Archive for the ‘Assorted Match Reports’ Category

St. Pauli     0     FC Ingolstadt    0                     Millerntor Stadium,  Hamburg.   22nd  March  2014

An enjoyable  weekend staying in St. Pauli with mates, but unfortunately we’d chosen the weekend when St. Pauli’s recently very  dull football was at its very dullest, and as a result so was the atmosphere in the ground…. (but still way better than any English crowd when their team are serving up a dull goalless draw).

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And at least standing on the terraces behind the goal here only costs about 12 Euros, plus a few quid for the decent quality Astra beer, which it’s so great to be able to drink as you watch the match. This leaves a  bit of  cash for some  post-match merchandise, which  is also still decent enough quality.  Our dog Pauli needs s a new lead  [EDIT – here he is in fact, looking very pleased with it at a later date]:
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After the game we had interesting discussions over a beer in the new Fanraume with Nick Davidson, author of this new book about the club:
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In the book, Nick writes that:
“Supporting St. Pauli isn’t about results, league positions or even the football. “  It’s a good job too, I think,  after a game like that one we saw  today against Inglostadt!

“It’s about friends, community, standing-up for what is right, and making sure you have a good time doing it. When I visit I stand on the Südkurve and it feels like home. Over the past six years, I’ve seen some great games, visited some amazing grounds, but most of all, I’ve met some incredible people. I owe those people a lot. They renewed my faith in football, in the power of football supporters to make a difference.”

Spot on, Nick! So I’m ashamed to say that, after just a couple more beers, I ignored the delights of a night in St. Pauli and had to have an early night, curled up with a good book.

(I was way too knackered to read it of course, but it certainly does look like a good book!)

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Doncaster Rovers   1    Blackpool  3            February 14th 2012, Keepmoat Stadium.

No romantic candle-lit dinners for us tonight. We do that most nights anyway in our house, but what better way to spend Valentine’s evening than with the perfect match between Claire’s favourites?  Blackpool FC are her true love, but she occasionally flirts too with Doncaster Rovers, for whom her grandad played for most of his careeer in the fifties.

Providing an average aggregate of  3.8 goals in their away games this season, this Blackpool team are still easy for a neutral like myself to love, as of course is their manager, the utterly unique Ian Holloway.  Despite relegation, Holloway hasn’t changed his attacking instincts – he doesn’t know how to do ‘cagey’, but at the same time he does know how to keep it safe at the back. The back four stay put; the full-backs don’t overlap; two sitting midfielders (Ferguson & Silvestre) are solid as a great big solid base-type thing; the keeper, Gilks, is reliable.

In front of them, though, the other four are free to attack at will, in a great big rotating diamond-type formation that cuts through Doncaster on the break, like the diamond bit of a great big rotating drill-type thingy. All this, don’t forget, is without their two best forward players: Kevin Phillips, on the bench tonight, and Matt Phillips, out injured. Tonight, Fleck generally anchors the diamond; Lua Lua is usually in front of him at the leading point, Dicko usually on the left and Taylor-Fletcher usually on the right. But it can all change in an instant, confusing the defenders as it did tonight when Taylor-Fletcher popped up at centre forward to slot home the opening goal from Eardley’s long pass after 20 minutes.

Doncaster tried to rally, but only Hayter was at all impressive, forcing Gilks into a couple of decent saves. Meanwhile, somebody had clearly told the Doncaster defenders not to worry about Taylor-Fletcher’s pace. “What pace?” Rovers’ manager Dean Saunders had probably said to his defenders. “I bet even Charlie Adam used to beat him in sprints in training.” That must be why they let him advance 20 yards with the ball in the 34th minute, Blackpool’s resident Scouser accelerating, swerving, dropping his shoulder a couple of times and slotting home when he arrived in the box virtually unchallenged.

Blackpool’s travelling supporters were by this stage going through their joyful repertoire unchallenged by their home counterparts, singing to their true loves on a balmy Valentines night. But, predictably, it was Doncaster’s El Hadj Diouf who then brought out very different emotions, as he dived for a controversial penalty just before half-time.  In the legend of Valentine, the Saint is said to have miraculously cured someone’s eyesight – referee Gary Sutton could have done with similar treatment as he was fooled by Diouf’s stick-out-a-leg-to-catch -the-defender-as-I-lose-the-ball-then-stumble act. Diouf’s cheeky dinked kick in front of the raging Tangerine fans was admirably cool, but his attempts to start a fight with the keeper afterwards were less so.

In the end Diouf’s antics didn’t matter.  Doncaster did rally for a brief five minutes at the start of  the second half, during which spell of pressure  the home fans actually made themselves heard for the first and last time, but Blackpool always carried an infinitely greater threat going forward, eventually restoring their two-goal advantage when Alex Baptiste shot from an angle and Donny keeper Button only pushed it into the path of the young Frenchman, Dicko, for 3-1.  The only other time we heard from the home supporters was when a cluster of them voiced their noisy disapproval at the final whistle, but most seemed to slope off home to their sweethearts well before the end. Inexcusable on any night, even St. Valentine’s.  I’ve only been to the Keepmoat Stadium twice, but it doesn’t seem to be somewhere to go for any sort of atmosphere.

Yes, Diouf is still very hateable, but we need a few reliable pantomime villains in the game, don’t we? I still can’t believe that ten long summers ago, when Liverpool signed Diouf after his great World Cup,  I impulsively bought a green Senegal shirt on ebay with his name on the back. Ah well, at least it was a cheapo knock-off one from Hong Kong – I think it cost me about six quid.

By contrast, Blackpool and their fans (well, most of them*) are still very loveable. They kept their average of 3.8 goals up as precisely as possible on this thoroughly entertaining Valentine’s evening. Doncaster stayed bottom of the table, while Blackpool rose to fourth.

*Well, one of them in particular.

FC St. Pauli  2     MSV Duisburg  1       August 22nd 2011

We’re on one of our FC St. Pauli weekends in Hamburg, but a very special one this time as two of our great friends here, Carsten and Anna, got married in a country village near Hamburg on Saturday night. So the  great thing about this particular weekend’s schedule from our point of view is that St. Pauli’s home match v. MSV Duisburg is on the Monday night, giving us almost two full days to recover from  the sleepless Friday night and then the long night of the wedding party on Saturday. This suits us just fine, with the added bonus that Claire’s working week will be down to just three days by the time we’ve flown back to the UK tomorrow (as for me, last Friday was my last full week of work for a couple of months).  But 8.15 kick-off times on a Monday night don’t suit most of the local supporters, and as always on such occasions at the Millerntor Stadium,  there’s a noisy protest against the TV company as the match kicks off.

The St. Pauli Sudkurve Protests against the League & the Skyjackers

The protest helps stoke up a  brilliant atmosphere and, in the end,  a memorable 2-1 victory gained by virtually the last kick of added time – gained  in fact because of the brilliant atmosphere. If the 23,000 home supporters didn’t have such faith in their team and kept believing in them, then surely some players would have resorted to hoofing desperately in those final seconds, rather than carrying on playing patient football as they did, confident that they could still create the crucial opening, with the opposition down to ten men.

I’ve been coming here for a few years now and have grown to love this place, whether standing on the Sudkurve or in the Gegengerade.  It’s a complete lesson in non-stop support and atmosphere that would shame most English crowds. And all for less than a third of what it would cost me to sit in the deathly hush of say, Anfield.

The same Sudkurve celebrates the dramatic late victory

At half-time, by the way, some of those very same St. Pauli Skinheads who were with us at the wedding on Saturday picked up their trophy for winning the recent annual six-a-side competition between supporters’ groups. The applause from their mates in the Gegengerade stand was almost equalled by the derision from where we stood on the Sudkurve, as the Skins could only manage to stagger round about a third of a lap of honour. If the Sudkurve Ultras had been there at the wedding on Saturday, they would surely have been more sympathetic.

Blackpool   2       Liverpool   1             Bloomfield Road, 12th January 2011

I didn’t get many entries from readers of this blog’s Christmas Crossword. I’m a bit disappointed in you, dear readers, and the solution was so much simpler than you thought.  That solution is called Kenny Dalglish.

Woy’s wecord shows that his wigid tactics will impwove  stwuggling sides but they won’t win twophies, not outside Scandinavia anyway. It’s all about expectations – if you’ve got low ones, Woy will pwobably exceed them.

Of course now that Woy’s gone, the expectations of the faithful have reached messianic proportions. Tonight the flimsy temporary structure of the away supporters’ stand at Bloomfield road trembles to our frenzied chants of the temporary manager’s name before kick-off.  It reverberates to the rhythm of “The Fields of Anfield Road” as the match begins, and it soon shakes alarmingly as we do the Torres bounce when the Spanish striker smashes home the opening goal after just four minutes. It shakes so much that we notice the TV monitor screens of the press corps who share this stand with us all flickering and going out for a few seconds. But luckily for the press people, the stand only shakes until the 12th minute, when that pesky tangerine Scouser Gary Taylor-Fletcher equalises. The expectations in our ‘end’, or should I say side of the ground, are suddenly confounded; it is as if it does not compute that Kenny is manager now, but we’re still struggling. Our support from this moment on is, quite frankly, crap; the raucous home fans take over for the next hour and a half. Their “You only sing when you’re winning” is not their most original chant, but it has never been more apt.

I’ve never actually been to Bloomfield Road before tonight. In fact the only time I’ve ever even looked at this ground closely on the telly was when Claire showed me a video of her playing (and winning) in the national schools cup final here, about 13 years ago. It seemed like a bit of a building site at that time. Claire used to come to the match here with her granddad most weeks until she left home, but hasn’t been back to Bloomfield Road in a few years now. Yes, this away fans’ stand is alarmingly rickety. As it shakes, Claire tells me it was built to replace a similar one that partially collapsed under similar bouncing by Sheffield Wednesday fans last season. Not very reassuring.  But we both said that we were pretty impressed by the obvious improvements to the other three sides of this 16,750 capacity stadium, whilst a pocket of the Liverpool fans busily sang “shitty ground, shitty ground, shitty ground”.  It’s all about your relative expectations.

I suppose that owning a football club can be about expectations too. Blackpool fans didn’t expect Premier League football, so don’t seem to be up in arms that their patrician owners for the last 3 decades, the colourful (often a euphemism for distinctly dodgy) Oyston family, have so far apparently just pocketed most of the proceeds from promotion. The Oystons have rarely promised anything much, and would not be trusted if they did. They seem to manage expectations by not promising their manager any money to spend and somehow making sure he can’t ‘do a Rafa’ and complain about it. All kinds of gagging clauses in his contract, allegedly, the locals reckon. But then half of the locals seem to have a secret admiration for the Oystons’ self-made millions, and anyway they are the kind of supporters who don’t like to see good cash wasted on overpaying a pack of mercenaries.

Liverpool fans, by contrast, have only ever tolerated patrician owners like the Moores dynasty as long as they took nothing out of the club, and began to rebel, noisily and effectively, against the first American owners as soon as the first of their big promises were broken. The demonstrations that marked Liverpool’s 2-1 defeat by Blackpool last September marked the beginning of the end for that regime. The current American investors have tried hard to promise less, but it seems that Dalglish will have money to spend before the month is out, in addition to the long-rumoured arrival of Luis Suarez from Ajax.

It’s as if Dalglish’s surprising team selection tonight – the first time he’s picked a Liverpool team for almost 20 years – is designed primarily to show the owners how much he’ll need to spend. I mean, that last team-sheet he picked in early 1991 featured a couple of weak links (Barry Venison and David Burrows spring to mind), but surely even Kenny can’t work miracles with players like Christian Poulsen and Milan Jovanovic? We’ve just  passed statues outside Bloomfield Road that have more athleticism than Poulsen and better awareness than Jovanovic. That’s what we were thinking before kick-off, and sure enough at times tonight our midfield verges on the incompetent, making Blackpool’s Charlie Adam and David Vaughan look world class.  If it’s an attempt to put those unwanted players in the January shop window, it fails spectacularly, surely removing the last few quid from any transfer fee those two frauds might have commanded.

Blackpool, the more incisive team in the second half, deservedly overtook us in the table again with DJ Campbell’s diving headed winner in the 69th minute tonight. But with Suarez on the way, expectations are that we’ll finish well above them. Just a couple of weeks ago, the hapless Hodgson was muttering about a relegation battle, but that will remain Blackpoool’s preoccupation for a while yet. My other expectations are that the gleeful home fans were spot-on when they sang “How shit must you be? We’ve beaten you twice”, but hopefully not when they sang to Dalglish that “you’re getting sacked in the morning”; that Steve Clark’s appointment two days ago as his new right-hand man will be Kenny’s shrewdest signing of this transfer window, but certainly not his only one; that Hodgson will soon get another job at a struggling club more suited to his abilities; that the likes of Poulsen and Jovanovic won’t play many more games for Liverpool; that if the Torres/Suarez partnership does come together as expected, it will be dynamite. I also expect a decent run in this Europa league, maybe even to be back in it next season (not that it really matters), and to finish a lot higher up the league in 2011-2012.

Seriously Kenny – no pressure.  You won’t have to manage my expectations.

Liverpool  3    Aston Villa  0           Anfield (or rather Preston), December 6th 2010

I’m  writing this on a train heading through the snowy hills of northern Britain towards Glasgow, where I have to work tomorrow. I was offered a free ticket for tonight’s match at Anfield v. Aston Villa by a season ticket holder who didn’t want to brave the icy roads, but the worst December snow since I was in the womb is causing a lot of disruption on the railways and I doubt I could have made it to Glasgow in time for an early start tomorrow. So, rather than taking the normal train route from Leeds via Edinburgh, a line which has been heavily disrupted these last few days, I‘ve decided to change in Preston and have timed my journey to give me time to watch the match on the telly in a pub near the station there.

That was the theory. But as you know, I hate Murdoch and Sky so much that I try not to help the pubs pay his bills – I have a policy of trying to drink just one single half pint during a whole match in any pub that pays to show his games.  So imagine my disgust when I arrived just minutes before kick-off, at the Old Vic on Fishergate (where I‘ve watched a televised match before), only to be told I had to spend £2 on a pair of daft-looking glasses to watch the match in so-called “3-D”.  I’d never heard of anyone showing 3-D football on TV before, except as part of one of the worst TV ads I’ve ever seen when Sony were trying to flog posh TV sets before the world cup last summer. They can p*ss right off and stick it up their *rses as far as I’m concerned, and take their “HD-ready” b*llocks with them. I’ll get a new telly if the old one breaks and not until.

Stupid ad, stupid product

So I slid around the icy pavements of central Preston looking for another pub showing the game, but to no avail. Back to the Old Vic just after kick-off. Only one table of gullible idiots, student Liverpool fans it seems, had paid the £2, and a few other stingy old gits like me were sitting around grumbling about the stupid blurred picture and muttering that we’d never be coming there again – in my case this will be an easy resolution to keep.  I have little doubt that this experiment will flop and that if continued, pubs like this will lose money even faster than they already are. Ultimately it’s good that Murdoch and the pubs won’t be able to flog this, an innovation too far, and that more and more pubs won’t be able to afford his rip-off fees; ultimately it’s good that the bubble will burst and hopefully there will be knock-on effects like premier league wages tumbling, etc, etc….good.

In the short-term, though, it was just a right pisser that I had to watch this headache-inducing out-of-focus excuse for a spectacle. Of course most Liverpool fans have been saying that anyway, about most of the Reds’ preformances since Roy Hodgson arrived… but not as much as Aston Villa supporters have, since they were saddled with the diminished abilities of the once-great-but-now-clearly past-his-sell-by-date Gerard Houllier.

So I don’t know if was the blurred picture or the blurred performance of the Villa defence that made Liverpool’s makeshift strike force of David Ngog and Ryan Babel look half-decent. I couldn’t quite be sure because of the telly of course, but it looked like they had both scored within the first twenty minutes. Indeed, I can now use the wi-fi on this train to check the actual facts, and it seems this was an accurate guess – the match reports tell me that Ngog headed Liverpool into a 14th-minute lead as Villa failed miserably to deal with a corner, and Babel added a second two minutes later with a fine low finish. Even without the specs I could appreciate the rare moment of clarity in the 55th minute as Maxi Rodriguez played a visionary one-two with Ngog to add the third goal. But the  most muddled vision of the night was certainly Houllier’s, if he thinks that John Carew and Robert Pires are any longer capable of changing a premiership match, as they replaced Agbonlahor and Albrighton with half an hour remaining. They hardly touched the ball, and it was Liverpool that should have added more goals as several players had further chances.

What is crystal clear is rather than listening to post-match interviews where both these increasingly deluded managers are asked questions about how they can improve their squads in January, we should not have to wait much longer until their squads are improved by their own departures – any match report that does not mention this is incomplete (and none of the ones I’ve seen in the last hour on this train do). By the way, one of those reports tells me that Friedel was “badly exposed” for the first two Liverpool goals, but I surely they mean (ahem, sorry, it’s been a long day) “baldy exposed”? I’ll get me coat – I’m going to need it in Glasgow tonight, if this train ever arrives.

13th November 2010

Last Saturday morning we were visiting Claire’s granny in Fleetwood, and then we were off once again to the big match: AFC Liverpool at AFC Blackpool in the glamorous FA Vase. We drove past the factory where they make Fleetwood’s most famous export, Fisherman’s Friends, but that only made me shudder and want to load up on sweets and chocolate for the match. So we took the opportunity to visit a proper old-fashioned corner sweet shop, the locally-famous Rimmers. No papers, no tobacco, no groceries, just rows and rows of jars of lovely sweets. The friendly septuagenarian owners carefully weigh such delicacies as vimto lollies and parched peas into quarter pound bags (if weights and measures officials are reading this, I asked for “120 grammes”, honest). If you ask really nicely, you might even get a two ounce bag (“60 grammes”, if the Metric Stasi are reading). Parched peas for the visit to gran, sherbert lemons for Claire and chocolate limes for me. My confection of choice when I can’t make up my mind whether I want chocolate or a sweet.

Grounds in leagues like the Northwest Counties (Vodkat) Division One are similarly reminiscent of a bygone age, and like Rimmers sweet shop, I reckon we should treasure them and make the effort to visit them more often. That’s what I believe, but of course what I actually do is another matter. When AFC Liverpool was first being set up, I told my mates I was thinking of getting a season ticket. That was when I thought the best part of a thousand fanatics were going to turn up at Valerie Park every week in search of real honest football and a real atmosphere, rather than just a couple of hundred. So despite all my best intentions I never even made it to a single AFC Liverpool match until this, their third season. Living across the Pennines in Leeds is a decent enough excuse, and anyway Prescot turns out to be a bugger to get to on public transport from there. Meanwhile I’ve been to more AFC Wimbledon matches than AFC Liverpool. In fact I have to confess I’ve seen FC United more than I’ve seen AFC Liverpool ! Whatever my infidelity, all of these fan-founded, fan-run teams are an inspiration and long may they prosper.

The first time FC United of Manchester came to AFC Blackpool, the year after their foundation, the seaside away day was treated as a kind of “Euro away” by the new protest club, and they brought some 4,500 fans, with the tie switched to Bloomfield Road and both clubs making plenty of useful cash out of the whole day. Today’s away cup tie has attracted 45 AFC Liverpool supporters out of a total crowd of about 135.

Personally I have mixed feelings about whether AFC Liverpool should also have been set up as the protest club that their bold and Bolshie badge design suggests. It could have been, but it wasn’t, for good reasons that have been debated and put to bed by now. Because their raisons d’être are so different the comparison between AFC Liverpool and FC United has become spurious, not to say irritating,  to all who are involved with the fledgling Merseyside club.  “Is It Against Liverpool FC?” is a FAQ on their website “No. Quite the opposite,” surfers are told. “It draws its support base from Liverpool fans. AFC Liverpool fans still support Liverpool and those who can afford to will still go to Anfield to support the Reds. The club is meant as a grassroots addition to Liverpool FC, not to be a replacement for it…..thousands of Reds can’t get to games anymore, either because it is difficult to get tickets or because they can’t afford them. The average age of a Premiership fan is 43, so we need a way to get kids hooked into experiencing football at an actual match, surrounded by a passionate LFC community.”

But the inevitable result of it not being a protest club, particularly with AFC’s home ground being well outside Liverpool itself in Prescot, is that average crowds are less than a tenth of FC United’s, averaging around 140 at the moment, and I’m told that just a couple of dozen kids do regularly attend the games.

Of course for some AFC fans it’s also at least partly about being able to stand. For their £5 (£3 kids), today’s crowd can choose whether they stand or sit, leeward or windward, sing or stay silent, bring their own flasks, sup their own fine ales or avail themselves of the clubhouse facilities. The away contingent  are free to stand and sing, and to change ends at half time like so many of us used to do in the good old days. I’m reminded of many happy childhood days at the lower league grounds, but there’s certainly no innocence in the chants of the away fans. These old-school supporters aren’t too bothered about making friends, whether it was “You can stick your raffle up your arse” or “Tangerine, tangerine,  Your tower’s shit, And so’s your team.” And there was me naively thinking there would be plenty of mutual solidarity amongst the supporters at this sort of level.

Surely not as proud and honourable as ... a seagull !??

Liverpool were the better team from the outset, and the disparity in passing ability was such that it was actually hard to believe that these two clubs  stand in adjacent league positions, second and third respectively. Despite all their superiority, though, AFCL did not force many saves and were lucky not to go in at half-time a goal down, the referee not seeing the clear case for an AFC Blackpool penalty.

Blackpool rallied second half, especially after AFCL took their deserved lead with a penalty of their own, but as the home side tired AFCL had several chances to settle the match. My own vote for man-of-the-match, Karl Gornell on the left, broke powerfully out of defence and floated an inch-perfect crossfield pass to Steven Jones, who turned a defender inside out and calmly rounded the keeper to make it 2-0 with virtually the last kick of the match. Check it out at the very end of the match highlights video, around 8 minutes into this clip:

http://afcliverpool.org.uk/go/1st-team/fa-vase-highlights-afc-blackpool-0-2-afc-liverpool.html

“A goal fit to settle any cup tie” is my featured cliché-of-the-day.

By then those away supporters were already looking forward to a trip to “Wemberley, Wemberley….we’re the greatest club in non-league and we’re going to Wemberley,” and combining both the predictable and the extremely unlikely in their promise that “We’ll be drinking in the bars, When we win the FA vase, AFC, AFC”

If they do progress beyond the next round, AFC Liverpool will indeed have to be seen as real contenders, because  the draw has presented the Liverpudlian faithful with a longer and far tougher trip to the seaside in the next round. The holders themselves, Whitley Bay, await on December 4th. Hopefully this FA Vase run can continue and attract a wee bit more glam and publicity to swell the AFC Liverpool crowds, the same way that this season’s FA cup exploits have helped further accelerate the causes of AFC Wimbledon and FC United. Onwards and upwards.

I wish I could say that a Liverpool victory over a Blackpool side was sweet revenge for Claire’s lads’ nightmare victory (or glorious triumph, depending which side of the relationship you’re on) at Anfield a few weeks ago, but she didn’t seem all that bothered. Meanwhile for me the sweet taste of victory didn’t even last as long as the chocolate limes and sherbert lemons, which we were still sucking as we watched on telly in the pub while the other Liverpool, all too predictably stumbled and then crumbled at Stoke.

When the fixtures came out this year there was one date at Anfield I looked for more than any other. Not Everton or United, but newly-promoted Blackpool – my partner Claire’s team. The last time a member of Claire’s family set foot inside Anfield it was 40 years ago during  Blackpool’s last season in the top flight – that was her granddad Len and he was in the dug-out at pitch-side as Blackpool’s first team coach that day – I suppose these days they’d call him an “assistant manager”.  To say she has the club in her blood is an understatement – the only reason Claire exists is that her granddad Len moved his family by chance to Blackpool to work for the club, after Stanley Matthews recommended him to his fellow tangerine legend Stan Mortensen, the Seasiders’ manager in the late sixties. That’s basically the only reason Claire’s dad ever met her mum in Blackpool, and the rest is history.

So I made sure we got tickets in the Annie Road End for this one, because we both knew that with tickets at the tangerines’ cramped Bloomfield Road ground so hard to come by for non-season-ticket-holders this season it just might be one of the few chances Claire would ever get to watch her team play in the Premier League. To me, teams like Blackpool seem to belong in the top flight – after all, they were there in that 1970-71 season when I first properly started following Liverpool. I remember collecting their players, with names like Jimmy Armfield, Tommy Hutchinson and Alan Suddick, in my first sticker book that season.

Even if the names of Blackpool’s current squad trip even less readily of the nation’s tongues, I for one wasn’t underestimating them. Claire pointed out just before kick-off that on the equivalent weekend last season the tangerines had lost 4-1 at Crystal Palace, and were still one of the favourites for relegation. But this season they had already chalked up two premiership away wins with the same bright, attacking football that rocked Forest and Cardiff in those romantic play-off come-backs back in May. Yes, they were destroyed in their only other two away games, at the Emirates and Stamford Bridge, but let’s face it Liverpool’s football at home this season has had more in common with Newcastle’s or Wigan’s than with Arsenal’s or Chelsea’s. In Charlie Adam and Matt Gilks Blackpool have two of the premiership players of this season so far, with DJ Campbell the most astute loan signing of last season and Luke Varney one of the most astute of this campaign. Add to these a number of players born in Merseyside and North Wales, including of course the obligatory LFC academy reject (Gary Taylor-Fletcher) and you just knew they’d be especially determined to do well at Anfield.

So you can imagine how easy it was for their charismatic manager Ian Holloway to relax his team before kick off. “There’s nothing to lose lads. The pressure’s all on them. In their last two home matches they haven’t beaten Northampton or Sunderland.  The club’s in crisis, the loyal fans have been protesting against the owners before the match, a lot of them are calling for the new manager’s head already, and the disloyal ones will be getting on the players’ backs if they don’t score early on …they’ll be tired after a their European game in Holland less than 3 days ago… they think we’ll be a soft touch, but we’ll show them. There are 3,000 of our fans out there, and I bet they’ll be making more noise than the Kop, even if you do fall behind.  Let’s get out there and show them of a bit the old Wemberrley spirit.”

And so it came to pass, and it came down to passing.  Holloway’s plan was to attack with width from the off, and in midfielders Charlie Adam and David Vaughan they the best distribution on the pitch throughout the first half. It was no surprise when a Scottish mate told me a few days later that Adam’s arrival as a second half substitute for Scotland against Spain had helped transform that match too!

When Torres limped off after just nine minutes there was even more belief in the Blackpool ranks, on and off the field. We’d got tickets in the Anfield Road End as Claire wanted to see and hear the away fans at close quarters. “Just like a library, same as at Highbury” they chanted. After all, “Just like the Emirates, the atmosphere degenerates” wouldn’t quite work as well. “This is the best trip I’ve ever been on,” they continually  sang, even before they took the lead deservedly after half an hour.
“Come on down to the sea,
To see the Blackpool FC,
Come on down to the shore, don’t let me go home,
Don’t wanna go home, don’t wanna go ho-ho-home,
This is the best trip I’ve ever been on.”

There were also plenty of renditions of their own Lancashire version of the Blaydon races:
“Woah, the lads,
You never see us comin’,
Hardest in the land,
And you never see us runnin’.
All the lads and lasses,
Smiles upon their faces,
Going down to Bloomfield Road,
to see the Blackpool aces!”

And an intriguingly minimalist instrumental track to the tune of UB40’s One-in-Ten:
”Der der, der der der der,
Der der, der der der der,
Der der, der der der der,
Der der, der der der der…”

But my favourite chant was their version of a catchy song that is sung endlessly by a lot of German supporter groups these days, and which seemed to take Championship grounds by storm last season too, after Palace fans, Cardiff etc., took it up. I’ve noticed that Celtic fans, too, have recently been bouncing on the terraces to this one, under the influence of their friends at St. Pauli no doubt, but this was the first time I’d heard it at a Premier League ground:
“We love you, we love you, we love you,
And where you play we follow, we follow, we follow,
Cos we support the Blackpool, the Blackpool, the Blackpool
And that’s the way we like it, we like it, we like it,
Wo-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh, Wo-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh,
Wo-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh, Wo-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh, Wo-oh-oh…”
With it’s Celtic & St. Pauli lineage, we could do a lot worse than get a version of this song going ourselves.  Yes, I know they all got their education from the Kop, but now it can work both ways. It’s got a beat you can bounce to, and most importantly it’s one of those chants you can keep going non-stop for ages. My fridge at home is covered with Euro ultra stickers, and one of my favourites from the St. Pauli Ultras shows a picture of their packed Sudkurve and the words “Keine Atempause”, which translates I think as “Not one moment of pause”. If you’ve been to a match at the Millerntor you’ll know that’s no idle boast.

Yes I also know it’s easy for away supporters to be louder and better than the home supporters at almost any ground in England these days, and I know it happens all the time at Anfield even when the home crowd aren’t as depressed as most Liverpool fans were that day, but I must say I was particularly impressed by the backing the Blackpool following gave. They come across as proper long-term hardcore fans rather than the bandwagon jumpers you get with some newly-promoted teams. They are determined to enjoy their season and at this rate they all will.

By the way, did you know there is already one Kop standard which was borrowed from Blackpool in the late 60’s ? Emlyn Hughes was the greatest thing we got off them in those days, but he wasn’t the longest serving. Ever wondered why “We hate Nottingham Forest ?” begins “We hate Nottingham Forest ?” Yes, because it fits, and yes because we particularly hated Forest in their ‘Clough era’,  but Liverpool fans had been singing this one for nearly a decade before Forest ever became a great team and a serious rival of ours. The words are as they are because I have it on very good authority from members of the late 60’s travelling Kop that they originally borrowed the song from Blackpool fans who sang “We hate Nottingham Forest, we hate Tottenham too…” after a couple of close-fought relegation battles, and actual battles with their fans too, between those Blackpool, Spurs & Forest teams in the late 60’s.  Whether from the Hit Parade, from Brazil or Greece,  Scotland or Blackpool….the great Kop songs all have to come from somewhere.

At that last league match at Anfield in 1971, Blackpool were leading 2-1 until a late own goal gave Liverpool a draw. When Gilks saved a point-blank header from Kyriakos in added time we knew that there’d be no late equaliser today… “Alan Hansen ! What a wanker ! What a wanker !” the seaside fans sang at the final whistle in reference to that TV pundit’s recent certainty that their side will go down. A few of the home fans boo-ed their own team briefly, but more of us stood and applauded Blackpool off.  Claire’s grandad Len’s Blackpool side went straight back down in 1971, and they may well do so again in 2011, but for now I hope they carry on enjoying every moment and do stay in this division, because so far it is most definitely what their positive football and their even more positive support deserves.

Before the match we’d planned to join the protest march against Gillett and Hicks, but  torrential rain had triggered accidents on the M62 and we only just made kick-off. So we made sure we stayed on with a couple of thousand at the end to stand and chant “You lying bastards, get out of our club”, “Liverpool Football Club is in the wrong hands” and several others from the new protest songbook. It was the best Kop singing and the best display of the “This is Anfield” spirit all afternoon. The Spirit of Shankly supporters’ union has been the embodiment of that spirit these past three seasons, and in the days that followed this match it became more and more obvious how much the pressure the supporters’ groups had applied in their campaign had been a key factor in the defeat of Hicks and Gillett. If and when we finally get our new stadium, I beg all concerned to let these loyal supporters stand together, as they did in dignfied but determined protest today, as they do at away matches, every fortnight. Then the true spirit of the old Anfield will always be preserved.