I’M always intrigued by the answer to the question ‘What was your first Liverpool game?’ If it were a Cup final or semi or famous win you can raise an eyebrow and nod a ‘Nice’ to them. If it’s an absolute stinker you can grimace and applaud their fortitude for getting through it and trying again.
My debut saw a defeat. Kevin Keegan returned to Anfield with Southampton in November 1981 and left with three points thanks to a late Steve Moran winner. Liverpool were quiet and uninteresting that day and I left with a cold. Here’s some grainy footage. Surprised it’s not in black and white.
That’s the first time I’ve seen that goal since the day. It’s not how I remember it at all.
Anyway, I’ve always wondered if the die-hards will remember anything about that. I can recall everything about the day except the goal. How many non-descript games have we been to and forgotten? Some games just don’t deserve memory space in our heads while others are just there because of something that happened around it rather than the actual lads on the pitch.
However, there are some matches you just can’t shift, much as you’d like to. With that in mind then, and as a bit of a laugh, I’d like to offer up the five worst Liverpool games I’ve ever seen. Feel free to add your own or disagree.
Champions League: Liverpool 1 Debrecen 0 – September 16, 2009
I know what you’re thinking. We won so who’s arsed? You take the points and move on. Well, I was arsed — or at least I was at the time. I will stand in front of any court in the land and declare that this is the worst game of football I have ever seen in my life. Oh, I’ve seen us lose countless times. I’ve seen us be battered too and I’ve seen Andrea Dossena deliver the most laughable 10 minutes in footballing history, but this was so bad that my mates and I could have gone onto the pitch and improved it.
We won 1-0 thanks to a Dirk Kuyt goal, when their keeper spilled a Fernando Torres shot. That’s all there was. Oh, Steven Gerrard was booked for taking a free kick too soon. That’s your lot. The most soporific game I’ve ever encountered.
After the game we got stuck in the car park for 40 minutes. That was the most rewarding experience of the night.
Premier League: Liverpool 1 Blackpool 2 – October 3, 2010
If you remember this game I’ll bet that you grimaced and sighed at the memory. If you were actually there you may well have sank your head into your hands. Roy Hodgson performed numerous footballing crimes in his brief stay at the club and there are two further examples to come, but this one — in terms of where the club were heading — was the absolute nadir.
Earlier that day there’d been a march from the Supporters Club on Breck Road to the ground in protest at Hicks and Gillett. Much of it was humorous. The chants of “Get out of our club” were replaced by “Get out of our pub” as we passed the Sandon, as the upstairs had been closed to corporate guests only for that ‘matchday experience’. I think I was angrier at fans who took photos of marchers rather than the club hierarchy. Like we were a little cute sideshow. I’ll always remember that.
Anyway, there was also the sense that a newly-promoted club would roll over and give us the three points we needed to draw a line under a shaky start. Well…
Blackpool battered us. Absolutely walked over the Reds and we offered sod all by way of defence. Still, we had Torres, yeah? No. He went off after 10 minutes. Okay, well they had Charlie Adam so it can’t have been that bad? It was. Adam ran the show.
They scored from a penalty so blatant that the Kop merely shook its collective head when it was given. Not so Glen Johnson. He was still arguing with the ref as they left the pitch at half-time. By that point we were 2-0 down and heading for the bottom three.
This was the only time in 40 years of supporting the Reds that I considered leaving at half-time. Ordinarily, I’d see such an action as a betrayal — you stay to the end and you take it, whatever the score — but then, as I stood shell-shocked in the Kemlyn, I didn’t know what Liverpool were doing anymore. Carpetbaggers in the boardroom and a delusional lifeguard on the Titanic in the dugout.
Soto Kyrgiakos scored in the second half, but we had nothing. All we could do was wait for someone to notice that the Emperor was naked. At the end of game we held a sit-in protest. Even the stewards sang along to the empty ground. A bad, bad day.
Europa League: Liverpool 0 Utrecht 0 – December 15, 2010
This one wasn’t as bad, as everyone knew it would be a dead dog long before kick-off. We’d already qualified for the next stage of the competition and it was obvious that the first team would be given a night off. Hence…
Kelly, Skrtel (Kyrgiakos 45), Wilson, Aurelio
Jovanovic (Kuyt 73), Poulsen, Shelvey, Cole,
Eccleston (Pacheco 56), Babel
Look at that midfield!
To be fair, the club knew that no one was arsed so gave kids free tickets if accompanied by an adult, meaning, of course, that this was someone’s first ever Liverpool game. The poor sods.
In Grandmaster chess matches there’s a procedure where both players can agree to a draw even though the game is only a few moves old. They recognise that nothing can be done about it and to play it out would be a waste of time as the result was inevitable. Both clubs could have done this a week in advance for this one. The footballing version of tumbleweed in the desert.
Premier League: Liverpool 0 Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 – December 29, 2010
The final act of the Hodgson trilogy.
I told a few people that I was going to write about bad Liverpool games and every single one said “You’re doing Wolves, aren’t you?”
Wolves was the game where enough was enough. Yes, there was Blackburn away and The Great Steven Gerrard Penalty Conspiracy, but this was the game where the crowd lost their shit. Calls for Kenny’s return were loud and even Hodgson looked defeated rather than concerned with turd polishing. Afterwards he said that a 0-0 would have been a fair result but Wolves got a “lucky break.”
Wolves were bottom of the league at the time. They stuck to their plan of denying Liverpool space and hitting their strikers. We looked gormless. There was no Plan B and we ended the night just three points above the relegation zone.
Oh, it was freezing too.
Sorry. Didn’t mean to depress you with all this. Things got better anyway.
Let’s finish on an impressive Liverpool win at the Emirates. No one would be disappointed at that, would they?
Premier League: Arsenal 0 Liverpool 2 – August 20, 2011
Bastards. Absolute bastards.
I was furious with the Reds at that result. Fuming. Going to the Emirates and winning for the first time in the League. Beyond anger. Positively incandescent. How could they do this to me? I sulked all weekend.
No, it’s not a betting thing. I seldom bet on us as ours games have too much riding on them as it is (with the possible exception of Utrecht). It’s this.
I live in North London so Arsenal is dead easy for me to get to. It was sunny and the plan was to go to the Drayton Arms as usual and settle in before crossing the road to the ground. Well, for a start the pub was closed, but as it was a gorgeous day, we could stand around and drink. Yeah, good luck with that. The police shoved us around from pillar to post.
If you’re a regular match-goer you’ll know that meeting someone who has your ticket is one of the more stressful parts of the day. I like to get mine done early so it’s not at the back of my mind.
I’d arranged to meet my mate Phil by the large stone A-R-S-E-N-A-L sign that stands outside the Emirates. I stood by the ‘E’ so I could be by the arse end (I’m here all week) so he couldn’t miss me.
I’ve just texted him to ask if it’s okay to mention him here and he replied “Arsenal” 20th August 2011’ about 10 seconds later.
I’d texted Phil a few times and he’s told me where he was, who he was with and what time he’d get there. My ticket is in someone else’s pocket though it shouldn’t be a problem. Phil will meet him and then me. This will happen.
Little by little, my mates are drifting away. There’s talk of which pubs to go to afterwards and hands are shook and backs are slapped. “Let’s have these, Reds.” Not me, though. I’m propping up a large ‘E’ and glancing at my phone. It’s 10 minutes to kick-off.
Then I read the worst three words in any football fan’s argot — “No Network Connection.”
Jesus, not now. I do all I can. I shake the phone. I turn it off and on. I take the battery out and blow on it. I consider climbing on top of that ‘E’ and waving it in the air like a flag. Nothing.
The streets go quiet. There are muted sounds from within the stadium. I am alone. I walk to the away end. This does not help with my connection. I’ve missed the first 10 minutes. Then 15. Then 20.
Then 35 minutes. I know it’s 0-0 but I can rescue it if my phone goes off. Finally, I get a text.
“This prick won’t give me the ticket to take to the turnstile in case we don’t pay him. He won’t come down either.”
I advise Phil to use his not inconsiderable force to persuade him to change his mind, but the lad with the ticket won’t budge. I’m not getting in.
Unless you’ve done it, the act of walking away from a ground you’ve been denied access to while a game is going on doesn’t seem too bad. I can tell you, as a man who’s done it twice, it’s a killer. It started to rain too. Buckets. I was wearing a T-shirt. I was like Winthorpe in Trading Places when everything goes wrong. A tramp playing a harmonica plaintively wouldn’t have looked out of place.
I sit on the tube and wait for the bit where it comes out of the tunnel and into the daylight so I can check the result. What do you hope for here? Of course, the correct answer is the greater good. You want a Liverpool win. Course you do. But, if you’ve been let down you sort of hope for a dull game so you haven’t missed out on too much.
Two late goals. Raul Meireles put a finger up after the opener. Emmanuel Frimpong got sent off. My mates sang and danced all night. I went home and turned my phone off. It’s the first time I watched a Liverpool win on Match of the Day with a scowl on my face.