Liverpool v Swansea

Liverpool v Swansea Programme CoverFor many Swans fans the visit to Anfield was the first game they looked for when the Premier League fixures were released back in July, after all it had been 28 years since the sides last met in the league.  We’ll forget about the 8 nil FA Cup drubbing in 1990!

Little wonder then that given the history between the clubs – due to the Toshack era – today’s game meant divided loyalties for many Swans fans old enough to remember the historic rise through the divisions in the late 70’s and early 80’s.

But regardless of any Liverpool v Swansea history, a visit to Anfield – for the vast majority of football fans – invokes thoughts of what many consider the home of football, the Kop end, the famous ‘Anfield Roar‘ and of course the pre kick-off  rendition of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’.

So when we left Swansea at 07:15 this morning, there was plenty to mull over as we contemplated the day ahead.

This was my 4th away game of the season thus far, but my companion for the day Polka Dot Jack – who incidentally is more famous for his Cardiff City Messageboard appearance than his L’Etape Du Tour exploits – was making his debut Premier League away appearance.

We opted to take the 165 mile scenic route through mid Wales on what was a beautiful winter’s morning.

View from the Black Mountains

The early morning view over the Towy valley from the Black Mountains was stunning, with the mist passing itself off as giant reservoirs of water.

We did “joke” about whether or not additional dams had been built to enhance the existing water supply to Liverpool and the rest of north west!

The remainder of our meandering journey through the picturesque countryside passed off with little other items of interest, bar the steady stream of Swans fans cars and vans which were seemingly in convoy with us.

Having made good time, we duly arrived in Liverpool at around 11:20am and proceeded to find some suitable parking near to Anfield.  Now being an organised so-and-so and not someone whom likes leaving things to chance, I’d done my internet research and managed to locate a match day car park on the corner of Utting Avenue and Priory Road – a 5 minute walk from Anfield.  Nearby was Stanley Park, which is worth a walk through if only to appreciate the stark contrast between the green belt and the row upon row of terraced houses that surround Anfield.

I must confess – given Liverpool’s legendary association with car crime – that upon arrival at the car park, the distinct lack of cars but plethora of large vans/trucks was a little unnerving.  This feeling wasn’t helped by a rather shifty gentleman collecting the £10 parking fee, putting it in his back pocket and immediately saying – “the gates close at 6pm” before scooting off quickly in the direction of his equally shifty colleagues.

However, the arrival of more cars in a short space of time, settled any nerves we had about leaving it there and we headed off to Anfield to see (and take pictures of) the legendary football landmarks.

The Kop

Entry to the world renowned Kop end is made through the ‘Paisley Gateway’, which is named after the Liverpool legend of almost 50 years – Bob Paisley.  I couldn’t help but think the Kop stand would be bigger – but I thought I’d reserve full judgement until inside the stadium.

The Paisley Gateway
The Paisley Gateway

Also behind these gates, the statue of another Liverpool legend can be found – Bill Shankly.  It’s worth mentioning at this point, that if you want to get a good picture then I suggest you get there early – otherwise the chances are you’ll have to share the picture with someone else!!

Statue of Bill Shankly outside Anfield
Statue of Bill Shankly outside Anfield

This part of the ground is also home to the club shop and I wasted no time in having a wonder around – mainly to satisfy my product marketing desires than anything else.  Two things immediately struck me about the shop – it’s size and it’s vast selection of Liverpool merchandise.

I sincerely hope that someone from the Swan’s marketing department ventured in to have a look as well, as there is little doubt in my mind that they could have learnt a thing or two.

Whether it be the club branded products available – such as  ‘pink’ football scarves for the ladies to hatchet tool covers for the fellas – or something as simple as personal shop assistants on match days.  They even had underwear, kitchen utensils and condoms!!  It’s all additional (and welcome) income for the club.  Anyway, time to get off my soapbox 🙂

After devouring a chicken & mushroom pie with chips and lashings of gravy from the Sing Fong takeaway (opposite the Kop), it was time to venture around to the away end and see the famous ‘Shankly gates’.

The pie is worth an additional mention as it had obviously been microwaved numerous times before I purchased it.  I swear that if I’d been inclined to throw it anywhere other than the bin (which is where it ended up!) it could have seriously maimed somebody/something.

You'll Never Walk Alone
Shankly Gates at Anfield

Alongside the gates is the Hillsborough memorial – complete with a single burning flame inside – which was built in memory of the 96 people whom tragically lost their lives in the disaster.

Hillsborough Memorial
Hillsborough Memorial

The memorial also appear to be the spot where Liverpool fans placed wreaths for the passing of recent loved ones.  It was a very touching and sobering experience.

Whilst walking around the ground taking in all of the history and folklore associated with Liverpool football club, you couldn’t help but feel that it was also a day when we ourselves became part of that history as fans of Premier League newcomers Swansea City.  We were if you like – for today at least – on a par with this world famous football club.

It was also good to mingle with the Liverpool fans without any hassle whatsoever with some even stopping to have a chat.  Although it must be said that this “chat” usually ended with them asking either “Can you spare us a pound mate?” or “Would you like to buy some pin badges?” – the scousers certainly aren’t backwards in coming forward!

On the subject of souvenirs, there were the usual and seemingly customary scarf/t-shirt selling stalls around the ground, which one again were selling the 50/50 split scarves.

Whilst I’ve found this somewhat insulting previously, I was heartened to notice that there were Liverpool v Sunderland ‘split’ scarves from earlier this season on sale.  Maybe it isn’t just the promoted teams that get the scarf memorabilia treatment then!

On the subject of the stalls, here is just one of the many t-shirts available for purchase!

Everton T-Shirt
Everton T-Shirt

One other thing that you notice immediately once you’re in the vicinity of the ground is the large number of ticket touts loitering around asking anyone and everyone if they have any “spares”.

Now when you’re walking around the stadium as much as we did, this does become increasingly annoying and grating (the latter due to the scouse accent!) – especially when the same touts keep asking you the same bloody question.

If I did have a spare ticket, I certainly wouldn’t sell it to a tout – although I’d happily sell it at face value to a fellow Swansea fan.

In keeping with the theme of soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying every minute of the day, we opted to get into the ground as soon as the gates opened at 13:30.

Anfield Welcome

It’s seems that (pardon the pun) the red carpet had been laid out for the Swansea fans, as the welcome signs were not just outside the ground but inside as well!

Another Anfield welcome

I can honestly say that I have NEVER seen this at any other Swans game I have been too.  I don’t know if this is customary for all away fans or not, but it was a nice touch all the same.

Once inside Anfield, I couldn’t help but think how different it looked to as it appears on TV – as has been the case with all of the Premier League grounds  (bar Arsenal) I’ve been to so far I hasten to add.

Centenary Stand at Anfield
Centenary Stand at Anfield

Anfield isn’t as big as it appears and you can tell it’s an old school ground which has been modernised – with the lack of space (legroom) between seats and the large stand supporting pillars being the biggest giveaways.  That said, we were looking forward to the famous ‘Anfield Atmosphere’ with the 2,000 or so Swans fans adding to the mix.

With kick-off fast approaching and the away end bouyed by the appearance of Lee Trundle, Alan Tate, Kristian O’Leary and Jon Coates amongst us fans – there was a strong sense of belief that we could get something from the game, despite the majority of pundits writing us off (as is the norm these days).

The Kop singing You'll Never Walk Alone

After an impeccably observed minutes silence for the servicemen and women whom had lost their lives fighting for our country, the Anfield tannoy started to blast out the Livepool anthem – “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.  Outnumbered but certainly not overawed, the Jack Army proceeded to belt out “Hymns and Arias” as a retort.

I’ll now give a point by point summary of how I interpreted the 90 minutes…

  • Routledge’s selection ahead of Sinclair was somewhat of a surprise (for me) and I could only assume it was down to his greater experience.  Having said that with Sinclair’s pace he would be a useful addition later in the game when legs were tiring;  Routledge did play his best game yet in a Swans jersey though (although I’m still on the fence about his passion/commitment!);
  • Much as Rangel is good going forward, from what I’ve seen on previous away games he is targeted by the opposition due to the amount of space he gives his attacker;
  • The double marking of Suarez was effective – except when he decided to fall/dive, especially towards the latter stages of the game;
  • The Liverpool midfield were simply out-thought and out-played by messrs Allen and Britton, to the extent that they made a change at half-time (Kuyt for Henderson) in order to try and stem the flow – such was our dominance;
Swansea on the ball
  • Mark Gower’s chance, what can I say other than he must have seen the “How to strike a ball at goal” by Andrea Orlandi DVD – which incidentally is available for £2.99 in all good supermarkets and some rubbish ones too;
  • Defensively I thought we were superb and handled the threat of Carroll and Suarez progressively better as the game went on;
  • On the subject of the defence, Neil Taylor has been outstanding thus far this season and as of yet hasn’t received the plaudits he deserves;
  • Holland’s number one goalkeeper – Michel Vorm – was once again in fine form and his finger tip save to deny Glen Johnson in the closing minutes typified his season thus far.  What a purchase he was when you consider we were chasing Camp and Stockdale;
  • If Carroll is worth £35 million, then what price Joe Allen at the moment?
  • In light of the positive comments made about the Swans this season and last by Craig Bellamy, I did find the constant barracking of him yesterday (when warming up and on the pitch) somewhat tedious – especially when it is at the expense of getting behind the Swans.  So what if he’s a Cardiff lad and played for them – who cares!
  • Given the recent history of Sian Massey’s decisions in Liverpool games – I suspect she won’t be topping the list of anyone’s Christmas card list in Merseyside! She did get the decision spot on for Kuyt’s goal though in fairness;
Spot the ball
Spot the ball
  • The noise generated by the Liverpool fans was pitiful and I was genuinely shocked at how quiet they were before and during the game.  What ‘Anfield Roar’!?
  • The Jack Army were their usual boisterous selves and as the game unfolded, I think the vast majority of Liverpool fans did indeed think they were “only here to watch the Swans” – such was the quality of football we played;
  • On the subject of songs, judging by the broad grin on Kemy ‘BA’ Agustien’s face, I suspect he rather enjoyed the rendition of the A-Team’s theme tune whilst warming up;
  • I thought that Phil Dowd had a good game as referee – unlike some we’ve had over recent weeks!
  • It was noticeable at the end of the game that NONE of the Swansea players swapped jerseys with their Liverpool counterparts – I wonder why?  Thanks to Bethan who has pointed out that all of the Liverpool shirts were being signed and donated to the Royal British Legion after the game;
  • The standing ovation the team got by the Liverpool fans that had stayed behind was a treat worth seeing and rounded off a terrific performance, which could so easily have ended up as a win;

Final Score at Anfield

Who would have thought it eh, our first game at Anfield in the Premier League and we keep a clean sheet – the first time ANY Swansea team has managed to do that in a league game.

We sat waiting for the crowds to disperse reflecting on what had just unfolded in front of our eyes.  A magnificent team performance, playing football which at times had the mighty Liverpool chasing shadows.  Quite frankly it’s hard to believe.

The Kop at Anfield
The Kop

But there in itself lies the key I suppose – belief.  Brendan Roger’s often uses the word and as each game passes in the Premier League the ‘belief’ of the players becomes increasingly more evident for us all to see.  I suppose I’m as guilty as the next Swans fan in actually believing we can and will take points off the top 6 in the Premier League.

After a short 10 minute walk amongst jubilant Swans fans – interspersed with glum Liverpool fans – back to the car (which was still there thankfully complete with radio, wheel trims and wheels),  we were on our way home.

The car was a bit sluggish on starting though, probably due to the extra weight of carrying our ‘point’ in the boot 🙂

The journey home consisted of fantasising about the Swans result, whilst at the same time getting agitated at the phone call inducing habits of Stan Collymore on TalkSport, by spouting such classics as “So what!” in response to the Swans result.  Tit.

A relatively clear drive home meant that we were back by 21:45 having enjoyed a great day out and having the pleasure of saying “I was there”.  All that was left to do then was grab a coffee, relax and enjoy Match of the Day.

Unsurprisingly we were on last (due to lack of goals perhaps?) but I don’t really care how much media coverage we get if I’m honest.  It’s kind of nice being unfashionable and unnoticed.

We’ll just get on with the business quietly and efficiently as we always do.  After all, we’re only 10th in the Premier League.

Anfield Official Stadium Tour