The early 21st century was a constant barrage of rumours, plans drawn up, plans changed and false dawns with regards to the new Anfield being built. The infamous ‘spade in the ground’ promises of George Gillett and Tom Hicks, our previous American owners, was probably the emptiest promise of them all.
Thankfully, Gillett and Uncle Tom didn’t stay round too long, even before trying to ruin the club culminating in that famous courtroom battle in 2010 that they lost.
That courtroom drama virtually saved the club from administration and eventually paved the way for yet more American owners in Fenway Sports Group to take over our beloved club.
Staying at Anfield
Now even to this day FSG have had some almighty criticism from fans with regards to ticketing pricing and transfer activities (and the infamous net spend figures) but there is one thing that I’ll always be grateful for, remaining at our current home of Anfield, whatever their motivation was.
It’s a thing I’ve thought about many times over the years and it was at many points along the way a thing I would have had to accept and that was moving away from Anfield. Be that in the guise of a shiny, new, modern, name sponsored ground in Stanley Park or even further afield at Speke, it was a matter of accepting the need to push forward into more modern times.
One thing I wouldn’t have accepted and I’m sure a vast majority of supporters are behind me and that was the ‘rumoured’ ground share with our near neighbours Everton. That was a non-starter for me on many levels.
Such found memories
Staying at Anfield means all the history in that wonderful ground remains. Call me an old romantic but I can still see grainy footage of Roger Hunt scoring in the Kop end in front of his adoring supporters. I can still see Davie Fairclough racing away past the St Etienne defence to slot home again at the Kop end to send us closer to Rome in ’77. I can still see Luis Garcia’s ghost goal against Chelsea in 2005, a step away from Istanbul. Each and every goal gives me shiver down my back and goose bumps on my arms. It’s these memories, and many more, that help the current (and future) sides in difficult times.
Bill Shankly spoke about in numerous interviews about a cask of someone’s ashes being buried in the Kop goalmouth and numerous deceased supporter’s ashes sprinkled over the hallowed turf. Shankly even went a touch further and claimed that the cask and the ashes helped the reds on many occasions on a different sort of heavenly level. Whether you believe in things like that or not, it’s this kind of mystique that makes the history of the ground so unique.
It shouldn’t be a hinderance to players and it shouldn’t be a noose around the managers neck. It should be an inspiration and a privilege for our players in red to tread where the greats have strutted their stuff before them.
Moving away from home
Many teams have moved grounds over the last 20 years or so and I can’t really think of many times it has benefited the clubs in question. Off the top of my head, Arsenal left the historic Highbury behind for a shiny new ground just down the road in the Emirates. Financially better off now but a club now stuck in bit of rut. Wembley Stadium was knocked down to be replaced by 21st century five-star ground but with none of the character and history.
So-called smaller teams like Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Bolton Wanderers have all moved from their traditional, atmospheric homes to out-of-town purpose built, clean grounds but with none of history that came before. The same pitches the likes of Jim Montgomery, Wilf Mannion and Nat Lofthouse showcased their skills on.
Closer to the heart
It’s (Anfield) a place of great personal memories. I was taken there by my now deceased father for the first time and I eventually took my son for his first time. We’ve since stood (or sat) together hundreds of times since at home and abroad. We’ve made our own memories in that building. However, it’s more than just bricks and mortar. It’s a place we call our home.
We still laugh now (and cry) at some almost small incidents that have occurred over the years. Small incidents that only we’d remember. Like me smashing into my son’s face accidentally when we scored a vital goal against Inter Milan a few years back. All the blood dripping down his face on to his white hoodie was irrelevant in that moment in time. We had just scored a vital goal, victory was in sight, nothing else mattered.
If we had of moved away from Anfield we would of course still have been Liverpool Football Club. I don’t think the owners could have turned us into an American style franchise and renamed us Speke City or something. We would also have had all the memories still in our heads to talk about. However, a little part of me would have died. It just wouldn’t have been the same.
Instead of moving away from Anfield, FSG of course decided to stay and ‘upgrade’ the ground with regards to facilities and an increased capacity by initially completely rebuilding a new Main Stand. There are also talks on-going about a bigger Anfield Road end, that will increase the capacity further.
Yes, the atmosphere in the ground isn’t always what it’s made up to be but every now and then it hits a 10 and the ground is almost like no other in world football. It’s at moments like these I look around from my spec in the Kop, smile a little and all of a sudden everything in the world is all right. All in all, the memories live on.