As in most parts of Ireland there is a huge reds following in the North West of the country. When lifelong red, Aiden McGuirk, heard that Robbie Fowler and Jason McAteer were due in the area to do a Q&A session he thought that it would be an ideal moment to get close to his idols. But Aiden, a Neuromuscular and Physical Therapist by trade planned to get closer than most. He takes up the story. “When I first seen the advertisement for the evening with Robbie and Jason, I thought I have to try and find a way to treat them. After all, they are retired sportsman and both had experienced serious injuries in their careers. I was not thinking about publicity, although that was clearly going to be a bonus. The opportunity to treat two of your idols just doesn’t happen every day so I was determined to at least give myself a chance”. It was an occasion the married father of one clearly wanted to be involved in, even leaving the following morning free from appointments, just in case.
The night itself went well; the two lads regaled those in attendance with stories from their glittering club and international careers. Aiden had his business cards in his pocket, the plan being that he would get Jason and Robbie to at least sign them and wish the business luck. “I was third in the queue to meet the boys, as I got closer I was losing courage. Maybe it was best not to annoy them, just get a photo and move on like everyone else.” Then fate took a hand, McAteer sat down suddenly and winced in pain. To me that was the sign. I walked up with my card and said jokingly; “if you need me to have a look, I’ll sort it no problem”. Jason responded “mate if only I had you here today, the pain is killing me”. It seemed to be a case of a missed opportunity; as they were booked for the night and playing a round of golf the next morning, before heading back to Liverpool to work for LFCTV. But the lads were very appreciative of the information and wished the business luck and that was it. Or so he thought.
The following morning the phone rang and the familiar scouse tone of Jason McAteer was on the other side asking whether Aiden was able to meet them for a treatment as the golf had got the boot. He explains, “This was it, my professional head was clear; I knew what I needed to do to get the treatment done. The fan inside me was screaming of course and I had to calm myself for a while. The treatment on Jason went very well, and I even got to treat the left foot of Robbie Fowler or as he is better known to all reds, GOD. Jason McAteer even tweeted to his thousands of followers at his delight at the treatment – good publicity for sure.
Fast forward six months and with his physical therapy business established, Aiden was in discussions with McAteer once again. This time it really was a dream come true. “They must have been happy with what I had to offer in Donegal because this time the call was to invite me to Anfield to work on the players ahead of a legends charity game. I couldn’t believe it; here I was, treating players in the famed Liverpool FC home dressing room. Players like Patrick Berger, Gary McAllister, Phil Neal, Jan Molby and John Aldridge amongst others. I even got to sit in the dug-out with one of the famous boot-room men, Liverpool’s ex-manager, Roy Evans.”
It was a surreal moment. “To be in that dressing room with all that history and banter, listening to the legends talk about the past was an absolute pleasure, I even got to take a penalty in front of the KOP – and thankfully, I scored. I was very grateful for the opportunity from Liverpool Football Club to come over and treat in a club with so much history, and hopefully I’ll return in the very near future.”
Aiden would like to extend his gratefulness to Jason McAteer, a true professional and a genuinely nice guy who he appreciates went out of his way to organise his Anfield trip with Liverpool Football Club. “To me Jason is a true Liverpool great, one that looks after his own, and that’s Liverpool Football Club in a nutshell”.
The reds at home to Cardiff almost 54 years to the day since Bill Shankly was appointed manager of Liverpool Football Club. Not the best of starts for the new boss, a 0-4 reverse at Anfield. Can you imagine the reaction to such a start today. Lets go back in time and fast forward to the present day – it’s doubtful Mr Shankly would have survived in the current climate.
FOOTBALL FORUM 18th DECEMBER 1959
Hunt59: Best of luck to Mr Shankly in his new role as Liverpool FC manager. Let’s hope we start with a victory over the blues from Cardiff.
KemlynRoader: I second that. What a coup for Mr Shankly to obtain total control of first team affairs as well. Unheard off, he must have good methods of persuasion.
Kopite1947: This is a new departure and one I’m not best pleased with – Mr Shankly turned us down once before and we go back cap in hand – No thank you Mr Shankly. The club missed out on the great Liverpool captain, Matt Busby, and we will never live that down.
PhilTaylor1950: With Hickson and Hunt on form I can see no reason whatsoever why Liverpool can’t challenge for a top four finish this season and whilst it may take Mr Shankly a few years to get us promotion and back to where we belong I believe it will be worth it. We have found the right man gentlemen. I can assure you of that.
LiddleBilly: Does anyone know what time the soccertram leaves for Anfield this Saturday?
MoranLB: Soccertram leaves from the Aldelphi every half an hour from 12pm onwards. Don’t think there will be too many at the game this Saturday. Some say they can’t make out the players from the back of the Spion Kop. I said it when they were installed two years ago, Floodlights will not work and won’t attract more spectators to football. And I was right.
DashingDaveH: I hope Mr Shankly will be paying a good deal of attention to the reserve side, we have some very good youngsters with a special mention to young Callaghan who I feel could do a good job for Liverpool FC and could play in the first team until the late 1960’s at least.
StubbornStubbins: Anyone going to Charlton for the Boxing Day Fixture?
Balmerlegend: Well I would like to travel but would we make it back in time for the return fixture on the 28th? Maybe we could ask Mr Shankly for a lift back ha ha
20man: Please pray that Danny Malloy is playing this Saturday afternoon. He’s now scored three own goals against us whilst playing for Cardiff. I predict a revenge 3-2 win for the reds this Saturday.
FOOTBALL FORUM 19th DECEMBER 1959
(Liverpool FC 0 Cardiff City 4)
Hunt59: If Mr Shankly doesn’t know what a tough job he has on his hands he does now. But he’ll get it right.
KemlynRoader: Cardiff got the start they needed, jolly good team they are as well. Up to third now.
Kopite1947: I told you giving a manager sole responsibility for the job would lead to problems. I gave the director’s box a piece of my mind at the final whistle
PhilTaylor1950: Hickson and Hunt never got a sniff from Sullivan and Baker who were in top form. Mr Shankly will have a good look at the youngsters I hope and build a team for a promotion push next season.
MoranLB: Danny Malloy didn’t even get on the score-sheet. I was at the back of the Spion Kop, I could barely see with the poor lighting and cigarette smoke. But at least I was warm. Back again for Charlton.
StubbornStubbins: Young Jones played ever so well on his debut – with Callaghan playing well for the reserves this team may look very different in the new year when Mr Shankly gets a good look at them on the training pitch.
Balmerlegend: I like the way Mr Shankly speaks, he has the common touch he said afterwards “Naturally I’m disappointed but it’s just as well that I’ve seen the team give an off-form display in my first match. I’ve learned quite a few things this way,” Seems a honest man.
20man: I had Danny Malloy down to score a o.g. on my coupon – only hope we have of getting promotion is winning the pools. Maybe John Moores will come across to this side of Stanley Park and invest in the reds.
FOOTBALL FORUM 19th DECEMBER 2013
(Liverpool FC 0 Cardiff City 4)
Luis7: Keystone cop defending, this has been a woeful performance.
stevielegend: I can’t believe the board has given this man full control over team affairs. This is a fcuking joke.
5times: What a loada shite. New players required Shankly, and no money, we are doomed.
KD: Absolutely pathetic, while Moran was our best player there seems to be no communication at the back when he plays, Allen was good on his debut and Hunt is terribly overrated and never looks arsed. Good luck Shankly.
Lucas09: Fooking joke, we’ve nothing in midfield – Hunt is ok up front but we never looked like doing anything. Nothing but two wins from our two games against Charlton now.
GlenJ: That is up there with the worst Liverpool performances I have ever seen and I was at the 5-1 home defeat to The Arsenal seven years ago – even at this early stage Shankly needs to look at himself in the mirror. The team selection was all over the place. The communication between Morris and Campbell was awful. That midfield needs some major surgery. Fcuking shit
RafaB: It was a really bad result we know that, but how we perform next game against Charlton will tell us a lot more about the team and the new manager. Embarrassing result.
RobbieF: Show me somebody who thinks Jimmy Melia should be in the team and I’ll show you an idiot. Send Dave Hickson back across the park as well, useless.
Ronnie5: Take a photo of the league table because unless Mr Williams invests heavily we won’t be challenging for promotion this or next season. Mr Shankly must be wondering what he has got himself into here. We are on the way to no-where.
Rush9: We need to win our next two against Charlton IMHO. And hope that Sheffield Utd and Cardiff drop more. At least Everton are having a shit season as well. As for Mr Shankly – he’ll be lucky to last the season with this performance, talks a lot, but nothing to show for it.
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.
Well who would have thought it – a great start to the season and everyone is upbeat – even on internet and twitter-land. Except we are now serious contenders for 2nd/3rd place, one step at a time folks. But maybe just maybe…see, even I am at it now.
The atmosphere around the ground has certainly been upbeat so far (well I know we have only played three games) – the Stoke game (well certainly the finish) took me back to the European nights, and that was from the Anny Road end. Nearly took me back to the Arsenal CL classic, and it wasn’t even under lights. Libpool Libpool top of the league, Libpool…TOP OF THE LEAGUE! For a few hours.
The Mancs at home was special with it being Shanklys 100th birthday weekend as well. The mosaic was magnificent and the Shankly singing on the Kop would have been music for those old enough to remember the great man. A fitting tribute. Great start and we held on without being troubled too much, very much a cup tie element to the game and a nice few celebratory pints afterwards before the journey home.
With me there is always a BUT…something to irritate, something that wasn’t right and it has been around for a few years now, but for this game they were just far too noticeable for my and I’m sure countless other reds liking. No not the jester hats this time, but the half and half scarfs. They were everywhere, lads and lassies walking proudly around with both crests showing singing “Oh Man …chester is full of shite” What on earth processes these people to buy this crap! I’m sure it happens at OT as well, we’ll see in a few weeks time. Think about it, a LFC and Man U scarf. What’s next – JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald half and half’s, Hitler and the Pope, Luis and Evra, or god forbid, Jones and Humperdinck.
One more gripe, major gripe – we were in 306 and as the game was reaching the crucial final moments the language was of course colourful to say the least – what would you expect. Anyway my friend beside says something like “Ah for fu*k sake get rid of it” Chap beside her nudges her “ Mind the language please” I think she was that shocked she said nothing, in hindsight she should have told him to F-OFF in the strongest possible terms and said as much afterwards. What’s it all coming to eh – football without fans is nothing that’s for sure but football can do without some of these event junkies. He left before the end as well.
Last month we informed all that Ned Doig’s grave will be fitted with a headstone but that Tom Watson the man who led Liverpool to their first league title had none as yet. Karen Gill, the grand-daughter of Bill Shankly has promised to take this issue up with Ian Ayre at the next supporters club committee meeting. So fingers crossed for that. More news soon- and this time it will be better I’m sure.
More from yesteryear and another Liverpool manager W.E. Barclay, who like Watson is buried in an unmarked grave at Anfield. William Barclay was born in Kilmainham Auxillery South Derby Union Workhouse, Dublin on 14th June 1857. He would have the distinction of managing both Everton and Liverpool – becoming the blues first ever manager in 1888 and then leaving the club with John Houlding to remain at Anfield to take charge of the new Liverpool Football Club with John McKenna. Now Johnny Stokkeland has been in touch and along with George Rowlands they have informed RAOTL that they are ordering a headstone this week for a man who helped shape the Liverpool we know today.
When ‘Honest’ John McKenna started the search for a manager that could land Liverpool the first division title, he only had one man in mind, the best in the business. That man was Tom Watson the Sunderland manager. Newcastle born Watson was the leading light in the game at the time, having led Sunderland to three league titles. It was to be an inspired move.
Watson’s first game in charge was also the first game in which Liverpool FC wore their famous red shirts. Progress was swift and after a near miss in 1899, the reds finally claimed their first of 18 league titles when they pipped Watson’s old club Sunderland by two points in 1901. After the reds shock relegation in 1904, the club bounced back to win the second division title at the first attempt, and duly delivered the first division title for the second time the following season (1906) thus becoming the first club to win the second division and first division titles in successive seasons.
So Liverpool FC’s longest serving manager Tom Watson had the distinction of winning the first division title with two different clubs. Three league titles with Sunderland and two with Liverpool. He was also the first Liverpool manager to lead the club to an FA Cup final, sadly the reds succumbed to the challenge of Burnley at the Crystal Palace venue. Watson was also responsible for the signatures of Liverpool legends such as Elisha Scott, Alex Raisbeck and Liverpool’s oldest ever player Ned Doig. Tom Watson’s achievements at Liverpool were set to continue as he reached his 19th year in charge of the Anfield outfit. Sadly it wasn’t to be, Watson died on 6th May 1915 at the age of just 56.
The turnout at his funeral demonstrated the popularity of the man; Doig and Raisbeck were amongst the pallbearers as Watson was laid to rest at Anfield Cemetery. The Liverpool Echo reported: ‘The number of wreaths, including tributes from the Liverpool and Everton clubs, was more than one hundred, and represented all the leading football associations.’ It was a fitting farewell to a Liverpool FC and football legend.
Tom Watson (left) You would like to think that the man who delivered our first league title would have a fitting final resting place. A place of pilgrimage for all Liverpool FC fans to pay their respects to the great man. After all, the grave is a stone’s throw away from Anfield. Sadly this is not the case. Tom Watson rests in Anfield Cemetery, but sadly, it’s in an unmarked grave. Not only that, only a few feet from Watson’s grave lies Ned Doig, Watson’s goalkeeper at Sunderland and Liverpool, also in an unmarked grave. It’s not sure if the unmarked status of the graves was always the case, but it’s quite possible that the graves would have been forgotten in time if it wasn’t for the persistence of Steve Bainbridge, a local researcher, and Ned Doigs grandson, Eric Doig, who assisted Steve in discovering the plots in 2010.
Commenting in an article on www.clickliverpool.com by Richard Buxton in 2010, Eric Doig said; “Tom was Liverpool’s first successful manager, leading his sides to two first division and one second division championship. He has been buried for nearly 95 years unrecognised in an unmarked grave in Anfield Cemetery.”
Speaking about his grandfather Ned, Eric continued; “My grandfather Ted Doig also lies in an unmarked grave a few yards from his manager and mentor Watson. It is sad that neither of them have headstones, and we cannot be sure whether they ever did, but it would be fitting for the last resting places of two great men to properly identified be marked with suitable memorials.”
In the same article Peter Lupson the football historian and author of the excellent ‘Across the Park’ and ‘Thank God for Football’ said: “It is sad that the graves of Tom Watson and Ned Doig are unmarked. They were two very great figures in the early years. Now that they have been traced, it is clearly important that their final resting places are honoured and given the recognition they deserve. “It would be excellent if the graves can be fitted with headstones worthy of their contribution to the history of Liverpool FC.”
Recently I received an article from Kjell Hanssens excellent website detailing the Liverpool Echo’s coverage of Tom Watson’s funeral in 1915. Underneath the report, an updated picture of Watsons grave shocked me. There it was, a stick in the ground with a piece of cardboard attached stating: “Tom Watson – LFC Manager 1896-1915. Died May 6th 1915 Aged 56. A puff of wind and it would be blown over, unmarked once more. It made me wonder what had happened in the two years since the graves were uncovered, was there any movement since?
So just two weeks ago I got in touch with the ever helpful Peter Lupson. Peter informed me that Eric Doig and Tom Watson’s grandson had met at the recent Stoke City game at Anfield. One email later to Eric and the good news is that the wheels seem to have been set in motion. Eric informed me that Watson’s great-grandson Gerald Jensen had travelled all the way from Detroit for the Stoke game and that both men had a positive meeting with Liverpool’s Managing Director Ian Ayre. It will come as no surprise that plans came to an abrupt halt in the reign of the ‘cowboy’s’ Hicks and Gillett.
Thankfully we are in a new era now, and judging by the recent Anfield stadium announcement, it’s one that wants to recognise the great history of our club. Great news, but Eric informs me it won’t be a quick solution as issues such as whether the plots are public or privately owned will affect matters and this takes time. But it’s a start. Eric is keen for this story to be told to as many reds as possible so that they are aware of the situation surrounding two of the clubs great servants, so that someday very soon we may be able to read all about Tom Watson and Ned Doigs achievements on their very own headstones in Anfield Cemetery.
Since this article was first published in RAOTL last season – Eric Doig was delighted to inform me that the grave of Ned Doig now has a headstone. But as yet, despite the club having the information over the wording and costs, Tom Watsons resting place remains unmarked.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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