Many thanks to our guest columnist Tim Sansom who provided this article to us earlier today for publication on the website.
I always feel that if I had not been born in Suffolk into a family with a proud history of following Ipswich Town Football Club, I would have been a red. I would have somehow coped with the fact that I was supporting a team that played their matches over two hundred miles away.
I generally knew nothing about Liverpool in the 1980s apart from some riots, a random garden festival, yellow buses and trains, Brookside, Cilla Black and The Farm but I began to get to know a football club that is an icon in national and international football. There is something about Liverpool FC that appeals to me more then the fact that you have had sustained success over the last twenty seven years whilst my beloved Town have flip flopped between first division glory, second division slump, and yearly playoff heartbreak. .
I was too young to enjoy Grobbelaar’s bendy legs after the 1984 European Cup Final. I have seen the video pictures but at the age of four, I was probably in bed dreaming my way through early childhood thoughts. My first memory of Liverpool was enjoying the 1986 FA Cup Final on a black and white PYE television. It was a beautifully sunny day and I kept on wondering why Ian Rush kept on coming into the shot. I wondered whether there was anyone else in the team. I can not remember anything about the opposition- I guess that some of you in Anfield would say that was not necessarily a bad thing. Everything else seemed a blur but I now realise that I was watching one of the ‘classic’ FA cup finals. Not bad for the first one that you can remember and I was only six.
During the halcyon days of Bobby Robson’s assured management, my beloved Ipswich were a pretty decent side. Whilst Liverpool were beginning their championship domination, Town were never far behind although we failed to win at Anfield or Portman Road between 1977 and 1982. Looking through the records, an Ipswich versus Liverpool match was a fairly decent bed for players of the football pools. In the days before Lotto rollovers, dream numbers in the era when the Thunderball was just a James Bond movie, these top of the table matches guaranteed goals but not always a outright winner. Town’s title dreams in 1977 ended at Anfield, and league cup aspirations terminated on my second birthday in 1982.
Footballing and non footballing reasons kept alive my interest in Liverpool during the late 80s and early 1990s. BBC cameras were at Portman Road in February 1992 when Town played Liverpool in a FA Cup 5th round replay. The team sheets read two list of names that could easily date the year of the match. John Lyall was the Ipswich manager developing a team that would go on to win the Barclays Division Two title that season. The iconic Liverpool dynasty was beginning to dismantle but McManaman scored a sweet winning goal. It is weird to think that this match was at the start of a fallow period for both teams, but Liverpool fans did not have to suffer a 9-0 defeat over Manchester United.
Town were back in the Premiership in 2000 and the 2000-2001 season witnessed my first ever visit to Anfield. This ground is one of the cathedrals of modern football. If a Rough Guide to Football Grounds was ever produced, Anfield would rightly be on that list. It is nearly seven years since that sensual battle on Sunday 10th December 2000. On one of those winter afternoons when it never seems to get light, I watched the Kop silenced by Marcus Stewart rounding Westerveld to register a 1-0 victory. This was a truly stunning result and I am not mentioning it just to have a go at Liverpool fans. The fact that we won against Liverpool, at Anfield, and in front of the Kop, shows total respect to Liverpool. Looking at the team sheets for that game, it is weird to see names like Ziege, Babbel and Barnby in the team. Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler up front with Mcallister in support. These were the pre Gerrard, pre Dudek, pre Cisse and pre Torres days. Whilst screaming myself horse back to Sandhills on that dramatic day, I gushed to my embarrased mates that Town were back in the big time. I predicted that there would be Champions League football in two years at Portman Road. We lost 6-0 and 5-0 in the following season and we have not been invited back to football’s top table since.
I said that my relationship with Liverpool FC was strange. I will always be a blue of the East Anglian variety but I inexplicably still care about life at Anfield. It was one of those memorable nights when Liverpool beat AC Milan for the 2005 European Cup. My drinking partner said that we might as well leave at half time but I stayed because I thought I had to sink with the good ship Anfield. When those penalties were scored and “You’ll never walk alone” struck up on the scratchy pub PA system, I found myself crying like a baby and I just did not know why.
I cared about the bizarre rotational policy being deployed by successive recent Liverpool managers. I have walked around the Liverpool FC museum, sat in the cinema and enjoyed all of the Liverpool videos as if they are dramatic and groundbreaking tapes for out time. I have stood by the European cups and felt unworthy in their presence. I care about Liverpool purchases and walk around the gift shop ready to buy that distinctive kit or even the training wear. It is a potent religion to be a Liverpool fan. I feel as if I am dipping my toe into a pool that is strictly for the people of Liverpool. I guess that I have to be content to look on from afar.
Tim Sansom, 2007