We Conquered all of Europe: publication day has arrived

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Well, it’s finally here – publication day has arrived and I couldn’t be more pleased. We Conquered all of Europe: Red Odyssey II continues where my first book left off, and the journey is no less exciting.

When I penned the final words of Red Odyssey: Liverpool FC 1892-2017, an epic trawl through 125 years of Reds history, I always knew I’d be back with more. There’s just something in the club’s DNA, something that drives us on our quest for glory. I just didn’t anticipate that I’d return so soon.

Jurgen Klopp may not have delivered the holy grail of a Premier League title, but in leading the club to four cup finals in such a short space of time, he’s following in the footsteps of some of our greatest managers.

Of course the road hasn’t been smooth, and three defeats in the Europa League, League Cup and Champions League finals, allowed his critics to question his ability. However , throughout each of those incredible cup runs, something was beginning to grow at the club, and within the players and the supporters. It would strengthen their resolve and stiffen the sinews. It was of course belief.

It was the same potent brew served up by Shankly in 1959. The fire of faith established the Reds as a force in the 60s, and had sustained the club for decades, until its fuel ran dry in the 90s. Houllier and Benitez got it going again, for a short while. Under Rodgers, the flames flickered briefly again, before being extinguished too easily. Now, under Klopp, they roar once more.

Liverpool have grown stronger, not weaker, after each set back and their supporters, players and manager melded into one. Together, they were powerful enough to sweep aside the giants of Europe and it was almost enough to clinch domestic glory too. They are now the most feared team in the land and on the continent too.

Their followers are legion and occupy all four corners of the earth. We Conquered all of Europe: Red Odyssey II tells the whole story of this meteoric rise, using first person perspective on the low points as well as the highs. It is a must read for all Reds, and I’m sure all who love this amazing club will identify with the stories, adventures, defeats and victories.

So pick up a copy today. Immerse yourself in the journey, revel in the glory and view the moments of doubt with the perspective of hindsight. They were mere bumps in the road, trials on the way to conquest. After all what good is an adventure, if there aren’t a few challenges along the way.

It is also true that on this journey we paused to honour our legends, like Kenny Dalglish and former captains, like Johnny Wheeler. And, sadly, we also bid farewell to fallen heroes – players and supporters. Their stories are covered too. It makes for a compelling tale. So, enjoy the next chapter in our Red Odyssey. You can get it here or here and in many other places.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Liverpool vs Newcastle: Proroguing the Premier League, Syd Puddefoot’s record fee and Steve Bruce is not the Messiah – he’s a very naughty boy

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Newcastle have broken an age-old Geordie tradition, by not appointing a Messiah

Simon Meakin returns with his completely unique take on this weekend’s clash with Newcastle United.

It seems like an age since the previous preview, thanks to the International break.  Normally, this is where having a second team to support usually comes in handy to get my fix of league action.  This was foiled by Hereford surely setting a new world record for worst team ever to have to call a match off due to multiple international call-ups. 

Not content with cornering the market in St Kitts and Nevis players, in the hope they’ll be the new Belgium, they had a guy who didn’t even get the chance to come off the bench and kick Shaqiri on behalf of Gibraltar.  Although, checking the line-ups, ‘Big Shaq’ didn’t even manage to get on the Swiss bench in the first place (resist joke about him just being hidden behind some Micky Droy sized centre back or sitting under the bench) so I’m now wondering whether we’ve sustained yet another injury on international duty

Anyway the league finally returns and things are going pretty swimmingly so far.  Still top of the league, still with a 100% record and having defeated our first top six rival with ease.  If we beat Newcastle on Saturday that will be our 14th straight league win. 

To put that into context, in a century or so of trying, no team in the top four divisions had ever won more matches in a row, until Pep turned up.  It almost seems unfair that we won’t be able to count most of them this season purely on the basis that they happened last term.  Bloody rules!  Can’t Klopp just go the Queen and prorogue the Premier League?

The Mogg family pretending they like soccer ball

Newcastle aren’t in a good place though.  Man City got owners that desperately wanted to plough billions of pounds into an English football club, in order to distract from a record of human rights abuses back home. They also managed to break the only rule of English grammar that never gets broken, by having a country that forgot to put a U after it’s Q. One of these things convinced Jacob Rees-Mogg to make his kids support Liverpool in protest – can you guess which one kids?. 

Newcastle, meanwhile, ended up with a bloke who searches his employees underpants when they leave work, in case they’re cunningly trying to make off with the stock by wearing it.  Sadly for Newcastle fans, he doesn’t seem to believe in ploughing billions of pounds into an English football club to distract from underpants searches.  And, so a club who remarkably became one of only two English clubs to break the world transfer record since the 1950’s with the signing of Shearer (the other one being United’s purchase of Pogba – har har. How’s that one working out then United fans?) now find themselves shopping in Poundland – relatively speaking of course.

This is the Premier League after all, and they have just signed a player from a shop that if you were being picky must have actually been called Forty Million Pound Land (where you can also presumably buy a bumper pack of eighty million Duracell batteries or an old DVD of Andy Townsend football bloopers).  Mind you, all of that is not half as remarkable as discovering that the world transfer market was once shattered by Falkirk of all clubs, when they bought the excellently named Syd Puddefoot.

Syd Puddefoot: record breaker

In terms of matches between the two teams it’s impossible to look any further than the pair of legendary 4-3’s in the 1990’s.  Great though both games undoubtedly were, they did highlight the notoriously soft centre that prevented the Roy Evans era team really doing justice to the undoubted talent they had. 

I was at the second match and while it was brilliant celebrating the last minute winner, I remember the sick feeling immediately beforehand when we appeared to be on the brink of blowing a 3-0 lead, thanks mainly to David James apparently hammering Super Mario Brothers the night before (not an excuse you ever heard Syd Puddefoot come out with I’d wager).  That game was part of the run-in in 97, when we had a golden opportunity to haul in a stuttering Man United. If only we displayed a bit more steel.  So, bitter-sweet memories there.

Newcastle are of course famous for pioneering the unique “Messiah” management structure.  Some clubs might plump for Directors of Football, Head Coaches, or just plain and simple Managers.  Yet every time Newcastle sack their manager (so quite regularly) there is am immediate demand to find a new Geordie Messiah. 

They even had two of them one year and promptly got themselves relegated.  Presumably the Board have to draw up an all Geordie shortlist containing Chris Waddle, Jimmy Nail, Cheryl Cole and at least one of Ant and Dec.  Why is this?  Bolton never put the call out for a new Boltonian Messiah when Big Sam left them.  Florentino Perez doesn’t go looking for a new Madrid Messiah every time he has to fire the Real manager for not winning the Champions League. 

To paraphrase Tom Baker’s sea captain in Blackadder (the brilliant Redbeard Rum) when asked whether it was usual practice not to have any crew –  “Opinion is divided on the matter!  All the other Chairman say you don’t need a Messiah.  I say you do!”

Which brings us to the match prediction.  So far I’ve got a 100% record in getting the winning margin right.  But 0% in terms of the score or pretty much any of the scorers.  Anyway, I’m thinking Newcastle being in a bit of a mess will be counteracted by the fact that their latest Messiah is actually a naughty boy called Steve Bruce, who has a very annoying record of generally avoiding getting beaten by us.  But not counteracted that much.  3-0 to the reds with a goal apiece from Mane, Firmino and Salah – I’m really trying to make sure I get at least one goalscorer right this time. Oh, and a 14th league win on the bounce too. 

Oh, and a message to Mike Ashley. You have a woman’s purse (which you never open).  I’ll wager you’ve never had sixteen shipwrecked mariners tossing in it!

Tommy Lawrence, goalkeeping pioneer, family man and a champion who made the people happy

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Tommy Lawrence made a total of 390 appearances in goal for Liverpool, between 1957 and 1971. In that time he pioneered a new role for goalkeepers, in which he would act as a sweeper, often rushing from his line in order to ‘smash’ the opposition strikers (as he put it) and also helped the club to win two league titles and its first ever FA Cup in 1965. He is as deserving of the title ‘Liverpool legend’ as any man who has donned the jersey for the club. So, it is my honour to have been able to speak to his sister Mary and two of his children, Stephen and Tracy, who very kindly shared their memories and stories of the man who, to them, was much more than a footballer.

Tommy was born in 1940, in the South Ayrshire town of Dailly. He was the middle child, with an older brother called Billy and younger sister, Mary. His parents, Frank and Ruby Lawrence, moved the family to Warrington when the children were young and Tommy grew up in the North West of England.

His was a typically working class life. His sister Mary recalls how he left school at 15 and began work as an office clerk at Adam Lythgoe Ltd, on Hob Hey Lane, in Warrington. His father had been a chauffeur to the owner, Joe Lythgoe.

Tommy had harboured dreams of becoming a footballer from an early age though, and his father had taken him to a number of local teams, hoping someone would give him a chance. Each time he would be told to come back when he had grown a bit.

Stephen, Tommy’s son, remembers a story his Dad told him of how Roger Hunt –prolific Reds striker of the 1960s – once took Tommy to Warrington Town for a trial, as a striker.

‘I remember my Dad telling me that the Warrington manager had told Roger not to bring my Dad back, as he was not a good striker. Roger replied “don’t worry he’s signed for Liverpool Football Club as a keeper.”’

Lawrence had been something of a late bloomer, and the required growth spurt wouldn’t arrive until after his 16th birthday. It would see him granted a trial at Liverpool, who were in the English Second Division. The then manager, Phil Taylor, was suitably impressed and snapped up the teenager immediately.

Tommy’s sister, Mary, remembers how the club provided a car, which she called the Rolls Royce, to take him to training on Tuesdays and Thursdays. At that time Liverpool trained in the Tuebrook area of the city back then. He continued to work at Lythgoe’s during the day, before being picked up by the club car and transported to Liverpool, where he put in the hours on the training field in the evenings. Tommy would go on to sign professional papers at the age of 17.

Mary recalls, ‘Things were certainly different then, even when he got in the first team, he came home to us every night, to the bedroom he shared with his brother. He still went out in the village with his friends. He didn’t leave home until he was married in 1963.’

Tommy married his first wife, Judith in 1963. They would go on to have three children; Tracey in 1964, Stephen in 1967 and the youngest Jayne who was born in 1970.

Tommy and Judith married in 1963

After becoming a professional, Lawrence would bide his time in the reserves and his break would eventually arrive under the great Bill Shankly, who handed him his first team debut on the 27th October 1962. Sadly it was a forgettable experience for the Reds, as they slumped to a 1-0 away defeat to West Bromwich Albion. But, the die was now cast and a career that would span almost a decade and bring glory to Anfield once more had begun.

Tommy would become Shankly’s number one, and thanks to his generous proportions and agility in the goalmouth, he would affectionately be christened ‘The Flying Pig’ by the Kop. Lawrence made 35 appearances in his first season, and managed his first clean sheet on the 17th November, in a 5-0 thrashing of Leyton Orient.

Two years later, he was a league champion. Under the influence of Shankly the club had won its first league title since 1947, and just two seasons after winning promotion from the second division. A revolution was under way at Anfield and Tommy Lawrence was at the heart of it.

His son Steven, born five years after that championship win, tells me of the influence Shankly had on his Dad and the club.

‘I think my Dad was quite scared of Shanks. So was most of the team. But they respected him because of what he was doing with the club. He was transforming Liverpool FC into the club it is today.

‘My Dad always told me that before Shanks came in, they used to just run for long periods of time. However, the Scotsman changed all of that and instead made them run with the ball at their feet. He stopped them running on the road too saying, “You’re not training to be road runners, you’re training to be footballers.”’

Despite having a healthy respect for the legendary Scotsman, Tommy and teammate Roger Hunt almost incurred his wrath, when they arrived at Anfield for a game, with just five minutes to spare.

‘My dad used to travel with Roger Hunt to the games, and he told me once that the traffic was so bad one match day, before a game against Manchester City, that him and Roger had to get out of the car and run through the city streets to get to Anfield. They arrived at 2.55pm, for a 3pm kick off.’

Tommy and Roger Hunt racing through the streets to make it in time for kick off

Oh, to be a fly on the wall in that dressing room, that day. Fortunately, the referee agreed to delay kick-off a few minutes to allow them time to get changed into their kits. Shankly’s response remains shrouded in the mists of time.

Stephen missed the early years of his Dad’s career, but he has vivid memories of when the realisation that his Dad was a star began to dawn on him.

“I was born in 1967, so the first time I realised that my dad was in the limelight so to speak was when we used to have the press at our door and coming in taking family photos. I remember my dad used to bring home match programmes, which I’d to give out to my friends on Bollin Close where we lived in Culcheth.

‘Lots of people used to come round for family parties and we were invited to other players’ houses a lot. The first time I can remember going to Anfield with my dad was running around the pitch while they were having team photos. I recall someone giving me a Liverpool rosette to wear.

‘My Dad used to take me to the field on Shaw Street in Culcheth, and for some reason I was always in goal. I think he wanted me to take after him, but unfortunately it didn’t happen.’

Tommy, at home with daughter Tracey and son Stephen

However, being the child of a Liverpool footballing legend came with its ups and downs. While enjoying the admiration of his school mates, Steven recalls the strains on the family and his parents’ marriage, as Tommy’s career came to an end.

‘My parents split up when I was young,’ he reveals. ‘I think he found the transition from coming out of football very difficult, which put a strain on their marriage.’

This is perhaps a reminder, that our heroes and legends are human beings. They are subject to the same stresses and strains as the rest of us, and their families pay a price too. Tommy and Judith parted ways after 14 years of marriage in 1977, though he would remarry many years later. However, despite that, Stephen and his sister Tracey have nothing but fond memories of their childhoods and their father.

‘As a man and a Dad we have loads of memories. He was extremely kind and funny. We never remember him telling us off or being angry, he was always so mild mannered.’

Tommy with his youngest daughter, Jayne

Stephen recalls, ‘He used to take me swimming, to Irlam baths, and he would take all my friends too. When he finished football, we had a little money, thanks to opportunities he had as a pundit. He used to take us on adventures, to Crow Wood. We’d go conker picking and on long walks through the fields into Leigh.’

The children didn’t realise at the time, but Tommy was recreating the adventures of his own childhood, ensuring his offspring enjoyed the same sense of joy that he had. And, Tommy’s sense of fun continued throughout his life.

‘Even when he was poorly, towards the end if his life, he would have the nurses and doctors in the hospital in stitches with his stories and his humour,’ recounts Stephen, explaining how his father’s stories kept staff who were caring for him entertained.

Tommy was not of our city, but he was an adopted son of it. He was adored and respected on the Kop and, as his son explains, the feeling was mutual.

‘My dad loved the people of Liverpool and talked about them fondly to the moment he passed. He had so much love for them.’

The family are particularly grateful to Liverpool supporters who continue to keep Tommy’s memory alive. They point to the many tributes shared on social media. They are also grateful to the club who have produced a video of Tommy’s life and career, and gifted to the family. Stephen continues:

‘The people have been brilliant; I used to take my dad to signings, meeting the fans. I sometimes took my lads Adam and Scott. The fans used to ask them to sign things also because their granddad was Tommy Lawrence. They loved it.

Tommy’s grandsons, Adam and Scott holding their granddads 1965 FA Cup Final shirt

‘I can’t thank Liverpool FC and their fans enough for everything they did for us and my dad. Every day it makes us so proud to know our Dad played for Liverpool FC. The only shame is he didn’t get a testimonial for the club after playing so many games.’

Of course, one of the many reasons why Tommy is held in such high esteem by Liverpool supporters is his involvement in the 1965 FA Cup Final. Liverpool had never won the trophy until then, and the outpouring of euphoria in the city was on a scale that put ‘Beatle mania’ in the shade, and would even give the post Istanbul and Madrid homecomings a run for their money.

It also had a profound impact on the players, and none more so than Tommy Lawrence. Stephen remembers fondly how his father would regale him and his sister with tales of that epic triumph.

‘Dad talked about the 65 final a lot. He spoke of walking out in front of the enormous crowd, feeling a little nervous as this was the opportunity that Liverpool had been waiting for, for so long. They had such a great team and they were determined to win the FA Cup for the first time.

‘He recalled it was a quiet final. The weather was horrendous, then suddenly the game came to life when Roger scored. He thought they had won it, as Leeds didn’t look like scoring. Then Billy Bremner hit an unstoppable shot which my Dad could only look at, as it sailed into the top corner. Despite that, they were still very confident of winning though. They all believed they were the much better team than Leeds.

‘When St John scored the winner, my Dad just dropped to his knees. That was the moment he knew they had won it. He told us the trip home was unbelievable, When they got to Lime Street and on to the buses, he recalled the amount of fans waiting for them to return with the Cup. He would never forget, people hanging off lamp posts and hanging out of windows just to get a glimpse of them. It stayed with him his whole life.’

Winners at last. Tommy and his teammates ended an agonising wait for the club’s first FA Cup in 1965

Of course, the victory was not without its misadventures, and Tommy would be at the heart of them. Stephen explains:

‘The story about my Dad losing the bottom of the FA Cup is told a lot, but it’s true. He was given the job of looking after the plinth, but after the game, and a few drinks back at the hotel, Shanks came looking for it. It was nowhere to be found.

‘My dad told the boss he had no idea where it was. Shanks turned to him and said “The first time we win the FA Cup, and he’s lost it.” Thankfully, it was later found. It had been left on the coach and was on its way to Southend.’

Tommy on the pitch at Wembley. Note the FA Cup plinth, which later went on a detour to Southend

Tommy’s sister, Mary, also remembers how important the final was to her brother and indeed the whole family.

‘The 1965 Cup Final was so exciting for us,’ she says. Mum and dad were so proud (Tommy and Mary’s parents); Dad especially, as he had been an aspiring junior footballer himself but never made it. So, what’s the next best thing? That would be his son playing in the cup final of course. In Dad’s eyes, that was only superseded when he played for Scotland.

‘We all went to Wembley in the Rolls Royce. Our uncle and cousin came over from Ireland. Only mum stayed home to look after baby Tracey. It was a great day for all of us.’

Tracey had been born only months earlier, in October 1964. Though, like her brother Stephen, she will have been too young to share in the joy of their father’s early career, she has devoted a considerable amount of effort to ensuring that his footballing legacy lives on. She explains why:

‘When I started doing the Shankly Nights – tribute nights organised to celebrate the achievements of the legendary boss and his players – my Dad loved it because I could hear and repeat the stories of his ‘boys.’ He loved meeting up with them, and thankfully he managed to do that twice before he died.

‘The first was a Shankly Hero’s Night and the second saw him attend the Philharmonic Hall for the premier of the Shankly documentary; Natures Fire. He loved that. And, seeing the respect he had from the younger players like Sammy Lee, Phil Thompson and Jan Molby was incredible.’

However no night out involving Tommy Lawrence could pass without some misadventure. Tracey explains, ‘He managed to lose me at the Philharmonic, while I had gone to collect the car. When I eventually found him outside, he was mobbed by adoring Liverpool fans. He looked like a movie star, like Patrick Swayze at the premier or Dirty Dancing, and surrounded by his admirers. My Dad was beaming, he loved it’

Three generations of the Lawrence family at Anfield

After Liverpool, Tommy went on to play for Tranmere Rovers for three years, before spending a season with Chorley. He sadly passed away on the 10th January 2018. He left behind a treasure trove of footballing memories, stories and of course silverware. He helped bring joy to countless Reds fans. However, he was also a man who loved and was loved by his family, in particular his three children, Tracey, Stephen and Jayne. Thanks to them his legacy will live on for many more years.

So, I’ll leave the last words to his son, Stephen.

‘My Dad, Tommy Lawrence, is a Liverpool legend. He was a true gentleman, very passionate about his heritage and he loved Liverpool Football Club. He made so many friends around the world, just because of who he was.

‘He was shy but loved talking to people, and always had the time of day for people who knew him, and people that wanted to know him. He loved watching his grand kids playing football too. I’d pick him up on match days and take him to football. We’d share a pie and a pint. He is missed by us all and the football family worldwide.’

Liverpool vs Arsenal: Robbo vs Mr Onion-Horse and the horror of mascots

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The horror of club mascots threatens Simon’s hipster sensibilities

In his first home match preview of the season, Simon Meakin predicted a 3-0 win over Norwich City. He was pretty close, as the Reds defeated the Canaries 4-1. Here, he turns his focus onto the upcoming game against Arsenal, at Anfield.  Brace yourselves though, this is not your average match preview.

Since we last spoke, we’ve won another European trophy at one in the morning, flown back from Istanbul, got another three points from a tricky away game and sit top of the league – so it’s all going pretty well so far.

But with all due respect to Norwich and Southampton, things step up a gear on Saturday when Arsenal roll into town.  And what’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Arsenal?  No, not the Wenger, foreign manager, football revolution or brown paper envelopes addressed to a Mr G.Graham c/o Watford Gap services. No, it’s Gunnersaurus – the big green dinosaur in an Arsenal kit.

I should point out that I actually support two clubs (don’t shoot me!).  I was born in Liverpool but partly grew up in Hereford. So I developed an attachment to the local team. Given that I supported Liverpool well before I even knew where Hereford was, a case could be made for me being the world’s most useless glory hunter. 

Anyway, Hereford United used to have a mascot called Billy the Bull (until someone stole his head one day). And that seemed right for a club that size.  You could bump into him at the burger van in Stevenage, busily devouring one of his mates.  Knockabout lower league, jumpers for goalposts stuff.  But mascots always seemed a bit beneath Liverpool to me.  Whether that made us feel like footballing purists, or more like some pretentious Shoreditch hipster with his craft beer, old vinyl jazz records and his artisan Y-fronts made out of quinoa, I’m not sure.

So, imagine my surprise when I spotted something red and mascotty, pitchside, at the Charity Shield the other week.  I was even more amazed when informed that we’d apparently had said mascot for a number of years.  How the hell had I managed to miss what appeared to be someone who failed the auditions for Finding Nemo, on my trips to Anfield? I’m guessing it’s meant to be some sort of Liver Bird?

 Are we operating the worlds first undercover mascot?  Does he work for MI6?  Shouldn’t he be getting into brawls with Fred the Red?  Maybe I’m just too late getting out of the pub on match days?  Not quite sure how I feel about this. But I guess I’m going to have to ditch the craft beer and vinyl, and embrace a new world of fizzy Carling and Ariana Grande. 

But, back to Gunners. And, the old days of Don Howe, George Graham and boring boring Arsenal. 

When I was a kid I thought it was the law that every game between us had to end in a low scoring draw or a dour 1-0 win – remember the FA Cup semi-final with what seemed like 17 replays? I remember being shocked at watching some footage of a game on Football Focus when we actually beat them 3-0 (think McDermott may have got at least one). 

And, speaking of Footy Focus I was also secretly quite impressed as a child that Bob Wilson once actually played in goal for Arsenal.  A TV presenter who also used to be a footballer! How could one man be so multi-talented?  Surely no other footballer would ever be able to do that (well apart from Saint and Greavsie obvs!).

There was also THAT game in 89.  I won’t dwell too much on that, other than to say that I once went to see Lofty out of Eastenders perform a one-man monologue of Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch at the old Neptune Theatre on Hanover Street. The whole centrepiece to the show unfortunately turned out to revolve around Michael Thomas’s goal that night, and what a life-changing event that was for Lofty/Nick Hornby (even putting marrying Michelle Fowler in the shade).

Performing it in Liverpool showed some bravery (or foolhardiness) on Lofty’s part at least. Or, that he’d just never bothered checked the tour dates before signing up.  What made it even more surreal was looking down the aisle and finding Michael Thomas himself, sitting about 3 seats down from me.

He was playing for us by this point but I did wonder whether he traipsed round the country watching every show, just to revel in hearing how he was the most important thing ever to happen in the life of Lofty/Nick Hornby.

On a more positive note, there was the 5-1 demolition under Rodgers.  I’d taken my son swimming and checked the score when leaving the baths. We’d just gone 1-0 up.  By the time we reached the car it was 2-0.  We’d gone three up before we left the car park and got the fourth by the time I’d reached the main road.  It was a slight anti-climax that by the time I actually got home for the second half everything was pretty much wrapped up.

So, on to this weekend’s game.  This will I suspect, be a real test for us, as I think Arsenal have bought well this summer.  Dani Cebollas (which if I remember rightly from my Spanish night classes means either horse or onion) looks to be a real find. Meanwhile, I heard somewhere recently that it was typical of the misfortune of Scottish football, that they had finally managed to produce two top class footballers in the same decade, only for them both to be left backs.  I can safely say that one definitely is top class. Arsenal have just signed the other one. So, if he’s only half as good as Robbo, they’ll have a hell of a player.

Andy Robbo: “They can take our lives, but they will never take our points.”

Not sure the rest of the defence is still up to much mind.  We’ve also – to my slight concern – looked less than water-tight at the back so far this season. So given this fixture has usually delivered goals galore (mostly ours) in the last few years, I’m going for another humdinger. 

4-2 to the Reds with a couple from Mane, one from Firmino and Robertson, who will be fired up by finding an upstart Bonnie Prince Charlie, Mel Gibson-style pretender to his Scottish left back throne, will grab the fourth. Mr Onion-Horse may or may not get a consolation goal.

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Liverpool kit lore and third kit snobbery

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Liverpool’s 3rd Kit don’t impress me much

Steven Scragg, author and writer for This is Anfield and These Football Times, isn’t too impressed with Liverpool’s new 3rd kit. Here, he takes us through his passionately held views and extensive knowledge of Liverpool away kit lore.

I’ve given it some consideration; I’ve tried to allow it the benefit of the doubt. We won at Southampton in it, but still the unavoidable conclusion was one I’ve drifted towards since the very moment I first set eyes upon it.
That third kit of ours really is crap.
My name is Steven, and I’m an unashamed kit snob.

Liverpool should only ever consider four different versions of away kit. White shirt, black shorts and white socks, – with red socks an acceptable alternative, upon occasion – all-white, all-yellow, or all-grey/silver.

No other colour permutation is good enough.

Liverpool’s iconic away kit that saw them through much of the glory years

Christ we’ve had some shocking away kits over the course of the last 28 years, since we took the radical step to go green, in 1991/92.

If you are under the age of 30 then you’ll not know how much commotion that green and white kit caused. To say it wasn’t universally embraced would be an understatement.

Since then, we have gone black, charcoal, ecru, green again, orange and purple, sometimes simultaneously. One fact remains however. We have never won a league title with a shit away kit.
Think of the most iconic kits we’ve had, and it takes you to our Umbro days of the 1960s, 70s and 80s followed by the first coming of Adidas from the summer of 1985.

The best kits we’ve ever sported have been blessed by simplicity. Funny that, considering the best football we’ve ever played has always been laced with simplicity too.

From those all-red, round neck kits of the mid-1960s, to the Adidas/Candy offering that we won the 1989 FA Cup final in, our kits were unimpeachable. Even that white flecked variant of 1989 to 1991 has garnered for itself a retrospective respect, despite being widely moaned about at the time.

Liverpool’s away kits were no different in this respect. The classic white shirts, black shorts, white socks combination wasn’t veered away from on a full-time basis until the all-yellow with red pinstripes effort arrived for the 1981/82 season. Meanwhile, the red with white pinstripes version didn’t appear until 1982/83.

John Barnes rehabilitating the grey away kit all on his own

Despite a change in style in 1984/85, we remained yellow until the dawning of our 1985 association with Adidas, who brought back the classic white shirt for 1985/86, except going all-white for the double-winning season, before the black shorts made a comeback the following campaign.
Although white had made its return, Adidas retained all-yellow as a third kit until 1987/88. It was a thing of great beauty and was used only occasional, usually at Southampton and West Ham.

The all-yellow kit, often viewed as an inherently 1980s thing for Liverpool, actually made its first appearance in the late-1960s, while it was also used during the 1979 FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United, during an era when the FA insisted all colour-clashes, on neutral territory, would be settled by both teams wearing away colours, a ruling that saw both teams in the 1980 and 1982 FA Cup finals wearing their away kits.

Let’s face it, Kenny could look good in anything

The issue for Liverpool and Manchester United in 1979 was that both teams away kits were white shirts and black shorts. Rather than yield on one team wearing their home colours, Liverpool were required to come up with a third kit.

1987 saw such problems being blown out of the water by the introduction of that all-silver/grey away kit. Largely mistrusted on its release, the football played in 1987/88 served to make it a classic away kit, simply by association to an iconic team. We wore variations of it for the next four years. Our third kit became white shirts, with red shorts and socks. We’d wear it at Villa Park and Upton Park.

That green and white 1991/92 oddity aside, it was the Premier League era that ushered in a spate of awful away kits in random colours, punctuated only when Liverpool’s various kit manufacturers have brought back updated versions of those classic away kits of the 1960s, 70s and 80s.
Crap football also plays its parts in how fondly, or not, a kit is remembered. We had some decent away kits in our most abject campaigns.

When it comes to kit etiquette, another very modern bone of contention is the unnecessary use of away colours. When Tottenham Hotspur travelled to Manchester City for the ‘El VARico’ last Saturday, both teams took to the field in differing shades of blue kits. An abysmal situation for the colourblind.

Robbie and Macca

Liverpool have even partaken in this type of ill-behaviour. We should always wear red, unless we travel to face a team that also plays in red. There needs to be an automatic 3-point deduction for any team recklessly using their away or third kits unnecessarily.

Unfortunately, now there is a contractually agreed amount of times away and third kits must be used by teams, to act as an advertisement, primarily to make children ask their parents for one. It is all about product placement. You know football has completely lost itself to commercialism, when a team wears an away kit and the colour-clash is more of a problem than it would have been had they just worn their home kit instead.

This misses a trick however. The beauty of a third kit was that it would be rarely used, which in turn made it much more alluring to supporters. For instance, there used to be something quite mystical about Norwich City’s away kit, as unless they were sharing a division with Watford, then they could play an entire season without the need to wear their away kit.

Kit couture encompasses the broader spectrum of football for me. Away colours of rival teams from my childhood should never be relinquished. Everton’s second strip should always be all-yellow, with Umbro diamonds along the sleeves, Manchester United should always be in white shirts and black shorts, Manchester City should always be in red and black stripes, Arsenal should always be in yellow shirts and blue shorts, and so on, and so forth.

One thing is for sure however. That new Liverpool third kit just isn’t Liverpool enough.

You can preorder Steven Scragg’s new book A Tournament Frozen in Time now

George Scott: Life after Liverpool, Elizabeth Taylor, a biscuit factory and the enduring influence of Shankly

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George Scott, one of Shankly’s first signings, continues his amazing story. In this instalment, we hear about his life after Liverpool, a chance encounter with Elizabeth Taylor and Henry Kissinger, killing time in a biscuit factory and the enduring power and influence of Bill Shankly.

I had never earned more than £50.00 per week at Anfield, despite having been on the verge of the first team. However, I received a signing on fee of £1,200 on returning to Aberdeen in 1965. This was the era when a new Mini cost £534, and I took my windfall and bought one with cash, immediately driving it out of the showroom.

Aberdeen were my home town club. I had supported them since childhood. So, imagine my joy when I scored on my debut against Glasgow Rangers. We won 2-0 at Pittodrie in front of 28,000 fans and I received rave reviews. There were nine full Scottish internationals in the Rangers team that day, including the Rangers and Scotland captain John Greig.

I remember nutmegging Greig and hearing his Glaswegian accent following me around the pitch. In very basic terms, he was requesting the name of the hospital I would prefer to wake up in, if I ever did it again.

I thought I was really on the way to justifying Bill Shankly’s faith in my ability and at last making the breakthrough into the big time. Unfortunately the difference between success and failure in football can sometimes be wafer thin. Half way through my first season, having cemented my place in the first team at Aberdeen and starting to score goals, I suffered a serious cruciate-ligament injury and was released at the end of the season in May 1966.

After starting the season with such high hopes I was out of work at the age of 21 having left school at fifteen years of age, with nothing to fall back on and having no qualifications other than football.

George scores on his debut for Aberdeen in 1965 against Glasgow Rangers

After being released by Aberdeen at the end of that 1965 season, I returned to Liverpool to live with my girlfriend’s family. I would spend many weeks training on my own to regain my fitness.

I got a job for a few months in Crawford’s, a biscuit factory, throwing ropes round pallets of biscuits and loading them on to wagons. The factory workers were brilliant, always wanting to hear stories about the great Bill Shankly. 

Then in June 1966, I received a call from a representative of the South African Premier League club, Port Elizabeth City FC, telling me I had been recommended to them by Bill Shankly. Thanks again to the great man’s recommendation, another £1,000 signing on fee came my way and my wife Carole and I got married on July 30th 1966 (the same day that England won the World Cup). We flew to South Africa on 8th August 1966 to join Port Elizabeth FC.

There, I won the 1967 South African Premier League title. Bill wrote to me in South Africa a number of times. One of his letters that I still have today, sent me the best wishes of everyone at Anfield and ended with the words:

“By the way we are still winning the five a side games, no wonder with five referees in our team”

In 1968 I received a visit in Port Elizabeth from the then Chairman of Liverpool FC Mr Sydney Reakes, who conveyed the best wishes of Bill Shankly and all of the staff at Liverpool FC to me. He told me that if I returned to the UK he was confident that Bill would fix me up with a club in England.

On my return to England, I remembered Mr Reakes words, and I nervously went to Anfield in October 1968 to try to see Shankly. I saw Roger Hunt in the car park as I approached the player’s entrance, and Roger said Bill was in his office and would be delighted to see me. 

When I entered the stadium and made my way down to Bill’s office, I heard his unmistakable Jimmy Cagney staccato voice chatting to a reporter who I think was Colin Wood of the Daily Mail. Or, it may have been Dave Horridge of the Daily Mirror.

As soon as Bill saw me the reporter was immediately dismissed and Bill invited me in to his office. The conversation went like this. “Mr Reakes tells me your team have won the championship and you have set South Africa alight scoring goals, so what are your plans George?”

I said that I was married and that I had a young son who was barely four months old and I wanted to return to play in the UK.  “Where do you want to play son”? I said “Anywhere Boss I replied” Bill replied “I tell you what son, how about Tranmere Rovers”

He then picked up the phone and called David Russell who was then the manager of Tranmere Rovers and, in his inimitable Shankly way, 

“I have a boy here. Just come back from South Africa, where he was the leading scorer in their Premier League. And he was the best player ever to play for my reserve team.”

It was just incredible.

George scoring for Port Elizabeth against Durban

Within five minutes, and on Shankly’s word, the Tranmere Rovers manager had committed himself to giving me a month’s trial on first-team wages.

When I went over to Prenton Park that afternoon, Mr Russell said to me, “I hope you can play son.” Without having seen me play and purely on Shankly’s word he put me in the first team for Alan King’s testimonial match at Prenton Park against Derby County.

Derby were about to become the English First Division Champions under Brian Clough. They boasted players like Archie Gemmell, Peter Shilton, Kevin Hector, Alan Hinton, Alan Durban John O’Hare and Dave McKay.

I played regularly in the Tranmere Rovers first team over the next two seasons, but more importantly I was able to settle back into the UK with my wife and begin to build a successful life on Merseyside. It was all thanks to Bill Shankly.

I was playing third division football, but we used to get crowds of 10,000 or more on a Friday night.  I enjoyed it at Prenton Park, and I went on to make many appearances in the first team in the next two years including a great FA Cup run to the fifth round in 1969. We eventually lost in extra time to Northampton Town after a replay.

Northampton were then drawn at home against Manchester United and lost 8-2, with the great George Best scoring 6 goals.

George Scott front and centre for Tranmere Rovers, 1969

However, I was now approaching the dreaded age of 30. Having done nothing but play professional football since I was 15 years of age, I knew that I needed to find another job. I couldn’t play football forever.

In those days you got to 30 and you were on the way down. Most of us had left school with no qualifications, so didn’t have many options. Opening a pub was the main route lads went for, as there wasn’t much punditry work around then.

While still at Tranmere I saw an advert for a Nestle sales-rep job. Interviews were taking place at the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool city centre and I went along. I almost didn’t go through with it and was about to walk out. Then, I thought Shanks would never do that. So I stayed.

When they asked me for a reference I showed them the one that Bill Shankly had written for me. Once they realised it was genuine, that did the trick. So I became a part-time footballer, while at the same time working in sales with Nestle. And from that point on, I never looked back.

Stan Storton had left Tranmere to become manager of the Northern Premier League team Ellesmere Port Town. He asked me to join them as a semi-professional, on a three year contract. I had a tough decision to make. My sales position meant being trained in a new career and a company car. Combining that with my non-league contract meant I’d be earning more than I was at Tranmere.

To their surprise, I ended my full-time contract with Tranmere and joined Ellesmere Port. It was the best decision I could have made.

George standing behind Elizabeth Taylor

I went from strength to strength in sales. I had a career spanning 46 years, and I retired in 2006. It included a great spell in the 80s, selling and marketing Elizabeth Taylor’s perfume range throughout the UK and the Channel Islands. In this role I was fortunate enough to meet her on a number of occasions, in London and at the Ritz Hotel in Paris.

I was responsible for the marketing and distributing her perfume in England and the Channel Islands and I was there with some other members of my sales team. While she was chatting to us her personal assistant, who carried a stopwatch to make sure everything went to schedule, came over and told her she had a guest. It was US politician Henry Kissinger.

We just sat there in disbelief as he walked in and they started talking. It was a brief taste of a different world.

I am now happily retired with my wife of 53 years Carole. Carole and I have two sons, Gavin and Craig, and I am enjoying retirement, playing golf, watching Liverpool FC, and enjoying my four grandsons aged 17, 16, 15, and 9.

Bill Shankly signed me for Liverpool in 1960 and started my football career off in the best possible way. He sold me to Aberdeen in 1965, enabling me to return to my home town, gain financial stability and have a great spell at the club I supported as a boy.

In 1966, he recommended me to Port Elizabeth City. It was an act that enabled me to continue my football career abroad. It also gave me the resources needed to get married. I had two wonderful years in South Africa.

Finally, he then personally recommended me to Tranmere Rovers in 1968. That allowed my wife and I to return to the UK with our baby son, who was only four months old at the time. We could also buy our own house and settle on the Wirral.

Bill was a major influence on my life. His passion and enthusiasm lit up the game, and the standards he set have inspired me over the last 59 years. I owe him so much and I am grateful and very lucky that I crossed his path.

Even though I was within a whisker of the first team in 1964/65, I understand why he had to let me go. Bill looked after me over the years and that shows the caring nature of the man. It also shows his commitment to anyone who showed enthusiasm and gave of their best at all times. It is no wonder he is so revered and he will never be forgotten.

What a man he was and what an unforgettable character. There will in my view never be anyone like him again.

George Scott, 2019

We Conquered all of Europe: Red Odyssey II is almost here

Released on 16th September

We Conquered All of Europe: Red Odyssey II charts the re-emergence of Liverpool FC as one of the most feared and respected teams in European football. In 2015, Jurgen Klopp arrived at Anfield and set about rebuilding a sporting empire. In order to succeed he would need to transform its legions of fans from doubters into believers – and, in the process, would take them on the greatest of sporting odysseys.

In this book, I chronicle the whole journey through the eyes of the people who lived it, the supporters. Also included are key insights from former players, as well as eyewitness accounts of some of the most incredible moments of the Klopp era. Relive the humbling of Barcelona’s Messi and Suarez. Absorb the electric atmosphere on the Kop as the Reds pulled off the seemingly impossible, and journey with the fans as they conquered all of Europe.

Red Odyssey II takes the reader through it all – the highs and the lows – and describes how Klopp awakened one of football’s sleeping giants.

That winning feeling

Liverpool have won their second trophy in two months, adding the UEFA Super Cup to the Champions League. There are those who will say it’s not a major honour, calling it a ‘friendly,’ or even ‘the European Charity Shield.’ But do we care, really.

If you’re in it, then you’re doing something right as a club. And, if you win it, then for players and supporters there’s no better feeling. Winning trophies is a habit every team craves.

For so long Klopp was criticised for losing finals. Since 2012, I have listened to rivals saying “What have you won recently?” and of course Jordan Henderson had not lifted a trophy as captain of the club. Until now.

Liverpool’s win last night puts the Reds on 46 major trophies, one ahead of United. We are now the most successful club in the country. Any United fan arguing that the Super Cup isn’t a major trophy should look at their own club’s website, where it is listed as just that.

Now all of us, manager, players and supporters, can hold our heads up high. Liverpool are back on the trophy trail and back on our perch. Next up, we have a chance to add the World Club Championship, and who knows what else. I love that winning feeling.

Football wages: are they a threat to Shankly’s ‘holy trinity’

Bill Shankly, a famously socialist thinker and miner from the small town of Glenbuck in Scotland, frequently spoke of the union between players, manager and supporters at Liverpool football Club. He described it as a ‘holy trinity.’ To Shanks, there was a common bond and football was a working class sport.

He wanted his men to be payed well, of course. One of his most inspirational quotes was about what he would do if he was a bin man. Typically, He spoke of wanting to be the best bin man in the world, with the cleanest streets. He also said that his workmates would receive the biggest bonuses, and why shouldn’t they? After all, what would make anyone think a bin man was less important than anyone else? He asked.

I believe that behind these sentiments is a philosophy based on collectivism, equality and, put simply, an honest wage for an honest day’s work. Shankly abhorred anyone who he felt wasn’t giving everything they had for the team.

“To play for me, a player has to be prepared to run through a brick wall and come out fighting on the other side,” was another immortal quote.

Nobody working for the great man could ever get away with half measures, and certainly nobody would be allowed to see themselves as a star. Shankly did talk about the value of individual reward, though he saw it as the result of collective effort.

He once pointed out that so many of his players had achieved international caps, a personal accolade. However, he would go on to lecture that it was through their collective efforts, that they had achieved individual gains. You don’t get into the national team unless you are doing well for your club, and your club only does well when it works as a team, was his reasoning.

In this respect, the boss also felt that the supporters and the people of Liverpool were also part of the collective. Their efforts from the terraces were equally important and central to the vision. While he didn’t have the power or resources to pay them, he resolved to reward them with silverware – to make the people happy and proud. They would hold their heads up high, and say ‘we are Liverpool,’ he promised.

Stretch the gap between player, manager and supporters too much, and the ties that bind might snap. The bond may be broken, the trinity undermined. In truth, Shankly could never have envisage the disparity in earnings between his players and those who stood on the terraces. Nobody in the 1960s and 70s could have.

The level of wage inflation in football since those heady days can scarcely be believed even today. We do know that Bill was often prepared to spend big on a transfer fees, if he thought the player could improve his squad. He broke a number of records in this respect during his tenure.

However, it’s about proportion. And, we have certainly lost all sense of proportion today.

Figures published by Spotrac recently, show the eye-watering amounts shelled out by the club to its stars. ‘That’s modern football,’ you might say. ‘Yes, but a player’s career is short,’ you could argue.

It is, and they are. But the disparity is truly shocking, even allowing for inflation.

What, then, would Shankly make of today’s sky-high wage bills. Liverpool’s total payroll bill of £104,780,000 in 2019/20 truly dwarfs the levels he would have been familiar with.

George Scott, one of the Scotsman’s first signings, and a man Shankly described as the “12th best player in the world,” recently sent me a copy of Liverpool’s weekly wage bill from 1960. It covered everyone from players to coaching staff, and it came to a grand total of £517:12 Shillings and 2 pence.

According to the National Archive, it would be worth £9,119.33 in today’s money. In the 1960s a sum like that could have bought you 2 horses, 7 cows, 116 stones of of wool or 86 quarters of wheat. It was also the equivalent of almost years wages for a skilled tradesman.

So, it was a big wage bill by the standards of the day. But, it is dwarfed by those of the Premier League era, even when you factor in inflation.

Liverpool FC’s weekly wage bill in 1964

By now I am sure nobody is shocked or surprised by these revelations. I’m certainly not. Nor can we blame individual players for taking the rewards on offer to them. Who amongst us would look such a gift horse in the mouth.

However, it does speak to a growing divide between those who pay to watch the game and the stars they idolise. In Liverpool, like in many working class cities, there are people making incredible sacrifices in order to watch their team, and there are those who can barely afford food, let alone a match ticket. Those people will likely never even watch their heroes in the flesh, much less identify with them.

In the 50s and 60s you could reasonably expect to see a player on the bus or in the pub. Even earlier, in the 30s, supporters would chat to Elisha Scott – the club’s legendary goalkeeper – as he took the ferry from Birkenhead to the Pier Head before a game. These men were still stars, but they were within reach and identifiable.

Today’s players feel like movie stars, and those with a human touch, who go out of their way to bind with the supporters are to be cherished. Mo Salah, Andy Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold and James Milner, amongst many others, do leave you with the sense that they understand their enormous privilege and remember their origins.

However, for me, this is a more systemic problem. It’s obviously not just Liverpool’s problem, or even the Premier League for that matter. Though neither seem even interested in addressing it. This is of course a political problem and one that UEFA and FIFA must do more to address.

There are so many reasons why they should. For a start the current system is unsustainable. There are those who argue that clubs going into administration as a result of unsustainable wage bills is just business, a sort of Darwinian natural selection. Or, the natural consequence of market forces and poor management. The footballing authorities will hand out their punishments in response – fines, points deductions, relegation and even expulsion from competitions. And, we all move on.

But there’s a cost that goes beyond all of that. Whole communities suffer as a consequence, when their club goes out of business. Football clubs employ people beyond the playing staff and they bring hope and something to look forward to for so many. Because, as Shankly recognised, football is a communal experience. It’s more than a business.

I spoke to Karen Elizabeth Gill, Granddaughter of Bill Shankly and author of a fascinating biography of the man, The Real Bill Shankly. She told me,

My granddad was all about passion and commitment to the game. He would have played for nothing and expected his players to feel the same. The supporters, for him, were equally important in the equation. So having inflated wages for the players, which could end up with money-oriented players as opposed to football-oriented ones and core supporters whose wages might leave them unable to afford inflated ticket prices, for him, would mean the destruction of the game he loved so much.

So, when faced with the stark contrast between the football played and watched by our grandparents and their idols, and the game watch today, I won’t pretend to feel shock or surprise. I do feel that the game is slipping through our fingers though, if it hasn’t already moved completely out of reach.

I hope that’s not the case. However, if we are to reclaim even a small part of it, supporters need to become more vocal and more active in shaping the future of the game and the clubs they love. Politicians also have a role to play in influencing the direction of the game. Indeed it may take political action to rescue it.

With a potential UK General Election on the horizon, it wouldn’t do any harm to let them know.

Liverpool 4-1 Norwich City: A tale of the old and the new

In my mind’s eye, the first game of the season at Anfield conjures images of sun-baked streets, the Sandon car park packed to overflowing and chippy queues spilling out onto pavements. Not this season though. Instead, on Friday 9th August, L4 was warm, wet and muggy as it greeted the Champions of Europe and their adoring followers. In many ways this was an unfamiliar start to a campaign.

There was even a new object of pilgrimage too. Added to the old haunts – the Shankly statue – the food-bank collections, the myriad pubs and fan-zones and the fanzine sellers dotted around the stadium was a giant mural of Trent Alexander-Arnold – an ordinary kid from Liverpool, whose dream came true.

Scores of people made their way along Anfield Road to Sybil Road, where they would find a row of terraced houses basking in their new found fame. To their right, on the opposite side of the road, the great Georgian town houses, a symbol of the area’s affluent past stared on in green-eyed jealousy.

For all the wealth and power of those ghosts of Liverpool’s past, they would never have felt the passion and adulation experienced by this working class lad from West Derby and his team mates. One-by-one they queued to have their picture taken in front of his image. In the rain, Kids younger than Trent and perhaps dreaming that they one day will adorn a wall, or be idolised by generations, posed in front of the painting. Maybe, they dreamed of scoring in front of the Kop and feeling its power rattle their bones.

That’s the point of the mural, isn’t it. To inspire, to reach out and say ‘there’s a chance for you too. If you work hard and sacrifice like me.’ Maybe. But there’s no harm in dreams anyway. We know. At Liverpool, perhaps more than anywhere else, we know that.

The rich merchants of Anfield Road have gone, it’s our place now. That’s because we’ve dreamt of glory for each other, and then fought to make those dreams a reality. Just like Trent, Jamie and Stevie and all the others who have graced our history, have dreamed.

So, all around me were the old familiar places juxtaposed with the new and the unusual. And, the game itself turned out to be a mirror of all of that.

There was the old swagger we enjoyed last term and evident in the first half against Norwich, accompanied by the never-satisfied few who bemoan every miss-step and proceed to hound their favourite whipping boys throughout the game, irrespective of the quality of the performance.

For example, the sight of Origi being dispossessed shortly after Norwich had scored their meaningless consolation was greeted by one inexplicable shout from a fella near me.

‘Get him off, he’s shit!’

It was greeted with tuts and expressions of disbelief, but it still jarred. Another guy had shouted to Henderson to “get off and stay off,” at half-time. This is a phenomena almost as old as Anfield itself. For all our famed support and never give up mentality, we have always been ‘blessed’ with such absolute idiots.

Jack Balmer, Liverpool’s bald-headed striker of the 1930s and 40s, who hailed from the same district of West Derby that gave rise to young Trent, was often on the receiving end of abuse from supporters. Bob Paisely once wrote about how his treatment at the hands of some fans had hurt the player, who had scored 98 goals in 289 appearances for the club.

In the pub, before the game, we had been talking about how Ronnie Whelan had often been a player who could do no right, in the same way the current captain, Henderson, can never satisfy some people today. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who watched the game in the 80s who will admit they did it, but the Irishman would frequently hear their shouts on the pitch.

Just like Henderson though, Whelan would answer his critics by winning the biggest prizes in football. He could do no more. Neither can Jordan.

But, for all the familiar bitter barbs from the minority, the atmosphere during the game was a throwback to the fan-parks of Madrid and the glory of our run to the final. The mosaic displayed at kick-off told the world, as if they didn’t already know, that the Reds were back on their European perch. That represented something new in the recent context, a trophy win to gloat about. The monkey is off this Liverpool team’s back.

The Kop bellowed, at every opportunity, ‘We are the champions, champions of Europe.’ If it’s not unbearable for our rivals yet – it won’t be long before they are tearing their hair out. That’s exactly as it should be. We’ll keep it up for as long as they would, if we had lost the final – times six.

Imagine singing that for twenty minutes solid at Old Trafford or Goodison. imagine the fume. Brilliant isn’t it.

Roared on by a jubilant and at times carnival-like Anfield, the players switched through the gears in the first half. That’s not to say Norwich were out of it though. They threatened a number of times, and Alisson was called upon to twice prevent what looked like a certain goal. One save produced a crescendo of applause from the Kop and repeated chants of his name.

Not since the days of Clemence and Grobbelaar have we had a keeper of this quality. In fact, in one of those moments in the game, where your mind drifts, I began to muse on whether Alisson may well be one of the best since the days of Elisha Scott. Such is his command of the area and ability to calm his defence, I can surely be forgiven my reverie, no matter how premature it might be.

So, the sight of him clutching his calf and falling to the turf deep in the first half was like an arrow through the heart. We can only hope the injury isn’t as bad as it looked. The sight of him walking off, rather than being stretchered was the smallest crumb of comfort.

What was heartening though was the roar of approval for Adrian, as he ran onto the pitch. This was the Kop as it should be, as it always was. Getting behind the man with the Liver Bird on his chest, regardless of any misgivings. Once he crosses the white line, he’s one of us and part of the fight.

Back in June, the former West Ham man could scarcely have dreamed that he would be running out in front of a huge crowd at Anfield – for the European Champions, and with the team already 3-0 up. The reserve keeper showed no signs of nerves.

Liverpool had gone ahead inside ten minutes, thanks to an own goal by Grant Hanley, who had turned in a cross from the left from Divock Origi. From my vantage point, it had seemed like the hero of Madrid himself had scored and we roared his name. It didn’t matter though, he can rightly claim the assist.

Then came Mohammed Salah with the Reds’ second in the 19th minute. It was a crucial goal in my view, and not just in terms of the match. So much of Salah’s game is in his head, and the confidence he will take from kicking off his season with a goal is immeasurable.

The sight also of Bobby Firmino with the assist and the resultant chants of ‘Egyptian King’ followed by our mesmeric ode to his Brazilian strike partner were all welcome signs of the old and familiar Liverpool. The Liverpool of last season, at one with its people and relentless on the field of play.

With barely half-an-hour on the clock the Reds were three up. This time we were watching van Dijk score, and Salah was providing the ammunition. His lovely cross from the left was headed home with aplomb and we were ecstatic. None of us quite knew what to expect before the game. It had potential banana skin written all over it.

However, the Reds had simply picked up where they had left off the season before. Memories of a forgettable preseason had evaporated and the explosion of euphoria was reminiscent of much bigger games. The Reds were back in town.

The potentially disastrous loss of Alisson was brushed aside, when on 42 minutes Origi found the net with a brilliant header, following a superb cross from Trent. The young Scouser was also picking up where he left off last time out. He had found his groove and the Kop found its eleven button.

Amidst the noise and jubilation half time felt like a kick in the teeth. An unwelcome interruption. And, so it proved to be.

As I bounced down to the concourse underneath the famous old terrace, I entertained thoughts of a complete rout. Of six, seven, maybe even eight goals. Well, a Kopite can dream. But, while the second half was hardly a nightmare, it was a shadow of the first.

In truth, Norwich deserved their one goal. They had given it a go and some the of the football in the final third was impressive. It remains to be seen whether the real Norwich emerged after half time, and if we can expect better results for them in the coming season. They will certainly look for the positives in that second period as they plot their bid for survival.

For Liverpool, the one bright spot in the second half was Sadio Mane. The last to return to preseason, he showed no signs of rustiness and was a thorn in Norwich’s side from the moment he entered the fray, replacing Origi. Both players received rapturous applause as one departed and the other ran on to the pitch.

The visiting supporters sang ‘1-0 in the second half.’ You’d imagine that’s exactly what their manager will have told his players in the dressing room. Restricting the European Champions to just four goals, and grabbing a consolation at Anfield maybe the benchmark for a team like Norwich. It is also a sign of the progress made by Klopp and his players.

So too are the mutterings and grumbles of some Liverpool supporters, as they left the ground. This was the first game of the season. The Reds will undoubtedly improve and grow into the campaign. We can only hope that it will include Alisson. But Adrian looks a competent deputy. Meanwhile the team can only beat what’s in front of them.

A number of messages greeted me when I arrived home. One of them, on social media, was from an Everton fan. It said we had looked like Brazil in the 70s, during the first half. But it warned of burn-out and suggested better teams would have turned us over in the second half.

Neither assessment was fair in my view. Liverpool did what they needed to do against a plucky Norwich team geed up by the optimism of a new season in the top flight. It was a free hit for them and expectations among their fans were low. That wasn’t the case for the six-times European Champions (have I mentioned that we won the European Cup?).

For our rivals those comments are a sign of wishful thinking. It’s fun living inside their heads, and the rent is so low, it almost feels like we’re squatting.

The bar has been set for the Reds now. They rule over an entire continent after all. Ambitions and expectations, are soaring. The fact that some are bemoaning a 4-1 home victory on the opening day of a new season, is perhaps another symbol of the team’s rebirth.

Let’s all hope that, as annoying as those moans might be, they become another familiar feature of the Anfield landscape. I could live with that.