"The Greatest European Story Ever Told" is an epic undertaking started by the brilliant Wooltonian to raise money for The Hillsborough Justice Campaign. It is no longer available in book-form and not hosted anywhere for free access but Wooltonian sent it to us to share with Reds all over the world at LFChistory.net. The Greatest European Story Ever Told (GESET) stands at over 100 pages and covers every match the Reds have played in Europe since Liverpool's first game against KR Reykjavik in August 1964. It tells the stories of the games and interweaves many humorous fan recollections regarding their adventures away from home.
This was my first “Liverpool FC organised” overnight foreign trip following the Tricky Reds, it was 27 years ago when I was 19, thin, had a full head of black hair, and my own teeth. One night whilst having a couple of bevies with my mates, it was suggested that we should consider going to the away game in Dresden in East Germany. Initially, most of them said “Yes, ok, I'm up for it”, we eagerly awaited details of the travel arrangements. Once they were available most of them dropped out of the trip, it was an awful lot of money? We ended up with three of us prepared for the journey and an experience of a lifetime. At that time, I was earning something like £18.00 a week the cost of the travel package to Dresden was around the £100.00 mark. I worked as much midweek overtime as possible, got money for Christmas presents, etc. and soon managed to collect enough to afford the trip. We where really lucky at that time because one of my other mates brothers, used to travel to the away games by car, this enabled us to still go to most away’s on the cheap. One night my Dad pulled me aside gave me £ 50.00 towards the cost for Dresden, he said “Don't tell your Mum or any of the others, I had a good win on the horses and want you to have this.” I told him I had already sorted the money side of things out he said “keep it lad, put it towards any of the away games you have planned.” Superb, the old fellah always helped me out when money for the games was a bit tight.
We booked our plane – match tickets, hotel accommodation, etc. with Town's travel in Liverpool City centre, we also had to go to Anfield to let them know we had booked for the game. No computers in them days, and for some reason we had to take a copy of the booking slip from Town's travel to Liverpool FC. We were already members of the “Anfield Special” club, as we tried our best to travel to nearly all the league / Cup away games in them days.
Travelling to East Germany was a journey into the unknown, we couldn't find anyone who had travelled last time we played there in 1973. We were told that we could only take £ 25.00 out of the UK, and that owing to political reasons, we would not be allowed to take any books, magazines, newspapers, etc. into Dresden. Anyhow, we had managed to beg, steal or borrow enough money to sort out the travel costs and we had £25.00 spending money each. Bags packed with new or best clobber, it was time for the off. We made our way to Anfield for around 8.00 – 8.30 in the morning of Tuesday 2nd March (Shrove Tuesday) boarded our coaches and were taken to Speke Airport. Upon arrival, we were told we might have to go to Manchester as it was too foggy for the plane to land. Most of the 73 Liverpool supporters complained that we didn't want to go via Manchester, but our complaints fell on deaf ears.
Eventually, we boarded the plane and whizzed off from Liverpool to Dresden, our courier was Christa Berthold, and she was a stunner, long blonde hair and a figure to break your heart. As we approached Dresden airport, Christa stood up and asked us to collect all our daily papers and put them in a bin bag, to be deposed of safely, hmm I thought hope its not going to be dead strict over there? A couple of lads rolled up their daily newspapers and put them in their socks, under their kecks. We got off the plane and were greeted by two lines of heavily armed East German soldiers, a couple of the lads made funny remarks to them, and goose-stepped along the airport reception area, not one of the soldiers, or the Liverpool tour official's laughed. We soon made our way to the checkout desk and were escorted onto coaches by the soldiers. As we travelled through Dresden, it was VERY noticeable that something “special” was going on. Christa explained that Shrove Tuesday was a huge celebration in East Germany and that it was Carnival time (Rosa Montag), and that the majority of people wore fancy dress costumes to help celebrate the occasion. We reached the New hotel in the middle of Dresden, we booked in and unpacked our gear in our hotel rooms in a matter of minutes and headed downstairs. I shared a room with my mate Ian Nunney from Thornton. Ian was one of my best mates (and still is), and he would travel “anywhere” to watch the Reds. Another lad was Lee he lived in Warbreck Moor in Aintree, sadly Ian no longer goes to the matches and we lost contact with Lee some years ago.
Anyway, the time in East Germany was 2 hours ahead of UK time, so it was still afternoon, and we were thirsty? We were told that the only place we could exchange £’s into Deutchmarks was at the Hotel reception, so we changed a £5.00 note for about 7 Deutchmarks and headed for the hotel bar. We were also told NOT to walk about Dresden alone as “things” may occur, and that it would be best if we stayed in the Hotel and enjoyed ourselves. Part of the deal included a sight seeing tour of Dresden, Christa was going around telling everyone to meet up in the hotel lobby as two coaches had been laid on for us. Being in our late teens we decided this was a definite 100% “no-goer” for us, we were soon joined by many others who wanted to stay and sample the refreshments behind the hotel bar. Christa looked across to us, somewhat bemused as we restarted our assault on the bar. No body ever knew the name of the other courier; she was a grumpy soul who kept herself to herself. Refreshed, it was time to rebel and go outside, we left our copies of the Daily Mirror, etc. at the Hotel Bar. About eight of us headed out, all decked in red and white, we walked through a huge square and reached a shopping complex, we looked at the prices of goods in the shop windows (cameras, televisions, etc.) and were amazed how cheap they were. The square had statues of famous East Germans and of course influential communist figureheads, armed soldiers goose-stepped along each side of the square, we soon joined in and goose-stepped our way in single line to the sanctuary of a bier Keller. Eventually we found a bier Keller it was massive, apprehensively we walked in and joined a queue, stony faced people dressed in drab clothing looking at us. We waited in line and ordered our lagers, these were served in huge heavy stein glasses. We sat down at one end of a long line of tables and surveyed the situation, one of the lads had ordered some food a waitress turned up with what looked like sausage and mash, the meal was huge, and the sausage was about 12” long and looked very tasty. Hunger pains got the better of us pretty soon all of us had one of these sausage and mash mountains in front of us. The sausage really did look superb, very appetising, one bite soon put paid to our preconceived presumptions, they were horrible full of spices and things that I had never tasted before or since that day. One by one the sausages where tasted and then discarded by they're hungry and disappointed recipients. The price of the meals and ale was incredibly cheap, something like 8 p for a stein of larger and 12 p for the meal, but of course in pfennings? As the lager flowed, a couple of lads wearing Dresden scarves approached us, we invited them to sit down and ordered some lagers for them. They turned out to be cracking blokes, up for a laugh and joke and not a hint of hostility from them. They spoke quite good English and we had no problem understanding them, we had to repeat ourselves a number of times, they couldn't understand Scouse. The lads sat in awe of us, and we asked why? They explained that not many away supporters from non-communist countries ever visit Dresden and we where the first English club to bring so many supporters with us.
After many many ales, around 7.00 that night, the gorgeous Christa suddenly appeared looking a bit flustered and said that we should be back at the hotel as a “special” meal had been laid on and everyone was waiting for us. Begrudgingly, we agreed to return to the hotel and walked back with our Dresden mates, purposely behind Christa, all of us lusting after Christa’s body. The hotel people had no idea who was who, so we sat the Dresden lads down and we all enjoyed a free meal and a few free ales. It was noticeable that there were more than 73 Liverpool supporters in the hotel now, around 40 Liverpudlians had driven by car to Dresden, I spoke to a number of them, most were from Liverpool, Kirkby, Huyton and Bootle. Most of them looked knackered after such long car journeys, some managed to last until 11.00 that night, but not many lasted after that. The Liverpool Supporters Club based in London had also turned up with around 100 fellow reds, they had booked their own charter plane independently of the Club, and booked accommodation in the same hotel. We had a distinct feeling that the Liverpool officials who organised our trip, weren't keen for the “independent” supporters to mix with us, so we made sure that we mixed with them, anyone who had travelled that far for a match was alright in my book. The London lads were about 33% split between scousers, exiled scousers and southern based supporters, we had a cracking time with them, as most of them also enjoyed a good bevy and a laugh. For years and years afterwards every now and then you would recognise some of them at other matches.
After a quick shower and change of clothes, back to the bar for more ale. We had a few bob still left from our 7 Deuchtmarks, one of the older blokes from London then approached us and whilst we supped with him, he said he had changed his “allowed” £ 25.00 with a tout outside for around 3 times the going rate. Happy days, quick as a starving fox after a big plumb rabbit, we legged it up to our room, got our £’s and went outside. Obviously no-one is going to ask are you a tout? We must have stood out like sore thumbs, minutes after going outside this bloke says something like “Hello, are you from Liverpool” a quick scan around and retort “Yes mate we are”. Very quickly the deal is done, delighted to have exchanged £20.00 for around £60.00 in Deutchmarks time to pop back into the bar to share our fortunes with the rest of the lads. Happy days indeed, within minutes, we had told everyone of the bloke outside, soon all the Reds fans had more cash in their pockets than before they left home. As the bevvies flowed so did the songs, soon we had everyone singing their heads off, our East German friends as eager as any mad Liverpudlian. After a while one of the lads came in with a dirty big grin on his face and said “come and look at this outside”, we eagerly followed him out to be met by around 100 Dresden supporters. What was he laughing his head off for? Word had got out in Dresden that Liverpool Football Club where staying at the hotel and they thought we were Liverpool players. Within minutes we had all signed their autograph books, etc., I think I was David Fairclough. It was really humbling to see how much respect “us” Liverpool players received from the Germans.
Our hotel was one of three buildings, each separated by a public walkway. As I said before it was carnival time in Dresden our carnival had not really started yet. As the night progressed, groups of Liverpool fans started drifting off to experience the nightlife in Dresden. About eight of us agreed to head off in a different direction and soon we found a bier Keller that was chocka block full of drunken Dresdenites, all togged up in fancy dress costumes. The ale flowed as we tried our best to reach and in some cases surpass the same level of drunkenness that the locals enjoyed. The East German people we talked too they said that hated living in East Germany because they had no freedom of speech and had few civil liberties. A few of the older ones didn't like the English because Dresden had been heavily bombed during World War 2. What could we say, just looked apologetic and say nowt. It was not the time or place to talk about the War? One of the main objections was that they had to take an identity pass with them everywhere they went, and could be asked to produce verification of who they were at anytime and by any of the many various Government people. We were told that it was common for people to hear a knock on the front door (day or night-time) and Government officials would demand immediate entrance into their homes, to check the identities of the people in the house. They couldn't leave any of the eastern block countries, until they were 60 and of course had to have “special” dispensation from the Government. They where allowed to visit other “Communist” countries such as Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, etc., Yugoslavia was the popular country to visit for family holidays with the East Germans.
Anyway, after much ale we asked the locals about the nightlife in Dresden, surprisingly we were told about a number of night-clubs on the other side of Town, just past our hotel. We set off for a look, as usual goose-stepping our way side by side, but none of us ever reached any of the nightclubs. Whilst marching past our hotel, someone noticed that there was a nightclub under the second hotel complex next to ours, good idea? Not too far to stagger home. The bloke on the door somehow knew we were staying next door and willingly invited us in. We went straight to the bar to get the ale in for our mob, while the rest found two empty tables and loads of chairs for us to pipe what was going on in the club. The club was near enough full of Dresdenites, all dressed up in fancy dress most of them up on the dance floor giving it loads to English pop songs. A few fellow reds had also managed to get in, they soon joined in with us, and the real carnival was about to begin? One of the lads asked a passing waiter “Hey lad what time does the bar close mate” the best possible reply came from our new found Dresden mate “Very late, maybe four or five in the morning” maybe later. We all looked at each other in stunned amazement, all with whopping big dirty grins on our faces, we had hit the JACKPOT! After copious amounts of German ale, it was party time. To begin with a couple of the lads got a couple of German birds up to dance, one by one we got up on the dance floor with local girls, some even got up with women old enough to be their Mums and or even Grans.
Our tables were empty apart from 100’s of empty stein glasses and a number of thirst quenchers saved for later. In time we all ended up wearing fancy dress hats, covered in streamers and having the time of our lives. Stupid things like you would never do at home suddenly became the craze, the conga was amongst one of the funniest things that springs to mind. We had everyone up, and I mean everyone, doormen, waiters, the whole lot, all in one huge line, everyone bouncing up and down having a laugh. Another cracker was when the DJ put on a song by ABBA, not my cup of tea but the Germans loved it. They all got up to dance so did we, fortunately the next song was by Status Quo so we kept everyone up on the dance floor, and taught them how to headbang. It was hilarious watching middle aged people giving it loads tears ran down our faces as we encouraged them to join in. As time passed the laughs increased as some of our lads somehow managed to find and dress up in fancy dress costumes, “Have you seen Lee, its his round next, yes there he is dressed up as a bloody gorilla” You could tell it was Lee, because the gorilla had his Liverpool scarf around his neck and had a pair of Gola trainee’s on. As the night progressed the slowies got played, I got up with few birds and incredibly I copped off with a cracking girl in her mid twenties Annette, we sat down in a quiet section of the room and enjoyed each others company. As time passed I smuggled her into our hotel, and a “special” bond between East – West was consummated. We exchanged addresses, and once back in Liverpool continued to write to each other for many months afterwards. I never told my girl friend back in Liverpool about my relationship. I eventually went to bed to sleep, around 4.00 in the morning and was up around 8.00 with a dirty big grin on my face, word soon got out that a coalition had taken place. I said nothing, just grinned, a ladies honour was at stake? (After all these years I think its ok to tell the truth now).
Anyway, after feeding our faces we went to for a walk to clear our heads and to have a mosey around. Whilst walking across the huge square (again) Dave from Speke climbed up a statue of Lenin and put a red and white scarf around Lenin's neck, now he was a true red. Dave and his mate Philly were real nutcases, daft, and up for a laugh, Dave had this three quarter leather coat on, he rolled his kecks up above his knees, fastened his coat so it looked like he had nothing on underneath. The looks he got from the passing Dresdenites were priceless. On one occasion a party of school children were walking along in a line, and Dave pretended to flash at the teacher, she laughed her head off, once she realised he had clothes on underneath, she quickly composed herself and hurried the kids along out the way. As the day progressed, we ended back at the bier Keller, the Germans had by now sussed out who was English and soon approached many of us, asking to buy “Wrangler” jeans, and indeed any “Western” clothes. Many “deals” were done that day, I sold my leather jacket for something like £30.00, and it only cost me £18.00? Ian by this time had decided to join in with a few Liverpool lads for a game of five aside in the main square, this very soon turned into a dozen Liverpudlians against a dozen Dresdenites. A crowd of around 100 people gathered to watch this fiasco, towards the end of the game it was a dozen of our lads against 50 odd Dresdenites. The solders had had enough they raised there guns and threatened to arrest any of the Dresden people if they didn't move away. They quickly dispersed? The soldiers rounded up the dozen Liverpool supporters and frog marched them to our hotel, each of the lads were “fined” 7 Deutchmarks and told not to do it again. The Liverpool tour officials were not impressed with us, yet again! Fancy being frog marched to the hotel and being fined for having a game of football?
We followed behind the “criminals” to our hotel and we stood stony faced in “mock seriousness” as the LFC tour organisers expressed their thoughts on this disgraceful behaviour. All the lads had a whip round for the offenders, this was appreciated and was soon exchanged for beer for all. After a few bevies, we decided that because of the attitude by the German authorities we should go out and start another game of football but with more of us. Christa and the LFC tour organisers pleaded with us and eventually persuaded us not to do so, the other courier stood po faced and was definitely not amused. Someone mentioned a game of rugby would be a good laugh, we left the hotel for a walkabout on the pretence of looking for a rugby ball, but we went for a few more beers and some food. We returned to the hotel once again and packed our bags, etc., looking out of our window all you could see were hundreds and hundreds of Dynamo Dresden supporters all bedecked in yellow and black. Some had dirty big yellow and black flags held very high in the air, it looked superb. We where asked to vacate our hotel rooms by teatime, and leave our bags in secure room the hotel, no problem. In the hotel corridors, where fridges full of mineral water and fruit juices, etc., a number of us emptied the fridges out and passed the bottles to the many German people outside the hotel. Soon hair dryers, towels, soap, etc. were passed onto our Dresden colleagues. The hotel people didn't have a clue? We left the hotel and were mobbed yet again by Dresden supporters each wanting our autographs or to swap scarves (now I knew how Kevin Keegan must have felt like)
Eventually we managed to scramble onto our coach as the Dresden supporters chanted “LIV-ER-POOL, LIV-ER-POOL” over and over again. Once inside the ground, we made our way up to the terraces, we were surprised to find that the Liverpool section had a ring of armed guards around us, properly to protect us from more autograph hunters. As usual a fine rendition of “You'll never walk alone” boomed out from the travelling kopites, with a healthy number of anti – Man U songs thrown in for good measure (not sick ones). This didn't go down too well with the Liverpool tour officials, words were said – they were not amused, so we all kept on with the anti – Man U songs for quite some while. The ground itself was like a bowl, surrounded by trees everyone was standing apart from a very little stand behind us, which could only hold on more than 1,000 supporters. The attendance that night was 33,000, it didn't seem that big, but that's what is down in the return programme at Anfield? The game itself was a very tight affair indeed, Dresden where the top team in East Germany and soon had the Tricky Reds on the back foot, as Liverpool soaked up the pressure and tried to silence the home crowd. Ray Kennedy was alleged to have brought down a Dresden player and a penalty was awarded. Up stepped the Dresden number 10 Kotte, he smashed the ball to Ray Clemence’s right, right in the bottom corner? Somehow Ray Clemence managed to get his fingertips to the ball, and saved the penalty, the ground erupted as the Germans sighed in disbelief and we went up roaring our heads off. Possibly Ray’s best ever save? A small scuffle broke out in the Dresden section next to us, we were told it was some anti – Government movement trying to disrupt the match. Some armed soldiers moved in amongst them and the mob dispersed. We started singing “Are you United in disguise” pointing at them, the humour was lost on them? As the final whistle blew, we went ape, a 0.0 draw, a superb result, all set up for a cracking return game at Anfield. The Liverpool players walked right up to us and acknowledged our support, even Bob Paisley stopped and clapped us, we felt dead proud?
We had to wait behind for 10 – 15 minutes as the soldiers ensured that our departure from the ground was clear and safe. As we boarded our coaches a number of Dresden supporters broke through our armed escort and exchanged scarf’s, badges with fellow Reds. I gave a Liverpool pin badge in exchange for a Dresden pin badge I still have the badge as a memento to a very special time in my life. After the game, we headed back to our hotel to collect our luggage and to load up the coach. Outside the hotel I met Annette for the very last time, she was wearing the Liverpool scarf I had given her the night before. She gave me a dirty big hug, whispered something “special” in my ear, we kissed then reluctantly left each other. We passed out most of our Deutchmarks and Pfennings to the Dresden supporters gathered yet again outside our hotel, we gave our hosts in the hotel a couple of bob for their fine service in keeping us fed and our throats well lubricated, we didn't need the money, they did? The coach trip to the Airport seemed to take an age and a half, our coach was not involved in the nudge as mentioned above, our coach driver continued straight to the Airport. We gathered together in the Airport lounge, once the other coach arrived, we all put the last of our Deutchmarks and Pfennings into a kitty and we all had one last beer in Dresden. The Liverpool players, management and directors arrived soon after, the players were allowed a quick drink with us, before being whisked away. Somewhere I still have two Dresden programmes, one signed by all the Liverpool players and Bob, the other unsigned. The plane trip home was very surprisingly very high spirited, as everyone exchanged stories of the chaos and merriment that we had all contributed too. Christina thanked us for sharing our (in her words) unique sense of humour and zest for life with her, she said she had never experienced “anything” like “us” and said “we would be welcome back with open arms anytime”. We went through the usual booking in procedures at Speke Airport, met up the foyer and were told that we had to make our own way home (no coaches to drop us off at Anfield)? we said our goodbyes and managed to get a taxi home. We had very little English money on us, and had to stop off at Lee’s to borrow some cash from his Dad, this was repaid at the next home game. Next day, the family asked what it was like in Dresden, “O” a bit quiet not like around here. My Dad came home from work and asked, I told him it was superb and most of the above. He saw the glint in my eyes and the grin on my face and I sensed that he had an idea of what we had been up to. Despite being “told” not to venture out of our hotel, I can honestly say that the majority of the Dresden people we met were superb, a credit to their City and indeed football club. A once in a lifetime opportunity that I will never forget. The return leg at Anfield was again a very tight affair played in front of an expectant night-time crowd of 39,300 with the Tricky Reds eventually winning 2-1. Kevin Keegan and Jimmy Case scoring for us, with Gert Hedler scoring late on for Dresden, despite a late onslaught by Dynamo Dresden we managed to progress to the semi Finals.
Copyright - Wooltonian