IT’S a two home games in a week, week. The Southamptons are coming to ours on Wednesday night and then the Wolverhampton Wanderers are here on Saturday.
These aren’t the type of foes to stir memories of classic contests or to get the juices fully flowing. But they are both coming to Anfield. An important fact. We’re opening up the house for guests twice in a matter of days. This makes me feel excited and I’m not entirely sure why.
I’m going to work it out. Bear with me.
It might just be my subconscious harking back to the way our ground and our team used to make me feel as a kid. As a child brought up in London who had found the Reds aged 10 and never looked back, I have never taken Anfield for granted. Before I was old enough to be master of my own destiny, my visits to our home were rare pilgrimages. Before the age of 16, I’d see more aways than homes in a season.
The only way I got to go to Anfield was via the rouse of telling my mum that I really wanted to go and see her parents (my grandparents) who lived about 20 miles away from Liverpool. Every school holiday I managed to get myself packed off on the train to the north, like some sort of ‘40s refugee kid being dispatched from the big city to pastoral safety.
I loved being welcomed at Hartford station by my nan and grandad. Her, ruddy cheeked, all white bouffant and beaming, and him stoic, slicked back hair and pencil moustached, both every inch 1920s to 1950s Enid Blyton stereotypes. Everything about them and the lives that they had evolved made a kid feel safe. Especially one from a place as disjointed and chaotic as 1970s London often seemed.
With them, in their little house, in a village in Cheshire, just 20 miles away from my beloved Reds, I felt complete and at peace. My mini-breaks there (carefully scheduled to take place in every school holiday and around the fixture lists) were like a football-therapy retreat for me. Each day was about Liverpool FC in some form or other.
In a time before the internet and the mass commercialisation of British football, supporting your team from afar was no mean undertaking. The daily papers only really devoted space to the game by way of reporting what had happened in matches. There was virtually no live football on TV. If I wasn’t at a match I’d be listening to it on the radio. My build-up to the weekend’s fixtures started in the buying and reading of ‘Shoot’ or ‘Match’ on Wednesday.
Being near Liverpool in the holidays wasn’t just a treat because I knew I’d get to see the Reds in the flesh, it was a festival of Liverpool FC-related activities that included such joys as being able to buy and read the Liverpool Echo (which they sold in Cheshire villages and towns back then) and in being able to tune my radio to pick up BBC Radio Merseyside and sometimes even Radio City. I’d go through days just relishing listening to hourly sports bulletins about Liverpool and Everton. I didn’t mind that for most of the duration they were on a repeated loop, I just liked hearing the man on the radio talking about my football club.
Indulging in all of this, inevitably and somewhat subliminally, imbued me in the culture of Liverpool the city. The shite on the radio being talked to and by Rodge, Snelly, Billy and Wally, and all of those arl arses of yesteryear — day in, day out – had a further soothing, soporific, effect on me. We didn’t have these things in the south, in the big city. It was all very much my first sampling of northern calmness.
My father, did not have roots in the north, or indeed England, as my mother did. He was from everywhere. He was born in Zimbabwe to a single-mum Jewish refugee from The Holocaust — my ‘Omutti’ from Berlin. She was great, as was/is my dad, but to say they were as different from English northern working-class people as it’s possible to be would be an understatement. They embodied London to me — frantic, hyper-active, demanding, unpredictable.
The highlights of my periodic homages to the lands north of Watford were when I’d managed to contrive visits that enabled me to take in two – yes, count them, TWO – Liverpool FC home games in a week.
I couldn’t have given a shit whether we had Brentford in the League Cup followed by Luton on Saturday, or faced a double cup-league header with an Arsenal or a Manchester United, the mere fact of making the two pilgrimages was the stuff of dreams.
Kids from outside Liverpool who only get to do Anfield half a dozen times or so a season will understand what I’m trying to convey. If you were born and raised in the city you’ll never really know what I’m on about. My two lads, Danny and Raffy, have been indoctrinated and love everything about going to the match, but they’ll never know the anticipation I knew. They’re unlikely to ache for Anfield the way I did.
I wish I still ached that way for the place. Three decades of living within a 20-minute drive of the ground takes that hunger away a bit. I wouldn’t want it back though. I’m happy to swap the beautiful longing for the routine and complacent assured access. Not living near Liverpool FC is not something I can really contemplate.
So, when the fixture list aligns itself the way it has this week, something ancient in me is jolted back through time to the place which prompted this indulgent, sentimental excuse for a football match preview. The two homes in a week. That Southampton and Wolves are kind of faceless teams, in the wider scheme. That neither the League Cup or FA Cup overly matter, in the context of our biggest dreams. It’s the mundaneness that has me, I think. It feels like Liverpool FC raw. No frills, no sideshows. No Super Sundays. Just stripped back football. Liverpool FC for its own sake. Anfield, just because it’s Anfield.
A week to savour. Just me and my Reds.
The Wembley dreaming Liverpool FC 11: Karius; Clyne, Lovren, Matip, Milner; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Lallana; Coutinho, Firmino, Sturridge.
Kick-off: 8pm (live on Sky Sports 1)
Last Match: Southampton 1 Liverpool 0
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Odds: Liverpool 8-15, Draw 7-2, Southampton 13-2
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo
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Great writing once again, Rob. My own background is different from yours, but still I can identify with your experience through your writing.
That was lovely Rob. Sometimes it’s nice to be reminded that it’s not all negative net spend and FIFA fuck ups and dodgy defending. Sometimes it’s nice to just know that we all love the Reds.
Best one yet in a series I’m coming to anticipate more and more. Lovely.
Similar! Family moved from Birkenhead to that London when I was 10. Saw loads of aways, rarely getting to Anfield except on family visits. Even now, every visit to Anfield is like a pilgrimage! Great article mate, made me all nostalgic.
Love this. Just us and the Reds!
Hard to explain the desperation of supporting from afar. The first home game I managed to get to was the penultimate one in front of the standing kop. Trying to explain to my mum that her 15 year old son would be perfectly fine travelling up with a gang of random blokes taking a minibus up from some pub in Bournemouth. I had to use the pay phone outside the kop to let her know I’d arrived safely. “Don’t worry I’ll be back in the early hours of the morning, up the reds”
Great to hear about other Londoners (or ex Londoners in your case Rob) who love Liverpool football club. The club has had a hold on me since I was about 6 years old, so that’s 40 years and counting now. Can hardly believe it’s that long now. I used to cherish getting anything LFC related at Christmas or birthdays, like a small LFC badge one year with the Liver bird on it that to me was a thing of absolute beauty. I cried listening to Heysel on a little radio when I was in deepest Wales on a school field trip. Actually a lot of my following the Reds in those days was through radio commentaries, when we weren’t on the telly. Dalglish and Rush were my absolute heros and a last minute goal for on either of them would see me running around the house like a demented fool. I finally got to Anfield for my first live game when I was a student and got abused by a local stood in front of me on the Kop when he heard my London accent. F*ckin Cockney Reds, he kept saying to anyone who would listen, I hate F*ckin Cockney Reds! Funny thing is, I totally understood why he would be pissed off. I mean, thats what I think too, that the Kop is for locals, Scousers, who have the club flowing through their veins. But the strange thing is, and I don’t expect a local to understand this – because I don’t think I really get it myself – the club flows through my veins too.
Sorry for the sentimental ramblings, it’s all your fault Mr Gutmann!
“You speak-a my language” Rob. Great article. I live in a beautiful part of the world with my youngest kids and I wouldn’t change it for anything but if I won the Lottery I’d be over and how I would love it. It is a great preview of the S’thampton game with about as much in-depth analysis as I can handle right now. None. Still flat from Saturday.
I had similar experiences coming from a ‘broken home’ where I lived in London with my Liverpool born and raised mother who didn’t want to go back and visiting me old man, also Liverpool born and raised who did go back North. When you got two home games in during a half term that was paradise! Whenever I see Anfield, never mind go, which I don’t much anymore sadly, I too get that excitement back. Happy days! Up the Reds!
Great article Rob. It took me back to my youth, growing up on the Isle of Man. Listening to Radio Merseyside fade in and out on an old radiogram up in my bedroom. Even listening to 2nd half commentary on Everton, just to get score updates on the Reds. And if the radio was playing up, then watching teletext … page 303 … constantly hoping the refresh through pages 1 to 3 would show that we’d scored. I yearned to go to Anfield.
Fast forward 30 years and I now in Cheshire and go to most games at Anfield (cash permitting!). I’ve long fallen out of love with football …. Sky Sports, diving and cheating, overpaid ponces rolling round on the floor like they’ve been shot, rich Russian gangsters and Arab aristocracy, fan entitlement and hyperbole on football phone-ins …. BUT going to the game is always special. I love the city, I love the Reds, I love Anfield. I don’t care what cup they’re in, or who they’re playing, I just want to be there.
I can’t wait for tonight. C’mon Redmen.
Oh, and whatever happened to “Hold Your Plums” on a Sunday morning on Radio Merseyside?