My First Ever Anfield Experience Ends With A Win
So this was it. Date: Thursday 18th February, Time: 3:00pm, Destination: Anfield.
First point of call was the local BP station, Dave needed petrol, Emz needed some sort of beverage and i needed a paper and something edible. After stocking up on junk we got back into the car and headed straight for the notorious M6.
After hearing the old "oh you're going on the M6 car park are you?" for days before i was expecting the worst, in all honesty, it wasn't all that bad.
Sat Nav at the ready for when we came off the M6 we did end up on the motorway for quite a long time. The first moment of worry was when the overhead signs began to read "slow, incident ahead". I just hoped this incident would be passable in quick time.
Dya know what it was? ...
A National Express coach that had stopped dead in the middle lane of the M6 with some fat driver looking quite bemused at the wheel. I don't know if the passengers knew where they were but it certainly wasn't Southport as the coach suggested.
With that surpassed i continued to skim through the paper, nothing really to note, SuBo has a fella? As for the sport section well it was all dribble really about the Arsenal match the day before.
There was one article about our match but it was clear the journalist who's name i forget could not think of a particularly thriving article to write instead he chose to highlight the weakness of our predicted attendance and spouted some bollocks about Benitez, i didn't finish the article. I did however finish my tic-tacs, it's amazing how quickly you can get through 100 of those little green and orange things on a road trip. Time to look out the window...
Nothing really of interest aside from some strange people who kept staring out Dave and Emz, slightly scary. Out of my window though i spotted a fellow fan, this would amaze me if anybody reads this and it was them but if you were in a silver relatively new Vaxhaull Corsa with a team strip sticker in the back window, you were our view for most of the traffic that was set to hit us.
After thinking that we were going to be lucky, i had spoken too soon "Oh well, at least we haven't actually had to stop yet." Not so long afterwards Dave pointed out the string of brake lights ahead. Oh dear lord...
An accident, which from what I've heard was a pretty nasty one was holding up traffic from junctions 19-21, 26 miles from Liverpool and we began to literally crawl. All we could do was stare out of the window and note some of the random objects that lay in the central reservation, i don't know who throws trainers out the window but i would assume driving with only one would be quite a challenge.
Mile after mile slowly ticked by and we were beginning to actually get worried thinking maybe we wouldn't get there in time, mercifully though we eventually cleared the traffic and took the junction, from here on in it was Liverpool straight ahead.
After some confusion trying to find the multi story at Lime Street, Emz and Dave eventually found the signs, i was no help in the back without my glasses, never realised how bad my eyes really were!
So we parked up and headed down to Lime Street station to meet Kay who would be going to Manchester with Emz whilst me and Dave went to the match.
After that bum number of a drive though first thing we all needed was the loo, upon getting to the toilets i realised that they wanted 30p for the use of them... and i didn't have 30p...
Fear not though, Emz did.
So as we said goodbye to Emz and Kay, Dave and i set out on the hunt for food, most places appeared to be shut but the trusty old Burger King that i have been to on every visit to Liverpool was open.
With the idea being that we would grab something to eat in the price range that would give us both the right change for the bus, that plan was quickly floored. "How many chicken pieces dyer want luv 14 or 7?" Don't know why because i generally have a small appetite but i punted for 14, bad move, no change and they tasted like crap!
So after Dave finished his Angus he went back to annoy the cashier for some change, he also asked if he knew what bus it was to Anfield, he was useless, had no idea! It was okay though, i was pretty sure it was the number 17.
Change at the ready we went to find the bus stop, just as we found the correct one an elderly scouse chap in a high viz jacket approached us shouting "football special buses around the corner" or something to the effect.
Suddenly a string of people started flooding that way, a young Irish lad asked me mid walk if i knew which bus it was to Anfield so i also directed him in our direction.
Upon reaching the road though most people looked confused, there were 3 buses, one with the number hidden, another number 17 which i knew was right and a double decker. Confused people stood on the wrong side of the road trying to guess where to queue up, then i shouted to Dave "Yeah there it is the number 17" again, bad move, it turned into a bloody race!
We managed to get on the second bus as the first was full to the rafters, bus fare was same as last time which was a relief i was beginning to think they may charge extra. Took us straight to Anfield, excellent. Much better than the Fazakerley one that has to stop in all the residential areas.
Spot Anfield out of the steamed up window, wipe it clean to view the place i love so dearly, starts to hit home that i am actually going to see the lads play, Dave and I thank the bus driver and cross the road then head through the Paisley gates.
I get tickets ready out me bag then we start to head in the direction i think we should be going, i spot a programme seller, definitely wanted to buy one, figured i may as well get it now rather than later, handed over the cash then got my change and the programme with a bent over Riera on the front.
"Dave, hold this a sec whilst i put me change in me purse."
Two seconds later... "Splat"
The bloody div had dropped it on the floor! Haha, it survived though with Dave's attempts at drying it, corners are a bit wrecked but apparently that was because of all the crap in my bag lol. I beg to differ haha.
Programme at the ready i followed the direction they took me when i went on the Anfield tour because i knew that they took you through the main stand, although i had no idea what turnstile etc to go to. First steward we spoke to kindly directed us up the car park and to head for turnstile S or T, second steward told me i didn't need to scan my ticket and that i had to give it to him (*hits self on head*) and the third steward upon climbing the stairs told me and Dave that our seats were the next block down.
We looked up at the numbers and then checked the tickets to make sure they fitted with the allocated slot and began to walk up the steps, only then was it that Anfield began to appear through the concrete peripheral vision, i can't explain how that made me feel, it was like a sinking feeling but a good one, that was when it actually did hit me, we were here and i was going to finally experience Anfield.
We asked another steward where our seats were and he was excellent pretty much showed us directly to our actual individual seats. Top blokes all the stewards i came across at Anfield, really helpful and polite.
Got ourselves into position but didn't sit down straight away, i had forgotten that some seats at Anfield were still wooden, to be fair though they provided a lot of leg room. With 15minutes to go till kick off me and Dave took some snaps although Dave's digital camera died after like two... Fail.
My phone camera is terrible in general but mostly blurry photos are ten times better than none!
Time quickly passed by as i took in the sights, sounds and smells of the glorious Anfield, i had been here before but it was light years away from how it felt now, filled with fans & flags.
Then out of nowhere i hear that famous voice - Gerry Marsden.
For years and years i have listened to this song from a stereo or television before kick off but nothing will ever compare to this moment.
Immediately my scarf went up in the air and i began to sing, i knew that this would be a special moment for me, but i never thought it would be so emotional, it nearly brought a tear to my eye, i was so happy to finally be there and be involved in such a historic Anfield tradition, it was awe-inspiring.
For as long as i live i will NEVER forget that moment.
As the lads came out Dave and I and the rest of the Main Stand clapped and cheered as they lined up and then took our seats.
Liverpool had started a slightly different team but nevertheless it was still a strong side put out by Rafa emulating his seriousness in giving this competition a go. Reina, Carragher, Gerrard and Kuyt were all still in, Aurelio replaced Insua in the back four and Skrtel with Agger was the choice for the centre of defence.
Riera started on the left which i was very happy to see, Aquilani also started instead of Lucas whilst Mascherano made up the rest of midfield and N'Gog was opted upfront.
We started very lively, almost all of the possession and play was in Unirea's half, i had lost count of the amount of corners and Unirea were looking generally ineffective especially on the counter attack.
The lively start made me realise that i was in fact going to need to put my glasses on, all our lads dashing around and me hardly being able to make out their blurred numbers was a bad combination, on went the glasses and now i had a crisp clear view. The man who was sat next to me though who had disappeared when i had no glasses on and returned when i had put them on seemed rather confused momentarily.
I blame that man for ruining the smell too, upon sitting down somebody in the vicinity (for some strange reason) had put what smelt like very expensive but nice aftershave on for his Anfield trip, however unnamed hat wearer who was next to me allowed the smell to disintegrate rather quickly as pies & bovril filled the air.
I wasn't the only one with a bovril problem, a faint scouse accent from a lady behind uttered "Errr wos that yer drinkin? Grayveeee?"
There were plenty of attempts in the first half for Liverpool from the likes of Gerrard, Kuyt, Riera and even goal shy Jamie Carragher.
Riera who i am generally a big fan of was playing closest to where i was sitting so i got to view his performance closely in the first half, unfortunately last nights stint for Riera was pretty disappointing. Much to the delight of the mild mannered moaner who was sat behind me.
I was pre-warned by many about the trials and tribulations of the Main Stand and although we were sat in front of a constant moaner it wasn't all that bad, his favourite word appeared to be plonker and he was brilliantly contradicting, he had a field day with Riera though, moan moan moan moan moan.
N'Gog too was a big target for most people, "Oh he's useless, he gets the ball n he does nothin with et." He proved them wrong eventually.
Second half and the disappointment of not being able to get an early goal when we were on top of the game was clear, the spark had gone and play had slowed down a bit. Again players like Riera and N'Gog were getting on the tethers of many people but at least it was relatively safe to say Unirea were not going to punish, barely a chance all game and when they had the opportunity they scuffed it.
Riera was eventually replaced with Ryan Babel. I must admit in comparing the stints from both players in this game Babel has bragging rights, he was strong in attack and did cause many problems.
The following substitution proved to be very effective and much to the joy of many a Liverpool fan Daniel Pacheco was brought on for Aquilani. I had noticed him being spoken to by Rafa beforehand so knew he was coming on but to my surprise many people around me didn't seem to even know who the youngster was although credit given when due mild mannered moaner did.
Within less than 10minutes of him being on the field Danny Pacheco proves his worth yet again, after connecting with the incoming ball he heads back across the face when N'Gog finishes with the end product.
I was already half way out of my seat as the ball came to Pacheco and was ecstatic when celebrating the N'Gog goal, i think i nearly took out unnamed hat wearer with my bag but oh well, celebrating my first Liverpool goal was excellent, everyone becomes one. I've always had to celebrate pretty much alone really but this time was special.
As the minutes ticked down of my first Anfield experience, Lucas was brought into play for goalscorer David N'Gog.
A win was all i asked, of any caliber and a win is what i got. Despite the performance being very lacklustre, Liverpool again have grinded out a result.
We opted to stay for a little while afterwards, as the ground emptied out the Romanian fans were excellent in clapping and showing respect for the Anfield faithful. Was it me or did their main chant sound remarkably like "Who's eaten?!"...
It was time to go, found it quite hard to actually turn my back on the pitch and leave the stand, i would have been quite happy sleeping there but we needed to find a bus.
This proved a right game, not thinking that Walton Breck Road would be closed my plan was to catch the bus opposite the Paisley gates, Dave pointed out the road was closed which to be honest i should have figured out myself seen as though we were standing in the middle of it and not getting run over. (Still in awe maybe?)
We spotted a scarf seller so Dave got a You'll Never Walk Alone one for the parcel shelf of his fiesta. As my Twitter followers may know, i opted for a rather "cringe-worthy" option of scarf from an old geezer further down the road... It was only for a souvenir! Lay off me a bit haha.
Anyway, after we realised we weren't going to be able to catch a bus from where we were we approached a policemen standing in the middle of the road...
"Excuse me officer could you tell me where to get a bus to the city centre from please?"
His first sentence of reply was:
"Well, town is sort of ... that way (hand signal in a sort of westerly direction)."
Great i thought, the one policeman in the whole of Liverpool who doesn't even appear to know where he is and we ask him for directions. He did eventually explain that if we followed the road all the way to the bottom we would find a main road with a bus stop.
It was quite a long walk to be fair although tons of fans were walking in the same direction. As me and Dave continued to talk about the match a middle aged man and what appeared to be his 3 sons turned round...
"Are you from round here?" ... "No, are you trying to get to the city centre?"
"Yes, well Lime Street"
Several words excahnged later i explained that we were following instructions from a policemen who has as good a sense of direction as James May from Top Gear.
Dave and I were still slightly confused as to why he thought we could be from round here, i talk pretty loud and i can talk for England, is my accent really not that noticeable?
We overtook them but eventually when we found a bus stop met them again as they passed us and continued walking the road attempting to flag down a cab.
Bus stop was rammed, no sign of a bus, me and Dave figured we should just carry on walking. As we got close to another bus stop we saw the bus had pulled up at the other one now some way behind us.
By now we had caught up with the middle aged mans group, eventually Dave and one of the mans sons figured that this bus would go to the city centre. Waiting for the bus to pull up from the other stop it was overtaken by another very empty bus. Nicley done haha.
We hopped on complete with middle aged man group who now appeared to be our tag alongs because we knew our whereabouts more than they did and headed for Lime Street.
Kay and Emz were nearly there so we waited for them to appear underneath the giant Lime Street clock, they had been pubbing it up in Manchester although i don't think they were drunk.
After getting some snacks from Upper Crust and Burger King in the train station it was time to head for the car. As we headed out of Liverpool and i began to see the last signs of the North West city i got that slightly sad feeling, my first thought is usually when i can come back next.
We made good time on the M6 and had to follow it all the way to Birmingham as our friend Kay is not a Wolverhamptoner lol.
I rarely ever fall asleep in the car but on several occasions i felt my head drop forward then a sudden jolt would spring me back to life.
Eventually arrived home at about 2AM, completely shattered so was glad to get into the house to my warm bed but still reminiscing on the hours beforehand.
The people i love will always be in Wolverhampton, and in all honesty i love living here, it's not perfect but it's my home.
The football club i love however will forever be in Liverpool, always has, always will.
Til next time...