JOHN Gibbons is aiming to attend EVERY Liverpool league game this season. And now he’s toying with the cup games, too. With that in mind, we bring you Home And Away – Gibbo’s story of the season following the Reds – from Burton Albion.
I’VE only, thus far, committed to all 38 league league games. However, the combination of a new ground, and Mick Clarke’s 33rd birthday, means Burton Albion on a Tuesday night is too much to resist. A nine-seater car is booked, early darts are arranged and tickets secured. Bagsy not driving.
We help Mick celebrate his birthday by leaving him drinking on his own for an hour before any of us arrive at the planned time (excuses range from haircuts to work emergencies to “general titting about”). However, eventually a few of us are sat outside that posh gaff, The Vincent, that Steven Gerrard owns in the sunshine drinking them beers that aren’t quite a pint but cost more. It was that nice we nearly didn’t bother with Burton.
However, the Reds aren’t going to up themselves so it’s a quick stop at Sainsbury’s for lager (four Heineken for £4 at the moment, mates) before Kev Walsh arrives in the car and announces himself in a manner not becoming of the Central Business District.
Kev then decides that the very first stop is quite enough of him driving and hands over to poor Paul Hogan, who is tasked with getting us to Burton and back with directions that were vague to begin with and get worse the more we drink. All that not before we drive up to Aintree to get Mick’s brother, Andy.
Talk on the way is of the Burnley game, and how it bodes for the rest of the season. Not so much the players, but the state we collectively ended up in after. Mick did five shots and lost four hours. The season suddenly looks very long indeed, and Tottenham away on a Bank Holiday weekend doesn’t promise much let up. A sobering thought. Well, if we weren’t drinking heavily in a car on a Tuesday night, like.
After two missed A-roads due to the idea of anyone directing Hogan being totally abandoned, we arrive at The Beech — the designated “away pub” — and pay a bemused fella £10 to park in his drive. The Beech is one of those pubs which is largely fine and has a nice outdoor area. We work out how far the ground is, realise we need to leave, and order another beer.
At the ground I meet Tom Hadfield of “Go the Game with Gibbo” fame, who takes one look at the state of us and decides he’ll go to this one on his own. Probably wise. We then collectively start the surprisingly difficult process of finding somewhere to watch the match.
I’m excited about the prospect of a terrace. The camaraderie, the jostling, the surge when we score. However, an all-seater stadium wasn’t looking so bad when stewards at every entrance to the stand told us their bit was full and we had to go to another one. After gently pointing out to the last fella that someone at every entrance had said that and how we’d quite like to watch the game of football, he got bored and shovelled us in.
Once in though, all the romance was there (despite the fact that I was the only one who thought a surge was appropriate for a Danny Sturridge tap in to make it 4-0 in the League Cup second round. Spoilsports). I was largely just celebrating being able to see. Because of the sun position, none of us could see the first half an hour at all, and I only realised at half-time that Origi had scored the opener and not Firmino…
The crowd was great. Every Liverpool song imaginable sung in a continuous Scouse megamix. A terrace does seem to make a difference. Like-minded people can congregate and bounce off each other. Reds past and present are serenaded and, you’ll be pleased to know, we still hate Nottingham Forest.
At half time I see Karl Coppack, who is buzzing off some old Liverpool song he hasn’t heard for ages. I find the bar and am disappointed to find that the promised menu of faggots and chips is not available and it’s drinks only. Against Modern Football. I go back to my place, a few behind Joel Richards, and ask him how he feels about me crowd surfing. He’s against it.
As stoppage time approaches someone suggests darting to “avoid the traffic” before someone else points out that there are only 7,000 people in the ground and a few of them probably walked. Full time comes and it’s a lovely clap for everyone. Even the unused subs who have a bit of a run. We bounce back the car, all excited like a group of lads who’ve had a lovely time.
I can’t remember what we talk about on the way home. We stop for beer. And then McDonalds. And the toilet several times. Poor Hogan. Not even sure I thanked him on the way out.
So 5-0, loads of singing with your mates and back in time for last orders. What an absolute result. And just think some people don’t like the League Cup.