Tough times at Anfield. Of course, many other clubs would kill for the sort of “tough times” Liverpudlians are having to tolerate: major continental silverware within living memory; world-class players like Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard and Pepe Reina on display every week; regular European football; a fine old stadium and gates of 40,000-plus.
But these things are relative, and as the Reds enter their third decade without winning the title that they practically owned outright throughout the 1970s and 1980s (11 league championships in 18 seasons), the locals have grown disgruntled. Everything is inevitably seen through the prism of history here, and when a club has racked up 18 league championships and five European Cups, it’s little wonder that the current state of affairs is considered not good enough.
Indeed, Liverpool FC lie at a crossroads. With the club lacking the financial muscle to compete with Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea, a move to Anfield no longer holds the same allure for top players. After decades of commendable stability in the boardroom, the debacle of American venture capitalists Hicks and Gillett’s ownership has shaken the fans to their core, and many remain sceptical that the new regime (more American venture capitalists) have got the dough to put the club back on their lofty perch.
Attendances have suffered – empty seats used to be unheard of – and the “Fortress of Invincibility” tag no longer applies in L4. The Kop is not what it was, either. Decent managers like Gerard Houllier, Rafa Benitez and Roy Hodgson have all found the weight of expectation almost too much to take over the last decade.
And yet, and yet: no self-respecting football fan should go through life without a trip to Anfield. The Shankly Gates and statue, the Bob Paisley Gates, the Hillsborough Memorial and the excellent club museum are all must-sees. Attend on a European night, Derby day or when United are in town, meanwhile, and the crowd can still work itself up into a frenzy that will make you believe that this place is still truly magical.
Liverpool’s home since 1892 is one of Europe’s iconic stadiums. Make sure you get there early to look at the statues and monuments surrounding the ground, and get inside at least 10 minutes before kick-off, so you can join the rest of the 45,000 crowd in a rendition of club song You’ll Never Walk Alone – a truly spine-tingling experience on its day. The noise of the Kop can still be fearsome, too, although these days the famous old atmosphere is often missing when lesser clubs come to town. The club are still weighing up a move to a 60,000-seater stadium in Stanley Park, so pay a visit while you still can.
From Liverpool Lime Street a taxi costs around £8, while regular buses run from Queen Square bus station nearby. On match days a Soccerbus service runs from Sandhills station – connected to via Liverpool Central. Parking is a headache at Anfield, although it can still be found if you trawl the backstreets of this residential area a good hour before kick off. Anfield is well signposted from all directions. To get to the ground from the motorway, leave the M6 at Junction 23 and take the A580 under the M57. Turn left onto the A5058 towards Widnes. Proceed for half a mile and turn right at the lights into Utting Avenue. Pass under the railway bridge which continues into Arkles Lane – you’ll soon see the ground.
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