When discussing the history and tradition of Liverpool Football Club over the past 47 years, the names of managers, players and coaches are normally mentioned. Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan, Ian Callaghan, Roy Evans, Ian Rush, Graham Souness, Phil Thompson, Kenny Dalglish, Rafa Benitez, Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez; the list goes on and on. All of the above have helped make the Anfield experience something quite special for fans at different times down the years.
However, there’s one man who’s been there through it all and rarely gets a mention . His voice is iconic, and his name is as familiar to most Reds’ fans as any of the names mentioned above – George Sephton. For 47 years, the Voice of Anfield has played a major role in making the Anfield experience exactly what it is. As England’s longest serving stadium announcer, Sephton has seen it all supporting Liverpool down the years. But what games stand out to him?
Earlier this month, I caught up with a true Anfield legend to reminisce about his five favourite Liverpool games he’s been present at from years gone by. Today, we look back at the first, the second-leg of the Reds first European Cup semi-final for twenty years.
Chelsea – Champions League Semi-Final, second leg, 2005 – Anfield
Anfield will always be remembered around the world for magical European nights and atmospheres. Perhaps none have been as great as this game in 2005. Prior to the tie against Chelsea, Liverpool had not made it this far in the European Cup for twenty years; the club traveled to Belgium and to Heysel to face Italian side Juventus.
Sephton recalls: “I was due to be working on the public address at the Heysel Stadium for UEFA. My wife and 3 children all came to see me off. My eldest was only 11 years old and was taken aback when the lady on the check-in smiled at him and asked, ‘Are you going with your Dad?’ To be honest I’d not even considered taking an 11-year-old to a big final abroad although he HAD been to Wembley. What put the cat amongst the pigeons was the fact that some of his Evertonian classmates had been to Rotterdam the previous week to see the Blues win the 1985 Cup Winners Cup (vs Rapid Vienna). Robert (George’s eldest) looked crestfallen. There and then I promised him “Definitely next year.”
Of course, the 1985 final against Juventus at Heysel will forever be remembered as one of European football’s darkest days and Liverpool Football Club (along with all English clubs) were banned from European action, putting any chance of George taking his son Rob to the final next year out the window.
“So, in May 2005, we arrived at Anfield for the second leg of the semi-final. The first leg at Stamford Bridge had been goalless so Liverpool basically had to win to go through. The atmosphere was electric.”
In fact, the first leg was far from a classic. Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard missed clear chances in the first half to give Chelsea a lead in the leg and Liverpool rarely troubled Petr Cech. The result was great for the club, with the only issue being Xabi Alonso’s yellow card ruling him out of the second leg.
In the absence of Xabi it was his fellow Spaniard, Luis Garcia, who would grab all the headlines at Anfield.
“Early in the first half Luis Garcia scored a disputed goal at the Kop End which, to this day, still generates heated discussion and raises the collective blood-pressure of Chelsea fans.”
The ‘Ghost Goal’ as it would become known, had left Liverpool on the brink of a European Cup Final once again. As time ticked by, Chelsea threw everything bar the kitchen sink at the Liverpool goal.
“Just as we thought we’d made it, the fourth official held up his board with the number 6 on it. SIX MINUTES ADDED TIME! I took a moment to absorb what I was seeing before turning on my microphone and announcing the six extra minutes.”
Eidur Gudjohnsen wasted Chelsea’s best chance deep into added time, smashing a volley inches wide before Slovakian referee Lubos Michel blew the whistle for the final time.
“When the final whistle comes I played “You’ll Never Walk Alone” as loud as my p.a. system could manage and the whole place went wild. When it had finished I told the crowd that the atmosphere that night was better than anything I’d heard in all my years of going to Anfield.”
One of the best renditions of You’ll Never Walk Alone would follow that game as Liverpool Football Club made it back to where they belonged, a European Cup final.
“For the record – after 20 years of waiting neither I nor my eldest got a ticket for Istanbul! But that’s a story for another day!”