This is Anfield, and how they knew it, in every European language. Visiting teams and supporters arrived at Anfield both in fear and awe, trepidation at the thought of taking on the Mighty Liverpool on their home patch, and wonder at the seemingly mystical aura of this famous old stadium. As Bill Shankly once said:
“This is to remind our lads who they’re playing for, and to remind the opposition who they’re playing against.”
The very plaque that he described, remains one of Anfield’s most famous artefacts, reproduced en masse across the globe for supporters to perform their own pre-match ritual. My personal routine has always been, when watching or listening at home, to change into my Liverpool shirt exactly 15 minutes prior to kick off, which traditionally always meant a trip to the wardrobe at 2.45pm on a Saturday afternoon.
The landscape of football, admittedly, has changed not only with gross commercialism, but also with technology. The days of Radio 2 and 5 Live are a throwback, as supporters just head to the nearest PC to watch a live stream and discuss proceedings in real time using Social Media. I have no idea what Mr Shankly would have made of it although his quotes would have made great twitter!
As football has changed, the transformation in the suburbs of L4 have been starker still. As it stands, this most famous of clubs is making more headlines off the pitch than on it, and even those made on Shankly’s ‘great, professional grass’ do not make pleasant reading.
“It’s great grass at Anfield, professional grass!”
The tragedy in this whole sorry saga is that football has become almost a secondary matter. If there is a battle to remain even close to the highest echelons of English, let alone European, football, the struggle for mere survival has taken the form of a crusade. It is a necessary campaign but one that continues to strip the club of its essence and dignity.
In terms of contemporary analogies, I doubt even that Jack Bauer has endured a 24 hours like those perpetually experienced by Koppites in recent months. Last weekend was a typical example of this for many with events preceding and after the Sunderland fixture all too reflective of the club’s current plight.
In between the – and I restate very necessary – protests and another Friday night of multiple rumours about the club’s ownership, there was actually a football match. Such has been the focus on the battle to save the club, the ninety minutes of frustration at on field events was almost a relief. Amidst a little controversy, and some referral to a ‘big fat head’, the Anfield faithful watched the Reds stumble to a 2-2 draw. For those ninety minutes, and at least a whole hour afterwards, the questions and in most cases dissatisfaction was aimed at the playing staff and manager.
This would not last of course, and somewhat predictably, by the middle of the evening we were being bombarded with yet more conflicting stories of the club’s uncertain future. That ninety minutes was a pure relief, which is potentially a health hazard since my pulse probably went through the roof whilst ‘uttering’ small pieces of advice to Mr Hodgson and his Red Men!
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