In September 2012, I and my friend set up on a trip to Liverpool. Both of us arefootball fans, so the first target was clear: Anfield Road. We spent there approximately two hours, therefore I devoted an entire article to this experience. Rest of Liverpool with the Beatles, Cathedral, docks and the Liver building patrolled by the Liver birds is covered in a separate article.
Right in front of the stadium we received an open-arm welcome by Bill Shankly, one of the best managers in team’s history. After initial photo shots we purchased the tour tickets and headed for the fan shop. Prices were comparatively high but the offer was rich. You can even get sweets with player’s names engraved into the jelly, stickers with the name of particular person (I could not find Erik) and the team logo and similar accessories. Of course, there was a wide variety of jerseys – home, away and retro. Also Liverpool FC labeled casual wear that you can’t find anywhere else.
It was almost twelve so we decided to go out and wait for the tour guide at the Bill Shankley’s statue assemble point. After a while, our group was approached by two of them. One bald, wearing a red dress-coat; the other one in a black coat with engraved FC Liverpool logo. Both were full of enthusiasm and spoke in Liverpool accent, which is sometimes difficult to pick up. Initially, we were ushered into some kind of hall of fame. The walls were decorated by the pictures of famous players. We learned few interesting facts, for example that the best shooter in Liverpool’s history Ian Rush scored total of 346 goals.
After the brief history lesson we went on to the press center. It is here that the manager has to face the media after every single match. The room was rather small, but it could take in over 50 journalists. Originally it used to be the boot room and Bill Shankly would explain the pre-match tactics here. Since it was changed into the press center, Liverpool has not conquered the Premier Ship title. Some claim it is a curse.
From the press center we walked over to the dressing rooms. Player’s t-shirts were hanging on the walls. Discovering Martin Skrtel’s 37, we boasted to the guide that he is our country mate. The bald men knew him in person; he has met most of the current squad.
In general, the dressing rooms were modest. Unlike Valencia, where Rafa Benitez would not allow too much comfort as it interferes with player’s pre-match concentration, the Liverpool´s home dressing room was well maintained. Away team do not even have air conditioning. Interesting enough, because for a certain period Benitez was the manager at Anfield.
A corridor runs from the dressing rooms directly to the pitch. There are small cavities in the walls, where player undergo one-on-one interviews. Above the tunnel to the pitch is an inscription “This is Anfield”. It was arranged by Shankley himself; the red colour should frighten the opponents. Home players follow of touching it before every match. Peter Crouch could even kiss it, smaller players like Michael Owen or Luis Garcia had to be lift up to reach it – the guide joked.
The tribune and the pitch appeared to be smaller than they really are. I would not believe that stadium can host 45, 525 onlookers. It was strictly forbidden to enter the pitch and the authorities really mean it. (In Valencia I managed to walk on the lawn barefoot). Even the home team does not train here. Only the opponent in European cups is allowed one training session a day prior to the encounter. Usually, they are accommodated in nearby Radisson hotel. Oddly enough, you must be from an away team to train on the home ground.
Although Liverpool is a famous team, the stadium was full of family atmosphere. The tribunes are close to the pitch, unlike those at some top teams, where man could hardly spot the players. Guide mentioned a moment form the past with record 26, 000 people cramped at one of the tribunes, cheering up their team. At that time there were no seats and reservation tickets. You had to queue, sometimes even for two hours, and then share the close quarters with others. To get some refreshment during the match was out of question. Who was hungry, should have had breakfast. Who needed a toiled, should have used imagination – the guide concluded.
Bearing to this, he mentioned the Hillsborough tragedy from 1989, when 96 Liverpool fans died stampeded by the crowd. It resulted in reinforced security measures and long procedures with tickets. Newspapers were full of the disaster and according to the latest investigation; it was not fault of the drunken fans. Moreover, police and security forces could have saved about half of the victims if they acted more appropriately. However, everyone would jump the gun to blame the English rowdies who have long “criminal record” of clashes and disturbance all around the Europe.
Finally, we visited the museum. It was full of team’s history, famous players, the authenticity reinforced by original jerseys, trophies and video projections. It was the end of our tour. Maybe they are bearing under the financial problems, but the many fans and achievements guarantee that FC Liverpool would never walk alone. We are absolutely positive on this after having watched the highlights from the 2005 UEFA Champions League final, when Liverpool raised from the death against AC Milan.