By Frank Gamble
Way back when, in one of my more profound muses, I likened watching a professional football match to a photograph.
The analogy being that every seat in the stand or space on the terrace represents a pixel that goes towards making “the big picture”. Consequently, each fan that occupies every seat or space sees things from a slightly different angle giving them their own viewpoint and opinion which stimulates debate. Lets face it, there has never been a game of football played anywhere in the world at any level which has no been discussed, debated or argued about afterwards by the people involved in it or who watched it. It is the essence of the game.
The analogy may seem too profound but shortly before 10:00pm last Thursday, it returned to my head as I drunk in the euphoria that was being engulfed by and forty odd thousand other people around me who had just witnessed one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history.
Whilst those in red and white shared a truly memorable moment, it struck me that each and every one would have their own take on the events they had just witnessed but all with the same conclusion. The same could be said of those in yellow and black too who had contributed magnificently to the spectacle that had just unfolded before our eyes.
By morning time, every form of media known to man was white hot with this topic reaching the point where superlatives were exhausted. The seasoned scribes searched for new dimensions to eulogise but the inevitable comparisons began to be drawn up. Normally in these circumstances, any great revival or adversity that had been overcome is paralleled to a similar event some place else in the past with a different team; but not this night. This was Liverpool at it again.
“Dem bloody Scousers”
Europe is blessed with many great club sides steeped in pride and tradition of their achievements; and rightly so. They sit at the top table which goes under the guise of The Champions League but there has been an empty seat at that table for too long now with one of the elite’s members missing.
A message was left there on Thursday:
“Keep our seat warm, we’ll be back soon”
While it could be genuinely argued that the statement is a bit presumptuous, those forty odd thousand and many, many more would back it because their faith and belief has been restored by that result, as they had just witnessed what belief had done for the men who had proudly worn the red shirt that night.
The interviews, sound-bites, blogs and phone -ins followed asking us all the same question: “Where does this stand in Anfield’s great European nights?”
Depending on your age, one wrestled with the order of merit. For me, it ranked alongside St Etienne for one specific reason I will come back to later. The fact I am driving at is that despite any undoubted pedigree a club may have, none have had as many magical nights as Liverpool Football Club have had at Anfield in their fifty two year sojourn into European football.
It was Ronnie Moran who originally coined the phrase that Jamie Carragher repeated on social media,
“This is Liverpool Football Club, its in their DNA”
That one sentence encapsulates everything about LFC and the resilience such performances have represented. Some people have called it an Institution, but that is a label that doesn’t sit right with me. I’ve seen too many strange people committed to institutions. Mind you, I’ve seen more than a few Barmpots coming in and out of Anfield over the years. The word I prefer is Phenomenon.
Something special and magical happens there on European nights. They are woven into our DNA, each strand with its own story to tell going back to the mid sixties. Inter Milan, Celtic, Bayern Munich, Moenchengladbach, Bruges, St Etienne, Chelsea and many many more. Do you get the picture now? Each strand is woven with another and makes the sum of the whole stronger from which the team draws it’s strength like it did on Thursday.
Germany isn’t a parallel universe, its just another country where they speak a different language to us. The thing is though, the way people of Dortmund revere their football club is uncannily like those of Liverpool treat theirs. The build up to the event suggested something special was in the air. Those who had traveled to Dortmund a week earlier came back confirming that it lived up to all expectation we had been led to believe their hosts would show in camaraderie, fanaticism and sportsmanship; it was our turn to reciprocate.
The City Centre had buzzed throughout the day as the yellow and black hordes integrated with the locals. Matthew Street endlessly echoed to the repeated strains of You’ll Never Walk Alone instead of the Fab Four until they moved on to L4. From tea time onward, the atmosphere around the stadium grew and intensified without a single whiff of trouble, the way it should be. At 7:30pm, my son and I were heading from the Sandon to the Main Stand and the adrenaline raised with every pace we took. As we passed Shankly’s Statue, my son nudged me and pointed to a figure standing in a doorway using his phone It was David Fairclough, the hero of St Etienne 39 years ago. The memories flooded back instantly. They had scored the best goal I’ve ever seen an opposing team score at Anfield that evening which meant we had to score twice more to beat them. Bob paisley sent “Supersub” on and the rest is history. A fanciful notion fleeted through my mind for brief second. Seeing Davey, was this an omen? Behave yourself I told myself, save the fairy tales for your future Grand kids!
Two hours later, Divoc Origi slid the ball under the advancing keeper from almost the identical spot Fairclough had scored his epic winner and a chill went down my spine. Talk about Deja Vu. Before then, we had all participated in the most emotional rendition of YNWA I’d ever heard as the teams came on to the pitch. I say all because our German brethren in the Anfield Road end contributed magnificently providing an excellent baritone section to the choir. They observed the minute’s silence for the 96 impeccably too and never stopped supporting their team afterwards. They are a credit to the game.
We all know how it ended, so where did it rank?
The biggest disappointment of my Liverpool supporting career always was and will be missing the Inter Milan game in 1965, it has been spoken about in reverence ever since and rightly so. St Etienne was always my favourite and will probably remain so because of the atmosphere it generated and that unforgettable feeling we all had afterwards that no one was going to stop us winning our first European Cup after just knocking out the best team in the competition. The same feeling could be said now after beating Dortmund and I believe that to be the case.
The cherry on the cake though for me was this was on my Bucket List. I have always wanted to be with and share a truly great European night at Anfield with my son and it happened; this was it. I was just so elated for him and his mates and their generation to have experienced one of those special Anfield nights, they deserve it for their unwavering support through the bad times and you want more and more to come for them.
For too long, he has had to put up with my stories and walks down memory lane. At 26, he is getting too old and heavy to be sitting on my knee listening to them over and over again. As we enjoyed a post match drink in the Sandon after the game, a young German lad of a similar age to him came up to my son, tapped him on the shoulder, smiled and shook his hand and said in perfect English “I hope you enjoyed your first great night under Jurgen Klopp, we had many of them. I hope you will too” then he disappeared. What a lovely way to end the night.
I would like to end it by saying something cool like, “it was emotional” but I won’t.
I’ll just say this; It’s Liverpool, its in their DNA.