Let’s Talk About Six, Baby

Saturday, June 1st 2019, just after 7am. We get the Skytrain from Surrey to downtown Vancouver, arriving at the Butcher and Bullock shortly before 8am. We knew there would be a fair sized queue well before doors opened at 9am, in spite of it being priority entry for members. Even so, we were surprised by how many were there ahead of us, some of whom said they’d been there for a couple of hours already. Amazingly, as we were still waiting outside, on the corner of Pender and Hornby, we could see the queue for The Blackbird Public House already around the corner and down Hornby. We managed to entertain ourselves by booing both a Vancouver Police Wagon, who gave us a blast as he went by, and staring at drivers stopped at the traffic lights who were staring at us wondering what’s going on? A couple of lone Spurs fans walked by on the other side of the street, to a loud chorus of boos from us, the first one passed by as if we weren’t there, and the second one gave us the single finger salute. 9am came and as the doors opened, we were let in a few at a time to keep it more restrained than a mad rush, and as we went in we found a good spot at a table and took our seats.

The staff were well prepared and came around to take our orders for the complimentary breakfast as we tried to contain the excitement building inside, while also hoping the next few hours would pass quickly so we could get on with the big game itself. Thankfully, the club had arranged some video entertainment for us, and then around 11 am Jamie Wright began leading us in a sing-along that we all joined in enthusiastically and put us all in a great mood ready for kick-off.

Moments of Madness and Mayhem

Not even 30 seconds in, we get a penalty. Cue the cheers and the tension as Mo Salah steps up and … blasts it home. Bedlam ensues as we all start yelling, jumping, and hugging anyone within reach. A big guy at the next table to me started to give me a bear hug, then lifted me off my feet to the point that I thought he was going to toss me in the air! Fortunately not, with me landing safely on my feet, and then sitting down again to continue watching as calmly as I could after the great start. The game was fairly dull after that, other than an intruder on the pitch who was dealt with swiftly by stadium security. Not too many great attacking moves and even fewer clear chances, but we went in at half time with the 1-0 lead intact. The second half wasn’t much of an improvement, but there was a nervy 15 minutes or so as Spurs starting to pile on the pressure as the clock was ticking down, but never really looked too dangerous. Alisson was needed to stop a few shots, making them look pretty much routine by his standards, and then with only 3 minutes to go a poor clearance by Spurs in their own penalty area allowed Matip (what’s a centre back doing way up there?) to knock it over to Origi (on as sub. for Firmino) to his left in the box, who calmly took the ball and placed it low and just inside the far post, beyond the reach of Lloris, 2-0 and surely it’s ours now. The place goes mental, with even more screaming, yelling, jumping and hugging, then it was just a matter of trying to patiently wait out the last few minutes of added time, and then at the final whistle there was even more madness and mayhem before we watched the boys get their medals and of course lift the big one to roars from all of us. I admit that I was in tears at the end, and not surprisingly I wasn’t not the only one.

The game itself has been described as one of the least entertaining UCL finals ever, but not one of us will care about that. What mattered was that we won on the day and picked up Ol’ Big Ears for the sixth time in the club’s history. We knew that there were several “official” LFC pubs in town showing the final, and many more unofficial ones, with estimates of somewhere around 2,000 Reds going mental all over the city, which I thought might be an exaggeration.

After we left the B&B a while later, we were walking to the Skytrain station at Waterfront when we saw a group of lads in Liverpool shirts coming towards us. We immediately yelled over and stopped to talk to them. They were a group of Irish lads who had been at one of the unofficial pubs, and one of them asks me “how do you feel?” so I answered that I didn’t think it had really sunk in yet, but surely it would soon. As we travelled home we saw quite a few more people in Liverpool shirts, worn by people with happy faces, so maybe that estimate of 2,000 is pretty accurate.

The Morning After

Early Sunday morning I opened up my e-mail and read a message from a relative in London, who was not a Red but really happy that we’d won. As he said, after the season we had it would have been a massive disappointment not to finish with a major trophy, and while I would have wished for the Premier League then this was a pretty good consolation prize. Personally I was so pleased for Klopp who had the dark cloud hanging over him as a manager who lost six finals in a row. That can now be forgotten, with Klopp joining an elite group as one of only four Liverpool managers to have achieved Europe’s biggest prize.

The Fab Four

Later in the day, my same relative e-mailed about the victory parade in Liverpool, which reminded me that it was available via YouTube so I sat in front of the computer monitor and watched it unfold. The route was along some of the streets that I’ve walked up and down many times, from Queen’s Drive, West Derby Road, Low Hill, and Erskine Street, then to the city centre. It was a bit strange to see how much the city has changed since those days, but then so much else has changed, with one notable exception being success for Liverpool FC. As the open-topped buses slowly made their way around town through a sea of red, we could see the back of the bus showing the six cups we’d won over the years -1977, 1978, 1981, 1984, 2005, and now 2019. That’s when it all really sank in. This was not just a measure of our success for one season, but shows that we continue to be a force in Europe having won twice as many as the next highest for any English club. Only four other English clubs have won the trophy, claiming seven between all of them to our six. We’re now the third highest in Champions League history, ahead of some of the big names like Barcelona (5), Bayern Munich (5), Ajax (4) Inter Milan (3), Juventus (2), and Manchester City (0). We can truly call ourselves European Royalty with our impressive record.

The Shape of Things to Come

So what next? Liverpool have a tradition of success that relies on a few simple practices, including the idea that next season starts the day after the last season ends. I’m sure this is happening behind the scenes now, even though the players are surely off for a well-deserved break over the summer before being called back for training. That’s only a few weeks away, with dates already confirmed for a pre-season tour in the States in mid-July, along with other warm up matches ahead of the 2019-2020 season. Between now and then, the club need to look at the squad and see where we need strengthening. For me, I’d like to see a few players brought in, but I’ll leave it to the management to decide who they need, who’s available, and at what cost. Surely FSG will back up the manager with the needed funds as he identifies his targets. For this transfer window, we’re not desperate, but if the right players are available then we should go after them. We spent huge amounts on players like Van Dijk and Alisson, which we know was well worth it, after achieving success.

One thing that puts us in an enviable position is that we’re now defending European Champions for next season’s campaign, and we have a charismatic manager who is building a club that so many players will want to be a part of. More than that, if any prospective player was to see that victory parade, and see how the city came out with estimates of 750,000 lining the route, who would not want to be a part of a club with supporters like that? Let’s enjoy the summer, keep calm, and look forward to next season – it’s not that far off, and we’re in great shape for more success to come.

In Other News…

Our first competitive match for next season will be the Community Shield, with us as runners up in the Premier League facing League and FA Cup winners Manchester City at Wembley on August 3rd or 4th. We’ve won this trophy ten times, and shared it five times, so one more would be welcome.

In Istanbul, we’ll win it four times – okay so it doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, but as Champions League winners we’ll be facing Europa League winners Chelsea, in Istanbul on August 14th for the UEFA Super Cup which we’ve won three times so far (1977, 2001, 2005).

After some confusing reports, Liverpool will be playing in the Club World Cup later this year, which will take place in December in Qatar. No firm dates yet, but an announcement will come soon enough. We have yet to win this one, so here’s hoping this time around.

The above three events mean that all together we’ll be playing in seven competitions for the 2019-2020 season. A lot to look forward to, with the Premier League fixtures to be released on June 13th – less than two weeks from now!

Final comment: a huge thanks to the staff at the Butcher and Bullock. They’ve been fantastic all season, working hard to look after us, even when it’s for a 4:30am kick off – we really appreciate it. I just hope they enjoy having us there as much as we enjoy being there for every game. Cheers all, YNWA.

© Keith Perkins, 2019-06-03

The History of the Spion Kop

We’re pleased to publish an article on the Kop, written by fellow Red, and Vancouver resident Mike Brown, who’s great-grandfather, Ernest Edwards, is the man who coined the name of the stand back in the day. Mike’s article was published in the Anfield Review in 1999/2000 in recognition of the Kop reaching 100 years old, and is reproduced here with Mike’s permission

A Battle

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The Battle of Spioenkop

Spioenkop means ‘Spy Hill’ and was coined by the Dutch settlers for the commanding views it afforded. The following days witnessed a bloody battle between the British Empire and a ragged collection of Boer farmers, and the British Empire lost. The British soldiers were local boys from the Second Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers, the Second Battalion of the Royal Lancaster Regiment and the First Battalion of the South Lancashire Regiment.

Capturing Spioenkop meant that the British Army could relieve their countrymen besieged by the Boers in the Natal town of Ladysmith and be home by Christmas.

However, that reckoned without a series of blunders by the British High Command, led by Sir Redvers Bullers, and the terrifying fighting qualities of the Boers.

Reports at the end of the battle, which raged for two days stated 332 killed, 563 wounded and 163 prisoners taken, but these figures are still open to question with some claiming up to 340 killed and 1000 wounded. The Boers had beaten the mightiest army in the world and the reverberations were felt around the globe.

Continue reading “The History of the Spion Kop”

In Search of Didi Hamann – My Ultimate Anfield Experience

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An opportunity arose to speak at a Liverpool video game conference towards the end of November and as someone who shares the same last name, country of birth and love of Liverpool FC as Didi Hamann, I would be forever kicking (pardon the pun) myself if I didn’t at least try to connect with my namesake while in Liverpool.

 

As luck would have it, LFC decided to make a few additional seats available for a number of matches, including the Man City visit to Anfield which coincided nicely with my business trip. I decided that my chances of meeting Didi Hamann might be enhanced if I secured a ticket. Not to mention a potential match of the season against the table topping Man City. After staying up past midnight Vancouver time on the day tickets were made available, I found that a) trying to call the ticket office would not get me anywhere (line was constantly busy) but that b) making sure I was logged into the online ticket buying system on the LFC website at least ten minutes before opening and constantly refreshing the page would get me access to ticket purchasing as soon as they were available. Within 15 minutes I managed to secure an 18th row seat at the Anfield Road end, just to the left of the goal. Mission one accomplished. Whether this would improve my chances of connecting with my namesake I wasn’t sure.

 

Next, I decided to book myself into one of the various Anfield tours available, hopefully further improving my chances of meeting Didi. It was a difficult choice, as any one of the options are great. There’s the Anfield Stadium Tour (Match Day, Peak and Off Peak), Museum, LFC Legends Tour (Didi was not on the list unfortunately), Pre Match Kop Viewing, the Anfield Experience and the Ultimate Anfield stadium tours.

 

I briefly toyed with the idea of signing up for the Ultimate Anfield tour but decided against this. What if during the Melwood training session (part of the tour) I scored some spectacular goals and then, they’d want me to suit up for the Man City match, forcing me to miss the rest of my business trip to Edinburgh and London! Couldn’t leave the University of Edinburgh without a speaker could we? So I decided on the Anfield Experience tour, still dreaming about scoring those goals at Melwood. Perhaps Jan Molby and Alan Kennedy, the two LFC Legends on that day, would know where Didi was and could set something up.

 

I spoke at the conference on Thursday and then was excited about the Friday Anfield Experience tour which was scheduled to start at 9.45 am, sharp. Normally they mail you a voucher and other items but since I had booked that close to the tour date, Pat King the events coordinator, emailed that the paperwork would be held for me at the Centenary Stand tour reception for my arrival. Everything looked good so far, there was great communication with the tour team. Perhaps they’d notice my last name and get me in touch with Didi!

 

On the morning of the tour I packed my 2005 Champions League shirt into my bag (ready for Didi’s signature) and decided to take a taxi from my hotel to Anfield instead of taking the 20 minute walk. Here’s another tip. Always ask your taxi driver which club they support. If it’s Everton, immediately get out, find an LFC driver and save yourself some money. Mine that morning was an Everton supporter and took great pains to drive me the long way around the Everton ground, filling me in on much of their history, repeatedly pointing at different views of the Everton ground and slowing to a crawl each time to make some point. Great! A regular 4 pound taxi fare to Anfield ended up costing me 7.50 pounds! So much for the friendly rivalry between the clubs!

 

I still got to Anfield in plenty of time however, picked up my voucher and was directed to the second floor café. Everyone was assigned to a numbered table, which also coincided with the number of the executive suite where we’d have lunch that day, high above the Anfield pitch. And, as I later found out, the first visit with our LFC legends of the day, Alan & Jan.

 

All of the LFC staff were upbeat, friendly and welcoming. And that was the feeling for the whole day. I never got the sense once that we were a group of sheep to be driven through the gates as quickly as possible. On the contrary, myself and everyone else were treated as part of the LFC family.

 

The tour that morning was so well attended that they split us up into two groups. The first would go directly on the guided tour while the rest of us could spend some time in the museum and LFC shop. I found out very quickly that the museum needed more than just an hour which is when our group was scheduled to meet in front of the Shankly statue and partake in the guided part of the tour. There was no problem getting back into the museum later, which I did. Even then they had to kick me out at 5pm closing, still wanting more!

 

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I’m not going to give you details of every part of the tour but suffice it to say that every step of the way was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Each tour guide obviously loved talking about the club and their part in it.

 

We started with the Legends Lounge, moved to the Press Room and heard the story of how the change from what was the Boot Room to the current Press Room coincided with the changes in the club’s fortunes (Rafa wanted to bring the Boot Room back to it’s original location but was denied), to the home and away dressing rooms, walking down the steps, touching the “This is Anfield” sign and hearing how away team players admitted being intimidated by that sign and the roar of the Anfield crowd, sitting in the player and manager dug out at pitch level, hearing the history of each stand including the Kop and then heading up to our Executive Suite overlooking the pitch for lunch.

 

The three course lunch was excellent but the arrival of Jan Molby and Alan Kennedy even better. They’d obviously done their homework as the first thing Jan said, pointing directly at me was, “you’re from Vancouver, Canada, I love Canada!” It turns out Jan had played at an indoor tournament in Toronto. His opening line broke the ice and a great discussion proceeded from there.

 

Each one of our group got our pictures taken with both Legends on the balcony with the Kop in the background. I then pointed out to Jan & Alan that Didi and I had the same last name and might there be a chance that Didi was around. Jan immediately said they’d check and to chat with them again later after lunch when they’d field questions from the entire group back at the cafe.

 

We finished lunch and then headed back down to the café to ask our Legends questions and hear whatever stories they had to share as well as get our autographs.

 

Someone in the audience asked who the “craziest” player they’d ever played with was. There was a moment of silence while Alan and Jan looked at each other and then Jan immediately said…..”Bruce Grobbelaar”!

 

For no less than 30 minutes the room was held captive in laughter and suspense as Jan and Allan recounted one story after another of the antics of Bruce during his time at LFC. Both Jan & Alan agreed that Bruce was not only one of the greatest keepers to don an LFC kit but also one the nicest people as well. There’s no doubt Bruce was a character that kept everyone of the players at the time on their toes and in stitches. But he was well respected and loved.

 

You might recall that Bruce played for the original Whitecaps in 1979 and 1980 before joining LFC. What you might not know is that he currently is back in Canada, living with his wife in Newfoundland.

 

After many more questions and stories it was time to get our autographs from Jan & Alan. I got my signatures from both on my Champions League shirt and was then told by Jan to meet Alan at the Carlsberg Lounge prior to the Man City match on Sunday to see if a meeting could be arranged with Didi.

 

Jan was doing TV work on match day while Alan was prepping the Carlsberg Lounge crowd with the team sheet and formations before the match. Allan was kind enough to come off the stage to say hello and try and find Didi but to no avail.

 

At one point, Alan asked an LFC employee if he’d seen Didi that day since (pointing to me) “this fella from Vancouver thinks he’s related to Didi Hamann!” Well, Didi and I may not be related by blood (there’s a small chance we are), but we do have the same last name, were both born in Germany and both love Liverpool Football Club. It’s obvious we ARE related!

 

My hope is to one day meet Didi Hamann to see if we are related and get my namesake’s autograph on my Champions League shirt. Until that day, I will always treasure a very special day at a very special football club.

 

Thank you Jan, Alan and everyone else on that day at Liverpool FC!

 

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Russ’s World Cup Adventures

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LFC Vancouver members Russ & Louise attended some games at the World Cup this summer in South Africa.

Here are some photos of Russ outside and inside the stadium at Soccer City Johannesburg before the Holland v Denmark game.  Russ brought an LFC shirt to trade with some local policemen who were apparantly LFC fans.

Thanks for sharing the photos Russ.

 

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