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Anfield of Dreams

The author at the Anfield football stadium in Liverpool, England.

There was a time when Liverpool was the center of the world. There were four lads from the Merseyside who changed pop music forever. And their football team was on fire.

I knew of the Fab Four first before the Reds, as the main team of Liverpool was nicknamed (there’s another team from the same city that is called “Everton”). But when I became a fan of Liverpool, it began a love affair with a football club that has lasted some four decades now.

I got up real early. Three in the morning to be exact. I didn’t have difficulty sleeping. It was more of excitement and an overactive mind that kept me up. Imagine me finding out in the morning that the Britannia Adelphi Hotel was built in 1914 and was primarily used by the passengers of the ill-fated Titanic that was launched from the Merseyside docks. No wonder I thought that the hotel had seen better days and the design was from another era. And not from the 1960s! But one that goes all the way back even before the first World War.

The Sefton Lounge, in fact, is an exact replica of the smoking lounge from the Titanic!

My mind was reeling. That is some incredible history and here I am staying in the same hotel as those people from 100 years ago. That is mind blowing.

But I was more excited about the trip to come that I was sure was to be an even better mindfuck.

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Several days ago, I booked the first Stadium and History Tour for Friday at 9:30am. I initially thought about walking from the hotel all the way to Anfield. But I thought better of it. I’ll do that tomorrow after the match. Today, I’m taking the cab that costs a little over £5!

About that cab, I finally got to ride that cab that is unique to England. And the one I rode one was one of those originally made in Coventry. The newer models are made in China that are unfortunately said to be defective. So it is only right that the cab I ride on is proudly made in England.

I arrived about an hour early and began taking pictures outside the stadium. The concierge at the stadium informed me that there was an earlier group that was not only much smaller but ready to go. I agreed to go with that group as I felt there would be more time for picture taking and the talk would be more intimate.

And yes it was. I was in a group that included a German national whose favorite football team was Bayern Munich with Liverpool as a close second, a Londoner named Eddie Barnes, who I quickly formed a fast friendship (Liverpool has always been his favorite club and this was his first ever trip to Anfield) with, three gentlemen from York, and one from Sheffield. All of us for solid Liverpool fans.

The man giving us the tour was named Ian and began working for the club around 1974. That’s 40 years with LFC. His son is a Scouser but his brother is, according to him, “with the dark side (Everton).”

We start off in the Legends room where there are all these mounted pictures or blown up ones of famous players and managers.

We then moved on to the pressroom that incredibly also has a small kitchen. The pressroom isn’t that huge and it seems so much more larger on TV. What makes this room noteworthy is that it used to be the famous Boot Room where the managers and their assistants held court. It was here where the club’s braintrust was supposed to have discussed and formulated strategy. Ian says that rather coincidentally, when the Boot Room was taken down in favor of the modern pressroom (they never had a press room before but this was prescribed not only by the Premiership but also by FIFA), the club never won another league title.

We all had chances to sit on where Brendan Rodgers is interviewed by the media.

From there we went to the Home Team’s Dressing Room. And I felt so happy to see a massive Gatorade refrigerator inside. If you’re looking for plush amenities then you will not find it in Liverpool. It’s simple and very Spartan. The defenders side on one side, the midfielders on another, and the forwards in one area. There are no lockers for players to keep their personal belongings. Bill Shankly believed that a players of similar positions had to sit next to one another to get to know them better and that if they couldn’t trust their teammates with their personal belongings he couldn’t trust them on the pitch. Mind games, it was something the club used to be very good at.

If you run your hands on the bench, you’ll feel notches and creases on the wood. It is the same bench where everyone from John Toshack to Ian Rush to John Barnes, Robbie Fowler, Kevin Keegan, Kenny Dalglish, Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler and Pepe Reina have laced up their boots hence the creases. “The only thing new about it,” says Ian. “Is that it periodically receives a fresh coat of paint. But other than that every single legend and non-legend has sat on where you are now.”

Me? I sat on Steven Gerrard’s spot and pulled down his jersey and had my picture taken.

The Home Team Dressing Room was soundproof and had a non-slippery surface. The Away Team Dressing Room? It was underneath the section for the season ticket holders who knew who was underneath. It wasn’t soundproof so one could hear the manager talk from the inside and the surface – you guessed it right – was slippery.

We checked out the Away Team Dressing Room and had a laugh. Then on it was on to the steps that descent towards the pitch where that famous “This Is Anfield” sign is. Of course, this was another perfect photo op.

From there we were on to the pitch and I felt a wave of emotion hit me. And this with no one in the stands and no game played on the pitch. This field has seen so much history. And here we were standing where the gaffers stand. Where the reserves wait for their chance to be substituted in.

This was the last stop of our hour-long tour of Anfield. And we stopped and sat right where the Kop is located. The Kop or Spion Kop is named for a famous battle in South Africa where 300 local lads were killed. It is no longer the original Kop as that was taken down in the wake of the Heysel Disaster. But the power that emanates from there cannot be taken lightly. Football legends from Johan Cruyff to name one have spoken highly on Liverpool’s 12th Man.

We were then brought to the Museum where I had my picture taken with a replica of the European Cup (the trophies are stored somewhere).

The tour done, Eddie and I walked around to where the Shankly Gates and the Hillsborough Memorial were located. It was the most solemn part of our trip to Anfield.

From there, we took the bus back to the City Centre (where it was a short walk to my hotel). Eddie and I spoke like little kids who just got back from Disneyland. We looked at our pictures and compared notes and how it was a fulfillment of a dream. As for me, there’s tomorrow, the derby with Everton.

“You lucky bastard,” gushed Eddie.

“Nah,” I denied. “We’re all lucky to be fans of this club.” We shook hands and promised to keep in touch.

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