HAS anyone ever accidentally stolen someone else’s Uber ride before? I did it once. I’m not proud of it and I’m not sure why I’m telling you, but when Gibbo asked me to write this piece I really struggled to know where to start. I want to do that night justice. It was without doubt one of the best nights of my life and deserves some build-up. Some context. It deserves a Tarantino-like narrative so I’m going to start at the end, writes TOM HADFIELD.
It’s 7:46am on Friday April 16, 2016 and I need to get from Greenbank Sports Centre (don’t ask why I slept there) to Lime Street. I need to catch the train back to Nottingham in time for work. I’m already doomed. The best I can hope for is to be less than three hours late. My train leaves in 11 minutes and my phone is being a dickhead and won’t seem to locate an Uber. My head is thumping, my mouth still tastes like whisky and I have developed a mysterious limp from the night before. Just as I’m thinking about throwing up in a drain and going for a lie down in Sefton Park an Uber pulls up and asks me if I’m going to Lime Street. Now, technically I didn’t lie. Yes, I was going to Lime Street… I hop in.
About halfway to the station the cabbie’s phone starts ringing over and over. He turns around and goes:
“Your name is Tony, right mate?”
“Er, yeah that’s right, my name is Tony.”
My name is not Tony. I lied and this is my confession.
Anyway, let’s get down to it. I want to tell you a story. It’s a tale of dreams being realised, a glorious night that I will take with me to the grave. I’m one of those Liverpool fans who are always accused of being a glory hunter (despite the fact that the last time Liverpool won the league was eight months before I was born). I grew up in Essex and have no family connection to the club but I fell in love with the Reds at an early age because of God (not the beardy fella in the sky but Robbie Fowler) I didn’t know anything about Liverpool’s history but I adored Fowler and one thing led to another. Soon I was obsessed with Liverpool Football Club.
Our nearest ground where I grew was Upton Park so my dad would annually take me there to watch the Reds, we could never get tickets in the away end. It was cool but I remember looking at the away end enviously while I sat on my hands. A few years later my dad had moved onto his second wife who just happened to have a good friend called Welly who just happened to be a season ticket holder. For about three years my dad and me went to probably about four/five away games a year that Welly sorted. Usually the London away days that no one really fancied but I didn’t care ‘cause I was just happy to be going the game. We got Crystal Palace a lot which was ALWAYS SHIT but we got some good ones as well (7-0 away at Birmingham in the FA Cup, the 4-2 away at Reading when Fernando Torres got that hat-trick and 2-1 away at Charlton on my birthday in 2005). Then Welly fucked off to New Zealand and my dad got divorced again. The ticket supply completely dried up. Our only source had gone and we stopped going. The barren years had begun.
Fast-forward to April 2016 and it’s the week of Dortmund at home. I’m at work and it’s one of them weeks when the match just completely occupies your mind ALL THE TIME even though the game isn’t for a couple of days. Part of my job involves me doing social media for Earache Records and I was scrolling through Twitter when something caught my eye:
— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) April 12, 2016
Obviously I was all over this straight away. A ticket to fucking Dortmund at home?! With Gibbo?! Get. On. This.
Now, you don’t have to have listened to TAW player from the beginning to know that Gibbo likes a drink so I thought I’d try and tempt him with booze in my entry.
Did it work?
Course it fucking did.
I was through to the Twitter poll round.
— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) April 13, 2016
I campaigned HARD. Part of my job involves managing band’s fan groups on Facebook/Twitter. I abused my power that day and managed to rake in 218 votes.
When the poll ended I was doing knee slides in the office. I couldn’t fucking believe it! Thankfully, my boss is a football fan so he understood the gravity of the situation and let me take the next day as holiday… as long as I was back at work for 10am on Friday (soz abar that).
I got the train up the next day and it felt like a dream. Whizzing through the Peak District I remember it being a beautiful April afternoon, knocking back cider and literally laughing out loud to myself at my luck. I was genuinely concerned that I was about to wake up. I met Gibbo in Temple a few hours before kick-off and it was fucking class. This is where my memory starts to get a little bit hazy. I remember Gibbo being class, I remember Neil, Gareth and Andy being there. I remember being incredibly thirsty for beer and I remember being conscious that this was my opportunity for a new ticket source. I bought as many rounds as we could feasibly knock back. After about an hour of speed drinking pints and speculating about the match we jumped in a cab up to Anfield.
Our seats were perfect, Upper Centenary stand, dead central. To our left, The Kop in all its glory. To our right, the Dortmund fans, a thriving yellow patch bouncing to the sound of the constant drumbeat. Everything up to kick-off I remember crystal clear. The first time we emerged from the concourse to see the green of the pitch, the incredible You’ll Never Walk Alone, the minute silence followed by the deafening roar and then… kick-off.
Now I find it really hard to properly remember what the atmosphere was like after kick-off. The game completely sweeps you away. You are winning every header, screaming for every throw-in, living and breathing every second of the match and you aren’t thinking about the atmosphere. Dortmund were absolutely unreal in that first 30 minutes. It was like a FIFA match on the Xbox where one team has had the settings modified. So much speed and intensity it didn’t seem fair. They moved up the pitch in formation so quickly with one-touch football and blind passes round the corner we couldn’t get anywhere near them. When Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang made it 2-0 after nine minutes it looked like it could get embarrassing. We had a couple of half-chances before half-time and I remember Gibbo saying to me how he didn’t want us to score yet:
“Losing 2-0 at half time is better than losing 2-1 at half time. If we go in 2-1 it becomes a normal game. We don’t want it to be a normal game.”
I knew exactly what he meant. I felt if we scored before half-time Dortmund would be so switched on in the second half it would be harder to score. No. Our way home to winning this game was going in at half time 2-0 down and giving Dortmund a false sense of security… just enough for them to drop their game a few per cent.
When Divock Origi scored to make it 2-1 early in the second half you could feel the belief around the ground swell to biblical levels. I often wonder if enough people will hard enough for something to happen, does it make it more likely to happen? It certainly felt like it that night. Not even the Marco Reus goal to make it 3-1 could burst our bubble. Three goals in 20 minutes against one of Europe’s finest teams? We’ve been here before.
The little magician bangs one in after a gorgeous one-two with Roberto Firmino on the edge of the box and and we are back in business. Dortmund have lost their heads. Mamadou Sakho nods one in unmarked from a corner with just over 10 minutes to go and the way home is in sight for the first time in the match. We can see the light. The gap between Sakho’s equaliser and Dejan Lovren’s winner was strange. I was expecting wave after wave of Liverpool attack but it wasn’t like that. They regrouped, took a breath and geared themselves up for one final push. The next 10 minutes pass without much happening and then the board goes up for stoppage time and we get a free-kick out on the right near the halfway line.
James Milner to Daniel Sturridge, Sturridge back to Milner, Milner sends in the cross…
That slow motion cross that hung in the air while Anfield drew breath… A split second of quiet before the ball hits the back of the net and then Anfield ERUPTS. I fall about two rows down and get swept a few metres to the left. Everywhere you look is pandemonium. Absolute bedlam. The smell of sulphur in the air from the flares going off, strangers necking each other and lads stood on seats screaming their lungs out. This why we love football, isn’t it?
Spilling out of Anfield we bumped into Neil and him and Gibbo half hugged/half humped each other in the street. We walked back into town for The Pink completely delirious. Listening back to it I can tell I’m just totally stunned by what I have witnessed. I mumble something about “famous Anfield night” and “I knew Lovren was gonna score” slurring my words and not talking anywhere near my mic. Oh yeah, and Gibbo took his kecks off. The rest of my memory kind of dissolves after this. There was lots of shots in Motel and the next thing I remember is waking up in Greenbank Sports Centre.
Tony, if you are reading this, sorry for stealing your Uber the next morning. I owe you a fiver.
Up The Reds!