I’M considering asking Robbo to change the name of this column to ‘Stuck between a rock and a hard place’. Given the paucity of midweek football the Reds are going to play this year it can be a bit difficult to write something about the weekend’s football just gone given it might have been four days ago and it’s a bit difficult to write about the upcoming game because it’s sometimes in four days. At one point last month it was actually five.
Everything you wanted to hear and read about Southampton has been done with match reports, ratings, the main podcast and the brilliant Tuesday Review. And let’s be honest, it’s a bit early for Sunderland, isn’t it? Given they’re one of the worst sides in the league, it’s pretty hard to write much more than ‘Should win, be absolutely fuming if we don’t.’
I can’t wait for next season when I’m able to either write something shortly after an actual real life game of football or shortly before a real life game of football. We’re currently a best priced 2/9 (82% implied chance) of getting into the Champions League. Which is quite nice. Hopefully next year I’m able to write this while sat in an airport departure lounge on a Tuesday afternoon on my way to Madrid, or Munich or Barcelona or somewhere else that means I’m not sat behind a desk on a Tuesday afternoon in October getting a bit annoyed that Russia’s decision to not change their clocks means we don’t get as many early kick-offs in the Champions League as we used to. Thankfully this week the Russian lads have nailed it for us – 5pm kick-offs both days. Get in.
Being back at the top table of European football is where this club needs to be. It makes a statement, it’s clearly more attractive to players, it creates unbelievable Anfield nights, it brings money to the club and — although I won’t see a penny of it — it’s obviously going to help things. Like maybe extending that Anfield Road end so we can get more people in the ground.
The discussion about the extension to the Anfield Road ruffled a few feathers. John Henry had basically gone from committing to building it to being a little wishy-washy due to the funding of it and it somehow related to the mass walkout in February, the last time we faced Sunderland at home, over £77 tickets.
All told, it kind of makes sense. Somewhere along the line a budget will have been drawn up for this stand, and in that budget it will have involved charging people in the Main Stand £77 a game, or £900 a season or whatever the eye-watering number was.
Obviously, that’s a frankly unacceptable amount of money to charge and is more than necessary. When the TV deal went up the other year, they could have let everyone in for £12 every week and been financially neutral. Twelve quid! This is without even taking into account the Chinese TV deal. I’m in the second highest band of season tickets in the ground. Who, exactly, is getting this increased TV money?
FSG obviously had to re-budget when they found out that their plans for sky-high ticket prices weren’t going to happen. Hopefully there is a way because the demographic at Anfield in the long term simply isn’t something that is for the good of the club.
The future of Liverpool’s support is found in the city of Liverpool, they need to be able to go to the match. Build a new Anfield Road and get some kids through the door before they either find another interest or just get used to a life watching on TV. Alienate the very people that you need, and the current Anfield will be a complete freak show that is more spectator rather than participator.
If you want to spectate, go and watch tennis. A football crowd is about participation. It’s about singing, roaring, abusing the opposition, getting on the referee’s back and being an influence on proceedings for your team. Why do you think the concept of home advantage exists?
Anfield has been much better this last 12 months – Jürgen Klopp has been a real fillip for the Anfield atmosphere. There’s even a rumour that three corpses in the Main Stand have come back to life such are the levels of reinvigoration on that side of the ground. The Main Stand has been booming at times, there are a few thousand people in there who’ve got a season ticket having waited the best part of two decades for it. They’re buzzing, they’re loud.
Imagine what sticking another 3,000 of these people next to some away fans would do. Sixty thousand-plus people in Anfield would be worth a number of points a season. This is something that isn’t shown on a budget sheet that any accountant can write – if the crowd are the difference between fourth and fifth then you’re getting more money.
All things considered, the best thing for the future of this club would have been to leave Anfield. To build a 75,000-seater stadium on one of the semi-redundant docks that line the River Mersey between Bank Hall and town. But the ship has sadly sailed on that one now. So we’re stuck with Anfield and we need to make the best of it.
Step 1: Build an even bigger Anfield Road than we’d planned. Maybe twice the size.
Step 2: Sort the transport system out so we can get a train from town. Maybe a load of park-and-ride systems from Aintree and somewhere like Huyton. Get people to the ground without clogging up the roads around Anfield and that.
Step 3: Look into increasing the Centenary Stand. People there have a right to light on the roads surrounding, but for something built so recently it’s really not very good. Cramped concourses, cramped seats, poor facilities. That needs sorting.
Step 4: Try and reroute Walton Breck Road so we can make The Kop even bigger. This is ambitious but there’s a lot of spare land there.
Ian Ayre has frustratingly talked about there being a sweet spot. Well he’s off to Germany so let’s ignore what he said and look at something else. We need to think big here.
Most of this is, sadly, pie in the sky stuff but Liverpool should aspire to be the best. We shouldn’t be sat here thinking about how correctly we should pay for an extra 7,000 seats. Think about an extra 17,000. Anfield at 45,000 was as loud as any ground on a big night. Anfield with 54,000 on one of those nights will be special.
Imagine 70,000 in there.
FSG probably don’t have the absolute long term interest to do all of this, which is a little sad. They’re in it for money which I’m fine with. Wouldn’t they make more money by providing Liverpool with a situation whereby Anfield is the second biggest club ground in the country?
Anyway Reds, get me some football in midweek on a regular basis so I don’t have to go on rants about the number of people who can go to the match. It’s looking positive for now, anyway.