View from the people - Brian Bentley
The history of LFC is not my strong point, having usually been half pissed when standing on The Kop and finding out, at the age of 16, that my bladder could only just hold three pints until half time (that was against Southampton), but I can compete with the best of them in the ‘I was there’ stakes. I’m not necessarily talking about St Etienne 1977 but the more obscure memories like Iztvan Kozma’s one and only corner kick, Graeme Souness laying out Tommy Booth, Bruce Grobbelaar kissing Tommy Caton or even Ray Clemence scoring against Tranmere Rovers.
Where you there when Phil Babb split his knackers on the post against Chelsea? From my permanent spot on The Kop – my feet level with the angle of crossbar and post (to the keeper’s left hand), I have witnessed 30 years of triumph mixed with a liberal sprinkling of shite. From Larry Lloyd, Peter Cormack and Bamber Hall through David Hodgson, Fatty Robbo and John Wark to the present day. They all wore red and so did I.
If you remember seeing an adrenaline propelled 14 year old running from Anfield to James Street Station, with blood coming from a leg wound, at about 9:30pm on March 16th 1977, please contact your local sports psychologist - for that spotty faced youth was me.
The date should well be embossed onto every true Red’s brain but, if you’re too young, the mention of David Fairclough should be enough.
Fairclough paves the way to European glory in Rome
The day (a Wednesday) had started grimly what with double Physics and a bastard of a Latin test but, brandishing falsified ‘Please excuse my son from games’ documents, Neil Sampson, his brother Kevin, and myself, slipped quietly into Liverpool City Centre. Of course we had managed to get rid of the school clothes and there, waiting for the 26 bus at 2pm behind the Empire, stood three scallies with red and white scarves tied to our wrists.Even at 3pm, over 4 hours before kick-off, the queues to get into The Kop were miles long. We waited. I had a small wooden stool with me, it had been my perch at Anfield since 1970 and also served as a goal at one end of my dad’s garage.
We got into The Kop at around 6 and there, for three and a half hours, we were squeezed, bashed, mauled and pushed, something you don’t get now we all have nice plastic seats. I don’t think I need to go into detail about the game. Needless to say, I didn’t see David Fairclough’s goal, he had just controlled Ray Kennedy’s pass and got into the penalty area when it all went black.
The stool was left behind as I was carried up the steps in a wave of sweaty bodies. Neil and Kevin disappeared – occasionally bobbing up further and further away. Now, if anyone out there remembers The Kop how it was then get ready for a tear-jerking tale. At the top, in the middle, you had the choice of going left or right. On that night, I had no choice as, being about 2 foot shorter than all around me, I had to trust to luck – we went right. Then it happened. There, just at the top of the steps leading down and past the bogs was a post, some 24 inches tall. These days, Health and Safety would have come down on such an obstacle like a proverbial ton of bricks but that night, it was my bollocks that hit it full on. Screaming with pain, I was lifted from behind by some massive red faced docker and carried to safety. The post had ripped my Brutus Golds and pierced the skin from inner thigh to knee as Mr Stevedore yanked me skywards.
And that was that. Now we had to get out and get home but we couldn’t move. Out in the street, dodging people and Cortinas, I made my way back down the bus route, breaking into an exuberant run as I got ahead of the crowds.So, Scottie Road into town I ran, got on a train at James Street and phoned my Mum to pick me up. Bless her cotton support tights, she’d listened to the match on Radio City and had been too involved to tuck into a bottle of Cinzano. It was such a blessed relief when the familiar brown Austin Allegro turned up at Hamilton Square to take me home, my blood stained scarf still tied to my wrist.
Where’s the stool?” asked my silver haired chaffeur.
How ever it happened, and I cannot quite remember how it did, for reasons that will become evident, I found myself in the Players’ Bar after the 2001 Worthington Cup Final in Cardiff.
Just 20 minutes after Andrew Johnson had missed the penalty that meant that Gérard Houllier had secured his first trophy as Liverpool manager and it would be the first of five that year. Mrs Redknapp was in the corner with a few of her friends and the one and only Russ Abbott. It was free beer and Mr Abbott and myself became friends very rapidly as we took advantage of the Welsh hospitality.
Standing at the bar waiting for another pint of Carlsberg (brand loyalty and all that) and a flushed, freshly showered Jamie Carragher appears next to me and promptly orders three pints for himself. I found this odd as, the next day, he was to report for duty, for the first time, with the England Squad but he put my mind at rest by explaining that it was his intention to get totally p****ed.
I managed to speak with most of the Liverpool players whilst getting more pie-eyed myself. Vegard Heggem showed me the tramline scars which were to end his career, Marcus Babbel’s jumper was the source of much hilarity and then I spotted them – Vlad Smicer and Patrik Berger, well away from the rest of the crowd, standing in a quiet corner watching Blankety Blank on the bar’s TV.
The Czech pair smiled politely when I approached for their autographs and Berger explained that they watched TV in order to further their collective grasp of the English language. This was all very strange as, in another part of the room, Gregory Vignal was teaching Emile Heskey some French, Steven Gerrard and Danny Murphy looked bored, Didi Hamann was approaching suicidal tendencies after missing what could have been a vital penalty himself and Sander Westerveld was simply huge.
Everywhere I went, everyone I spoke to, Russ Abbott was next to me – smoking his pipe.
When beating Newcastle was a benchmark, the Melwood car park was brimming with the flashiest, most expensive cars that money could buy. Jags and Mercs alongside Porsches and big BMWs but one car, in particular, stood out from all the rest. There, in the midst of the expensive metal, was a battered Volkswagen Passat Estate. “Must be one of the cleaner’s cars” – I hear you say. No, it belonged to a regular first team player but which one? I hung around until the end of training to find out.
Note: A picture of a different Volkswagen Passat Estate
than mentioned in the story but of comparative ugliness!
Whose Is The Shed was the big question.
Mark Wright always was a law unto himself. Let's hope he owns a better car now.
The Wolves and the Alsatians
Of course, most Liverpool fans have a story to tell about one away game or another – mine comes from right at the very start of the 1983-84 season.
‘Let’s go to Wolves tomorrow’ was the consensus of opinion in The Talbot on the Friday night. Of course, come Saturday morning at 10am, there were just three of us – heading down the M6 in my rusty Fiat.
If you’ve ever been to Molineux, then you’ll know exactly which pub I’m on about when I say that we stopped at the first drinking house on the main drag off the M6 heading towards Wolverhampton. I had only just opened the car door when the landlord appeared, with a huge Alsatian shackled to each wrist. He wasn’t going to let us in so we threw half a dozen oranges at his dogs and sped off (as fast as a Fiat could possibly speed).
How many (innocent) match-goers had that pan-faced Black Country arse turned away in his tenancy? So, I presume like every other one who had faced the wrath of the pub dogs, we sought a pint elsewhere. The next pub is only a mile down the road and we were welcomed with open arms, and it was still two hours to kick-off. It was only when pulling out of the car park to head for Molineux did we see the barman, who had just served us copious amounts of Skol, or some other cheap lager, heading for the bus stop with a Liverpool shirt on!! Yes, of course we gave him a lift.
As for the game itself, Rushie scored with a deflected shot as the main group of travelling Liverpool fans performed what looked like a rain dance in the top three rows of the Main Stand. It finished 1-1.
We managed to round up about 150 Reds as we headed back home but, before slipping back onto the motorway, we called at ‘the dog pub’ again. Hopelessly outnumbered, the Alsatians whimpered and the landlord, whose name was (and still is) Barry, had no choice but to let us all in. We taught him a lesson he’ll never forget!!! We bought, and drank beer. We were all extremely polite and we all graciously thanked him for his hospitality as we left. Barry’s poor dogs weren’t so lucky. One wag had concealed a lump of the very best Lebanese black in a meat pie and fed it to ‘Bootsy and Snudge’. The sight of a pair of Black Country Alsatians completely stoned, wandering around listening to Bob Marley on the jukebox and continually falling over is something I shan’t forget.
Okay, so we all had mixed feelings when David Johnson signed for The Mighty Reds. He had, of course, played for Everton.
Johnson, who I would prefer to say 'also played for Ipswich', became somewhat of a cult hero of mine, and not because of his moustache, but for the fact that he fitted into the mould of 'typical Liverpool player' of that era i.e. he could play a bit but, if the opposition wanted a scrap, he could also put himself about. Remember that it was Johnson who was fed by King Kenny to smash a perfect 50 yard pass into Steve Heighway's path for the seventh goal against Spurs.
So, how come he'd 'forgotten' about his best ever goal in a red shirt and it was down to me to remind him?
Like a lot of unfortunate ex-players, Johnson became an insurance salesman and began to frequent the trendy bars in Liverpool City Centre on Friday's after work. It was in 'The Bank' that I jogged his memory about 'that goal'. The conversation went something like this:-
BB - I was right behind the goal against Villa.
DJ - What on earth are you on about?
BB - Your left foot screamer from 30 yards.
DJ - Never scored with my left foot in my life
BB - Last game of the season. Remember?
DJ - No
BB - You had a black eye at the time
DJ (Penny drops) - Bloody hell yes!! Fancy a pint?
BB - Do one legged bears shit at an angle? ......
And, like most of my conversations with ex-Reds, that one ended in a drunken stupor too.
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