My First Trip to the Holy Land
I remember my first trip to Anfield.
It was the summer of 1990, Liverpool were champions, Ireland had just been knocked out of the World Cup, and England still going strong.
Holidaying in north Wales, we went on a day trip to Liverpool. Visited all the usual places, The Albert Dock, The Cavern, Beatles Museum… and then the highlight of the trip, the holy land, Anfield!
We jumped on a bus outside Lime Street, asked the driver to let us know the stop for Anfield.
The bus meandered its way through it’s usual route. As it turned up the Walton Breck Road, the driver called out “There it is folks, Home of the greatest team in the world”.
Looking out the front window, a 13 year old’s heart pounded with anticipation as, there in the distance, Anfield rose higher than all the houses in the area. The bus pulled up outside & we jumped off.
Having followed Liverpool since I’d learned what football was, I couldn’t believe I was finally there.
Now, quite what we thought we could do at a football ground during the off season, in a World Cup year, I don’t know but that wasn’t the point.
The purpose of this pilgrimage was to simply be there, breathe in the same air, see the same sights as so many legends past and present. From that point it was mission accomplished.
We walked around the outside of the ground up to the then small souvenir shop in the corner off the Annie Road.
There, we enquired about a stadium tour, only to have my dreams dashed as the response “They’re all sold out” came back.
Crestfallen, and heart broken I bought a little gold medal in a hard plastic case, LFC & the crest at the time on one side & the Shankly Gates on the other.
We trudged out into what I remember as a gloomy late July day. Through the real Shankly Gates, taking a moment to pause and lay my scarf at the Hillsborough Memorial as we passed.
When we reached the corner, we turned down the Kemlyn Road, then still open and a public road.
Halfway down, my dad spotted an open gate, and having a neck like the proverbial jockey’s unmentionables, he told us to wait as he walked in.
5 minutes later, he reappeared being escorted by a staff member. We thought he’d been discovered and was getting thrown out!!!
How wrong we were, as they stopped just outside the stand’s wall & beckoned for us to join them inside the hallowed ground.
We slipped in though the open gate and ran across the courtyard into the open stand entrance.
The guy working there then brought me and my family on a private tour around as much of the ground as he could while making sure we didn’t bump into the official tour taking place at the same time.
That gesture of kindness & generosity, risking his job to show an unknown Irish family around Anfield was my first real encounter with the Scouse spirit & friendliness.
Liverpool is an amazing city, full of wonderful welcoming people & as that bus driver said 28 years ago, ”the greatest team in world”.