Karl Coppack on what it meant to be within the away fans at Carrow Road for the first game of the season to watch Norwich City 0 Liverpool 3…


THERE was a moment in 79th minute on Saturday when Trent Alexander-Arnold trotted over to take a corner.

He took his time – possibly to waste a few seconds, though the game was pretty much done. He’d been testing his ankle and calf a fair bit too so maybe he just wanted to right himself before he took the kick. He then half-turned to The Reds amassed behind him and applauded. It might have been the highlight of the day.

And there were a few to rival it. I’ll never forget how it felt to pass through the turnstile a couple of hours earlier and be met with about a thousand Reds singing loudly — so loudly that even when I joined in, I couldn’t hear my mouth from my ears. That loud.

This wasn’t just another away game and it wasn’t even a game where the opposition were especially relevant. It was a welcome back to the match.

Trent’s applause wasn’t the usual appreciation of us being there. At least it didn’t feel like that. We hadn’t been singing his name or demanded his attention. It was more of a ‘hello again’. He’d posted earlier that week that he couldn’t wait to see us all and that was his handshake and a pat on the back. A ‘you alright?’, before he got back to his day job.

The atmosphere was charged with joy rather than the usual apprehension of what’s about to happen. The odd Red questioned the midfield selection, but more than anything we just wanted to go back to the thing that had made us happy. Something we’d almost forgotten about – seeing The Reds live and seeing them being great.

What struck me afterwards was that the same thing must have happened on the concourses of the other three stands. We don’t hold the universal rights to this sort of thing so the mood was cheery all around the ground, though, of course, we ended with the better end of the deal come the final whistle.

Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp waves to supporters after the FA Premier League match between Norwich City FC and Liverpool FC at Carrow Road

Everything was amplified. We all knew that the players taking the knee would be applauded but if it’s possible for an ovation to be aggressively supportive then this was it. Quite right too. I genuinely don’t care if people disagree.

In fact, that the was biggest takeaway from the day — the absolute irrelevance of the ephemera which surrounds the game.

Lockdown has taken us from human interaction to one done mostly online. That can get pretty vicious and unwarranted at times and I too have been embroiled in shouting matches about BLM, VAR, the relevance of stats, ‘Top Reds,’ signings, professional transfer guessers and the like but, come the end of the day it just doesn’t matter.

All of that garbage is just a footnote to watching Liverpool play in front of you and bouncing around with friends and strangers alike. That’s the joy in this thing. That’s where the smiles are broadest.

This is a privileged position, of course, and we at The Anfield Wrap do all we can to bring that into the lives of those of you who aren’t lucky enough to visit grounds and see and FEEL what it’s like to be a part of that.

And the truth is that we (me, not them) can take that for granted. There are times when watching Liverpool in the flesh, as great as it is, doesn’t always carry the sparkle it should. I’ve promised myself that I’ll never feel like that again.

There’s a Sherlock Holmes story where the Great Detective balls up a case in Norbury. Everything he does is wrong and all his theories are well wide of the mark. He tells his mate: “Watson, if it should ever strike you that I am getting a little over-confident in my powers or giving less pains to a case than it deserves, kindly whisper ‘Norbury’ in my ear, and I shall be infinitely obliged to you.”

If I ever feel that football is becoming a bit of a chore or I wonder if the hours spent on motorways are too much and if the expense is really worth it, I’ll mutter “2020-2021” to myself. Then I’ll think about that first day back at Carrow Road and smile.

Liverpool supporters during the FA Premier League match between Norwich City FC and Liverpool FC at Carrow Road

There are those who think we’re all kidding ourselves about this footy stuff. When you boil it down to its ingredients it really is just lads kicking a ball around, but for me on Saturday that was the least important part.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I was elated as you all were with the performance and the result, but for me the whole culture returned. The superstitions, the mates, the songs and how strange it is that you don’t mind getting whacked on the side of the head when we score.

Some lad caught me a beauty for the opening goal and I didn’t give a shit once my vision returned to normal. Are there any other walks of life where that is the norm?

Football’s been kind this weekend. A mate even texted ‘Rafa Beneathus’ to me at the final whistle. That’s how I like my irony.

Slowly but surely the results will mean more than the days out, but this felt good. It was welcomed, needed and I’ll never forget it. The Reds without us and us without The Reds just isn’t right. We’re all back now.

Next week I get to experience it all again at Anfield.

Jesus, I love this game.

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