I LOVE Liverpool. I love football. I especially love Liverpool FC, writes LES JACKSON.
My wife Sandra. She loves Liverpool. She loves football. She especially loves Liverpool FC. As you can imagine, with parents like us, our kids love Liverpool. They love football. They especially love Liverpool FC.
My first game was on February 24, 1968. My dad, also Les and sadly no longer with us, dropped me outside the boys’ pen on his way to The Kop and we beat Leicester City 3-1. I’ve never looked back. For over 20 years the team never looked back.
I was at Anfield when we beat Dundalk of Ireland 10-0 and Stromsgodset of Norway 11-0. I was there for the ‘ghost goal’ when we beat Chelsea in that memorable semi-final, and when they beat us 2-0 to pretty much take the league out of our hands in 2014. And who can forget losing the league to Arsenal on that Friday night in April when Michael Thomas scored the second? Wish I could. Yep, I was there then too.
Just before that I’d been at Hillsborough. Not really a survivor, I was one of the ‘lucky’ ones watching from the North Stand as the tragedy unfolded. Never forget.
My eldest son Tom was still three years old when the Hillsborough tragedy occurred, and on the long journey back over the Pennines, my dear mum alongside me in the passenger seat, my thoughts turned to my family – especially San, Tom and my youngest son Dan. It truly dawned on me then that family really is the most important thing. Yes, even more important than Liverpool FC.
Early in 1992 it was a proud moment – ask your dad if you don’t have your own kids yet – when I took Tom to his first game at Anfield (if we ignore a 2-1 mini-derby defeat to Everton about three years earlier). We beat Ipswich Town 3-2 in a cup replay on our way to winning the trophy at Wembley against Sunderland. Tom’s fandom was off to a flyer and he never looked back. Meanwhile Tom’s sister Liv was born later that year. Another Red.
Me and Tom, we travelled far and wide together to watch the Reds – it was Tom who got me going to the aways again, and we did our first European trip to Barcelona. Nil-nil at the Camp Nou on our way to winning the UEFA Cup in 2001. The Camp Nou again the following season Nil-nil again. Istanbul, our greatest. We were there. And Athens a couple of years later. That wasn’t to be of course, but still. These were great times spent together. It was only a bit later that my youngest son Dan really started getting into the footie, although he’s an avid fan now.
My dad’s claim to fame was that he was at St. Andrew’s in 1954 when Birmingham City handed us our heaviest defeat, 9-1. I felt I achieved an element of retribution for him when I was at the same ground in 2006 as we battered them 7-0 in the cup on the way to winning it for the seventh and last time (so far). This Liverpool FC malarkey really is a family thing for us!
If we can’t get to a game we’ll make sure we watch it on the telly. Schedules – ours and others – are arranged accordingly. Our story is no different to many of yours reading this I’m sure.
In January 2016, Tom left for an Australian adventure. A week later, through the beauty of the internet and Facebook Messenger, we watched ‘together’ as Joe Allen scored a last-minute equaliser at Anfield against Arsenal.
On 23 August 2016, from a pub in Milton Keynes, I watched Liverpool win 5-0 at Burton Albion in the EFL Cup at the start of yet another failed trophy hunt, oblivious to the news I was to receive within minutes of the final whistle. A few hours earlier, Tom had been brutally attacked at a backpacker’s hostel in Queensland, Australia while trying to help save the life of another backpacker, 20-year-old Mia Ayliffe-Chung, who was attacked by the same man. Mia died almost immediately from her injuries. Tom died six days later on August 29, at Townsville Hospital ICU, having never regained consciousness. He was 30.
This family’s lives had changed forever.
On Sunday May 14, Liverpool FC play West Ham, kick off 2.15pm, in the latest instalment of ‘trying to secure a top four place’. For once we won’t be watching. Fifteen minutes earlier, me (at the ripe old age of 58!) and Dan will be tossing up as opposing captains in a memorial match for Tom being played at the home ground of Congleton Town FC, our home town team for the last 30 years. Willie Stevenson, a Liverpool stalwart from the 1960s and one of my dad’s favourite players will present the ‘Tom Jackson Memorial Trophy’ – kindly donated by Congleton Town Council – at the end of the game. San and Liv will be presenting the medals. All winners, no losers.
Some things really are just that little bit more important.
Our thanks to all at Congleton Town FC, the people of Congleton, and our many friends and family who have been a huge source of comfort and support for us since last summer.
Charity match in memory of my murdered son Tom. 14 May at Congleton Town. Laughs rather than quality. All welcome! pic.twitter.com/kyKRt37lqG
— Les Jackson (@les_jackson) April 6, 2017