Red All Over Ireland – Issue 199

ImageUnable to travel to the Tottenham game was bad enough but then not even being able to watch the game on the box was almost a step too far. What’s the point of a 2 year olds birthday party anyway, they haven’t a clue what’s going on. So it was a case of going back to my youth and listening to the Radio as the reds ran Spurs ragged a few weeks back.

And I was glad I did – It brought me back to an era when all we had to update us was Ceefax or Teletext, if you had a remote control TV that is. Luckily we also had BBC Radio Two for second half commentary – SECOND HALF! Many a glorious moment I had listening to the Reds on a Saturday afternoon as we marched towards title after title. Even better was the midweek show which started at 8pm. It was commonplace for games at Anfield to kick-off at 7.30pm in the 80s, which meant by the time the radio programme was on, we were 30 minutes into the action. So I had to wait until the programme announcer, usually Byron Butler, to set the scene and utter the words; “and already there has been some action at Anfield, Peter Jones describes the action”.

As you can imagine, the tension for those first few seconds were unbearable, so it all depended on the first player he mentioned as to who actually scored, so in those days it usually started with “Souness has the ball …..” YESSS…before the ball hit the net you knew it was the reds that were in front, of course the move usually finished with “and Rush scores”. The tension was over until the action started “LIVE” from the commentators. What huge games, what memories. Liverpool taking the lead through Ray Kennedy in Munich in 81! The Germans were so arrogant after the first leg even I believed it was going to be a step too far – step up Howard Gayle to run the Germans ragged as the red army marched on Paris. TV would win the day for that one as Barney stole through to shatter Real Madrid. Although I do have the radio commentary stored away on a cassette tape somewhere – just have to find a machine to play it on now!

The commentators themselves were important cogs in the machine; it was their job to transport the listener to the game. Some went onwards to TV like Alan Parry and George Hamilton; some were more suited to radio and have stayed there. Bryon Butler would always present the cup draw from Lancaster Gate, more nervous moments and much more drama than what we have nowadays with draws being made before the previous round has even been completed. Denis Law was a good summariser in those days and proved to be an ideal sidekick to the then young Alan Green and later Mike Ingham. But there was none better than the late great Peter Jones, cool as you like he’d announce “And Liverpool have won the European Cup”.

Memories of Peter Jones at the microphone transports me back to 1989 – I’ll deal with the Arsenal title decider first. Of course it was on ITV but I was involved in a local football game the same night and would miss most of the first half. But as a goalkeeper (at the time) I had a plan – I had a radio in the back of the net. And it wasn’t long before I was in the back of the net myself as I totally lost my bearings whilst thinking I had heard some dramatic action, the ball floating over my head into the goal. Meanwhile it was 0-0 at Anfield. At half-time my manager said “I don’t know where you were for that goal” I did, my mind was at Anfield.

Running home after the game I heard the Alan Smith goal go in, was it a goal, well yes it was – got in for the last 15 minutes of the game and over to Brian Moore on the TV. One minute says Steve McMahon, but then it happened, “Arsenal come streaming forward now in surely what will be their last attack. A good ball by Dixon, finding Smith, for Thomas, charging through the midfield. Thomas, it’s up for grabs now! Thomas! Right at the end! An unbelievable climax to the league season.”

Unbelievable it certainly was – but the Anfield crowd stayed on to applaud the new champions – the club had been through so much – it was only 7 weeks previous that we had played Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough. Irish TV had the game live and when no news was forthcoming from the Irish station of what was happening it was over to Radio 2 for what was to be an emotional three hours. BBC 2 Sports Report that day is still vivid in my mind, Peter Jones who was to die a year later whilst covering the boat race described the scene at Hillsborough in only a way he could.

“The biggest irony is that the sun is shining now, and Hillsborough’s quiet and over there to the left are the green Yorkshire hills, and who would’ve known that people would die here in the stadium this afternoon. I don’t necessarily want to reflect on Heysel, but I was there that night, broadcasting with Emlyn Hughes, and he was sitting behind me this afternoon, and after half an hour of watching stretchers going out and oxygen cylinders being brought in and sirens screaming, he touched me on the shoulder and said ‘I can’t take anymore’, and Emlyn Hughes left.

“The gymnasium here, at Hillsborough, is being used as a mortuary for the dead, and at this moment stewards have got little paper bags, and they’re gathering up the personal belongings of the spectators. And there are red and white scarves of Liverpool, and red and white bobble hats of Liverpool, and red and white rosettes of Liverpool, and nothing else.

And the sun shines now.”

It’s the single most poignant piece of radio commentary I have ever heard, and ever will hear.

JFT96
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Red All Over The Land – Issue 196

ImageOh what a night it was at our last home game – any win against the blue half of the city is to be savoured but a 4-0 drubbing in what was described as the ‘most important derby in 30 years’ was much more than we had hoped for. And it could have been more. At the time of going to press we don’t know the WBA result but let’s hope we are going into today’s first of two games V Arsenal in a week in good nick.

There does seem to be a trend with the reds taking on the Gunners in different competitions so close together. As recent as April 2008, the two clubs clashed three times within a week, a league encounter sandwiched between two Champions league quarter-final ties (remember that competition). It was a trilogy in which Liverpool came out unbeaten. The Champions League tie at the Emirates ended all square. A scorer of many important goals for the reds, Dirk Kuyt cancelled out Adeboyer’s opener thus leaving it all to play for in the second leg the following week. In the meantime the two sides had to play a league encounter the following Saturday morning – Once more it finished level, an impressive Liverpool which included Damien Plessis making his debut took the lead through Peter Crouch with Nicholas Bendtner grabbing a equaliser as thoughts turned to the next game of the trilogy at Anfield – an unforgettable evening.

In a game that ebbed and flowed, the old stadium rocked from start to finish, heck, I didn’t get to sit down and I was in the Anfield Road end, you know it’s special when that happens. All the drama came late in the game, after both sides traded goals in the first half, Fernando Torres looked to have put Liverpool through only for Adebayor to put the Londoners ahead with 6 minutes remaining. We certainly had some roller-coaster times under Rafa and you just knew we could come back, and we did two minutes later. Torres who had tortured the hapless Senderos all night, drew a foul and once more Steven Gerrard saved the day with a faultless spot-kick to put the reds in control even though the game was still in the balance. The crowd could relax just minutes later when Ryan Babel was given the freedom of the Arsenal half to race through and finish the job off. Ring of Fire didn’t stop for ages that night as the reds spilled out onto the surrounding streets dreaming of another tilt at Chelsea in the semi-final of the Champions League. Good times, no, great times.

If we had the upper hand in 2008 it perhaps was a case of revenge for what happened to the redmen two years earlier. This time we were paired against each other in the two domestic cup competitions. The League Cup 5th round tie at Anfield in December was called off due to heavy fog, now it was to be re-fixed just three days after the reds would open their FA Cup defence, also against the Gunners.

The FA Cup clash would be known as ‘Truth Day’, the Reclaim the Kop group organised a mosaic as 12,000 fans in the Kop were given cards to hold up which spelt out the words “The Truth”. It would be a timely reminder to those in power that the fight for justice would not go away. With the mosaic visible while Liverpool supporters chanted “Justice for the 96” for six minutes it was a breath-taking sight that had the desired effect in highlighting once more the long awaited fight for Justice.

The match itself was dominated by the visitors who inspired by Thierry Henry ran out 3-1 winners as both sides locked horns in the League Cup tie three days later. The League Cup match was to be a game to forget for the redmen and one to remember for Arsenal frontman Julio Baptista who netted four times as both sides fielded somewhat understrength teams. A 6-3 reverse was the worst home defeat in 76 years and leaving Anfield that night we were sure we would never see another opposition player score 4 goals against us again, and certainly not an Arsenal player, wishful thinking!

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Playing each other three times in a week in 2008 may seem a lot, but back in 1980, the two sides traded blows an incredible five times over a three week period. Both sides had reached the semi-final of the FA Cup and after a scoreless draw at Hillsborough the two met again four days later at Villa Park. No pens in those days. A goal apiece from David Fairclough and Alan Sunderland would not settle the tie – as both sides headed to Anfield for a league clash just a few days later. Predictably enough, the game finished all square with Liverpool remaining in top spot in the race for league honours, just a point ahead of closest rivals Manchester United.

The two clubs had a well-deserved break from each other for a whole nine days before their second replay. With the added bonus of playing second division side West Ham in the final, Liverpool were eyeing up a first League and Cup double. In a dramatic finale at Villa Park Kenny Dalglish popped up on 90 minutes to cancel out a first minute strike from the previous year’s cup final hero, Alan Sunderland. Extra-time wouldn’t separate the two and just three days later at the unusual semi-final venue of Highfield Road Coventry, Brian Talbot scored the only goal of the game to send the Gunners into the final against West Ham, a game they lost 1-0. For Liverpool, they only had to wait another two days to pick up the championship once more.

So onwards to the next installment in the history of these great two clubs. I’m sure the majority of the red army that travelled to Bournemouth were counting the cost and praying for a home tie when who else but Arsenal away gets pulled out of the hat. Not only that, it now means two trips to the capital for the reds within a few days with the league clash against Fulham taking place on the 12th Feb. Quite the expense and I’m sure most can’t afford to attend the two games. After the possibility that ticket prices may hit £93, the pressure for common sense was applied by Jay McKenna and the Spirit of Shankly. The game has now been labelled a CAT B game by Arsenal, thus reducing ticket prices to £54, well done to all involved. Still far too much money for any football match, but small steps.

So it’s been a great week at the time of writing. Libpool Libpool top of the league, Libpool top of the league. Well commercial league at any rate. New sponsorship deals with Dunkin’ Donuts, Vauxhall and most recently the Indonesian firm Garuda Airline who will sponsor the clubs training gear. With the teams above dropping points recently, perhaps we can even dream of snatching the 3rd Champions League spot. After today’s game we might well have a better idea on whether it’ll be the Champions League Logo or the Europa League badge that will appear on next seasons kit.


Red All Over Ireland – Issue 195

Sunday afternoon and it’s the FA Cup 4th round draw and we hadn’t even kicked off in the 3rd round yet. But it was quite nerve-wrecking in the public houses around Anfield Road before the Oldham game as Paul Allen juggled with one ball and fellow draw man, Martin Allen, had everyone squinting at the screen with his technicolored waistcoat effort. Paul Allen hasn’t changed much since he ran through on goal in the 1980 Cup final only to be scythed down by that big bully Willie Young of Arsenal – a yellow card! I think every red was a hammer for the day after the 4-game semi-final marathon against the Arsenal. Back to Paul Allens ball juggling skills, surely it’s only a matter of time before something goes wrong and the draw will be declared null and void. Fabrice Muamba called out a wrong number last season. Let’s go back to the Monday midday draw on the radio with the blazers and the velvet bag, now that was tension.

Anyway a lot of big sides and Everton were left in the errrr VESSEL is all I can describe it as and it was looking like a derby or one of the Manchester sides in the next round of the FA Cup. A fellow red beside me just kept saying “I want a trip to the seaside” and WALLAH, out pops AFC Bournemouth or Burton Albion. By the time you read this, we will know whether the panic buying for the bucket and spade was worthwhile. If it is Bournemouth it’s a long trip for the redmen for a 12.45 kick off on the south coast, as usual fans are an afterthought. Look at Coventry City, already in the mire this season having to play their home games at Northampton – get a dream draw at Arsenal – only to have their game taking place on the Friday night, meaning at least 2,000 sky blues won’t be able to travel! Another note on the possible Bournemouth tie is that those of us watching the box will probably have to endure an afternoon watching how Harry Redknapp masterminded Bournemouth’s victory over the then holders ( And Smith must (didn’t) score) Man United. Is it really 30 years! Thankfully QPR are playing on the same day so we will be spared a studio appearance by Harry.

Aston Villa arrive today in a similar position to last season’s visit to Anfield when they ran out comfortable 3-1 winners in what was a forgettable afternoon for the reds. Brendan Rodgers men dropped as low as 12th that afternoon – 13 months on and the redmen are riding high and in real contention for a Champions League place. Hard to believe it’s nearly 5 years since the 5-0 thrashing at Anfield as Rafa’s Liverpool were running Manchester United close at the top of the table. Sadly it wasn’t to be.

Personal memories of games against Villa at Anfield brings me back to our 11th title win in 1979 – a Tuesday night meant listening to the second half commentary on BBC Radio 2. In those days you had no idea what happened in the first 45 minutes – no ceefax or teletext in those days, well not in my house. So I had to endure the torture of the presenter saying “and there’s been some action in the 1st half”. Thankfully Peter Jones or Bryan Butler mentioned a Liverpool player first and you knew we had scored. More than one as it turned out, Alan Kennedy and Kenny Dalglish sending the reds into the break two goals to the good. The second half was a joyous affair, the airwaves transporting the songs from the KOP, who were in fine voice, across the Irish Sea. Terry McDermott killed off any chance of a Villa comeback as the reds reclaimed the championship crown that emerging rivals Nottingham Forest had surprisingly won the previous year.

One year on and Villa were present for another Liverpool coronation. The game took place on a Saturday afternoon, and just two days after Arsenal overcame the reds in the 4th game of their FA Cup semi-final marathon. No sign of weariness however as the reds raced into an early lead. We were then treated to one of the most bizarre Liverpool moments as defender, the late Avi Cohan, sliced the ball into his own net only for him to put the reds 2-1 up with a fine shot at the start of the second half. A memorable afternoon for the Israeli was complete when Johnston added another before Aston Villa defender Noel Blake joined in on the own goal act to send the home fans on their way with a 12th league title in the bag.

As for Aston Villa, well they must have gained some valuable experience from the two title winning displays as they went on to win the biggest prize the following year and followed that up with a memorable European Cup win over Bayern Munich the following May.

Villa has enjoyed title success at the expense of the reds. Brilliantly described in Jonathan Wilsons book Anatomy of Liverpool the climax of the 1899 season was played out at Villa Park. The home side only needing a draw to clinch the title were up against a club that was only in existence for seven years. Former title winning manager at Sunderland, Tom Watson was in charge of the reds as they attempted to win the title for the very first time. However it was to be a day to forget as the home side fired in five goals without reply in the first half to clinch the league title.

It didn’t take too long for the reds to finally claim league glory. Tom Watson masterminding the 1901 side at the expense of his old club Sunderland and in the process starting the love affair with the league championship at Anfield Road.


Finally Bursting That League Cup Bubble

Red All Over The Land  – Issue 193 – @dmoenlfc

Today we have West Ham United as visitors and hopefully after the Hull and Norwich games in the past week we are still in amongst the top four places. Hard to imagine that it’s only 5 years since we drew 0-0 at home to the hammers to go top of the league– it wasn’t enough to please all in L4 that evening with sporadic boos ringing around the ground at the final whistle at the ‘disastrous’ outcome. A lot has happened since then of course and what we would give to be heading to the summit after today’s encounter.

Recent activity between the two clubs have centered on transfer deals; in the opposing squad we have ex reds in Stewart Downing, Joe Cole and the unlikely to feature Andy Carroll. Sadly none of the three set the world alight during their stay at Anfield, although Andy Carroll will be fondly remembered for his goal in the Merseyside FA Cup semi-final. If any of the lads are reading this, maybe you could tell that goalkeeper Jaaskelainen that the KOP applauds every visiting goalkeeper that comes to Anfield.

The reds have fared much better in recent transfer activity between the clubs, Javier Mascherano and Youssi Beneyoun arriving in 2007 with a large degree of success. Go back a further 14 years and we had a man who would write himself into the Anfield history books, Julian Dicks. It was a deal the Boleyn Ground occupants couldn’t turn down, the hammers getting in two pretty decent players in Mike Marsh and David Burrows for Dicks. He wouldn’t last long at Anfield, signed by Graham Souness to add more aggression to the back line; he would last just a year at Anfield. Souness’s replacement, Roy Evans, didn’t fancy the player and amid concerns over his fitness he was eventually shipped back to West Ham, who must have been delighted with the overall outcome of the deal. Still, in his brief sojourn he would become the answer to a common Liverpool FC quiz question. Who was the last Liverpool player to score in front of the standing KOP? None other than the Terminator himself, netting a 75th minute penalty on Grand National day 1994. The reds lost their last two home games to nil against Newcastle and Norwich respectively.

We have also went head-to-head with West Ham on three occasions with silverware at stake, yes I’m counting the Charity Shield game of 1980, hey I was 8 and it meant everything to me at the time and the 90,000 plus in attendance as well. A Terry Mac strike proving to be the only score of the game. Both sides would meet again in two cup finals, the much written about Gerrard FA Cup final of 2006 and the 1981 League Cup final, which also had its fair share of talking points and was to be Liverpool’s first triumph in the competition.

West Ham had won the FA Cup in 1980 as a second division side with a rare Brooking header overcoming hot favourites Arsenal. The following season they easily won promotion to the top table once more and with it another cup final appearance against a Liverpool side who were on the way to winning a third European Cup later in the spring.

As per the norm when Clive Thomas was in charge – controversy was never far away. A Sammy Lee ‘goal’ in the first half was ruled out for offside before Lee was once again in the action late on in extra-time. This time the Liverpool man was felled in the area after a crunching Alvin Martin challenge and as the hammers defence rushed out leaving Lee lying prostate in the area and in an offside position – Alan Kennedy simply rifled the ball past Phil Parkes. GOAL-NO GOAL? Thomas ignored the lines-man’s flag and gave the goal and with it surely a first Liverpool FC League Cup triumph. Not to be, to West Hams credit they piled forward. Ray Clemence pulled off a magnificent save from a Ray Stewart free-kick and from the resulting corner; Bootle born Alvin Martins headed goal wards, only for it to be punched off the line by Terry McDermott, a sending off offence today. Ray Stewart didn’t miss many penno’s and he sent Clemence the wrong way as both sides headed for an April Fool date replay at Villa Park. As they carried their tired limps off the sapping Wembley surface, I’m sure Alan Kennedy was cursing his luck, he was within seconds of scoring what would have been a cup winning goal. His time would come later that year in Paris and again in Rome three years later.

The replay was a much more open affair and it was the second division side that opened the scoring when Paul Goddard nodded in after five minutes. But the east-end joy was short-lived, within 30 minutes Liverpool had scored the goals that would take the cup to Anfield for the first time. Kenny Dalglish brilliantly hooking home a volley before an Alan Hansen header with the help of Billy Bonds knee won the day for the reds who were playing in their change strip of white shirts and black shorts. Simple strip back then, a classic – probably never to be seen again without some sort of zig-zag design to spoil it.

We did like that cup didn’t we, maybe it was the taste of milk the victors enjoyed afterwards, although stories emulating from that period would suggest most of the team were impartial to the black stuff than the white. We liked it so much that we decided to keep it for four years on the bounce before Clive Allen haunted us on Halloween night 1985. It wasn’t a bad return of silverware for a cup we hadn’t won at all up to 1981.


Shankly Gates and Jesus Statues – It must be Euro 2012

The final whistle goes at the Liberty Stadium and we finish the season with another defeat, the week after our 35 minute cameo in the FA Cup final against Chelsea and just five days since we dismantled the same opposition in what was to be Kenny Dalglish’s last home game as Liverpool manager. What now? Well we had the European Championships to look forward to at least. But not after another few stressful weeks of Liverpool Football Club being dragged around the public domain. Kenny gets called over to the states to deliver his end of season report and leaves no longer the manager of his beloved Liverpool, seemingly oblivious to what was coming. Not good. So arise Brendan Rodgers, best of luck to the second Ulster man to take charge of our club. He’s certainly talking a good game and roll on August, but I had a date with the Boys in Green to get over with first and my first major football championships, it’s been a while in coming.

I’m in the age bracket where it never looked like we would qualify for a major tournament, just one would do, and we had great sides in the past, but always seemed to fall at the final hurdle. Then along comes the giraffe that is Jack Charlton and all of a sudden football is in vouge again across the Irish sea, and even better we had a side containing the likes of Ronnie Whelan, Ray Houghton, Jim Beglin, Mark Lawrenson and John Aldridge. Suddenly we are one of the best sides in the world, or should I say one of the hardest to beat in the world. Our last away victory of note was against Scotland in 1987, a goal made in Liverpool, a quick free from Aldo sends ‘midfielder’ Lawrenson away and he finishes to the net. Ronnie Whelan played right back that night! We have had some more notable away ‘victories’ that will go down in Irish folklore. We have ‘beaten’ Spain 0-0, England 1-1 and Italy also 1-1 in their back yards, so it’s not all bad.

But we don’t get to many major tournaments, I was too young to travel to Euro ’88, at Italia ’90 we were stuck on an island, and it was pre Ryanair/Easyjet days, whilst USA ’94 and Japan/Korea 2002 were just too expensive.  I just had to get to one before it was too late or should I say before we aren’t good enough to compete anymore. It was looking dodgy this time as well, but Zbigniew Boniek owed me one after that dive at Heysel and pulled out the Estonia ball against Ireland. A 5-1 aggregate score later and we were on our way.

My plan was to head to Brazil in 2014 whether or not Ireland were going to make it or not. L4 has it’s own special magic for me, but second to that would be a visit to Brazil, Rio and it’s beach and that massive Christ the King statue looking down for the city below, and the Maracana Stadium of course.  But a look into the financial future of 2014 left me with no choice but to abandon the Brazil dream for now, and it was full steam ahead to Poland. I must stress that no way was I going to traipse across to the Ukraine, so it all depended on what way the balls came out in December.  Poland it was, and a group with the last two World Cup winners and a talented Croatian side, no problem for messrs Dunne, Duff, Given and ahem Green.

I and fellow regular Kopites, Chris, Clare and Sarah decided to base ourselves in Berlin for the majority of the tournament whilst heading into Poland for two games on the day of the match and spending three days in the host country for the Spanish match. It was purely for economic reasons, although in hindsight the liver was spared quite a bit of abuse also. Never been to Berlin, and it was everything we had hoped for. We attended the Germany V Portugal game at the Brandenburg Gate on the night before the Croatian game, 500,000 people having a great time; it was rude not to join in.

The next morning we travelled to Poznan for our first game against a pretty decent Croatia team. We were  on a mini-bus with three other Irish followers from Belfast, turned out one of them was a founder member of FC United, the chat moved on to our new boss and he was seething that we had got him before purple face had retired. One up to the reds I hope.

Nothing could prepare you for the sight in Poznan, thousands upon thousands of Irish and Croatians drinking merrily around the many squares the town had to offer. I don’t think the Polish were ready for this and sure enough the trams on the way out were overcrowded to the extreme. Hopefully they would get this sorted before the last game of the group. It was clear the stadium wasn’t completely finished either, the wire fences and heaps of sand were a dead giveaway. Many hundreds of fans were also bemused by the total lack of signage around the stadium, the stewards just shrugged their shoulders and apologised for the lack of organisation. The night had started badly; we finally got in before the national anthems. A few minutes in and one slow motion header and an unusually static Shay Given dive later and we are one down. Crap. Duff floats one into the box and St Ledger scores but the whistle had gone, well,  A whistle had gone,  but not the referees, it was from the crowd and I wasn’t the only one not to be going crazy when the ball hit the net. The phantom whistler continued all night as well, twat. It got worse as Croatia added more goals, one before and just after the break. Not the start we wanted. Bluenose Jelavic got plenty of abuse as well from the Irish end, not for his Everton connections of course but for his Rangers ones, that’s the problem following Ireland at times, best fans in the world my arse.

We didn’t land back in Berlin until the small hours but it was a good day, lets face it we have a limited enough side, we didn’t play well, and our hard to beat mantra went out the window tonight. It was unlike us; really need a set of Brendan Rodgers beads for the Spanish onslaught in a few days.

What was I saying about the lure of Rio, the Christ the King statue etc. We had Inter-rail tickets for our trip into Poland for the Spanish game and basically we could go where we wanted, well in the general direction of Gdansk where the Spanish game was held would be a help. A few internet searches later for a town to land in and we had hit a bit of Brazil in Poland. The small town of Swiebodzin was on our route and unbelievably the town of just over 21,000 inhabitants had raised enough money to erect their very own Christ the King statue, and what’s more, it was bigger than the one in Rio! I’m not the religious sort, but this had to be seen. So off we went to Gdansk via Swiebodzin.  The train station was something out of the Wild West, but the town itself was a joy to behold, and peering around a corner was this monstrosity of a monument, nothing could prepare you for it, it was spectacular.  It’s a canny move from the townsfolk as I’m sure it will become a tourist attraction for many years, the presence of a spanking new hotel right across from the statue was evidence enough, but the oversized Tesco’s supermarket beside it confirmed it. Good luck to them. It wasn’t the only surprise in store for us in the town. 1341607484804

Poland were playing Russia that night so a quick wash and down to explore the town before the game, walking around the squares and down a side street we go and there it was right in front of us, a quick rub of the eyes confirmed it. A pub maybe or was it a house, I wasn’t sure, but it had the Shankly Gates above it, with You’ll Never Walk Alone emblazoned across, it was a joy to see. Was it a pub but, a knock on the door later and nothing, then the door opened, a peer behind the unsuspecting person who answered confirmed it wasn’t a pub. A few points of the sign later and thumbs up signs etc also confirmed that he hadn’t a clue what we were so excited about. A DBTS sticker later and he seemed to know why we were there, but us having no Polish and the man himself no English made it impossible. So we just stuck a few more stickers on his door and took a few pictures to send home and to fellow reds in Liverpool who were delighted to see it. We drank merrily as Poland drew the match and onwards we went to the small town of Torun the next morning before hitting Gdansk for match day two.

Swiebodzen
I think it only rained twice when we were over and both were on Ireland match days, Gdansk is full of history, and the Scouse Solidarity tee would be very apt here. My word, what a lesson we were given by a Spanish side playing well within themselves I have to say, its hard to be critical when you come up against that. But another early goal again! We have to stop that, the game was over after a few minutes. Seeing Alonso run the show just breaks your heart as well. The ‘Fields’ got a great rendition towards  the end of the Spanish match,  the drunk lad in front of me was sitting beside two bemused Spanish supporters, he nudges them,
“Hear that, he slurred, that’s what  you call support” . I’m sure the two lads who have seen their country win the last two major championships and soon to be a third couldn’t give a fuck.  Me, I couldn’t sing it, and if I tried it would be “Stevie Heighway on the wing” every time.  Maybe I have serious questions to ask of myself as well.

So a  4-0 hammering and we also had to stay up the whole night before catching a train to Berlin at 6.30am – nothing for it but to drown our sorrows in the shadow of the Spanish hotel in the hope Pepe might wander over, he was probably rehearsing for the homecoming even  at that early stage. Back to Berlin to catch up on sleep and to prepare for the last game V Italy, we were out but we had a decent record against the Azzurri. Things can only get better on the playing side of things; off the pitch we had plenty to occupy ourselves with in Berlin. I’ll definitely be back to both countries, hopefully following the reds as well.

The Italian game was back in Poznan and it was notable that there wasn’t as many ‘fans’ there for the last game. I would go to all home Ireland games and a smattering of aways and the trips are great, as there would be only four to five thousand travelling maximum. You also get to meet good football people from across the island and look forward to renewing acquaintances on the following trip. But 30,000 had come to Poland and it has to be said thousands were that drunk that I’m sure they never made the matches at all. I know I’m sounding like an ‘Oul Arse’ but all my pet hates in the modern game were in full view, Jester Hats, Green Wigs, Morph suits, singing ‘Who are ya’, ‘He fell Over’ (in an English accent???) basically the viewing population of Soccer AM were there and it must have been hard  for the regulars to bear at times. We can’t even sell out the Aviva Stadium for qualifying games.

Well the good news was that we held on against the Italians for over five minutes, we were better organised, no doubt about it, but they were too good and needed the points desperately.  Ballotelli  came on to a chorus of boos, embarrassing,  and duly answered them by scoring a great second goal for a deserved Italian victory. Three games played and no points, but we did expect far too much from a limited team, they did well to get to the tournament in the first place. We just don’t have the players of the calibre of Whelan, Houghton, Aldo, McGrath, O’Leary anymore, the influx of SKY TV money has seen clubs looking further afield, across continents for talent instead of players on their own doorstep and that’s not going to stop any time soon.

Our adventure was almost over and we left the next morning to return to the North West of Ireland to prepare for another season with the Redmen. August can’t come quick enough and lets hope Rodgers will get the time to work his way into Liverpool folklore, early indications suggest he will get the time.

As for Euro 2012, it was good overall. The ‘boring’ Spain side won their third major competition in a row and sit proudly amongst the great sides of all time, the Brazil side of 1958,62 and 70 and the Uruguay side, Olympic Games winners in 1924, ’28 and World Cup winners in 1930. They are going to be hard to stop but with Brazil 2014 on the horizon we may well be in for a treat and you never know we may come across another “You’ll Never Walk Alone” house in Brazil yet.


Kerrykeel to pay tribute to a football legend

On Saturday September 7th , the day after Ireland lock horns with Sweden in a vital World Cup qualifier, the Donegal village of Kerrykeel will pay homage to one of Ireland’s greatest ever footballers, William Balintrae Gillespie. Born in Kerrykeel on 6th August 1891, Gillespie went on to become the most famous Irish footballer of his generation, the highlight of which came in 1925, when he was the first Irishman to captain an English FA Cup winning team, leading his Sheffield United team to victory over Cardiff in the Wembley final. Image

William Ballintrae became known as “Billy” and his father was Robert Gillepsie who was stationed as a sergeant at the RIC Barracks in Kerrykeel (Carrowkeel) in the early 1890’s.  Billy’s mother was Eliya Gillespie (formerly Blair) and his birth was officially registered in the Registrar’s District of Milford on 1st September 1891. Indeed the wall steads of the police barracks where Billy Gillespie was born remain to this day along with old adjoining stables.  Ironically Gillepsie’s homestead is just a stones throw from Drury Park, the football field that served the community of Kerrykeel for over 50 years until very recently.

Information compiled by Billy’s father, Robert Gillespie, in his role as sergeant in September 1893, notes that the population of Kerrykeel at the time was 146, with Fair Days on the 8th of every month.  The barracks also served as the local Post Office, Savings Bank and Money Order Office – And from these humble beginnings at a remote location in Kerrykeel, Donegal, Billy Gillespie arose to become a legend of the beautiful game.

One can only wonder what standing he would have in the modern era considering what he achieved as a player with Sheffield United and on the international arena with Ireland. Milestones such as the FA Cup victory mentioned in the opening paragraph – A victory in which he played a major part, his performance described as follows by the football writers of the day “Sheffield United played wonderfully well but special praise is due to Gillespie, the man who waves a wand and whose influence has played such a vital part in United’s capture of the Cup.”

ImageThe Blades captain was equally influential for his country, scoring two goals on his international debut against England in 1913 as the Irish defeated England for the very first time. He repeated the feat the year after, notching another two against the English as the Irish destroyed the home side at Ayresome Park Middlesbrough, the boys in green running out 3-0 winners.

He even played his part in BBC Radio history – On January 22, 1927, the BBC broadcasted a league match for the very first time – a game between Arsenal and Sheffield United. Gillespie scored United’s goal in a 1-1 draw at Highbury.

On returning home from Sheffield to manage Irish League side Derry City in 1932, Gillespie was required to take a red and white team strip with him as part of the deal. These colours of course would be adapted by Derry City, the candy-stripes we see them wear to this day. He had a successful stint in Derry, leading them to two City Cup triumphs and on four successive occasions they finished runners up in the Irish League. When Gillespie left Derry City in 1941 he relocated to Bexley in Kent, where he died a month short of his ninetieth birthday in July 1981.

It is hoped that local football enthusiasts from the North West and beyond will converge on the village on Saturday week as representatives from Sheffield United FC, the FAI, IFA, Derry City, Institute FC and Billy’s own relatives pay tribute to one of our own legends, William Ballintrae Gillespie.


LFC’s SECOND RATE INFORMATION ‘HEIGHWAY’

LFC’s SECOND RATE INFORMATION ‘HEIGHWAY’ – RAOTL ISSUE 185

So the WBA game has been moved to Monday February 11th. No complaints, we are due to play a Monday night game at some stage. Strange one though as we play in the Europa League that week, but the fixture change was announced before our successful trip to Udine. You work that one out! But why oh why is the official Liverpool FC website so slow in releasing news on fixture changes amongst other things. It’s been happening time and time again for the past number of years; so much so that’s it’s now the last place I look when it comes to any fixture news relating to Liverpool Football Club.

It really used to get on my nerves when we frequented the Champions League, whether it was the day of the group or knock-out phase draw (great days). The main talking point was would we be playing Tuesday or Wednesday, a choice we don’t have for Europa League Thursdays of course. Meanwhile all the airlines, train companies and hotels are busy putting up fares as we waited on confirmation of the match date. Luckily I knew a guy that works with UEFA and he was able to email me details as soon as he knew the dates were known, again, well before the website gave out the information. Saved me a fortune at times. Still, most fans didn’t have that luxury.

Sadly the situation doesn’t seem to be improving any time soon – pity we can’t take a lead from other clubs. The news of the game change seemed to take top priority for the powers of be within WBA, along I might add with the welfare of their traveling support. WBA had tweeted that their game against Liverpool had been re-scheduled at 11am on Tuesday 4th December. It was on their official site ten minutes later. Yet for one of the best supported teams in world football we had to wait another two hours for Liverpool FC to announce the very same news on their website – And it didn’t end there. The FA Cup live games were also announced on the same day, Liverpool were picked for the 4pm slot on Sunday 6th January and once more the ‘offy’ was more than an hour late with the news. Shameful when you consider the multi-media outlets available to us nowadays.

It shouldn’t be this way; it’s not as if the fixture changes are announced without the club having any prior knowledge. We know that clubs are consulted by the TV companies and local police about re-arranged TV games. I don’t profess to know how long they would have known about the changes, but I’m guessing it’s the day before at the very least. As usual it’s the fans that lose out. Why wait to relay the news to fans. At least give them a chance to get one over on the train and plane companies before the usual price hikes.

As an OOT this causes untold travel heartache, not only to overseas supporters but to Reds living and working throughout the UK. Train fares from London are sometimes more expensive than a flight from say Ireland. Of course you book flights/boats/trains at your own risk, that’s a given and in reality supporters should wait until the game is confirmed. Yes, in a perfect world that is true, but us fans are always looking out for a bargain and we can’t resist the cheap flight/train fare whenever it’s presented to us.

All we are asking is for the official site to get up to speed with the rest of the league clubs; surely it can’t be that hard for the club to delegate someone to upload important fixture news when it first becomes available.

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A tribute to Phil Taylor, a former player and manager of Liverpool Football Club was due to take place at the Aston Villa game recently and there’s a fitting tribute inside this issue. Bristol born Phil died on December 1st at the age of 95 and had served Liverpool FC as captain and manager for a total of 23 years. At the time of his death Taylor was Liverpool’s and England’s oldest international. After a bit of searching and advice from historian Jonny Stokkeland we believe the honour of the oldest surviving Liverpool player now rests with Sammy Smyth who is now 87 years old.

Born in Belfast on 25 February 1925, Smyth played for his hometown club Linfield before moving to Wolves in July 1947 for whom Smyth scored a goal in the 1949 FA Cup final. Smyth was moved on to Stoke for a fee of £25,000 where he remained for one season when Liverpool came calling. Bizarrely he made his debut straight away when Liverpool visited the club he had just signed from but Stoke came out on top 3-1 as the reds struggled to remain in the top flight. Smyth more than played his part, scoring 7 goals as the reds stayed afloat. It wasn’t to last.

Sadly a year later he couldn’t prevent the reds suffering relegation despite scoring 13 from 26 games. The pull of his native Belfast was too strong and Sammy returned to play with Bangor in 1955 where he was a bookmaker and opened a sports shop business. With a scoring rate of 20 goals in just 44 appearances Sammy Smyth certainly made a lasting impression at Anfield in his brief spell at the club, a scoring record many would be proud of in the modern game.  @dmoenlfc