My first game. And what a game. In the canon of great Reds matches, it’s up there with Rome, with Paris, with 5-0 against Forest and slotting four past FC Lowry Centre and their go-the-game-on-a-penny-farthing fans last year. It’s the B-side of Abbey Road, the last episode of the second series of The Sopranos, the date that ends up with you being invited back for coffee. It’s Liverpool FC at their height, the team from your town, an institution every bit as famous as The Beatles, annihilating everything in its path. This is that team at its absolute zenith.
And I, aged just six years old, am there to see it.
Whether it’s the first gig you go to (Adam & The Ants at Deeside, 1981, in my case), the first single you buy (Adam again – Stand & Deliver), we men – and for the most part, it
So I’ll be truthful here. I’ve dined out on this game for years. Drunk rounds bought for me by younger fans in awe of One Who Was There, replayed YouTube clips of
Well, me, for one.
The events I can recall from that day aren’t the things you’d expect. It’s only now, thanks to the internet, that I can see the beauty of McDermott’s header or the lightning pace of Steve Heighway making the left wing a personal fiefdom.
Instead, I remember other things, snapshots, glances: the silhouettes of people against the windows at the back of the Kop and the swaying, hazy mass below with its scarves, its banners held aloft; The startlingly young-looking Steve Perryman squinting out from the pages of the programme – how old was he? Twenty-six? He looked about eight; The walk from Kirkdale station, up the alleys to the hulking mass at the top of the hill; The entrance to the Paddock somewhere under the Main Stand – 45 pence for me, 90 for my dad; Getting lifted by older fellas to the front so I could see the match, everyone looking out for this kid at his first game. And finally, the cameraman wedged inbetween us all, headphones clamped to his ear, light blue, short-sleeved stretched shirt over his big, blokey frame.
“Can I have a look through your camera, please?”
I was always cheeky.
“”Course you can, son.”
I lifted myself up and squinted into the viewfinder.
“It’s in black and white”
“It is, yeah.”
I was flabbergasted. All that equipment and they couldn’t even afford a colour telly! I wouldn’t be this disappointed again until I found “Father Christmas” putting my Liverpool kit over the end of the bed wearing a blue dressing gown and ’70s comb-over. I asked him why. He told me. I instantly forgot what he said, but I can still see those little black and white figures running about on that screen, another memory of that unforgettable forgettable day.
None of this should surprise us. As we get older, it’s the little things that linger, no matter how big the event. Going to football matches isn’t just about seeing the great players score great goals – those moments largely fade away – it’s about the ordinary stuff: finding a spec on a floodlight at Coventry, getting bombarded with abuse by a pensioner at Old Trafford, falling asleep standing up in the Kop because you’ve been awake all night. It’s about things you don’t want to forget because they remind you of who you are.
And that six-year-old boy, with the good fortune to be growing up just a few miles from the most famous football team in Europe was put on a journey that day, one I’m still on – though the ride’s been a little bumpy of late. And yet this journey is one I have to see through to the end, wherever – or whatever – that end is. And the memories I’m making are in widescreen, three-dimensional Technicolour.
Nothing like that TV camera at all then.
Written for Well Red magazine, out now