Well there you go, the red men qualified for Europe’s elite competition yesterday following a somewhat nerve wracking first forty five minutes of normal time. You could feel the pressure valve release around the stadium after GW’s screamer hit the back of the net! The second half was a more relaxed atmosphere as we all went into celebration mode, safe in the knowledge we would be back with the big boys.
It was my first time sitting in the “new” Main Stand. I was up on the third level to watch proceedings unfold. The changes around Anfield are both good and bad. I’m still not a fan of the way the area outside has been turned into Disneyland. There are now live bands, circus acts and all sorts going on outside the ground. It’s an incentive effectively to get people up to Anfield earlier and have them spend their money.
I arrived around 12:30 pm to get a duplicate of my ticket and was surprised to see thousands already gathered around the stadium. In fairness, most seemed to be just curious onlookers trying to find something to do. The live band just played cliched cover songs, the same every single other cover band plays. Why not get young Liverpool bands to play original material? Oh yeah, the tourists won’t want to watch that as part of their “Disneyland, sorry, Anfield experience” will they?
There are loads of pop up shops around the ground now as well. Exploiting every available option to milk the supporters for every last penny. Look, I know this is, how do they say it?, “modern football”, but I felt like I was at a theme park for a while and not a football match. Even the team bus is now a big red thing with “We Are Liverpool” on both sides. Look mum, the circus acts have arrived!
There are some nice touches mind. More benches to grab a breather on, a grassed area to lay back and enjoy the sun from and the new Hillsborough memorial had been transitioned beautifully from the Anny Road end to just behind the new stand. There’s also a nice brick pavement collage behind the stand where loved ones can buy up a space to be remembered for generations to come. So, it’s not all bad.
The Hillsborough memorial is the most thoughtful and touching aspect of any football ground I have ever been to. Sometimes, I just stand back and watch loved ones and family members pay their respects or encounter parents explaining to their little ones what happened to give them a deeper understanding. Opposition supporters often leave flowers, scarves and football shirts as a mark of respect. It’s a gentle reminder that, at the end of the day, the people of Liverpool are the most determined and resilient humans in the Western world.
Inside the ground, you can either climb the steps or take an escalator to your seat. There are multiple food a beverage options, spacious toilet facilities and subtle reminders of Liverpool’s past sprinkled around in various pockets. It’s good to know thin 1974, the red men battered Stromsgodset 11-0! Oh, Stromsgodet FC are from Norway and have two league titles to their credit in 1970 and more recently, 2013.
Known worldwide for their banners, some of the Kop’s more well known memories are scattered on the walls as you move up each level. Coming in from the Anny Road end, it was a nice surprise. However, exiting later in the afternoon from the Walton Breck Road end, it became apparent that the same banners had been used at both ends. A bit lazy I must say.
The view from my seat was decent enough. Full view of the pitch and a different persepective. I was seated in row 82 and section U2. For irregular match goers or bucket list hunters, these are decent seats. My only concern was that I couldn’t really get a feel for the game being so far up. There were lots of locals around me who wanted to sing which was good but I wonder exactly where the tourist groups and corporate twats were seated? Perhaps the middle level?
The extra 8,000 seats have added more noise to the ground and will help when Europe’s elite visit later this September that’s for sure. It will also make it easier for locals to secure seats for the League Cup and League fixtures against rubbish opposition because let’s be honest here, Liverpool Football Club are doing their upmost best to price local supporters out of the game because they don’t spend in the club shop or pay £5 for a pie. As FSG turn Anfield into an Americanised investment opportunity to sell for a profit down the track, it’s important that they constantly be reminded that the local supporters should and must be their highest priority going forward.
Whilst I can appreciate that the club has to move forward at every opportunity, my nostalgic side still enjoys a pre match bevy with my mates and that hurried walk from the pub at 2:52pm, stopping on the way to pick up the latest “Red All Over The Land” fanzine (still the best read you will get anywhere) for £2 then clicking in to take up your seat to sing songs, abuse the referee and gain a somewhat resounding sense of satisfaction when our centre back cleans up that Costa twat from Chelsea. I hope we never entirely lose that from our game…..