IT was May 3, 2005. I was 24, about to turn 25, and had spent my whole life being regaled with stories told by older Liverpool fans about great league and European Cup victories down the years.
I was 10 when we last won the league and remembered nothing of it. I was four when we last won the European Cup.
At the beginning of that season, we’d appointed a new Spanish manager who I’d never heard of and he brought with him two Spanish lads who I fell in love with instantly.
It had been a rocky season to say the least. We’d been beaten at home by Manchester United and Birmingham City, while suffering defeats on the road to Everton, Southampton, Birmingham (again) and a much poorer version of Manchester City. Without knowing it at the time, we had also started a new rivalry with a London club which was the polar opposite of everything we stood for. Our working-class fan base coupled with a quiet, unstylish manager couldn’t have been more different to the brash, newly rich Chelsea with a young, arrogant boss who’d rolled into town declaring just how special he was. They’d already beaten us in a League Cup final, and beaten us in the league at home and away.
We’d been knocked out of the FA Cup in the third round by Burnley with as masterful an own goal as you’ll ever see. There was an imbalance in the supporter base, with some fans absolutely convinced by our new Spanish leader while others didn’t take to him from the start, questioning his incessant rotation the likes of which this island hadn’t seen before, making older fans and media uncomfortable.
But come May 3, there was just one focus. There was just one game. People all over the country booked days off work to make sure they were ready. I remember meeting a mate at 11am for a breakfast and our first pint. This was our time and we weren’t going to let it pass without giving it everything we had.
We drank all day, meeting other mates along the way and warming up our vocal chords in various drinking establishments. The atmosphere was electric. You could feel it everywhere you went and see it in the faces of the lads and girls around you.
An hour before the match we headed to the ground. We wanted to give as much support to our team as we possibly could, and sew some seeds of doubt in the minds of the self-assured Londoners. Their team was better, but we were determined that wouldn’t matter. Not that night. Not when it was our turn. We’d already seen our underdogs beat the champions of Italy and turn over a German powerhouse, so we knew we could take the English champs.
No more having to listen to stories about St Etienne when we could have our own story.
I was in The Kop that night and I’ll never forget it. It was absolutely deafening. It was so loud that I couldn’t even hear my own voice in among the fervour. It was the closest I’ve ever seen a football ground get to being a Roman colosseum. There was pure venom raining down from the stands. From every stand.
During the warm up. There was no hiding place for the Chelsea players and a wall of unwavering support for the lads in red. John Terry had been making comments to national newspapers about how they’d all played at Anfield before and had played in other tough atmospheres around the world, so this wouldn’t be an issue. But that isn’t what his face said when he walked out to warm up and was bombarded with vitriol. I remember him glancing at Frank Lampard and them exchanging a look as if to say “what is this place?!”. We were wild animals. Screaming, singing, encouraging, booing.
We built up our lads so that they felt 10-feet tall, and did whatever we could to make Chelsea’s lads doubt themselves. We demanded every decision be given our way. We bombarded the officials, we screamed for free-kicks and we scored a goal. It doesn’t matter now whether it crossed the line, but that referee was never going to risk ruling it out when 40,000 lunatics wanted him to point to the centre circle.
I’ve never known anything like that night. We didn’t sit down once. We didn’t stop singing. We gave everything we had and asked our players to give us everything they had. We did it together.
Lampard said in an interview with Jamie Carragher at the weekend that they all knew they had the better team, but our crowd levelled the playing field. Even with all of their experience it still affected them. I remember hearing Chelsea fans interviewed after the game saying that they were in the away end but singing was a waste of time because they were getting drowned out, only helping us in adding to the noise.
We all know what we went on to achieve that season. We made the dreams of a whole new generation of Liverpool fans like me come true. We had our own tale that we could tell.
Tonight is the latest chapter in the story that has been developing since I was 10, but it’s about time we all started treating these games like we did those Champions League battles in Rafa Benitez’s early days. We should be giving it everything we’ve got. I want to see us win the league and I want to help us get there. The faces have changed since 2005 but the opposition is still the same. It’s still us against them.
Every one of us going to Anfield tonight should be channeling our most aggressive side. Are you pissed off with your boss? Good. Has your partner been doing your head in? Good. Are you furious with the state of the world? Good. Take every bit of anger you’ve got inside you and scream at Diego Costa, Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kante. Call them all the worst names you’ve ever heard. Tell them their legs feel heavy and keep saying it until they start to doubt it in their own minds. Be incessant. If you’re near the corner flag when one of theirs is taking a set-piece, scream at them that they’re going to miskick it. Scream it again and again and again until they’re as convinced as you are that they just can’t do it any more.
Claim every decision, even the ones that should clearly not be ours. Don’t groan if a player of ours misplaces a pass, scream encouragement instead. If you sit near to the pitch keep telling Jordan Henderson he’s the best midfielder in the world. Remind Phil Coutinho that he’s a magician at every opportunity. Push Adam Lallana to run further than he’s ever done. Build them up and up until they’re buzzing around the pitch and Chelsea can’t get near them. Leave every last bit of you inside that stadium.
We’ve got nothing left to do this year other than win the league, so let’s give it everything we’ve got, starting with tonight. Let’s not ask our players to sweat blood for us if we’re not prepared to do the same. Let’s use the opportunity of a midweek game under the lights to show Chelsea what we’ve still got that they’ll never have. Let’s not only level the playing field but tip it massively in our favour. Remember we beat the Chelsea 2005 side with Milan Baros, Igor Biscan and Djimi Traore. The side we’re watching now is almost certainly a match for Chelsea even without us, so imagine how good we can be if our crowd turns out at its best.
We beat Chelsea, then we beat Hull and we go from there. All of the lads are back now. We’re well placed to start a winning run that doesn’t stop. Jurgen Klopp has got a week to prepare for every game. We’ve had a blip but that’s all it is. Chelsea play Arsenal after us. If we beat them and Arsenal take something, you might just start seeing Chelsea players looking a bit sluggish. Their legs still work but dropping points makes the body feel heavier than it feels when you’re winning games and scoring goals. Remember that Conte is used to winning leagues by April, so who’s to say their heads and legs won’t fall off if we’re on their backs going into the last weeks of the season?
If we get it right tonight we could well be looking back at Wolves on Saturday like Burnley in 2005, a mere footnote in the latest glorious chapter of this mad football club’s epic story.
We need to give them a signal. We need to show them that this is not over and we will not give up without a fight. And not a polite boxing match after which we all shake hands and say how much we respect each other. A brawl. Fifty-four thousand lads and girls unleashing their wildest animals on the unsuspecting Londoners.
If you shout at any of our lads tonight other than to encourage them you’re with Chelsea, not us. If you don’t think you’ve got it in you to step up to the plate, give your ticket to a 25-year-old who will go out all day and never stop singing.
This is the big one, Reds. Finish this article and watch some YouTube videos from 2005. Watch the final 20 minutes of Borussia Dortmund from last season. Read Lampard’s interview. Visualise standing in the crowd tonight and roaring the Reds home to victory. Feel the blood coursing through your veins. Picture Klopp going mental on the touchline fuelled b by our noise and our energy.
You know it works. Tonight isn’t for the players to get us going. Tonight is for us to make sure they start aggressively and don’t stop until they’ve run themselves into the ground.
Are you ready? Good. At Klopp’s signal, unleash hell.