It’s 3:55 pm on a unseasonally warm and sunny late afternoon in March. The final Sunday in fact for March in the year 2008. Not just any Sunday of course. It’s Merseyside and it’s derby day.
With both sides scratching for fourth place the result has plenty riding on it. As always they tell me that my chances of sorting a ticket are next to nothing. Mind, only a few weeks earlier i’d been over in Italy, Milan to be precise watching Torres net a second half winner over Inter in the Champions League. Small revenge extracted for 1965. They said I wouldn’t get a chance of getting in for that match too.
It took me a few years to realise this but sorting a ticket for Liverpool matches, home and away, is much easier than one would assume. And almost always at face value too.
Now where was I? Ahh, yes, March 2008.
Standing outside the Paisley gates and with KO only minutes away I still didn’t have a way in. I’d gone up to the ground more in hope to be fair. Still, you have to be in it to win it and at worst i’d watch the match in a boozer by the ground with the small splattering of other ticketless supporters.
In the past i’d always settled for the matches against smaller clubs. Coventry, Wigan and the like. Always a spare floating about for them matches. Scraps against the bigger clubs? Forget it they would tell me. Friends, flatmates and drinking buddies. Many of them long serving match goers themselves. Many had been to few if any big games over the years. Normally just the Norwich and Sunderland matches.
So yeah, the match is about to kick off and i’m still holding out hope as “You’ll Never Walk Alone” rolls out inside. Then the roar. Kick off and away she goes. Still no ticket.
If memory serves it was around 3 minutes in when a tall Jamaican strolled up to me with a ticket in his hand. Saddling up next to me he asked if I had a ticket? Of course I didn’t! Would I be standing outside after kick off if I had one?
“Here you go mate” he says with a smile.
“£36 and it’s yours!” as he holds a match ticket out towards me. He continues.
“My mate can’t make it and I need to move it.”
So there I was. A quick swap of cash, a sprint down the Annie Road end which led me to an empty seat in the Lower Annie. It was mine. And it was now my first derby!
Within seconds of taking my seat Torres had scored for a 1-0 lead. It stayed that way for the remainder of the match and Liverpool went on to secure a top 4 finish once more.
They told me I would have next to no chance. I tell them that if you want something bad enough, you will get it! From that moment on, I’ve always managed to snare tickets to games everybody else had given up hope on. Through some amazing friends to lucky breaks of being in the right spot at the right times. FA Cup semi finals at Wembley. Hell, even a League Cup final at Wembley. Big away matches in Europe to the smaller cup ties at home. I’ve built up a storied match going history over the past 15 years or so and clocked up 52 league grounds in England along the way.
If you missed out in the sales recently there is no reason for despair. Supporter forums, social media, having good friends and wise contacts. There are a myriad of ways to find yourself a ticket to a match you thought impossible. Like I said earlier, you just have to want it bad enough.
Plenty will whinge and moan about closed shops and lack of loyalty for tickets but you have to put all that aside and keep believing you will get that elusive match ticket. I’ve pretended to be a sports journalist, family member of a player, made signs to hold up outside grounds and just simply waited till after kick off to find a spare. Anything to get in.
If forums, social media and friends can’t help you then get your head outside the box and find that match ticket. Be imaginative and prepare to be cheeky.
What you must never do is buy over face value from a tout. Those gob shite’s are the epitomy of what is wrong with football today. Charging two, three or even six times face value to another red is just never on. I remember a “fellow red” trying to palm off his spare for a cup final a couple of years back for £300 (£250 above face value) claiming the old fashioned line of “supply and demand” as his reason for fleecing another red. I just shook my head and walked away.
Ohh, got into Wembley that day. Face value too!
I’m always more than happy to help anyone get a ticket sorted. Can’t always guarantee it but most of the time i’m able to find a way. It’s the least I can do because rest assured, there have been countless reds and football fans alike who have helped get me sorted. We look after each other and always keep our eyes wide open and ears to the ground.
I’ve lost count of how many matches i’ve been to in and around Europe this past decade and a half. What I haven’t lost count of and never will is my “other” family. My football family who have been so very good to me over this time.
Ross, John, Syed, Matt, Anna, Peter, Jay, Pearl, Dan, Dave and the many others who’ve sorted me over the years. I owe you all an eternal debt. And you will always be very close to my heart for taking me under your match going wings. With my football family I would not be the man I am today.
And if you think you have lost all hope of getting a match ticket…….think again!