Saturday 25th October 2014 – Liverpool 0 – 0 Hull City AFC
FA Premier League @ Anfield, Liverpool
Until this match, I had never visited Anfield with Hull City. My one and only visit came in 2006 for England’s 2-1 victory against Uruguay (pre New Wembley, when England toured the country); it was a day off uni, we got pretty drunk, we stood in The Kop. It was in all, as England matches go, a pretty decent day out.
But I can clearly not judge a ground based off a dead-rubber England friendly; this is Anfield. This is Liverpool, the most successful club in England and a historical member of the European Elite.
It feels strange to start a blog entry about Liverpool by talking about Manchester United, but stay with me. Hull visited Old Trafford in 2008, they lost 4-3. The game was remarkable if only for the fact that Hull put three past United at Old Trafford! But it was the game that broke my Premier League naivety. Until that point, I had not visited any of the ‘big clubs’, I had not seen the masses of tourists posing with thumbs up for photographs outside the stadium, I had not expected the home fans to the left of us spending the entire 90 minutes watching 4,000 Hull fans singing and dancing rather than the game (like when your Dad took you as a 5 year old to your first game….)
It was at that moment that I started to understand how global the English domestic top-flight really is….
This isn’t a rant about football tourism (I would love to visit the Nou Camp and San Siro – fair play to those who make the trek to England from foreign lands for a game) nor do I have a problem with people who have no allegiance to either club at a game (that would be hypocritical given my passion for Non-League football). But my trip to Anfield a couple of weeks back did highlight to me how far the game really has started to move away from it’s traditional fan base.
And to get it out upfront, don’t bother reading any further if you own a half and half scarf……
My day started very early at Euston Station. Train stations on a Saturday morning are fascinating places for fan spotting; large away day contingents drinking warm tinnies, the boffins who haven’t missed a game for 40 years digesting the morning papers, and exiles like myself grabbing an overpriced breakfast looking forward to the day ahead at the football.
One group did however stand out that day at Euston. A group of Asian football fans (shirts ranged from Arsenal, Liverpool, Man City etc etc) were gathered excitedly around a chap rounding them up ready for the trip to the North West. A bit of ear-wigging by Ground Grab established that these punters were not only going to Liverpool vs Hull, but the ‘Super Sunday’ big ‘un of Manchester United vs Chelsea, complete with tours of each ground and an overnight stay.
Crikey! That is some holiday! I dread to think how much they paid for it though!!!
And so to Liverpool. The city is one of those that I have only ever visited for the football, but vowed that I would go back for a weekend. It was nice to be greeted by Ken Dodd upon coming out of the station, outside of which you are met by the imposing St George’s Hall:
But this is an away day, so it was to the pub that we headed first, the conveniently placed Crown Hotel smack bang outside the station. I am normally wary of train station pubs, but this one does the job, and is well situated for pre and post match drinks when tripping to Anfield or Goodison. Clientele are friendly, pints are on the cheap side, and they also do food (wasn’t sampled on this occasion, but the breakfasts seemed to be flying out). It was in Crown that we were recommended our second pub of the day (by an Everton fan), The Ship and Mitre, about a 5 minute walk away. This really is a top pub, with a staggering range of real / craft and continental ales to get stuck into. Both Crown Hotel and Ship & Mitre are now deemed ‘Worth a sup’ by Ground Grab, top class, and made a fine start to the day.
Those who have been to Anfield and Goodison before will know they are nowhere the city centre; previously I have used the train to get there, but after Ship & Mitre, we used a cab, which was about £10….not bad for two.
Anfield really is a ground steeped in history. From the poignant Hillsborough Memorial, those iconic gates, and of course, The Kop. I think most football fans will have some memory of a classic game at Anfield, so I was naturally looking forward to it.
Anfield has however become subject to the plague to English Football that is the ‘Half-and-Half Scarf’; everyone had them! Presumably because for a large percentage of those visiting, this is a once in a lifetime trip to see an iconic club play the global Premier League product. The scarves are one of those things were after the initial disgust you think “fuck why didn’t I think of that?” – the blokes pedalling them must be seriously minted, you wouldn’t see any of them on The Apprentice (I bet a couple of the contestants would wear them though……)
But alas I digress….into the ground; thankfully I had ‘unrestricted view’ seats in return for my forty-odd quid (luxury). You hear about the magic of The Kop, and the fans being 12th man. But atmosphere? Oh dear. Heads should hang in shame. “You’ll never walk alone” was piped in shortly before kick off, but I can’t say I actually heard anything from the home fans. Granted this is a problem across the majority of English grounds now, but I expected ‘something’ – I am probably being harsh, it was probably the acoustics….but it probably wasn’t.
The game itself didn’t have much going for it; as 0-0’s go, it was quite entertaining – Hull made a decent go of it, Balotelli continued to be shit, in fairness Liverpool could have nicked it towards the end. A good point, would definately have taken it before the game.
My afternoon was memorable for a different reason……as per usual the Hull fans started the match stood up, but were quickly told to sit down, which we did. About 5 minutes in though I was asked to leave my seat under the escort of a steward. At this point I should state that I was sat down, and Ground Grab does not support hooliganism or fuckwittery at the football.
So after some debate off I went; my crime? Singing a song that encouraged people to stand up…! The song incidentally was “We are ‘ull, we are ‘ull, we are ‘ull” sung completely seated by the majority. After protesting that I wasn’t responsible for the actions of others or stood up, I was warned that I was being watched and to ‘stop encouraging others to stand up….’ – unbelievable.
The stewards at Anfield are tosspots of the highest order; this didn’t just happen to me, but seemed to happen all afternoon to other fans too, and for seemingly no wrongdoing at all. Poor show Liverpool. Sort it out, when your atmosphere is shit anyway, the least you could do is ENCOURAGE the away fans to make some noise!
So that is Anfield…..a great disappointment of what I thought would be a great ground. In fairness, it is a great ground, full of history, and no doubt a great place to watch a game when Everton or Man United tip up, or on a ‘famous European night’. Despite the half and half scarf festivities, the over zealous stewards and lack of atmosphere, I would encourage everyone to go before it is redeveloped / relocated. The Liverpool fans we met were top drawer, and the city is great in terms of pre and post game.
And to show I am not biased and blind to half and half scarves being a problem of the wider game (and not just the big clubs), this individual was sat in the Hull end (bless her….):