After missing the trip to South Wales earlier this month, then the dreaded international break, I was excited like a little girl at Christmas when another football Saturday finally arrived, even more so at the thought of another trip to Merseyside. With two incredible FA cup games on either side of Stanley Park in recent seasons, and Liverpool’s unexpectedly poor start mixed in with the farce in Poland for the national team, I was reasonably optimistic that we could get a result from the game.
I love the city of Liverpool. The extravagant buildings and docks which were constructed with the profits from import & export of produce (and sadly African slaves) during the 18th and 19th century, contrast perfectly with the impressive modern structures built during the heavy (and on-going) regeneration of the city with the funding it received for being European Capital of Culture in 2008. As Liverpool is only a short drive from where I live, I have fond memories as a child growing up and visiting the Albert Dock, and seeing the transformation it has undergone is something amazing.
If you’re like me and get to games early, there is a plethora of things to see and do in the city centre, and on the waterfront. The Albert Dock has a number of free museums on the city’s social, musical and maritime history, and the Tate Modern Art Gallery is always a giggle. There’s also an obligatory Beatles Museum, and a smaller version of the London Eye, to have an impressive view across the city and the Mersey. If you’re intending to travel to Everton in March, and you have a spare hour or two, I really recommend taking a look round, you definitely won’t be disappointed.
As Anfield is a few miles out from the city centre, I have always driven rather than catching the train, to save the hassle of taxis and buses to the ground. There are plenty of secure car parks within a short walk of the ground, including Goodison Park, all between £5-£10. There is also now a Park & Walk scheme which people are encouraged to use, to help ease congestion around the area after a game.
Walking up to the ground, it was obvious that the area is in the process of slow regeneration too, as many of the derelict and ‘back to back’ housing has been demolished since my last visit. Once arriving at Anfield, the vast amount of history sewn deep within the fabrics of the club was apparent almost everywhere. An 8 foot statue of Bill Shankly stands outside of the Kop as a reminder of the club’s huge success during the 60s and 70s, with the words ‘He made the people happy’ engraved underneath. Walking along the Centenary Stand, an understated grey plaque is situated halfway along as a sobering reminder of football’s ugly past, when 39 Juventus fans lost their lives in the Heysel disaster of 1985 as a direct cause of football hooliganism. The poignant and incredibly moving Hillsborough Memorial is situated by the away fans entrance on the Anfield Road End. It’s just one of those things you can’t take your eyes off, even though reading the young ages of most of the victims is horrendous. It was a lovely touch to see that a number of Royals fans had left scarves, and after the recent revelations of the disgusting mistreatment of victims and their families and horrific failings by a number of organisations, it’s always great to see that people can put their colours to one side to unite as football fans.
The stewards were very friendly in and around the ground, but I have always found this at Liverpool. If you come across the right ones, they’ll always stop and have a chat about the football. They’re passionate about the football themselves. They made sure every fan coming up the stairs knew where they were going to get to their seats as well.
I was situated in row 33, 3 rows from the back, and the two rows behind me were in the ‘severely restricted view’ section. Bearing in mind I had paid the full £44 for my ticket, when I was standing up, the crossbar of the Kop End goal was level with the overhang of the roof. I’m not the tallest person (5 foot 8), but I would have been really unhappy if I was any taller! I had to spend most of the game sat down so I could see the pitch properly, even though I still couldn’t see the time properly, and I had a pole in my view for the goal located in front of the Royals fans. It’s amazing what these big clubs can get away with, but there will always be people who will buy the tickets, regardless of the cost, or the view.
The food was reasonably priced, with an adequate selection available. There was a range of pies which were all around £3.10 each, including the infamous ‘Scouse pie’, which is a mix of various different meat scraps and potatoes for anyone who didn’t know. Hot and soft drinks were all around £2-£2.20, and a beer and a pie ‘meal deal’ was priced at £6.80. The concourse was quite narrow, and got quite crowded during half time.
The Liverpool fans I spoke to were all quite friendly. One started his sentence, ‘excuse me love, but could I possibly have a look at your matchday…’. The stereotypical views took over my brain for a split second, worrying he was going to want to have a look at my matchday ticket, but in actual fact, he just wanted to read my programme, to see if we had a decent referee. I remember from my previous visits to Anfield that there was a lot of foreign Liverpool fans, mainly Spanish and French, and Saturday afternoon was no exception. There were two things I did find quite strange about the opposition fans though. Firstly, they looked at me as if I was alien; it was like they had never seen another team’s supporter before, like everyone in the World supported Liverpool. And secondly, they were very, very quiet, apart from one incident during the game. Suarez had unconvincingly gone down under a challenge on the edge of the penalty box, and he got clapped. Not a clap like you’d imagine though, the whole ground rose for a standing ovation for a good minute or so. I know you’re always biased towards your team, but if Reading had a player like that on our team, I think I’d be pretty embarrassed.
The game itself was another frustrating one. The 4-5-1 formation pretty much sealed our fate before the game even kicked off. Too many mistakes in the first half and not taking decent chances in the second half also cost us in a game where it wasn’t unrealistic to come away with at least a point. Take Sterling, Suarez, and Gerrard out of that team and Liverpool are distinctly average. We have to get a win at some point though, and I’m staying optimistic, I’m just praying it comes sooner rather than later.
Twitter - @Becka_Ellen