When Liverpool met Paris Saint Germain (PSG) in the semi final of the European Cup Winners Cup in 1996-97, they faced a mountain to climb in the second leg. Despite a 2-0 victory at Anfield, it wasn’t enough to overturn the deficit from a first leg debacle at the Parc de Princes.
Roy Evan’s side had a relatively straight forward route to last four, overcoming Mypa of Finland, Swiss side Sion and Norwegians Brann Bergen. PSG were defending the trophy they had won a year earlier, but were off the pace in the French league and Liverpool were fancied to overcome them to reach the final in Rotterdam.
However, just like at Wembley in the previous season’s FA Cup final defeat to Manchester United, the talented Reds side chose on of the biggest stages to sink to a gutless defeat. Two first half errors by David James meant the Reds trailed 2-0 at the break, when the ineffective striker Stan Collymore was substituted. A late third goal gave PSG a commanding advantage and inflict Liverpool’s heaviest European defeat since a 3-0 reverse at Dinamo Tblisi in 1979.
Evans blasted his side, telling journalists “We did not defend, we did not attack, we lacked passion and pride. We were poor, it was our worst performance of the season, we never looked like defending properly.” Writing in the Liverpool Echo the following night, Reds columnist Ric George praised the conduct of the travelling fans and concluded “Those supporters who paid their way, gave their all, deserve better. Much better.” Phil McNulty was even more scathing, referring the performance as “a dogs breakfast from first to last” and that “To describe it a shocking, dreadful, slip-shod and shapeless would be to lavish too fine a praise on them.”
Bookmakers lengthened Liverpool’s odds to win the tournament to 50/1. By the time of the second leg, the Reds had lost 3-1 to Manchester United at Anfield, effectively ending their hopes of winning the league title. However with memories of comebacks over other sides St Etienne and Auxerre still intact, it was hoped the power of Anfield may just help Liverpool turn the tie around and mount an improbable comeback.
Evans made the bold decision to drop captain John Barnes, who didn’t even get a place on the bench. Patrik Berger was brought in to a four pronged attack alongside Collymore, Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler, the only player to escape criticism in Paris. The usual five man backline was reduced to four, with Neil Ruddock being recalled to add some steel.
After surviving a second minute scare when Patrice Loko wasted a good chance, Liverpool took control and in the eleventh minute Fowler’s angled drive reduces the deficit. But for all their effort, the Reds were unable to break down a disciplined PSG side. With eleven minutes to go Mark Wright’s towering header made it 2-0 on the night, whipping the crowd back up into a frenzy. Despite dominating possession and sending James into attack for a late corner, the Reds couldn’t find the all important goal that would take the tie into extra time.
Liverpool had regained some pride at Anfield but fans were left wondering ‘if only’. They had been beaten by an ordinary PSG side that had been humiliated in their domestic cup competition by a fourth division side. PSG coach Ricardo said “The last ten minutes of the game were the longest and most difficult of my life.”
An upbeat Roy Evans said “I couldn’t have asked any more from my team in terms of effort, passion and pride.” He warned the rest of Europe “Beware the British are coming”, referring to Liverpool and united’s progress to semi finals that season. Champions League qualification looked a certainty for the Reds. However they somehow conspired to win only one of their last three league games to finish fourth in the table and face the taunts of United fans for finishing ‘fourth in a two horse race’.
The following October Liverpool had the chance to show the French media what they could really do when they were drawn against Strasbourg in the UEFA Cup. In a mirror image of six months earlier, they suffered an embarrassing 3-0 defeat, before winning the return leg 2-0.
As Liverpool prepare to play host to Stoke City it may be worth remembering how their England World Cup winning goalkeeper Gordon Banks and the Kop had a mutual appreciation of each other. One of his best displays in front of he famous terrace came in 1972-73 in what turned out to be his last professional game as he was forced to retire due to injuries sustained in a car crash the following day.
Banks first played against the Reds in October 1962, keeping a clean sheet in a 3-0 win for Leicester City at Filbert Street. He did the same again when his side won 2-0 at Anfield the following March, but it was on 27th April 1963 that he really broke Liverpool hearts. In an FA Cup semi final at Hillsborough, Banks denied Liverpool time and time again in the second half, helping his side progress to Wembley thanks to Mike Stringfellow’s last minute goal.
After the ga
me a press photographer got a shot of a disconsolate Ian St John which appeared to showed Banks laughing at him in the background. This led to him getting quite a few boos when Leicester visited Anfield the following November when once again Banks kept a clean sheet as his side won 1-0. However he reacted the the crowd in light hearted fashion, pretending to eat an apple that had been thrown into the penalty area.
Banks finally conceded a goal against Liverpool at Filbert Street in March 1964, when the Reds won 2-0 to end the hoodoo and take a massive step towards the league title. The following season there was revenge for the FA Cup semi final, when Roger Hunt’s goal was enough to eliminate Leicester in a quarter final replay at Anfield. Banks and Hunt were then teammates as England won the World Cup in 1966 and the following season Hunt was again on target against Banks at Anfield, scoring in a 3-2 win.
In April 1967 Banks was transferred to Stoke City after losing his place to teenager Peter Shilton, another keeper who would enjoy banter with the Kop in later years. Bill Shankly had actually showed an interest in signing the stopper, but could not convince the Board to part with £50,000 for a 30 year old keeper. He then looked to the lower leagues instead and signed Ray Clemence for £18,000 from Scunthorpe two months later, a transfer that didn’t turn out too bad in the end.
Banks didn’t enjoy as much success against the Reds as he had with his previous club, appearing on the winning side only once in ten games, a 2-1 win at the Victoria Ground in the last game of the 1967-68 season. He enjoyed his visits to Anfield though despite the results, describing it towards the end of his career as ‘my favourite ground by a mile’ due the club having fans that ‘want to see their own team win but appreciate good football even when it comes from the opposing side.’
In 1971-72 Banks won only his second domestic honour as Stoke beat Chelsea to win the League Cup, adding to the medal he won for winning the same competition with Leicester in 1964. He also received individual acclaim when he was voted the Football Writers Player of the Year and retained his England place. However despite signing England’s World Cup hat trick hero Geoff Hurst for £80,000 from West Ham, Stoke struggled at the start of 1972-73 and were eliminated from the UEFA Cup by Kaiserslautern in the first round.
Going into the game at Anfield on 21st October 1972, Liverpool were top of the table and unbeaten in twelve games in all competitions, while Stoke were one of five sides at the bottom who were only separated by goal difference. Their line-up included John Mahoney and Terry Conroy, internationals for Wales and the Republic of Ireland respectively, but there was no place for veteran midfielder Willie Stevenson, an Anfield favourite for five years during the 1960s.
Tommy Smith returned to the Reds side as captain after a few weeks out injured but John Toshack broke down in training on the Friday, meaning Phil Boersma retained his place. It had been Liverpool’s first midweek of the season with no game and their freshness showed early on, as they took the game to Stoke whilst attacking the Anfield Road end. Emlyn Hughes and Phil Boersma shot just wide and Banks made good saves from another Hughes effort, as well as a 25 yard low drive by Alec Lindsay.
The first half hour was all Liverpool, the players revelling in the influence of Smith who was driving them forward and full back Chris Lawler was a regular attacker, seeing a header and lob both saved by Banks. Despite the Reds dominance though, Stoke had a game plan to pack the penalty area, forcing the Reds into mainly long range efforts, which Banks was happy to deal with.
In the 33rd minute Stoke took the lead against the run of play from an innocuous looking free kick that was awarded on the half way line. John Marsh punted it into the area where Geoff Hurst had a shot that hit the bar, bounced down to Jimmy Greenhoff who headed it into an empty net with Ray Clemence stranded. Liverpool piled on the pressure for the rest of the half without success and there was one dangerous moment when Stoke counter attacked and Hurst’s half volley went just wide of a post.
As Banks ran to the Kop end for the start of the second half the crowd shouted ‘Clemence for England’ leading to him blowing a raspberry in return. Within a minute it should have been 1-1 when Boersma, who had been quiet in the first half, somehow fired over from within the six yard box after Heighway had crossed.
Liverpool continued to dominate possession but were running out of ideas as high balls into the box had no height to meet them and passes were often intercepted by the numbers of Stoke players tracking back. It seemed inevitable that if the Reds were to equalise, some good fortune was required and it came when an indirect free kick was awarded in the 66th minute when Banks took too many steps with the ball. Smith touched the ball to Hughes, who hammered it into the roof of the net to the relief of the Kop.
Liverpool poured forward in search of the winner, Kevin Keegan hitting a shot across the face of goal, Boersma having a dipping volley drop just over the bar and Smith’s free kick bouncing off the wall. Finally, in the last minute Hughes took a quick free kick and Ian Callaghan’s shot took a deflection off Eric Skeels and deceived Banks to give the Reds a much deserved victory.
The next day Banks was involved in a car accident when his Ford Granada collided with a van as he drove back from a physiotherapy session at the Victoria Ground. It was clear from the outset that it was serious as he was taken to North Staffordshire Hospital where he received 200 stitches. Writing in the Daily Post the day after the accident, Bob Whiting said that if the game at Anfield had turned out to be his last, then there could not have been a more nostalgic setting for it.
At the end of the season Banks announced his retirement from professional football at the age of 35, although he did go on to play for Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the North American Soccer League at the end of the decade. Ironically, Banks’s accident opened the England door for Clemence, who would go on to do battle for the keeper’s jersey for the next ten years with Shilton. Banks old Liverpool foe Roger Hunt would eventually become a team mate of sorts as the two of them sat on the pools panel.
Liverpool’s opening game of the 2014-15 season may well be the last time Southampton play in front of the Main Stand in its existing form. It was the Saints who were he opposition for the official opening in 1973, when Len Shipman, President of the Football League , narrowly avoided serious injury when he tumbled down the stairs.
The new stand, which was effectively an extension and re-roofing of the old barrel roofed structure, had taken two years to construct. It seated just over 8,000 fans with room for 5,000 standing in the paddock in front. Writing in the match programme for the Southampton game on 10th March 1973 which marked its official opening, Chairman Eric Roberts wrote: Today’s ceremony is the culmination of the rebuilding of Anfield which started just 10 years ago. In this period we have spent over one million pounds in our effort to make this stadium among the best, not only in Great Britain, but also in Europe.
Roberts went on to say that first and foremost though was the team and that: Uppermost in our minds all the time is the need to see that Mr Shankly and his staff have all the help that the directors can give them, and thus ensure that the club remains in the forefront of League football. There was no doubt that this was the case as at the start of the season the Reds had matched their transfer record to sign midfielder Peter Cormack from Nottingham Forest for £110,000. Then in January 1973 Lou Macari looked set to sign for £200,000 only for the player to choose Manchester United instead as he felt he had a better chance of getting a game there.
Cormack delivered on Shankly’s promise that he would provide extra goals in midfield and with ten games to go the Reds were top of the league on goal average from Arsenal, who had played a game more. It was a thrilling four way title race with Leeds and Ipswich both four points behind with two and one games in hand respectively, but the Reds had the easiest run in of the challengers and Leeds still had to come to Anfield.
The guest list for the Southampton game was an impressive one, headed by the Duke of Kent, who was also President of the Football Association. He became the first member of the Royal Family to attend a match at Anfield since 1921, when King George V attended an FA Cup semi final between Cardiff and Wolverhampton. Also in attendance was FIFA President Sir Stanley Rous and Football League President Len Shipman (below), as well as League Secretary Alan Hardaker.
Hardaker was not too popular with Anfield officials who feared a fixture pile-up due to the club’s continued involvement in the UEFA Cup. In midweek the Reds had beat Dynamo Dresden 2-0 at Anfield in the first leg of the quarter final but he confirmed that although the 2nd leg of the semi final was scheduled for 25th April, just two days after Liverpool were due to face Leeds in that crucial league game, that the game could not be re-arranged if the Reds got through. He did make the concession though of allowing the Reds to switch their game at Coventry, due to take place on Tuesday 24th April, thus avoiding the prospect of games on three successive nights. However, that was only because the Sky Blues agreed to playing the game on another date.
Earlier in the season the Football League had suggested the Reds play a League Cup tie in London on a Monday night then fly out to Berlin for a UEFA Cup tie on the Wednesday. Given such incompetent planning, it was probably not surprising that when Liverpool signed Bristol City forward Peter Spiring a few days before the Southampton game, assistant secretary Bill Barlow drove to Lytham St Annes with the transfer forms to make sure they were processed in time.
The Southampton match fell on the day of a train strike, which meant the crowd of 41,674 was the second lowest of the season at Anfield in the league. This disrupted Southampton who had to make the long journey by coach instead and they were followed by just a handful of fans.There was no such travel problems for the Duke though, whose private plane was met at Speke Airport by several hundred onlookers. The Lord and Lady Mayoress were waiting for him on the tarmac and a chauffeur driven car took them to Anfield where a VIP lunch was laid on. Then, as the party made its way from the boardroom down to the foyer, Len Shipman took a tumble and fell down the stairs, banging his head. Club officials quickly helped him to his feet and checked he was OK before he was sent on to join the rest of the guests.
There seemed to be little concern shown for Shipman by others in the party, as the Duke of Kent, watched by club president T. V. Williams, got on with the business of unveiling a plaque made of Grecian white marble to commemorate the opening of the stand.
In the game itself Liverpool took a two goal lead when they scored twice within the space of a minute late in the first half through Larry Lloyd and Kevin Keegan. However before the referee blew for the interval there was just enough time for Mick Channon to take advantage of some hesitancy in the Reds’ defence to nip in and head the ball past Ray Clemence after a long punt downfield by the keeper. On the hour Paul Gilchrist equalised after some slack marking but Keegan got the Reds out of jail with three minutes remaining, when he headed in a Phil Boersma cross.
The game may have been nerve racking for the Reds’s fans but the Duke of Kent enjoyed the occasion, commenting afterwards that it was an exciting game and that the crowd had been well behaved and supported their team well. Sir Stanley Rous said the Reds were lucky to have such wonderful supporters although there were no words of encouragement from any of the Football League hierarchy, who perhaps suspected that Shipman was helped on his way when he fell down the stairs.
By the end of the season the new Main Stand witnessed Liverpool being presented with their first title for seven years and there have been no occasions when royalty have attended games since, unless King Kenny gets counted in that bracket.
Liverpool FC’s friendly against Olympiacos will be the fourth time the club have played at Soldier Field. The other occasions were in 1946 when they comfortably beat a team of students and 1964 when they played two fixtures against other touring professional sides and some of the best Shanklyisms were born.
Liverpool’s tour of North America in 1946 came about due to Chairman William McConnell’s friendship with Belfast born Joe Barriskill, General Secretary of the United States Soccer Federation. He was keen to develop the game further there as many returning soldiers had developed a liking for watching ‘soccer’ as it was known there whilst stationed in Europe during the Second World War.
With Liverpool having been a port through which many servicemen passed through and the Burtonwood base being nearby, the Reds were a natural choice and the arrangements were made with minimum fuss. McConnell and manager George Kay knew that several weeks away in a ration free country would be excellent for building morale ahead of the first Football League season since 1939. This began with a six day crossing aboard the Queen Mary from Southampton to New York.
Liverpool’s opponents on the tour were mainly made up of composite sides from local leagues and they won all six games prior to arriving in Chicago, including a thumping 12-0 win over a Philadelphia Select XI. The first four games had been on the East Coast but the players then flew to St Louis, the first time many of them had been on a plane. After beating St Louis All Stars 5-1 they flew to Chicago for a match against Chicago Maroons. They were a team of students from the University of Chicago and one of five sides that made up the North American Soccer League.
The Maroons normal venue for home games was Stagg Field, but the game was held at Soldier Field, the horseshoe shaped 74,280 seater home of Chicago Rockets who played in the All America Football Conference, a forerunner of the NFL. The attendance was not recorded, but it is likely there were far more seats empty then occupied for an extraordinary game that saw Liverpool lead 6-3 at half time. There were then no goals for the first half of the second period before three more were added to give the Reds a 9-3 win in which Jack Balmer hit four goals and Willie Fagan also got a hat trick.
From Chicago the Reds flew to Toronto where they hit double figures for the second time on the tour, beating an Ulster Select XI 11-1. They then returned to their New York base for the final two games of the tour, in which they beat Kearny Celtic Scots 3-1 in New Jersey and an American League side 10-1 at Ebbets Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team. The team bonding trip had been a huge success and the Reds won the league in 1946-47, but plans to cross the Atlantic again were cancelled due to the severe winter, that led to the season being extended to the middle of June.
Liverpool were back in North America in 1948 but this time there was no match in Chicago. Five years later in 1953 they were back in the city though for a game against Chicago All Stars at Hanson Field, a High School venue. A crowd of 7,000 saw Billy Liddell score three times in a 4-2 win.
Relegation followed the 1953 tour and it was to be eleven years before they were back across the Atlantic. By now the jet age had arrived and Liverpool were travelling to North America as Football League Champions and coming from a city whose singers had taken the American pop charts by storm. Charismatic manager Bill Shankly was not too bothered about this tour and didn’t even board the BOAC jet that left Manchester for New York on 6th May although he did wave the players off. Instead Bob Paisley and Reuben Bennett were in charge of team affairs for the first leg of the tour while Shankly scouted players in Scotland, where a Summer Cup competition was taking place.
Also missing were Gordon Milne, Roger Hunt and Peter Thompson, who had been called up by England for a tournament in Brazil. to celebrate 50 years of their FA. This gave an opportunity for youngsters Chris Lawler, Tommy Smith and Gordon Wallace while Alan A’Court, a veteran of the 1953 tour was also included in the party, even though he hadn’t played a single first team game in 1963-64.
The Governor Clinton Hotel in Midtown Manhattan, just a few blocks from the Empire State Building, was the team’s base for the first week of the tour which the Reds opened with a comfortable 8-1 win over Boston Metros. A 7-1 win over New York All Stars followed, with the players being whisked from the stadium to CBS studios where they sat in the audience as Gerry and the Pacemakers performed I Like It and Don’t Let the Sun Catch Me Crying on the Ed Sullivan Show.
The Reds flew to St Louis where there was almost humiliation against the Catholic Youth Council All Stars a late Willie Stevenson equaliser salvaging a draw. The players’ minds had perhaps been distracted by an incident involving Chairman Tom Williams, who had been suffering from constipation all tour. When fruit salads didn’t work, Bob Paisley gave him a tablet leading to a major accident, his room being described by Paisley as ‘wall to wall, it was everywhere.’ His one pair of trousers ruined, the only option was to borrow a pair from Ron Yeats, which naturally wasn’t kept a secret amongst the players.
There could be no room for complacency in Chicago, where the Reds arrived on 15th May. Their opponents would be Mexican outfit CF Monterrey, who had just finished third in their league and been beaten cup finalists. They were sure to provide a far better quality of opposition than the select sides, who Ian St John rated in his columns for the Daily Post as only of Lancashire Combination standard. In addition to the players missing through international duty, the Reds were now without Yeats, who was struggling to shake off a knew injury picked up in New York.
Soldier Field was exactly as it was in 1946 and 12,384 spectators were present for the game on 17th May, which was played in temperatures of over 80 degrees. The majority of the crowd were backing the Mexicans and added to the heat by setting off fireworks, but the Reds players weren’t overawed and St John gave them an 18th minute lead. Tommy Lawrence was a virtual spectator in goal as Liverpool took total control of the game, St John adding two more in the second half to complete a hat trick.
With four games played, the players now returned to the Governor Clinton Hotel in New York for a week’s rest. Some took in a baseball game but weren’t impressed and while the arrival of Shankly was welcomed, his antics had players confused. Refusing to set his watch to American time he was in the hotel reception as some players returned after a night out, but whereas they wanted to go to bed as far as he was concerned it was breakfast time. One by one the players drifted off leaving him alone, aghast that none of the staff knew who Tom Finney was.
The Reds were back in action on 24th May, losing 2-0 to an Uwe Seeler inspired Hamburg at the Downing Stadium. This was their first defeat on American soil, bringing to an end a record that had stretched back 34 games. This was the end of their time in New York and the party then flew to Detroit for a fixture against another German side, Meidericher (now MSV Duisburg). Shankly was livid when he saw posters for the game advertising the fact that it involved a club from the same city as The Beatles. But as match promoter Len Morgan told the Liverpool Echo, ‘we are the poor relations and have to take the crumbs from the table.’
Liverpool beat their German opponents 4-1 in front of a crowd of 7,000 which although low was still 2,000 more than saw England beat USA 10-0 in New York, Roger Hunt scoring four of the goals. The next morning Shankly had more problems caused by his refusal to adapt to American time. Up and ready for breakfast at 6am before the hotel restaurant was open, he insisted that two national newspaper journalists went for a walk with him. After finding somewhere he fancied eating at he was told quite abruptly that he couldn’t have a full English breakfast and cup of tea, it was hot dogs or burgers only. On arrival back at the hotel, the rest of the party had eaten and set off to the airport for their flight to Chicago, where they would face Meidericher again.
In Chicago the players again stayed at the Sherman Hotel, their base for the game in the same city just under two weeks earlier. The match venue was Soldier Field again, and Shankly this time had more enthusiasm than he had anywhere else in America. He insisted the players hold an impromptu five a side game in exactly the same spot that Gene Tunney had defended his world heavyweight title against Jack Dempsey in 1927. The game itself was a much more tight affair than in Detroit and ended in a 0-0 draw. Chris Lawler put in a solid performance at centre half in place of Ron Yeats, making Shankly have serious thoughts about whether he needed to get the chequebook out for a new defender.
From Chicago the Reds flew to the West Coast for what remains their only visit to California. They struck up their all time highest score in any game beating a select side 14-0, St John and Alf Arrowsmith both scoring four. Liverpool’s goalkeeper in that game was Trevor Roberts, who came in for the injured Tommy Lawrence. He touched the ball just once in the first half.
The last two games of the tour were across the border in Vancouver, where they encountered Meidericher for a third time. A bad tempered game played on 6th June, the twentieth anniversary of the Normandy Landings, ended 1-1. Both sides were reduced to ten men in the first half when St John punched Manfred Mueller to the ground after a bad challenge and after the break both benches regularly argued over the amount of air required in the ball.
Shankly flew home after the Meidericher game, but the players stayed behind for the last match against an Al Star XI. Arrowsmith scored both goals in a 2-0 win in a game that was played in the Empire Stadium, venue for the 1954 Commonwealth Games. This brought to an end a mammoth five week tour that had seen ten games played. The party then flew to Toronto and on to Manchester via Glasgow. They were met by Shankly who wasn’t bothered about the games, saying ‘they’re coming home thats all’. Director Sid Reakes was more enthusiastic, describing it as a wonderful experience.
After being fined £20 at customs and having a watch confiscated St John was advised by Paisley that his jockstraps would have been a far better place to hide any contraband. A holiday was probably the last thing any of the players wanted after so much travelling, but St John was off on his jollies straight away, to a caravan in Morecambe.
Shankly may not have had much enthusiasm for the tour and he made sure such jaunts never happened again. The reduced rest period was blamed for Liverpool’s poor start to the season, although they did recover to finish seventh. It did mean though that with the league title hopes ended early on, all efforts were put into the cups and the Reds finally laid to rest the FA Cup hoodoo, winning the trophy for the first time the following May. Had it not been for a corrupt official, they may well have added the European Cup to that as well.
Soldir Field in 2014 is much different than for previous visits. It now seats in the region of 61,000 and is the oldest stadium in the NFL, home to Chicago Bears. Chicago Maroons, who the Reds played in 1946, continue to represent the University of Chicago in inter-collegiate soccer leagues.
Having a Saturday game on the wrong side of the M25 moved to 8pm on a Monday night isn’t exactly being too considerate for away fans. However, before cursing television too much spare a thought for the travelling Reds in 1994-95 who had to make the trip to Selhurst Park an unprecedented six times, five of them for night games.
The Reds opened their league campaign at Selhurst Park with a fixture against newly promoted Crystal Palace. Roy Evans, who was about to begin his first full season in charge, had so far failed to add to a squad that had finished 8th the previous campaign. However he had been working on getting the team playing the ‘Liverpool Way’ in training and the Reds were 2-0 up in fifteen minutes thanks to a Jan Molby penalty and Steve McManaman strike. Robbie Fowler added a third on the stroke of half time and although Chris Armstrong pulled one back early in the second half, a brace from Ian Rush and another from McManaman completed a 6-1 rout.
Palace were renting their ground out to fellow Premier League side Wimbledon at the time and the Reds were due to play there on 21st January, but the game was called off due to a waterlogged pitch just a couple of hours before kick off. Many travelling fans were on coaches on the M25 when the news of this was announced, with some coaches stopping off in Epsom for a few hours before coming back home.
As if the thought of making that journey around the M25 again wasn’t bad enough, fans already knew that a further trip was guaranteed as the Reds had been paired with Palace in the semi finals of the League Cup. It was then that things got really silly. A last gasp goal from Robbie Fowler at Anfield on 15th February gave Liverpool a slender 1st leg lead, but a week later the 2nd leg was called off. This time though the coaches were there and parked up with many fans already in the ground. A sudden downpour at 6pm took everybody by surprise and the referee called the game off just half an hour before kick off with many fans already in the ground.
Liverpool were back at Selhurst Park the following midweek, but it wasn’t for the re-arranged semi final. Instead it was for an FA Cup 5th round replay with Wimbledon, who had surprisingly held the Reds to a 1-1 draw at Anfield on 19th February. There was no mistake in the replay though as Liverpool put in one of their best ever performances against the Dons, cruising to a 2-0 win thanks to first half goals from John Barnes and Ian Rush. The crowd was a paltry of 12,553 with most of them being Reds fans, many of whom were London based and took advantage of cash admission to help fill the 9,000+ capacity Arthur Wait stand.
On 8th March the Reds were back at Selhurst Park for the third midweek in a row as they played the 2nd leg of the semi final. A 27th minute goal from Robbie Fowler was enough to take the sting out of Palace as the Reds stayed in cruise control to reach their first cup final for three years, which at that time, was considered a hell of a long wait. The crowd for this one was a capacity 18,224 (the Holmesdale Road stand was a building site at the time), with the celebrating Reds restricted to just half of the Arthur Wait stand.
The last trip to Selhurst of the season came on 2nd May for the re-arranged Wimbledon league game. It had a very end of season feel to it, with the Reds already having qualified for Europe due to winning the League Cup. Steve Harkness made a rare start in defence and there was little incident in a 0-0 draw, the main talking point being a hamstring injury to Neil Ruddock, meaning the Reds were now down to just one fit centre back.
Palace went down at the end of the season meaning that apart from 1997-98, when they had a solitary season back in the top flight, it was just one trip per season to Selhurst until Wimbledon were relegated in 2000. Since then, Wimbledon were franchised out to Milton Keynes and the phoenix club play at Kingstonian, while Palace have been in the Premiership just one other season before this one, in 2004-05. We always seemed to get sent there in cups though, in 2000-01, 2002-03 and 2005-06.
Nowadays with no top clubs groundsharing, pitch improvements and League Cup replays being done away with, its hard to imagine a scenario where we’d play 4 four games a season somewhere, then see two of those have to be rearranged.
In the second home game of 1966-67, Liverpool beat newly promoted Manchester City with a late winner after they had surrendered a two goal lead.
Champions Liverpool had won their opening game of the season against Leicester, but two away trips since then had ended in defeats to Everton and Manchester City. In addition to beating the Reds a week earlier, newly promoted City had won against Sunderland and drawn with Southampton and had hopes of maintaining their unbeaten start to the season.
The clash with City was set for Tuesday 30th August 1966 and the City team stopped off in Lymm on their way to Liverpool for an early evening meal. Leaving in what they thought was good time, they got caught in a rush hour traffic jam and then were held up in matchday congestion once they got near the ground.
With just half an hour to go until kickoff, the City squad had no choice but to leave the coach and make the rest of the journey on foot, hauling the kit skips with them. Needless to say the ribbing they got from Reds fans was merciless and on arriving at the ground, there was no time for any preparation or teamtalk as the kickoff had already been delayed for a short time.
Liverpool were swift to punish their opponents and with Peter Thompson in fine form on the wing, they were 2-0 up inside the first seven minutes through Roger Hunt and Geoff Strong. However, City managed to regain their composure and Jimmy Murray pulled a goal back before half time. In the 2nd half City stunned the Reds when Matt Gray scored an equaliser. However, their earlier ordeal finally took it’s toll and Roger Hunt got Liverpool’s winner ten minutes from the end.
For City manager Joe Mercer, an ex Everton player, the defeat had been hard to bear as he was keen to do the league double over the Reds so early in the season. He blamed the coach driver for taking the route he did (the M62 was just at the planning stage then) but they still hadn’t recovered by their next game. Seven days later West Ham beat them 4-1 at Maine Road.
As if John Houlding didn’t have enough to contend with in the summer of 1892 with the foundation of Liverpool Football Club, he also had to deal with a burglary at his brewery in which a large sum of cash was stolen.
Houlding’s brewery was founded in 1871 and situated in Tynemouth Street, which was off Breckfield Road North in Everton near where Turpins pub is now. It was there where Houlding’s Beacon Ale was brewed, which was the only alcoholic refreshment available at Anfield.
On Sunday 17th July 1892 John Waters and Charles Holmes climbed over the gate and entered the office, which was left unlocked as the Excise had the right to enter it at any time. They stole £10 and 9s, the equivalent of £1,088 today and were alleged to have distributed this around friends, four of whom were arrested for receiving the money.
All six males were committed to trial at the Liverpool Sessions in St George’s Hall, their case being heard on 23rd August. This was just three days after Houlding had taken the newly signed Liverpool players for a picnic and sports day in West Kirby. Waters and Holmes were found guilty and sentenced to two months imprisonment, but the other four accused, one of whom was a female, were acquitted.
After John Houlding died in 1902, his son William took over the running of the brewery and it eventually closed in 1939 after being bought out by Ind Coope. Tynemouth Street is now long gone but Tynemouth Close stands in the vicinity. The only reminder of Houldings Ales left is a glass panelled window in a door at Ye Cracke pub in Rice Street, Liverpool city centre.
On 25th April 1892 Liverpool Football Club was granted membership of the Football Association after Everton officials opposed it due to a disagreement regarding fittings at the Anfield ground.
The fallout from the rent dispute that led to Everton quitting Anfield and John Houlding (below right) setting up his own club was a bitter one. Houlding had invested a lot of his own money into ground improvements and felt if Everton were leaving, then they had no right to take anything with them. On 11th April 1892 Houlding obtained an injunction at the Chancery Court of Lancashire preventing the Everton committee removing any of the fittings, pending a resolution.
At the FA hearing Houlding made submissions for his new club Liverpool to be accepted as members of the FA, but there was an objection from new Everton chairman George Mahon (below left). He stated that although Everton weren’t against Houlding’s club, there remained a dispute over the fixtures and fittings at the Anfield ground. The Liverpool Mercury reported on 26th April that : ‘After a long discussion the committee arrived at the following decision – “The new club to pay Everton the sum of £250 for the whole of the fixtures on the present ground.” The club was then affiliated as the Liverpool club and the dispute settled.
On 20th August 1892, two weeks before Liverpool Football Club’s first competitive game in the Lancashire League, a social outing of the newly assembled squad led helped them bond together prior to the forthcoming campaign.
Organised by Mr J.J. Ramsay and billed as the first annual picnic of members of the club, fifty players and officials took the ferry over to Woodside at 1.30pm. There they were met by wagonettes that took them on a pleasant hour long drive through Bidston, Moreton, Meols and Hoylake to West Kirby where they stopped at the Ring O’ Bells hotel.
The rest of the afternoon saw the players engage in a series of athletics contests on an adjoining field. Amongst the events were races over 100, 200 and 440 yards, a hop, skip and jump, dribbling contest and tug o’ war. No player won more than one event with Joe Pearson proving to be the fastest by winning the 100 yards while John Miller was the best dribbler.
After the events the party had what was described by the Liverpool Mercury as a ‘knife and fork tea’ before William Houlding, son of club founder John, handed out prizes to the earlier winners. He then made a speech welcoming the players who had come down from Scotland, and mocking those that had predicted that Houlding would only be able to form a parks or junior team. He made a statement of intent by saying that the new club ‘intended to make themselves felt in the football world,’ leading to a chorus of ‘hear, hear’ from those present.
The party then re-boarded their wagonettes for the journey back to Woodside and the ferry over to Liverpool, having bonded well in readiness for the season ahead.