Not long after I arrived in Kirkham Open prison, the officer in charge of the Sunday-five-a-side competition asked me if I fancied a game. I turned up before two on Sunday to find the whole place packed. Eighty-odd prisoners, fifteen teams, it was a fiasco – they’d all come because they knew I’d be there. We had our fair share of games and I enjoyed the run-out but I remember that day because of a bit of an incident with this long-haired fella from Manchester. He’d never been to a five-a-side before, he couldn’t play football, and as he came running towards me I nutmegged him. As I tried to run around him, he ran straight into me and pushed me up against the wall. Before I could do anything, a couple of Scousers who were watching from above slipped down the wall and took care of him while as the games was going on. He got a real working-over.
To be honest, I was never worried about getting hit by some nutter. I was big enough to look after myself and I could give as good as I got but deliberately kept myself to myself anyway. My routine during the twenty-one days I spent there never varied. We went up six o’clock to have a shave and put on our uniform – a pair of jeans, a shirt and a tie – and then after breakfast, we’d go to work. I started in the clothes exchange department. The 700 prisoners would bring their dirty clothes into us and we would put them into skips to be cleaned. When they came back, we’d place them into compartments for the men to collect. The fellow in charge was a big Manchester United fan and we used to have a bet on games, with a Mars Bar as the stake. I’d only been working there 4 or 5 days before I was transferred to the hospital wing. This was the best job in the prison because I was moved out of the barracks and into the wing. All I did was a bit of cleaning. I had so much spare time on my hands that I’d been in the prison gym for 6 or 8 hours a day. I was working harder at keeping fit than when I’d been at Anfield!
After 21 days of relative luxury at Kirkham, I was moved to Preston prison, just down the road for another 3 weeks. I was locked up in my cell for 23 of every 24 hours. To be fair, I was lucky enough to find a sympathetic prison officer. He used finish his shift at 4 o’clock in the afternoon and take me down to the gym for a session. He’d put me through a fifty-minute circuit at the only time of the day the gym was free. Although he was a big Manchester United fan, he didn’t hold my Liverpool connection against me. For the rest of the day, I read, listened to the radio and slept. My solicitor once brought me ten books. I finished them in two days. They were all about Liverpool. I only saw the wardens and one other prisoner, who had a broken leg. He had been jailed for murdering his wife, in a classic crime of passion. He’d come home one day to find her in bed with another man and had completely flipped. He was a lovely fella, and I’d spend 10 minuted chatting with him every day. After 14 years inside, he was 6 months away from release and about to start a new life. Perhaps he had mellowed over time, but I just couldn’t believe he was a murderer. In a way I felt sorry for him. He’d certainly paid for his one moment of madness.
As time went by, I was starting to worry more and more about the prospect of facing Liverpool Football Club, and the world in general. Nobody from the club came to see me when I was locked up. I think Kenny might have wanted but didn’t feel it was the right thing to do. It would probably have turned into a media circus had he arrived at prison. I was disappointed that nobody from Liverpool wrote to me, especially as I had received some personal good-luck messages from the Danish squad. But although I was worried, I was more than a little relieved to be released. I was woken up as usual at about six and had a bath and a shave. There were so many media people waiting outside I had to leave the prison in secret. Just before seven o’clock, a convoy of cars carrying prison officers swept through the gates of Preston prison with me tucked away in one of the boots. Very secretive and very exciting. An hour later when everybody was released, the reporters and photographers outside were still outside the gates scratching their heads and looking for yours truly.
Later that day Kevin [his solicitor] drove me to Anfield. I bypassed reception altogether. The players were out training, so I did some work around the pitch. After a while, they came back from Melwood to find me sitting in the dressing room waiting for them. At first, they didn’t know how to handle my return – they didn’t know what to expect. Nobody asked what prison had been like. I remember Ray Houghton’s reaction. I was never that close to him but he was absolutely made up to see me. After a few moments Kenny Dalglish said it was time to go and we drove back to his house for lunch. Kenny put most of my fears to rest by telling me what I desperately wanted to hear. He said he wanted to keep me but we would have to face the board the next day.
© Grahame Lloyd & Jan Mølby. The book Jan the Man: From Anfield to Vetch Field is available on Amazon.co.uk.