Liverpool Vs PSV 22/11/06
This time I didn't decide to go until the morning of the match. I've been to the previous two home champions league games, and was eligible for tickets to this game against the Dutch side PSV. To keep my loyalty points going (all part of my master plan for a ticket if (nay..when) we reach the final in Athens), we bought tickets. I was going to give mine to a friend as I went to the Muse gig (awesome) last week, but then had a change of heart. Even then we needed transport. A friend backed out less than two days before the match (you know who you are!), so we had no driver, and a spare ticket. By then it was too late for other friends to get time off work so looked like all was lost, until someone mentioned that the the Coventry branch of the Liverpool Supporters club had a coach going to Anfield. He made some calls, and we had places on the coach! Had to bus it to Cov to get the coach for 3pm.
Rolled into Anfield at about 6.30. This was later than we've usually gotten there (last time we had 4 hours to kill!!). Traditions were being broken today, we had a big to-do list, but everything seemed to fall into place. Parked somewhere different, got directed to a different ATM, I grabbed my pre match sausage and chips from different (though still Chinese) chip shop. Food and cash were on our list so was lucky to have them next to each other. Then with police helicopters flying overhead, I needed my match badge, and the previous match's as I'd lost it! One badge was found at the first stall we saw, and the other was at the second stall we saw. This was all before we'd even reached the stadium gates! Great! Next on the list was my match day programme and a golden goal ticket (last time I was one second from winning a bottle of Anfield Whiskey!), and low and behold, no sooner had we walked through the gates, we saw a golden goal ticket seller and the programme stall!
At this point, I thought things were going a little too well... I just hoped we'd end up winning this game.
So we took our seats, row 12 of the lower centenary stand, the best yet (though of course, I'd rather be in the Kop). The traditional rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone" was better than the other Champions League games as people around me were singing loudly, but I still think they play it too early on European nights (I blame TV and the stupid pre match things), not everyone was in their seats.
I still think the home match vs Arsenal in Nov 2004 was my favourite YNWA rendition, probably because it was my first time. But then again, I've noticed the atmosphere has been a little flat (I have very high standards of Liverpool fans!) in recent games.
Fellow fans on the fan sites have noticed it too. A big debate is currently raging on the forums about "reclaiming the Kop" and how we need to do something to stop us regressing and becoming like fans of every other club who just chant "easy easy" or "who are ya". This is a complex issue in that you can't point the finger to any particular set of Liverpool fans (I do not believe that this is an out-of-towners issue, as I am one myself, nor can you blame just the season ticket holders who may be in their comfort zone). But I do think we should start living up to our label as the 12th man in every game (which we did used to do) and not save it for the big games like those 70000+ at Old 'trampy' Trafford who leave their voices behind at home (London) every week (unless they score their third, then all of a sudden the win was due to the "great support" - how ridiculous). I think we can, perhaps I'll quote some "new Labour" line and say the answer is education, education, education! Maybe some of the new generation of fans have made a choice to support Liverpool rather than having been brought up on it (thrust upon them by their parents perhaps) and need to to be taught the "Liverpool way", the history, the songs about our heritage (and the clever re-workings of pop/famous songs for our current crop!!) etc, the "code of honour" if you will, that makes us special (as appreciative as we can be as intimidating). Maybe its just the simple reason that people feel too embarrassed to sing when they think people will "stare" when they do.
For me, I'm not sure if becoming a Liverpool fan was a conscious choice, or just being brought up (by neighbours!) on it, a bit of both probably. Either way, I don't remember ever not supporting Liverpool and all that matters is 100% commitment to the cause. I'm sure 2007 will see a rise in atmosphere and a return to what those lovely people at Pro Evolution Soccer 6 call Anfield, the "Red Cauldron."
Woah. I digressed, and how. Where was I? Right. Good fortune was over as soon as we took our seats. Firstly, we lost the coin toss, which meant Liverpool would attack the Kop in the first half rather than the customary second half assault. Then (for the second successive match I've seen at Anfield), Xabi Alonso, the "pass master" (and my favourite player if you don't already know by now) was taken out by a wreckless player, and had to be substituted due to a knee/thigh injury. Shortly afterwards, Mark "Speedy" Gonzalez tore his hamstring, just when he started playing well, and had to go off. That left Rafa only one substitution for tactical purpose going into half time 0-0. But he couldn't use it as in the 2nd half, Jermaine Pennant also went off injured! I wasn't best pleased as, although I'm sure more is to come from him, he had frustrated me so much during the match with his choices of runs and passing. In the end second half goals from Captain Steven Gerrard and big Peter Crouch secured a 2-0 victory, and surprisingly, PSV only ever threatened a couple of times.
A particular highlight of being at this game was that there was a young lad, about 5yrs old, sitting in front of me with his dad, kitted out with his little red Liverpool cap. He was standing on his seat singing aloud every word of every chant that the near by Kop end started, it was funny because he had more enthusiasm and voice than a lot of the fans near us, and though he never left his seat, somehow later in the game, the near by steward (about 10-15 seats away) handed the lad his cap back. I can't for the life of me figure out how it got there! No one even knew it was missing! His dad did shush him on occasions, but I think the young gun should keep singing away as reclaiming the Kop would be easier with more like him.
I've seen the three home group games this season, which have seen fans from Turkey, France and Holland visit Anfield. Each had their own distinct character, and supported their team very well. Even though there is a reputation of Turkish fans, all fans supported their team in the right way. I also think we could learn a lesson from them. Though the away fans were a minority, some of their chants that involved them jumping up and down in unison (and waving their scarves around their head) looked very impressive (and a bit intimidating - especially the Turks). If the 12,000 people in the Kop did that, or even the whole stadium, it'd sure add to the 'Lions den' factor that Anfield has been known for. Reclaim the Kop in style.
The trip back saw an old lady in the coach give her analysis on the injuries, and us listen to a few mixed opinions on the Radio 5 live phone in '606.' When we got to Coventry, we had to get a taxi to Warwick University (the taxi appeared as if from nowhere in the pouring rain), and then catch the night bus full of drunk students singing classics like Bon Jovi's 'Livin' on a Prayer' and Bryan Adam' 'Summer of '69' (ah to be in uni again....) back home.
All in all, a different, but nice match day. And most importantly, my 100% win record at Liverpool matches (home and away) continues.