By Ian K
I’m talking about Saturday the 5th of November 1966. My first ever match., Liverpool v Notts Forest. Yes, 36 and a half short years ago, a young Ian K makes his Liverpool debut at the grand old age of eight. Older brother Phil, aka barnacle Phil the sailor, was home from the Royal Navy for the weekend, more to see the Reds than his family, and to my amazement he says to me on Friday night “Fancy coming the match tomorrow Ian?” Well the love affair had begun with the ’65 cup final, watched on telly, but the match itself wasn’t for me, surely. I was just a kid. The match was for men. It was for dockers, or car workers, (everyone was a docker or a car worker in those days). It was for men who had faces carved from granite, men who rolled their own ciggies before inexplicably sticking them behind their ears, men with fat bellies, lovingly nurtured with copious lashings of bitter and Guinness, cos lager was a woman’s drink then. Kids like me surely didn’t go the match, and those lads in school who said they did, were just liars, even me Dad said they were! But fucking right, yes please, I did fancy going the match tomorrow!
What a place Liverpool was in those days, thanks to The Beatles and the Merseybeat sound, surely the centre of the universe. The Prime Minister was a Liverpool MP and even the Queen had shown herself to be a Red at the ’65 cup final, “Ee aye addio, the Queen’s wearing Red”. All we needed now, was for the Pope to declare himself a Liverpudlian, and we would have had the Catholic church on our side, aswell as the C of E. But the Pope a Red too? Nah, that really would be stretching the bounds of credibility wouldn’t it John Paul?
England were the world champs but more importantly, Liverpool were the champions of England. Everton did their best to get in on the act too, proud holders of the FA cup after their memorable win against Sheff Wed, and even in those days one of their fans couldn’t keep off the pitch. (RIP Eddie Cavanagh). What a superb example he set in the art of pitch invading in comparison to the dickheads of today, whether they be Evertonians, Brummies, or anybody else. No presentation of a pair of specs to the ref, and no offering of the shirt off his back to the fans’ whipping boy of the day, (though he did in a roundabout way, present his jacket to the copper I’ll mention in a moment). And certainly no calling the opposing goalie a wanker to his face before slapping him on the head. No, just an unforgettable demonstration of the sheer joy of being in love with your team, especially when they had just achieved a miracle. And oh yes, about that copper. Eddie succeeded in making a total fool out of that particular London policeman just for good measure. Never mind constable, for every comic genius, there’s always a straight man. Just think of Morecambe and Wise, and you can be Ernie. Yes, Liverpool was the centre of the universe, and I was the most important person in that universe, cos I was going to my first ever LFC match.
“Are we going in The Kop Phil”? “No, you’re too small, you’ll get pushed all over the place and you won’t be able to see. Anyway, they piss in your pocket in there”. Picture the images that little statement conjured up in the mind of a wide eyed 8 year old, especially coming from our Phil, cos he knew everything about the match, he even saw us play in the 2nd division! My God, were we really in the 2nd division? It may have been only a few short years earlier at this time, but because I had no memory of it, it was like being told by Phil that he had walked with dinosaurs!
So off we went, heading for the Anfield Rd End. It was a simple procedure, going the match in those days. Nobody had a season ticket, and you didn’t have to plan your day 4 weeks in advance, like some sort of military operation. “Right Carruthers, I’ll man the phone line while you send off the letters. And Smythe-Jenkins, make sure you contact the Southern branch of the regiment to make sure their letters are posted off too, just in case the enemy (the ticket office), really do practise postcode discrimination”. No, there was none of that, you just went, and when you got there, you paid your money to the feller on the gate. Four shillings each it was as far as I can remember. And in we went, slightly to the left as you face the pitch, the third crush barrier up from the front.
Whenever Phil was home for the weekend, which was virtually every week unless he was actually away at sea, this was to be our speck for the next 3 years, until at the ripe old age of 11, I was deemed old enough to go with my mates. I never experienced the dubious pleasures of the boys pen, graduating straight to The Kop, where I discovered that you did indeed get pushed all over the place, but nobody pissed in your pocket. Or perhaps I was just lucky.
Back to the Anfield Rd end, and Phil would lift me onto the bar at about ten to three, just in time to witness the awesome site of The Kop singing YNWA. A sea of red and white scarves in those days, flags were pretty rare. Perched on the bar, it took about ten minutes for pins and needles to set in, and about thirty minutes for complete paralysis from the waist down, but it didn’t matter, cos being there was the greatest thing in the world. Phil would stand directly behind me, in an attempt to protect me from the crowd surges, which always reached a peak as them wicked, drunken dockers came in, at precisely one minute to three, straight from the pub. Sometimes he would fail, and I would end up on the back of one of those same dockers, and he didn’t seem so bad now, as he would gently lift me back on to my perch.
So, on to the match itself. Well I can remember the score, I was never gonna forget that, 4-0 to the Reds, but that’s about all I could remember, no recollection of the details whatsoever. So when I looked for the stats (thanks liverweb), I discovered that “my” first ever Liverpool goal was scored by Geoff Strong, in front of a crowd consisting of me, and 40,623 other less important fans. Then a couple of goals from “Sir” Roger, and finally one from Peter Thompson, my first real Liverpool hero. A superb winger, and that George Best wasn’t fit to lace his boots, or so I naively believed in the way only an 8 year old Liverpudlian bigot could. So that was it, I was hooked. Phil had dangled the bait, and I had took it in a manner that would make any Great White Shark very proud.
The day as described up to now was memorable enough, but remember remember, this was the 5th of November, one of the highlights of any self respecting 8 year olds calender. So it was home to a box of those Standard fireworks that I mentioned earlier, followed by spuds, roasted on the mini “bommy” that we would always have in our back garden. I suppose there must have been a knack to the way me Dad managed to get them burned to a cinder on the outside, yet still raw in the middle, but I’m not quite sure what the knack was. Anyway, all they needed was a pinch of salt and they still tasted good anyway.
So I think that’s about it. If I was Lou Reed, I would have penned a very different set of lyrics when I came to write “Perfect Day”, cos to this 8 year old, that’s exactly what it was, a very perfect day.
There, who said nostalgia aint what it used to be?