RAWK Advent Calendar #13 LFC v Southampton 1999

Posted by Hinesy on December 13, 2015, 11:02:43 AM

The advent calendar this year is a bit like Daniel Sturridge. When its there, its great but more often that not, its not available... So a big thank you to HellRazor for writing up this brilliant memory of his first away trip. To Anfield.


Hellrazor
It was an away trip alright, an away trip to watch us at home for the first time. The first time of something you love is always something you remember. It could be anything, your first car, your first drink, first love, hangover, shag or whatever. But you don’t forget your first match at Anfield particularly when at an age to appreciate it.

I always remember Christmas 1998 as being a good one, it was just a happy time in the house, I was still in school so you got about 2 and a bit weeks off. You might get a great present or a few bob or whatever. Anyway I recall getting a present off my brother but I just can’t remember what, either that or he told me it was a present that would be a week or two late. I accepted it; he wouldn’t lie about something like that.  I sort of remember overhearing a conversation he was having with my sister one of the days just after Christmas, I pretended I was staring into space but something was mentioned, I just can’t remember the exact words but something in brain clicked. I thought to myself

“I wonder did they get me a ticket for a Liverpool match”.

Not long after, sure enough the tickets arrived, I was going to a home game against Southampton in January 1999 just days before my 16th birthday. Nice one bro! It was just before mobile phones kicked off really, long before you booked your flight through an app, people did have mobiles but not everyone. Oh yeah we had the internet, it wasn’t the dark ages but Jesus it was slow and broadband I used to think was a bunch of fat people. Well it wasn’t invented anyway so the only way I believe was to ring up or go to a travel agent; I honestly wouldn’t have had a clue what to do.

I think they posted the flight tickets to you I can’t be sure, it was then that our main obstacle occurred. One of my sisters noticed “you booked the wrong dates”. Turned out my brother had got them mixed up, I think he got confused by my nieces (his godchild’s) birthday being around that time. Ryanair of course were never going to refund that, or even change it, well they would but only after he had to shell out more money. I’m not sure how he afforded it, my brother never struck me as well off but he had come this far and wasn’t going to back out now and he is one of those that will be there for you when you really need him, it was all in or nothing in this case with him. The good thing though was he didn’t have to book a hotel, we had an uncle just outside of Liverpool who loved our visits so he would gladly put us up.

Dad decided he would tag along, any excuse for a pint, especially with his brother. Obstacle 2 was averted and would have broken me had it not been. We left the house for an early flight on the Saturday morning from Dublin, as the car pulled out of a frozen driveway I think it was me who blurted

“Who has the match tickets”? It is just as well we hadn’t gone far; they were still in my bedroom. Crisis averted, nothings gonna stop us now.

It was a short enough flight for us, must have been around the 7-8am mark, we killed time going around the duty free, I think my Dad bought a book or maybe just looked at it. King Scum I think was the title about a gang leader in Dublin called Tony Felloni, it was either him or someone like “the general” or someone like Gerry Hutch me Dad told me:

“My mate Charlie went to school with him. He tried to act the tough guy with Charlie one day in front of everyone. Charlie kicked the shit out of him”

I was well impressed.

So we landed in Speke Airport (now John Lennon) and uncle Paudie picked us up and off we headed to his, it was still hours and hours before kick-off. Paudie’s wife Mary of course waited with open arms, it was reasons like this Paudie was and still is my favourite Uncle although unfortunately we haven’t seen him recently. We were staying in their lovely house and Mary couldn’t half cook a meal, she seriously could have opened a restaurant. So after devouring a huge fry we got a lift into Sankey and headed for Lime Street. I remember I still had the train ticket tucked in my wallet for years after.

My brother was dying to get to the ground, it was still ages before kick-off and it was bloody freezing. But he wanted to visit the superstore, in 1999 it was a pretty big deal, it was a huge shop stocked high and low with Liverpool stuff. I had saved money from Christmas and got some early birthday presents to try get something in the club shop. I just opted for the yellow jersey, it was our 3rd choice available for £15 as we only wore it twice all year and it was not going to be around much longer, I also wanted my own surname and 7 on the back. I had long given up on being a footballer but to have my own name and number 7 on the back is something I still dream about. Why not like?

It must have been an hour to kick off when we walked inside Anfield, my brother had been a few times but you would have thought he was there every week, he knew everywhere to go, my eyes nearly popped open. I remember thinking “oh wow, if I ever don’t want to come here or get tired of this you can shoot me”.  Bias or not it was the most beautiful stadium ever to me.

We sat in the third row of the Kop in line with the edge of the penalty area. My brother came back with two Bovril’s and that really warmed us up, it tasted really good. Back in Ireland that morning our Mum had made us ham sandwiches to take. It’s the simple things in life! Can still remember how good that was, can still picture us unwrapping tinfoil and it was that Brennans bread with crust still covered in flour.

We watched the team warm up, Brad Friedel and David James caught some crosses, the team did a 5 a side supervised by Sammy Lee in a small area. The team was read out with cheers for everyone.

James in goal, a back 5 of Vegard heggem and Stig Bjornebye as wing backs with Dominic Matteo, Phil Babb and a very young Jamie Carragher centre backs. A brilliant 3 man midfield of Captain Paul Ince, Jamie Redknapp and Patrick Berger and the electrifying Michael Owen upfront with God Robbie Fowler.

Southampton had a pretty average team, pretty sure Garry Monk was playing, few average joes like Paul Jones in goal, Claus Lundekvam etc. Mark Hughes was still knocking about for them, Hassan Kachloul was upfront, he had a decent world cup just before that with Morocco. So the game got underway. Liverpool attacked the Kop right in front of us. I sort of remember the goals, I found Fowlers online, I thought it was a close range header but in fact Paul Jones dropped the ball from a corner on his foot and that was us 1-0 up. From another corner Dominic Matteo of all people rose to head home number 2 and less than 3 minutes later Fowler did what only he could do finish wise. There was a great style of finishing to Fowler, trust me no one could do it like him. As the ball came across the box he feinted to leave a defender and keeper on their arse before tapping home his second and Liverpool’s third. “Yes fucking brilliant” I roared, I still couldn’t really curse then in front of any of the family but had just lost it. Several thousand Kopites drowned me out.   

First half was mostly one way, Mark Hughes went closest from them, a shot from probably 35 yards out had more swerve on it then you could imagine and whistled past the post, it would have been some goal, he was some player in his day. Down at our end I remember Paul Ince berating a very young Michael Owen for not passing at one stage, not cool guvnor or whatever it is you call yourself. Ince though did go close to a goal himself with a thunderous shot from 25 yards that crashed off the inside of the post. I can still hear the thud.

The half time scores were read out. Leicester were holding Man United to 1-1, that’ll do. We were only about 8th in the table or so but were only 8 points off the top but realistically we were never going to win the league. We weren’t a good team really, poor defensively and a dodgy keeper, I do wonder how coaching effected this, Brad Friedel was on the bench and played regularly til he was 40, he is still registered with Spurs, I do wonder if in later years he could have been number 1 for us instead of us binning him off. He was a much better keeper than I thought at the time.
The second half started well, Fowler wasted little time completing his hat-trick, a rarity then occurred as Jamie Redknapp’s free kick was saved by Jones but the ball spun behind him and probably would have crossed the line but Jamie Carragher of all people headed home on the line to make sure. Carragher wouldn’t score again for 6 years, I had a misguided notion of him at the time, I really didn’t rate him. I actually used to nickname him “the donkey” shows what I know then.

Southampton briefly rallied, Hassan Kachloul scored a fine goal for them, I warmly applauded, and he then hit the post. The Kop were getting annoyed, we were getting complacent. I remember too the abuse poor Matt Le Tissier got, Le Tiss was a brilliant footballer, had he joined Man United in the early 90s they would still be going on about him. He was that good; however his loyalty to Southampton was to cost him any chance of ever winning anything. By the late 90s he had missed the boat really, he was still good but no big club wanted him anymore, he came on at half time here and looked at least two stone overweight.

“How the fuck do you get around him?” roared one scouser.

I remember they won a corner, he went to take it and just took one look at the Kop and shook his head as if to say “oh fuck” he got dogs abuse about his weight, even more so later on, he tangled with David James and just for badness lifted up Jamo’s leg and dunked him on his arse, the Kop screamed for blood though to be fair to James he just couldn’t be bothered getting involved and even gestured to the Kop to calm down and let it go, good call!

Liverpool decided to just put the icing on the cake from then on in, Michael Owen covered every blade of grass prior to being subbed and scored the 6th with a close range finish, he deserved it. Owen’s reputation with us has since suffered, binning us off for Madrid, joining United and boring us on BT sport but I prefer to remember this version, the electrifying teenager always good for a goal that excited us so much. So many Liverpool fans have sadly forgotten just how good he was. The final goal of the night came when Jones couldn’t handle a blistering Patrick Berger effort and sub David Thompson tucked away the rebound. 7-1.

“Jesus Southampton are shite” my brother must have said that 100 times. He wasn’t wrong.

We took some pictures and soaked up the atmosphere before taking one last look under the lights at Anfield, outside some scallys wanted tokens from the programme, whatever they were, my brother ignored them telling me they were tossers. If you say so boss. We spotted Alan Hansen and Steve Staunton outside the ground, Staunton must have been injured as he was playing for us at the time but the length of time it took for them to leave Anfield via the player’s entrance as well as the swarms there meant after 3 minutes or so we left. A few memories came back to me typing this
One fella roaring at me for waving an Irish tricolour which we hoped TV would pick up roaring

“Get that down you paddy bastard” I was ready for whoever it was, but their voice was lost amid a sea of Kopites

“You’re going down with the blueshite” there you go Everton; mind you they never went down.

“You made a spelling mistake there mate” the fans on the train checking out my shirt with my name on it, it didn’t quite spell McManaman (who was injured).

“We call him Phil bad” The Scousers take on Phil Babb, in fairness he was shit. But I remember being happy when Karl Heinz Riedle came on, my ideal scenario running up to the game was for him to score a late winner, my favorite player back then, I thought he was a great pro.

The night finished off with us bumping into another uncle, whilst another travelled from Luton to be with us, we had a famous photo of us with the shirt with our name on it, all 6 of us, my dad and his 3 brothers, me and mine. We have recently tried to find it given that one of the uncles has sadly passed away in the not too distant past, the biggest red of us all.

I didn’t drink at all at the time “I don’t like the taste of it”

But that didn’t take away from a smashing weekend, everyone else spent that day, the next day and the day after that on the piss, I was there drinking 7up, I was happy, I remember thinking I was the dogs bollix with that jersey with my name and 7 on the back. My brother treated me to the socks and shirt too from that trip to match the yellow away jersey, I wore it in the next two weeks to PE, and yes it was all fucking yellow, Jesus what I was thinking. It was a precursor to full kit wankers, everyone pissing themselves laughing at me meant I don’t think I ever wore those shorts again, or them socks.

But fuck it, when we got them photos developed (no digital cameras then, or even camera phones) I loved every one of them.

It really was a smashing weekend, I don’t think it would be fair if your first game ever was something like Istanbul, it’s not fair to other reds, it’s not even fair to yourself, and it never gets better than Istanbul does it? Well maybe it does, but you can’t just waltz into the something like that. It’s something that takes years of passion, drive, commitment and sacrifice, money does and doesn’t come into it.

What money can’t buy is stuff like this, first starts like this don’t get much better.

Ynwa my friends and thank you bro!

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