Liverpool 2 Newcastle 1 : That Damn Flag

Posted by Kez on January 27, 2004, 03:28:19 PM

I have watched it ripple over the Kop from the Main Stand, Centenary and Anny Road as well as from the far side of the Kop itself, but until Saturday night I had never been underneath that damn flag. You know the one I mean.

It's the size of a small flat and is unfurled at the start of each game, travels to the back of the Kop and disappears as mysteriously as it appears. The thing is, being underneath it isn't half as good as watching it float to the back of the stand. Somehow the magic of the floaty flag has been taken away for me, but with the performance that night there was plenty more magic put back.

Newcastle was a strange experience. Then again no one ever said that the Geordies were normal. Two hours before kick off I went from sitting on a pub seat in the Sandon to standing on one in the Albert after the former was overun by rather a lot of beer-gutted Magpies. After a few minutes of rowdy singing some of them predictably, if sickeningly, started dancing around topless. Each to their own I suppose.

And having been sung out of the pub I fully expected to be sung out of the ground, though it would appear that others present had far different ideas. Saturday night was the first time in a long time that I have had to sit at half time to give my legs a rest. It is something that should happen more often but my last experience of such persistent standing was Blackburn away!

The atmostphere was far more impressive than I thought it would be. I was expecting a fairly average atmosphere as far as ours go these days, ie. we'd get outsung by the visitors as usual. In reality it would appear the five hours of pre match pissup time came in useful as many a bevvied Kopite traipsed through the cold and the rain from pub to ground.

With a little over a minute played I was somewhat suprised to find myself cheering for a Cheyrou goal. I didn't see it scored but I watched the net bulge in a most satisfying manner and promptly went mad with everyone else. Unfortunately only two minutes later I was doing some serious damage to the back of the seat in front of me as it made painful contact with my foot.

Some say that Dudek should have got a hand to Robert's freekick. Sure he should, if he was totally stark raving mad. If you had a ball coming towards you at 80mph I think you'd run a mile the other way. Any sane person would. I would!

After the initial ten minutes both teams seemed more prepared to knock it down a gear and look for an opening rather than go for an all out assault on goal. For once the crowd didn't follow suit, or certainly not the section I was stood in as we sang on as loudly as ever. The game bubbled away merrily until half time with little that I can remember being worthy of note.

I do need to mention the sight of Mr Headset and Green Jacket, also known as the Kop's own Hitler, the head steward, looking rather annoyed at the persistently standing mob in front of him. I hate him with a passion. I know he's only doing his job but does he have to show such an air of contempt for paying fans? It's alright for him to block the view of thirty people because he's paid to be there, unlike us who have to pay Liverpool for the privilege of getting that annoying bastard blocking our view. And then when fans ask him to move himself and the other stewards he gets all huffy and does so as slowly as possible. OK, rant over.

With Liverpool being Liverpool, God only knew what kind of side was going to emerge from the tunnel after half time. But whatever type of side it was, it certainly emerged before Newcastle who seemed content to take as much time as permitted and a bit longer to surface. Whilst we looked calm and assured, they looked fragmented and nervous.

For once the atmosphere carried on after the break and that seemed to reinforce the mindset of the lads as they gradually pressed forward; leaving Newcastle pushed into an uneasy retreat. At one point I became curious as to how long of the game was left, so I glanced at the scoreboard. Forty-five minutes left?! Someone had evidently forgotten to restart the countdown at the start of the half, and not having known what time we'd restarted I was left rather confused.

I glanced down to my watch and suddenly everyone started cheering and jumping up and down. It took a moment for what was going on to click; we'd just scored. Later I would discover that the goal came courtesy of a sublime Gerrard cross met by a diving header from Cheyrou, but at the time I was clueless. Standing on the Kop, watching everyone around me jumping in elation was a strange experience.

I've always wondered what it must be like to observe forty thousand people cheering and clapping, but having persistently been caught up in the moment I'd never noticed. It was a strange experience. Until Saturday I didn't realise how well vibrations spread through concrete as the floor seemed to bounce beneath my feet. Two men behind me were in tears, I had to dodge the many arms that flailed around all over the place, and it was the first time I've seen anything resembling movement in the Centenary Stand.

Strange as it may have been for me not to cheer and go wild like everyone else, it was a wonderful experience. For the first time in all the years that I have been going to Anfield I have stopped, stood back from it all and admired the elation and jubilation that something as simple as a game can bring. Looking at so many wonderfully happy people put a larger smile on my face than any goal could have done.

It's a long way home after a loss and for that the Geordies have my sympathies, but it cannot be denied that the better team won it that night. Pratically their only shot of the second half came in the final minute when Alan Shearer's strike was put wide by Dudek. And that's a bloke that really gets on my nerves; Shearer.

He appears such a gentleman but watch his style of play and casual elbows in the ribs are his thing. Not only is he often dirty, he's underhand with it. At least if Stevie G is going to foul you he does it in full view of everyone so we can all get a good look!

Carried home on the crest of a wave I gradually came down to earth with the realisation that we're not in Cardiff yet. The thing is, with the fixtures that Monday's draw has thrown up it looks less likely that it will be an all Premiership affair. I think mixed-division finals are always much better. OK you get the Nationwide chants from the lower leaguers but there's something much more enjoyable about a minnow versus mighty tie.

The '01 final was fun and everything, especially given the nature in which it was won (or lost) but there was less spice, less sparkle about it because both teams were in the Premiership. The only thing I can think of that might explain it is that you'll play the Premiership team twice that season anyway, so it's obvious what you can expect. With a Nationwide team you've no idea how they'll rise to the occasion which I believe makes things far more exciting. And this time around with ManU drawn against the winner of ManCity - Spurs, us playing Portsmouth and an almighty clash between Arsenal and Chelsea, how about Liverpool -v- Tranmere in the final?

Don't laugh, it could happen!

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