From August to May, Liverpool games come thick and fast. Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday or Sunday-Thursday-Thursday depending on the competitions we’re in. Visits to Anfield are quickly followed by treks around the country or to a far foreign land. The life of a Liverpool supporter is a busy one.
Then, one afternoon in May, a blow of the referee’s whistle brings it all to a halt. Three Liverpool-free months follow. It feels longer!
A Saturday normally consists of a pint, a pie and 90 minutes cheering the reds on. In the summer months, things couldn’t be more different. Weeks of following your missus around shops, watching another Brave Brit/Scottish Bottler crumble at the semi-final stage of Wimbledon and the summer rain ruin all your BBQ plans, means the sight of seeing Luis Suarez waltz through another defence is long overdue.
Of course, not every summer is as football-free as the current one. Every other year the Euros or World Cup provide a summer fix for us football-aholics. In truth though, they don’t compare to watching the reds week-in-week-out. Unless Lionel Messi is dribbling past 10 men before scoring for Argentina, or Xavi and Iniesta are orchestrating the wonderful Spanish side, then I am either more concerned about Liverpool players staying injury-free or on checking out some random South Korean player that the tabloids, or Twitter “In The Knows”, have linked us with.
In mid-June, as the boredom starts to really set in, we see a brief chink of light as the famous fixture computer, or Alex Ferguson as it should be known, spews out the matches for the new domestic season. Seeing the fixtures written down in black and white, our eyes are first drawn to the opening game, then excitedly to the dates when we meet Man United and Everton. Our Christmas schedule is mapped out, with the run-in allowing us to dream about at which stadium we will seal the title.
Another month of watching random sport goes by; Cricket, Athletics, Rugby League, all sports that are normally never given a second glance. Desperate for a bit of football, all eyes are trained on the Sky Sports Breaking news ticker hoping for some activity at Anfield. Liverpool internet forums, Twitter and BBC Gossip pages are refreshed continuously, as the missing pieces to the title-winning jigsaw are sought.
Mid-July the mood starts to lift. The players are back in training and the pre-season games kick-off. Poor results against no-mark teams are disregarded, with ‘vital Match Fitness’ the positive. But at the other end of the spectrum a good performance from a player raises false hope for the season, see Bruno Cheyrou and Joe Cole. As the season draws closer, the excitement and anticipation builds. The season’s predictions are cast, bets are made and Fantasy Football teams picked.
Then, one sunny day in August (it’s always sunny on the opening day), the new season arrives. For one day, every football fan in the country excitedly heads to the ground thinking that this is the start of something big, this will be their club’s year. For most, it only takes 90 minutes for that idea to disappear never to return.
Only 3 times in the last 10 years have we started the season at home – and on two of those occasions we had to play Chelsea and Arsenal! This year, Fergie, sorry the computer, has gone against the norm, pitting us up against Sunderland at Anfield, a team predicted to be mid-table. The game should represent a chance for us to start off with 3 points, whilst it will also allow new-signing Jordan Henderson to meet up with his former team-mates.
So, this coming Saturday we will all flock back to Anfield. The long summer will be a distant memory. Ahead of us will be an exciting season under King Kenny’s stewardship. As normal, we will go into it full of confidence, expecting success. The Kop will be packed, the atmosphere buzzing, fans decked out in the new replica shirts (OK maybe not the blue one!). This time, the sound of the ref’s whistle will signify the start of 10 football-filled months. Heaven!
The collective roar will reverberate around Anfield…. “COME ON REDMEN… These are Sh*te!”
5 OPENING GAMES WHICH MADE THE SUMMER WAIT WORTH IT…
Signed from lowly Sc*nthorpe United for £350,000, the opening game of the 1971-72 season saw the debut of Kevin Keegan. An unknown quantity to many, Keegan impressed immediately, scoring at the Kop End after only 12 minutes. Tommy Smith added another, before Emlyn Hughes later rounded off a 3-1 victory. Keegan would go on to become a Liverpool superstar.
The summer of 1987 saw the departure of star striker Ian Rush. With a massive gap to fill, Kenny Dalglish built a new-look side with John Barnes, Peter Beardsley and John Aldridge the attacking threat. A difficult trip to Highbury was their first test, which they passed with flying colours. After only 9 minutes, Beardsley found Barnes, whose cross was brilliantly headed home by Aldo. With two minutes to go, the score at 1-1, Steve Nicol’s remarkable 20-yard header gave Liverpool the win. Dalglish’s new-look side went on to win the league at a canter, becoming one of the best teams in Liverpool’s history.
After a poor campaign the previous season, a trip to Crystal Palace on the opening day looked a tricky proposition. Within 12 minutes though, Jan Molby scored from the spot and Liverpool never looked back. Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler made it 3-0 before a Palace consolation. Ian Rush(2) and another McManaman goal completed the 6-1 scoreline, a perfect way to start the new season.
After his British record £8.5m summer move from Nottingham Forest, all eyes were on Stan Collymore. A tight game of few chances eventually came to life in the 61st minute with striker Collymore justifying his massive transfer fee. Receiving the ball back to goal 25 yards out, he brilliantly worked space before curling a left-foot shot low to Kevin Pressman’s right. The burden of the transfer was immediately lifted, with Collymore going on to form a formidable partnership with Robbie Fowler
With the summer arrival of £20m+ striker Fernando Torres, hopes were high of a Liverpool title challenge. The trip to Villa Park started well, with a Martin Laursen own goal giving the reds the lead just past the half hour. With only five minutes to go though, it looked like the 3 points had been lost as summer transfer target Gareth Barry levelled things from the spot. But once again captain Steven Gerrard was Liverpool’s saviour, as two minutes later he hit a brilliant 22-yard free-kick into the top corner to give the reds an opening day victory.
… AND 5 OPENING GAMES WHICH MADE YOU WANT THE SUMMER TO LAST ONE WEEK LONGER
In glorious sunshine Liverpool travelled to Loftus Road only to return empty-handed. Gerry Francis carved open the Liverpool defence to open the scoring with what was later named Match of The Day’s Goal of the season. A second-half header from Mick Leach gave the R’s a 2-0 victory. However, Liverpool recovered to win the championship, pipping their opening day conquerors by a single point.
In 1981, a trip to Molineux resulted in an opening day defeat for the reds. With Bruce Grobbelaar making his debut in the Liverpool goal, the reigning European Champions struggled to get going, with Mick Matthews netting the only goal for the hosts. Liverpool continued to struggle for the first half of the season, before a remarkable run from January onwards saw them win the league by four points.
The 1992-93 season opener against Nottingham Forest, was also Liverpool’s opening game of the new Premier League era. Surrounded by bucket loads of hype, Liverpool travelled to the City Ground for Sky’s first live televised league match. A below par performance from Graeme Souness’ men resulted in a 1-0 defeat, with Teddy Sheringham blasting the winner past David James. It was a sign of things to come as the reds endured a poor season, finishing 6th.
Now owned by Russian Billionaire Roman Abramovich, new-look Chelsea inflicted an opening day defeat on Liverpool. On a day where Harry Kewell and Steve Finnan both made their Liverpool debut, the visitors took the lead through Sebastian Veron. Michael Owen’s penalty brought the scores level with 10 minutes to go, only for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink to grab a deserved winner. Chelsea went on to win the league, whilst Liverpool finished a disappointing fourth, with manager Gerard Houllier losing his job shortly after the season’s end.
After finishing the previous season in 2nd place, despite the summer loss of influential midfielder Xabi Alonso, there was a genuine belief that the reds could go one better in the 2009-10 campaign. But things couldn’t have gone any worse in the opener at White Hart Lane. A stunning goal from Benoit Assou-Ekotto gave Spurs the lead. The reds levelled through a Steven Gerrard penalty, before Sebastian Bassong won the game for the hosts with a towering header. A clash of heads between defenders Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel topped off a poor reds performance.
This article was featured in Issue 9 of WELL RED – The Independent Liverpool Fans’ magazine. You can either purchase the magazine online at http://tinyurl.com/BuyWellRed or find your nearest stockist at http://www.anladvantage.co.uk/WhereToBuy.aspx
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