I just loved waking up on match days. It was generally a Saturday 3pm kick-off around 1979. There was no live TV changing the times around and you could easily slip into your matchday routine.
No live games also meant that those in the ground were the only ones to see the whole game. Maybe a few minutes highlights if you were lucky on either Match of the Day, or ‘The Big Match’ on a Sunday. It meant you were special, a real supporter. There’s always been a hierarchy of supporters, and going to every home game was only trumped by those who regularly travel away.
In fact the ‘routine’ started early in the week; by Wednesday I was already mentally building up to the game on Saturday. As a 15-year-old I wasn’t full of social confidence. But that all melted away when I was at the game. I could talk footy with anyone; my knowledge of the team and tactics equalled anyone, and I knew it.
I’d wake up around 10.00. My mum who sadly passed away recently always wanted me to go to the Saturday morning prayers at our local synagogue. I stayed quiet in my room in an attempt to hide away. If I did go, I’d just be thinking about the game and felt even less Jewish than I usually did (which was not much, to be honest!)
Anyway, my 68 bus went around 12.20, and I’d never miss it. My scarf was on, but there was little in the way of replica shirts back then. I’d always wear a t-shirt under my normal shirt. I loved keeping my match day programme pristine, and put it flat between my t-shirt and button-up shirt. It hopefully kept it safe during the scrimmaging of the Kop later.
I never minded going to the match on my own, as I generally did. I’d sometimes bring along my ‘blue nose’ friend Richard (to show him how football should be played lol) and at other times I’d go to Goodison with him. But on ‘my Todd’ was good. There were so many people around me, and many positive vibes for me to deal with.
My excitement would build; with each stop more lads with their Liverpool scarves got on. I was one of the lads; maybe not chatting with them at this stage; just maybe a nod of allegiance and acceptance.
I’d get off the bus and stroll to the ground. I was already buzzing. The sellers shouting ‘hats caps scarves n banners’ (which sounded like one word), the queues for the chippy. My first view of that famous ground; my palace of prayer and peacefulness of soul, not the forced religion of the morning.
I’d get there early and went into the queue where the old Kemlyn Road stand met the Kop. Always the same turnstile. I’d pay my 90p in. Believe it or not, I took a fiver that covered 2 bus trips, entry, programme and chippy dinner on the way home.
Back then, the steps to the top of the Kop were different. Straight through the turnstile, the massive looking staircase went to the top of the Kop…my personal ‘Stairway to Heaven’. The first glimpse of the Kop and the pitch always filled me with not only excitement but an inner piece. This was MY place; my spiritual home.
I had my place too. Just to the right and slightly above the middle. I’d find my ‘bar’ and stand in front of it. Never behind, as when the wave of humanity moved downwards during a particularly exciting moment, you wouldn’t want to be crushed against it. Some youngsters liked to sit on their particular bar, and hold on for dear life! I loved moving with the crowd but was aware after the surge forward to quickly push back to my starting point.
I’d be there really early. Firstly, there was no issue getting in. If you got there too late, the queues to pay in would snake all the way down the Kemlyn Road, and some were even locked out. I liked to get in around 1.30 and would love watching the Kop and the stands around me fill up, and you could feel the atmosphere build up. Why on earth leave it late when you could stand at my favourite place in the world for an extra hour. Maybe the first chant would go out around 2.30 (it’s far later now unless it’s a massive game) and it was often the ‘Celtic /Rangers’ chant when we shouted the Scottish team we followed. I had no particular allegiance, but chose Rangers!
There weren’t enough toilets, and moreover, some didn’t want to lose their spec. ‘Out the Way lads’ as some used their programmes as a sort of urinal funnel, and a 6-foot area in front of this particular lad was cleared. At half-time, you went to the toilet area, but most felt that as long as you used a wall near the toilet, you were ok! I seem to remember at the Kemlyn side of the Kop there were maybe 20 urinals for tens of thousands! let’s just say you wouldn’t want to be wearing your best shoes!
I didn’t mind – it all added to the atmosphere.
Unlike the large food areas in the Kop now, there was a tiny café shop. There was always a massive queue with absolutely no hope of being served.
I loved the release when the teams came out, the roar of expectation. Every player had their chant, and they nodded /waved to the Kop in thanks. Then my favourite bit, singing You’ll Never Walk Alone before kick-off. Would it be a good one? How loud? It was amazing before big games such as the Derby, but I always loved it and sang my little heart out. Still do for that matter.
And so to kick off. That was when hope and expectation, the currency of football supporters worldwide, was at its maximum. Luckily that was an era when all these hopes for our amazing team in red basically came true.
After the game, I’d take my time. Tired and sweaty, there was absolutely no reason to rush home. I’d stroll down to Priory Road, get my chippy dinner and wait for the number 68 to take me home again. It was like going home at the end of your holidays; I was already looking forward to the next game.
Night-time games were even better. The atmosphere was (and still is) different. Anfield under the lights took my breath away, and all the experiences of Saturdays were heightened. My whole school day I was obsessed with the game, and I’d rush home to get changed as quickly as possible.
It’s so different now. No kid could plan this day out with their pocket money, which is a pity. I can rarely get tickets now for league games, which is something I’ll discuss at a later date. I still have these wonderful memories however which will never ever leave me.