn’t a hungover mistake. Her name is Burnley. They are from Seattle, over for one game only as part of their honeymoon. And the wonderful fates of the world threw up a romantic trip to Burnley for them. Funny how things work out.
I had promised them I’d get them tickets a long time ago. Repeatedly saying it would be fine every time Patrick nervously messaged me. I think this is a good time to admit it hadn’t been.
I didn’t get any on my own fan cards and by midweek I had only managed to get two singles in different parts of the ground. Every mate was messaged but spares were as rare as SMS making a brew in the office.
On the Thursday a good friend managed to come up with the goods. Not only that, but with a bit of jiggery we could now get three together. Perfect. I shamelessly acted all day like it had been fine all along. Yeah, no problem. It’s just what I do.
When my Liverpool mates heard I had American friends over they insisted they go on the bus for “the full experience”. As they were to find out, the full experience involves getting to The Rocket pub five hours before kick off for a ground 50 miles away. Now that is allowing for every contingency.
The bus stop opposite The Rocket on match day is a hive of activity. Or people stood around with bags of cans saying, “Is that bus ours, Dave?”. It’s even busier because, in a rare event caused by our Main Stand delay, Everton are away, too. So it’s very very important you don’t get on the wrong bus. One man does, and exits rapidly declaring: “Don’t get on there, it’s the shite.” Could have been a very different honeymoon, that.
Our bus rolls in at around 10:35 for a 10:15 pick up, which is probably a new record for closest to being on time, and we are away. We’re on The Irregulars bus. A group of old fellas, young lads and girls and a smattering of Norwegians over for the weekend. You will see their flag wherever you go — they are some of the most dedicated fans around.
Their commitment to the Reds is matched only by their commitment to alcohol. They make my visiting mates very welcome with questions like, “Where you from then?”, “Is the weather nicer there?” and “Are you really called Burnley?”
An hour or so later we arrive at a sports club just outside Burnley for a two-hour refreshment stop. Anyone who had been to an away game recently will tell you that pubs around grounds in England are more and more frequently decorated with a sign on the door saying “HOME FANS ONLY” and finding one you can park a bus outside is even harder.
- Burnley v Liverpool: The Match Review
- Burnley v Liverpool: Match Ratings
- Burnley v Liverpool: The Pink — Our Post-Match Reaction Show
So wise old owls like The Irregulars have found a number of establishments up and down the country that are close to football grounds and are more than happy to cater for thirsty Scousers.
There are two buses of Reds here, totalling about 100 people. Not bad trade for noon on a Saturday. They are selling pies for a pound a go and the early kick off is on the screens, so I guess we’re all winners. Well, maybe not me. I’m sat by the fire door they insist on keeping open and the wind is blowing the rain onto the back of my head.
Two hours fly by and we are back on the short bus ride to Turf Moor, only delayed by the bus driver pulling over at a shop to buy ciggies. Outside the ground there is the necessary ticket jiggery, a quick chat to Robbo and Nev, and we’re in.
Burnley is an old ground with plenty of charm. It’s very tight in places though, and the toilet situation is genuinely dangerous. With all the money in football now you’d have thought they could sort that out, even at ‘traditional’ stadiums. You have to barge, stretch and squeeze in and out and many decide it isn’t worth it.
The atmosphere is great for about 40 seconds. I don’t know why Liverpool are messing around so early in the game, but the Burnley strikers don’t hang around to find out. Awful start — again. What on earth are we doing in the warm up?
Liverpool get into it after that, but there are clearly problems. Not having a proper left back is hurting us in terms of an out ball. Not having a defensive midfielder is killing us in terms of building play. And not having anyone who can pass to a fella in Toxic Thunder isn’t helping very much either. They look nervous, clueless and short of anything at all. Bloody hell, where did this come from?
The defending for the second is a joke. Before that you’re thinking we’ll eventually get it together, turn it out and have too much. 2-0 though. Killer blow.
At half time the tiny bar is rammed but Nev does some great work involving snake-like hips and the art of distraction and we have pints in no time. What a man. I actually cheer up at half time. I see Gutmann, the only man in Burnley ordering small wines, Canetti and Callum, who I sit by at home games. We lament the Reds but enjoy the togetherness. Mick Clarke seems to have 100 drinks from somewhere. Still, worse ways to spend a Saturday.
Back in the stands is back to reality. Liverpool still can’t muster anything of note. Can’t manage to collectively be good for more than a few seconds. Subs arrive but nothing better. The clock ticks down. Thoughts of a win turn to, “I’d bite your hand off for a draw” to “they could play until midnight and not score”.
Full time. Back to the bus, which at least is parked right outside on the road. This does put us all on display though. A row of losers for the home fans to mock at. Say what you want about the people of Burnley but they have nailed demonstrating numbers with their hands. I don’t know what you do in this situation. Some go back with fingers of their own. I pull the curtains.
I’m feeling down on the bus home for about half an hour. All the pre-season promise, all the joy after Arsenal — gone. We’d watched Manchester City score four at Stoke and then watched that at Burnley. What’s the point of hope? It’s still largely the same lads doing the same daft stuff. And we haven’t even got any bloody ale.
But then the bus driver pulls over — brilliantly blagging the police when they arrive that he had overheated — and we have some beer from under the bus somewhere and we cheer ourselves up. An arrival back at Anfield gives me my first look at the new Main Stand. Big, isn’t it?
Then it’s a couple in The Solly before a taxi into town and a frankly ridiculous night out with friends new and old that finishes with me dancing with an actor and a homeless guy that I had somehow picked up on the way.
The less said about Sunday the better…