Part one – written on a flight from Cork to Liverpool, 14th April.
It was April 1996 and I was sitting in my office in Guinness in Dublin flicking through the newspaper.
In the classifieds I noticed a ticket and travel package for an evening midweek league match at Anfield, Liverpool versus Newcastle.
I am a die-hard Liverpool FC fan but I had never been to a game at Anfield. Liverpool were playing exciting football that year, in contention for the title but Newcastle were the really exciting team of the season that had taken the league by storm.
I thought long and hard about going but managed to find some reason not to and I ended up watching on TV what people still describe as the best match ever in the Premiership as Liverpool scored a last minute winner to win 4-3 in an incredible match that had everything.
I could have been there…
When Brendan, my son called me 20 years later to say he could get tickets for Liverpool versus Borussia Dortmund, the quarter final second leg UEFA Europa Cup match at Anfield I didn’t think too long and hard about it.
Of course I had things in my diary, of course I could think of 100 reasons why I couldn’t go but as Ferris Bueller famously said “Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it”
I embraced this spirit and here I am sitting on a flight to Liverpool with Brendan. Hopefully the match this evening will be great, poised delicately after the away tie finished 1-1 against a really superb Borussia side.
Bring it on..
Part two – written in the Holiday Inn Express, in Liverpool while Mr Canty junior is working on his next TV commercial (he always gives out to me for working too hard!)
At 2-nil down at half time against a fantastic team “we” would have to score three without reply to win the match … This was a monumental task of Istanbul proportions and probably not possible.
It didn’t stop “us” fans (yep, we were in the middle of it, strangely sitting next to a few Borussia fans that had all the officials upset) belting out “You’ll Never Walk Alone” as the teams emerged for the second half.
The young and powerful Origi scores for us after 3 minutes and the place went berserk …maybe it was possible?
Liverpool piled on the pressure, the fans were urging them on with a wall of noise and then the sucker punch. Borussia score again – this team are just too good for us and the balloon of hope was burst.
The fans recovered and started singing again and my mind drifted back to that famous 4-3 match that I stupidly missed.
Coutinho scores, 3-2 … The place erupts and now I am witnessing that special Anfield Magic. It’s the team and the fans together in a frenzy, the noise is crazy and there is belief everywhere.
Sahko scores, 3-3 … The place just goes ballistic and the frenzy has been whipped into the stratosphere and there is a tangible electricity flowing from the team to the crowd, from the crowd to the team, a powerful invisible nut tangible force.
Dortmund manage to contain this pressure and the game gets a little stop start as the clock nudges painfully to 90 minutes…4 minutes of extra time.
A strange thing happens..the crowd start to belt out “You’ll Never Walk Alone” again… everyone joins in. This is really odd as the Liverpool faithful only really sing this at the end of a match when they know the game has been won.
Free kick, Milner to Sturridge, Milner keeps running into the box and takes a return ball from Sturridge. We all gave out about Milner’s corners during the game but this time he delivers a perfect cross into the box for Dejan Lovren (who had an awful start to his LFC career the previous year) who rises above everyone and powers a header into the net.
(Admission – At the time I had no idea who scored it happened so quickly!)
Oh my god…. I have never witnessed anything like it. I was hugging Brendan, the guy next to me, the people in front of me. Everyone played this match together, singing, urging, believing… When the players lost hope we were there, when we lost hope, they were there.
Now we were there together – Jurgen Klopp walked past us, saluting the crowd and punching his chest, his heart. We got it.
4-3 ….best night ever?
Ferris was right, we need to grab those opportunities when they come along