It happened, you guys.
Something Andrew has been waiting his lifetime for. I, on the other hand, have only been waiting a few years. We finally visited Anfield ((!!!)).
I happily became a Liverpool FC fan by default when he and I began dating. He was also successful at convincing quite of few employees of adidas ((where we both worked)) in Seattle to follow LFC; the ones who weren’t already fans, of course. To me, it seems most people in England select the nearest team to follow as a devoted fan. For others, like Andrew, they choose a team who is flourishing and often on the television during their childhood, without really knowing of or paying attention to their geographic location within England.
We secured tickets to the FA Cup match versus Oldham for a bargain £24 each via the LFC website, which you can only do if you are a member. Getting tickets to matches here is all a bit difficult and strange in my opinion, but so be it. Since this would be our first visit, we also booked a match-day stadium tour so we could really see what this old place in Liverpool was all about.
The two of us awoke early to get to the stadium by 8:30am for our 9am tour. I’m not sure if you know this, but football ((soccer)) stadiums, or playing grounds, in the UK are fairly small compared to America’s beastly stadiums. Since it was converted to an all-seater stadium in the 1990s, Anfield’s capacity is about 45,500. Stadiums here are often situated in the middle of a neighborhood, and many fans walk to the match. Coming from Stansted the previous day ((about a 4 hour drive)) meant we had a car, and decided to drive to Anfield. And it just so happened we hit the jackpot of parking that morning, which is scarce around Anfield, by finding a section of road alongside a church that was free all day. We parked next to one type of church, and walked across the road to another. Anfield is our place of chosen weekend worship.
Ray and Daniel, our friendly tour guides, met our group of about 15 at the Bill Shankly statue before setting off. They took us through the players’ entrance, past the post-match interview coves and the dressing rooms, down the tunnel, underneath the infamous This is Anfield sign, onto the pitch, into the players seats, and finally over to the Kop section. The two of them provided informative commentary the whole way through, were happy to answer questions, and we really enjoyed having them as guides. Since it was a match day, unfortunately that meant we were unable to go inside any of the dressing rooms. Even so, we were delighted with the entire tour. It was followed by nearly an hour spent at the new interactive LFC Museum, included in the price of the stadium tour, which tells the story of past and some present LFC players while displaying loads of memorabilia including their shiny 5 European cups ((one actual cup and four replicas)). Then, of course, we had no choice but to do what we are best at: shop in the LFC store. I picked up a new phone case and Andrew got
another freaking a new scarf.
Anfield was built in 1884, originally for Everton Football Club, who played there until 1892 when they moved to nearby Goodison Park. Liverpool FC was then formed and took over Anfield. Many wooden seats in the Main Stand are the original wooden seats. Bet those aren’t too comfy to spend the better part of two hours seated in! Anfield is an unmistakably old stadium with well over a hundred years of history. There are absolutely no frills about this place. Ray told us the dressing rooms do not even have lockers; just wooden benches for the players uniforms to be laid upon on matchday, and then for players to sit on during a halftime pep talk by their manager. I found myself incredibly torn between being so in love with the basic, run-down, crappy stadium and wanting a pristine updated cushy one for the current and future players and fans. I sat in a seat in the Kop, wondering what the players think of Anfield. Do they wish they had a lavish dressing room and massive tunnel to walk through out onto the pitch, or are they just so happy and feeling fortunate enough to be playing for LFC that they aren’t bothered? I think it is quite remarkable that LFC have been so successful playing in such a basic, but richly historic place.
All this excitement, even before the actual match! Since we had a few hours to kill before the gates would open, and we learned from Ray that players arrive around 11am, Andrew and I decided to stalk them as they arrived at the grounds, as did several other fans. As an expensive vehicle would drive up Anfield Road and approach the gates, we would all play the “who’s this” game trying to guess the player. FYI Agger & Skrtel have matching Aston Martins. Cute.
Liverpool would go on to win 2-0 against Oldham that day. We were seated in the north corner of the Centenary Stand, and unfortunately zero goals were scored in the first half where we could have witnessed them up close. But we did get to see Stevie G take a few corners! Andrew and I are both desperate to get back to Anfield for a Premier League match and feel that incredible atmosphere.
While my previous visits to England’s White Hart Lane ((home to Tottenham Hotspurs)) and what was formerly known as Pride Park ((home to Mr D’s beloved Derby County FC)) were both truly marvelous, visiting Anfield for the first time meant crossing off something very high on my life’s to do list, and is a day I will cherish for a long time to come.
Do you remember what your very first visit to a beloved sports stadium was like?