As a young boy in the 60’s I used to go to my Nan’s and Aunties houses quite often. The conversations were usually about members of the family from the past, the old family photograph album would come out. I used to sit quietly, and try and take it all in.
I always wanted to know where did we originate from and how long our family had lived in Liverpool. I decided to try and compile my family tree and after many years of visiting the main library in town, I managed to trace my forefathers to the Wavertree area into the 1760’s, then the records ran out.
As I grew up, I was told that my family had a special connection with Liverpool FC but could not quite rationalise the relationship. Having an enquiring mind I decided to try and find out as much as possible.
Here is what I discovered. This is my family’s version of events that helped a little bit to create the Greatest Football Club the world has ever seen.
A number of years ago, I arranged for a “rare” family get together and asked people to tell me what they knew and what the connection was. I hid a tape recorder behind the couch, sat back and looked and learned.
My Great Grand father was Henry John Ashcroft, known as Harry Howard Ashcroft. He was born in the 1860’s and lived at Penrhyn Street (just off Scotland Road in Liverpool). He was married in 1889 at St Peters Church in Sackville Street. Everton.
He was a Wheelwright by trade and worked for the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board. Harry was a union conveyer for the MD&HB and was also president of No 2 branch of the National Union of Vehicle Builders. He was also Chairman of the Mersey Ward Conservative Association.
Harry was a very keen keep fit fanatic and that he helped set up junior football leagues for the youngsters. I was told that Harry and his associates thought that a City the size of Liverpool should have another football team with a name that was more representative of the area. Everton was and still is a small area within Liverpool and in those days was not readily associated as identifying with the City of Liverpool.
So a representative select team was formed, I understand that Harry used to arrange for players from other established local teams to join them (Bootle, Liverpool Ramblers, Stanley and Cambrian). The Liverpool representative teams used to get changed in the Sandon pub and used to play on Stanley Park and at Priory Road. Everton FC generally mocked the representative teams, as they thought the City could not support two football clubs and didn’t think that anything would come from it. Bootle was represented by Bootle FC, who where Everton’s largest local rivals.
They first played Everton when they played at Anfield in May 1885. This was seven years before Liverpool FC were formed. The game was attended by the Lord Mayor of Liverpool and played in aid of Stanley Hospital. Everton won 5.3. The Liverpool team played in white tops with dark shorts. Many charity games took place with the proceeds going to other worthy causes such as Bootle and Stanley Hospitals.
What we now know as Liverpool Association Football Club was born without a name and was weaned in a crisis of identity, John Houlding wanted to keep the name “Everton” at Anfield, and he refused to give up without a fight. The Football League overruled him in 1892 and the name stayed with the majority of its members. So what was the “new” club to be called? There was, after all a Liverpool Football Club, playing rugby union but Holding and his men decided that despite more protests, there would be a second Liverpool Football Club, the title “Association” was added to prevent confusion.
Once Everton where finally ejected out of Anfield for not paying the rent, John Holding had the unenviable task of finding a team worthy of his dreams. This was a perfect opportunity for the representative team to find a permanent home – a marriage made in heaven. I understand that during those very early years at Anfield, Liverpool really struggled to pay their overheads and that John Houlding actually waived some fees to help keep them afloat. This caused great bitterness and resentment from Everton, after all he had demanded a rent increase from Everton in the first place.
They applied for league status in the 2nd division of the Football League, this was seen with a certain amount of condemnation from “people” who regarded this as the action of “upstarts”. The Football League Management Committee requested that Liverpool should prove themselves worthy before any application would be considered.
Liverpool FC joined the Lancashire League, then a very strong organisation itself, and proceeded to thumb their noses at their distracters by not only winning the league, but also winning the Liverpool Senior Cup. Unfortunately both of these trophies were stolen and Liverpool had to pay to get them replaced.Encouraged by this success, they applied again for Football League membership; got it, and proceeded to prove that the Management Committee’s doubts about their capabilities were unfounded by winning the Second division championship at the first attempt “without” losing a single game.
Unfortunately, pride comes before a fall, the following season “The Anfielders” where relegated. That didn’t worry them that much as once again they topped the second division at the first attempt and won promotion. This time they stayed eight years in the first division winning the Championship (in 1900 – 01) being runners – up once. They were now firmly established, though there were still some lean periods to come.Relegated once more in 1904, Liverpool yet again won the second division – for the third time – at the first attempt. Not only that, but a year later they became Champions of the first division, being the first club “ever” to win both divisions in successive years, as well as being the first team to win the second division championship, three times in three attempts.
From 1905 – 06 to 1953 – 54, Liverpool had their fair share of ups and downs, but through all this they managed to maintain their first division status. Throughout that long run Liverpool were never in any real danger of being relegated until the year before that fate actually caught up with them in 1954.
In 1908 the family moved to St John’s Road in Bootle. Harry was very well known in Bootle soccer circles and formed Mersey Athletic and Mersey Wanderers Football Clubs and acted as secretary to them. He also of course had very close connections with Bootle FC.
I understand that Mersey Athletic and Mersey Wanderers Football Clubs used to play wearing old discarded kit from Liverpool FC. I do have a couple of pictures of the teams, but don’t know any of the players’s names only Harry?
Harry, of course stayed with Liverpool FC and as family history has it, was a scout for them, be it official or unofficial, no body knows. Harry was instrumental in the development of many Liverpool FC players.
Here are some of the names that I am aware of that Harry persuaded to join the Tricky Reds: Ronald Orr, Cyril Done, Alexander Raisbeck, Hugh Morgan, John Carlin, Sydney Smith, Walter Wadsworth and Jack Parkinson.
“The Tricky Reds”, this is a saying my Dad used to use, he always said it came from the 1920’s when the majority of our players could control and dribble the ball with either foot.
During World War Two, Harry and the family where moved out to Rainhill to escape the bombs cascading down on the Docks. The family finally returned to Bootle, once the authorities gave them the all clear. St John’s Road was devastated, so they reluctantly collected their belongings and moved out to Rainhill.
When Harry died, I understand that a red and white scarf was placed around his neck before he was buried. This caused great controversy amongst some of the family. Upon reflection, I am amazed at the number of official important activities Harry was involved in, sitting here now I wonder how he found time to be so involved.
My Grand Dad was Harry Howard Ashcroft, (One of 11 brothers and sisters) he as born in 1894 and worked for the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board. He and at least two of this brothers (Thomas and William) played for many of the minor Liverpool teams in the 1920's but unfortunately none of them made the grade. This setback did not deter any of them in their love for Liverpool FC, they still attended all of the home games and many away games.
Home games were a family affair and indeed a “community” affair with loads and loads of the local kids walking up to Anfield with the adults’ close behind. Harry and his immediate family stayed in Bootle and settled down in Clare Road. When Harry died in 1946, his favourite red and white scarf was placed around his neck before he was buried.
My Dad was Victor Howard Ashcroft, he was born in 1922 and grew up in Clare Road, Bootle. World War 2 came along and my Dad lied about his age and signed up to fight for his King and Country, he was an extremely fit person and joined the Royal Marines. He was in the Special Boat Service (The forerunners to the SAS).
My Dad (I am told) was a very speedy and tricky winger and played for many of the representative “Marine” teams when he was based down south or up in the Northeast. He “guested” for many teams whilst away from home and played with many legends from that era. I wish I had paid more attention to him when I was a kid, I can’t recall all of the players names he used to mention,
After the war had ended, he returned to Liverpool and quickly settled down, getting a job on the Docks and following the Tricky Reds and playing football for teams such as Bootle, Mersey Wanderers and Miranda. He had trials with Liverpool FC and was asked to attend training sessions, so they could assess him, the future looked very bright!
Unfortunately in a freak accident at work he lost one of his fingers, this devastated him. I understand that many people tried to convince him to play again, but he never did. Before my dad died, I finally quizzed him about his football playing days, he said he managed to play in some Liverpool reserve games in the late forties, but I can’t find any records.
During the 40’s 50’s 60’s and early 70’s my dad used to follow the Tricky Reds everywhere, it was a standard joke to ask “Where are you going to be this weekend?” and “Who are you”?
In 1953 – 54, however, the blow fell at last, they finished bottom of division one, and though some people thought they would make a hasty return, this was proved to be incorrect.
It took eight years for them to get out, and in seven of them the team was never below fourth in the table. Four times they finished in third position, and twice in fourth, before finally leading the way from start to finish in the 1961 – 62 season.
My Dad once told me that when Liverpool FC were in the second division he and his mates felt we were good enough to win promotion. He believed that the players felt they would get more money being near the top of the second division (bigger crowds) rather than perhaps mid table in the first division. Don’t forget players used to get a “bonus” the larger the crowd.
The second division years really got to my dad and his mates. Their Evertonian mates gave them constant “stick” about Liverpool being a second rate team, a second division club? Every time the Anfielders looked like gaining promotion or had put together a good run, the reply was always “second rate football from a second rate football club” or “we don’t talk about second division football, only first division”.
In the early 60’s when I was a young lad, I noticed that my Dad used to go missing most Saturday’s for hours and hours on end. He used to arrive home invariably in a very drunken state late at night and would tell me about this team called Liverpool Football Club and how they had played each match. It didn’t matter if this team had played great or poorly, he always came home in a calm, mellow but happy mood. I was always curious where he went and why it soothed him so much. Obviously being a clever sort I found out if I took an interest in Liverpool FC I would be able to stay up later than usual. I used to sit for hours listening him to pouring out his heart about Liverpool FC, the history, it’s high and low points.
He told me about another football club called Everton, its history and its supporters. He told me to give these people respect because they are just the same as you and me.Subconsciously, I adopted my Dads philosophy to Liverpool Football Club, he never slagged off any of the players, even if they had had a nightmare game. I carry this opinion with me even now.
I really hated my elder brother because he is 8 years older than I am, and he was allowed to go to the matches before I did. We would wind each other up something rotten, but I knew one day I would get my chance to visit Anfield.
Despite our anger at each other (like most brothers) we decided to call a truce, as we were doing my Mums head in. We decided to turn our dislike for each other into something positive. We shared a bedroom together and decided together to turn it into a “shrine” for anything relating to Liverpool Football Club. Typhoo Tea football cards, pictures out of programmes, football scarfs adorned the walls.
Then on Christmas day in 1965, my dream came true. My best Christmas present ever!. Tomorrow I was finally going to Anfield to watch the Tricky Reds, I discarded my “Popeye break a plate game” and other Christmas presents and sorted out my best clothes and my Liverpool scarf out in preparation for my very special day.
On Boxing Day Liverpool took on Leeds United at Anfield and all our family where going. I was “made” to eat some dinner but I had no appetite, I was too excited. I can remember having a bit of a cob on because I wanted to go with my Dad “NOT” with the others (I knew my Dad would spend more on me if we went together).
We waited for what seemed like an eternity before we set off to the ground. I can remember what seemed a horrendous cold and long walk for a 7-year-old boy from Clare Road to Anfield. Walking up I can remember being amazed at the numbers of people walking up to the match and they all seemed to know each other. We arrived at this place called Anfield, it was dark and gloomy on the outside, and inside was something else. We made our way into the paddock right by the Anfield Road end. I can remember sitting on the wall of the “old” floodlight stantions and watching a mass of people at one end of the crowd. This end contained the most people I had ever seen in my life, it was huge it was incredible it was just a wall of noise and very colourful. This turned out to be “The Spion Kop” one day to be the love of my life.
Then as both teams ran out side by side, the noise was deafening, it was a wall of sound that hurt this young boys ears. Suddenly as if prearranged the majority of the Spion Kop held up their red and white scarf’s and started to sing you’ll Never Walk Alone. I had never seen or heard anything like this in all my seven years on this planet, it was a sea of colour “A bastion of invincibility.”
Throughout the game, The Spion Kop moved and sang as one, early on Liverpool nearly scored, I fell off the floodlight wall and suddenly the Earth moved. I was put back up on the wall. After a while Leeds scored and the couple of hundred Leeds fans in the Anfield Road End waved white hankies up in the air in acknowledgement. The Liverpool supporters around us clapped the Leeds United goal. At the end of the match, I can remember clapping in appreciation to the efforts of both teams, my hands hurt for ages afterwards. Liverpool 0 Leeds United 1.
The funny thing is, I was told it was 1.1, it wasn’t until years later that I found out we had been beaten. My brother and Dad had said Liverpool had scored while I had gone out to the loo. Maybe they thought I would be too upset if I thought I was a bad omen or something?
We moved from Clare Road, to a new housing estate called Netherton. This was a place very near to the countryside and our relatives in Bootle proper used to call us “Our country cousins”. I soon had two sets of mates, who used to meet up with each other when going to the match.
This was the shape of things to come, every Saturday when my Dad used to get ready to go to the match, I used to pester him to take me. Obviously he didn’t take me to that many games because he wanted to meet his mates in the pub for a few bevies or had to travel to away games.
In 1965 we had progressed to the FA Cup semi-final at Villa Park against Chelsea; I was deemed a lucky mascot and duly travelled to Birmingham to watch the Tricky Reds. The trip seemed to take forever, we parked up by the ground and walked to the ground.
I can remember sitting on a barrier in a huge open end with thousands of Liverpool Fans. Even as a young lad I could feel the tension and the passion in the crowd. Of course we won 2.0 after a very close encounter, Peter Thompson scoring a rocket past Peter Bonetti and Willie Stevenson scoring from a penalty. I was about five feet tall, and can remember wearing my very long home made red and white scarf and trying to keep it clean as we walked back to the car. Kopites were singing and dancing in the streets, hugging and grabbing each other. It was boss.
Like so many other Liverpool families, the whole of our house was turned into a shrine to Liverpool Football Club for the FA Cup final. Every window (front and back) had pictures of Liverpool players and of course Mr Liverpool himself “Shankly”. We had red and white crepe paper everywhere, even the banister was decorated with alternate red and white patterns.
On day in May 1965 seemed like any other, until the Cup Final approached, Evertonians always used to say “Tell it to the Marines”. This is a famous saying some of you may have heard.
Well one morning in May 1965 we certainly “Told it to the Marines”. During WW2 my Dad was in the Royal Marines. Another local famous saying (from Everton fans was, when the Liver birds leave Liverpool then we will win the Cup). I had heard all this but it meant nothing to me, then after watching the pre-match warm up to the Liverpool V Leeds Cup Final (in black & white) something happened.
My Dad had not been able to get a ticket and had gone to the local boozer for a couple of pints. On his way home he noticed a pigeon sitting on our roof, he told us. As the kick off to the game approached we kept legging it backwards and forwards out to the back garden to check if the “Liver Bird” was still on the roof.
Our living room was bedecked in Red and White, we had salmon butties and lemonade all set out for anyone who was hungry. We only ever had salmon butties on New Years night, this was the ultimate treat for us?
History was made Liverpool FC had won the FA Cup for the very first time after 81 years thanks to Ian St John. “EE – AY – ADDIO, WE WON THE CUP” was sung, no shouted, out over and over for an eternity once big Ron Yeats had picked up the elusive silverware.
The “immortals” who won us the FA Cup were Tommy Lawerence, Chris Lawler, Gerry Byrne, Gordon Milne, Ron Yeats, Willie Stevenson, Ian Callaghan, “Sir” Roger Hunt, Ian St John, Tommy Smith and Peter Thompson.
After the game, I can remember running round to all me mates, and telling them the story of the “Liver bird” on our roof. There must have been around ten of us, outside our house looking up at this mythical bird.What a great time to be a Liverpool supporter, we walked around the streets of Netherton telling anyone who would listen to us that Liverpool had won the Cup, we even took our dog with us suitably dressed in an old tatty nylon Liverpool top.
Liverpool's homecoming from Wembley in 1965 -
You can see the top of Robbie Ashcroft's head next to his Dad circled on the picture.
Next day, I can remember going to Town to see them bring the Cup back to Liverpool, if I had thought the Spion Kop was awesome what followed next beggared beyond belief. It was incredible the whole of Town was full of zany Liverpool fans and I mean FULL. St John held the Cup aloft as the team bus left Lime Street Station, he was wearing a red beret, which somehow my Dad caught whilst holding me on his shoulders. I still have it with a special badge from the next season proclaiming Liverpool FC league Champions 1966.
During the late 60’s I was fortunate to be taken too many games by me Dad, for home games we used to leave around 12:30 get the 56 or 28 from the Marion Square and walk up to Anfield.
He always had to pop into a pub to see if his mates were in there. After a while I noticed that most pub’s usually had small groups of young lads standing outside each holding a packet of Walkers crisps and a bottle of lemonade. We always went into the Anfield Road end, as this was less crowded. It was like being in School, all your mates would stand in the bottom left hand corner of the Annie Road, whilst all the Dads used to stand in the top left hand corner
For the next few years, each home match we stood in amazement looking and listening at the Spion Kop. In our eyes it was the eighth wonder of the World, I had been to some away games and nothing compared to this.
As I began to grow, probably 12 or 13 years old, I started going into the pub with my Dad and sat with the other lads in quiet delight. We were always told that if a policeman walks into the pub, then get up and quickly walk out the other door and wait outside.
I was fortunate enough to travel to many away games with me Dad and his mates, usually in some clapped out Ford Anglia, it was funny! No matter were we went we always bumped into someone he knew in the pub. As time passed I looked forward to meeting my football mates in the pubs around Anfield. I can remember one particular occasion when sitting in a pub with the other lads, (The one that used to be on the corner of Netherfield Road and County Road) when in walked this huge policeman and his smaller police mates. Before we could get out, they took off their long overcoats placed them on some chairs nearby and asked us if we would mind their coats. The police ordered some beer then sat down with my Dad and his mates and started playing cards. We where totally gobsmacked!!!!!!!
Five or six young teenagers sitting by policemen in uniform watching them play cards and supping ale. In time me and my own mates and my football mates decided it was time to rebel, we wanted to go into the Spion Kop. The Spion Kop had a reputation of being full of drunken high-spirited young Liverpool men and was not for the faint hearted or the weak.
Our first game in the Spion Kop was to be Roger Hunt’s Testimonial. For the next week my Mum, Dad and Brother kept saying, “I hope you know what you are letting yourself into” On the way to the match, none of us mentioned the Spion Kop, but I think we were all nervous but wouldn’t admit it. We got into the Spion Kop, even the fella on the gate said “Are you sure, you want to come in here” moved near to the middle and claimed a barrier to sit on. Easy!!! What is all the fuss about?
As the crowd began to build up we noticed how cramped our space had become. We must have climbed up and got knocked off the barrier two dozen times at least. What a night, suddenly all of us seemed to know all the words to all the Liverpool songs; we sang our hearts out. For the first time in our lives we where independent and had been fully introduced and accepted into the world famous Spion Kop. The smell of sweaty dockers, urine and tobacco would never be forgotten. “Sir” Roger Hunt was my first Liverpool hero, I will never ever forget you or your testimonial.
Before I left School, in the early 70’s we where told that the employment situation in Liverpool was the worst in the United Kingdom and that the majority of us would not get jobs. I and most of my mates got jobs in unemployment hot spot called Liverpool, this enabled us to go to all home games and more away games. At the height of our fame, we had a “mob” of 14 Bootle Boys, Several of us from Netherton used to get off the 56 at Spellow Lane then walk up to Stanley Park and meet up the other lads, We used to get in the Spion Kop around 1.30 find our speck and look and learn.We travelled mob handed because we had seen many other lads relieved of their Liverpool scarf’s and or match money by older so called Liverpool supporters.
In those days, we were fashion conscious and keen to see what other lads were wearing, Platform shoes big baggie flares and printed penny round collar shirts with odd characters (cartoon baseball players etc) printed on them seemed to be the order of the day.
The centre of the Spion Kop was always jam-packed full of older lads, even when we played smaller clubs in the league or FA Cup etc. A lot of the lads in the centre where skin heads, they wore Dr Martin boots, bib “n” braces and looked as mean as hell.
Each home game, we used to sit on the barriers and watch the skins walk past, some had spray painted their Dr Martin boots “Gold” or “Silver”, and they really did look intimidating. Some of those that wore Bib’s “n” braces used to decorate them with Liverpool badges from that era, anyone remember the two fingers with “Up Liverpool” on it?
In all the years that we stood on the Spion Kop, I only once lost me mates, that was a 0.0 draw against Spurs in the FA Cup in 1969.
In 1970 –71, we reached the FA Cup final against Arsenal, My Dad got tickets, and I assumed if I got one, he would let me go ”I was wrong”. I could have got a ticket for £5.00, but my Dad said NO it’s too much to pay and there may be trouble. I was devastated, some of my mates managed to get tickets and I had to stay at home and watch it on the television. I was gutted.
Of course the house was bedecked in Red and White and turned into a shrine, the dog wore its usual Liverpool top and shorts were introduced (with a hole cut out for his tail), the salmon butties made an appearance too.
My dad and his mates left Liverpool bedecked in red and white on the Thursday “before” the final on the Saturday, he rang up to let us know he had arrived safely on the Friday. In later years he told me they arrived in London on the Thursday afternoon, booked into their lodgings then went out on the Town. They arrived back at the hotel on the Saturday morning having spent all that time on the ale. I never did tell me Mum, she would have gone up the wall.
The game itself turned out to be a bit of a dour event, both teams cancelling each other out. Soon extra time was upon us. Stevie Heighway scored a belter at Bob Wilson’s right hand post, unfortunately Arsenal proved too strong for us that day with Charlie George scoring the winning goal from outside the box. Then lying down on the pitch with both arms held aloft. God I hated him.When my mates returned home, I asked if there was any trouble, there had been some so I suppose my Dad was right.
The next day (Sunday) we travelled into the City centre to welcome the Tricky Reds back home. We had to get off the bus on London Road because of the vast amount of supporters walking in the road. At the Piction library the crowds where immense, a sea of people everyone bedecked in red and white with quite a few wearing blue and white.
The team walked onto the rostrum and the place erupted, the great man himself Bill Shankly acknowledged the crowd, and then told us how sorry he was that he couldn’t bring the FA Cup back home. Shanks then “proclaimed” that the team would go one better and bring “The Championship” back to Anfield the next season. The place went bananas, as we acknowledged and celebrated Shanks remarks.
The Derby games were incredible, Everton used to have the whole of the Anfield Road, and the noise was out of this World as both sets of supporters used to try and out-sing each other. Even now thinking back to them days, I don’t think the atmosphere ever came across on Match of the Day because the BBC used to turn down the crowd noises so the commentator could be heard.
I particularly enjoyed the Derby games at Anfield, we would all leave Netherton around 11.30 in the morning (red mates and blue mates) and wind each other up on the way to the boozer. Our favourite watering hole then was the “Half Way House” on County Road, being 15 or 16 we had no problems getting served, many a pint was supped between Red and Blue before a walk up to the match.
After the Anfield Derby games, we used to get down to County Road as quickly as possible and get the bus back to Netherton, the daft Evertonians used to walk across Stanley Park and wait at their usual bus stops. More often than not, the bus was full with Liverpool supporters when it reached their bus stops. Of course the driver very rarely stopped to let them on. Year after year, we always grabbed the best specks in our local boozers.
The Goodison derby games where just as passionate, with thousands and thousands of Kopites filling the Park end, paddock and enclosure. We tended to frequent the enclosure because it was dead handy to get out of and leg it up to the bus stop(s) to beat our blue mates yet again back to the boozer. For games at Goodison, we always turned up bedecked in red and white and for some reason used to walk around the ground at least once, some sort of show of strength thing?
We very rarely drank in the Anfield area after a Derby, we tended to meet up and drink in Netherton. Derby days were an excuse to have a real good drinking session with no time limit to get home. One thing that still sticks in my mind to this day is that the Red and Blue mates who had gone to the match very rarely caused trouble. It was the ones that didn’t that did?
In time we wanted to see more of Liverpool FC, it was time to travel away to watch the tricky reds on a regular basis. For some reason we always used to travel by “Soccer Special” train from Lime Street, we would often arrive early at Lime Street and take a walk around clothes shops such as “Patches” “ Sexy Rexy” and “Issy Crown” to see what was new. It became a ritual to pop into the “Punch N Judy” café on the corner of Lime Street and Skelhorne Street and fill our faces with half-cooked hot dogs on stale buns.
Away games were brilliant, in those days you where allowed to take as much ale with you as you could carry. It became a bit of a competition between us to see who could turn up with the most obscure brand of ale. Every other Friday night we became regulars at Ashe & Nephew stocking up with a couple of Watney’s party 7’s and countless brands of cans of lager for another journey into the unknown.
It didn’t matter if it was a local trip to Manchester United / City away or a long trip down south countless cans of ale would be consumed. Many a fellow red was left on a bench at various railway stations to sleep off the excesses incurred on the train journey(s). The British Rail people at Lime Street must have been Liverpool supporters or just plain daft, we used to turn up at Lime Street around between 10 to 14 of us. Eight of us would board the train, and then one of us would get off the train (with 6 train tickets in his pocket). Pass them onto the others, then one by one get back onto the train. Boarding the “Specials” on the way home was just as easy, because the local police wanted us out of their Cities as soon as possible.
Once the train had started, you had to keep an eye out for the ticket inspector. Likeminded supporters would keep “Dixie” on the lookout for the inspector. Once spotted, the lads would struggle to get under the tables so they wouldn’t have to pay, sometimes we would show him a valid ticket walk past him and collect other tickets to pass onto the fare dodgers.
Nine times out of ten the inspector would know what was going on, every now and then they would clamp down and make people pay for train tickets. It was not uncommon to have a whip around for someone you never knew.
Getting home from Lime Street was also a challenge, if we knew the bus driver we would just pile onto the bus and give him a couple of bob when you got off. If we didn’t know him, we would stand around him and pay whilst the others smuggled themselves on board.
In 1974 the Tricky Reds saw off Carlisle United, Doncaster Rovers, etc to reach another FA Cup final. My Kop season ticket didn’t qualify for a Final ticket, I was sickened, would I miss out on my first time to Wembley? Not bloody likely, despite asking every Tom, Dick and Harry I couldn’t get hold of a ticket, I had booked a spec on one of the many Wembley “Soccer Specials” nothing was going to stop me.
We purchased our Wembley kecks from Flemmings in County Road, these were blue jeans with the Flemmings badge (Liver bird and Union Jack) on it, you could buy “Red” kecks but these were not for us. I purchased a new silk scarf for this “Special” occasion it was printed with “Kings of the Kop” on one side the other side had the player’s name printed on it. My red beret from 1965 came out of the drawer to make its first of many Wembley appearances.
On the Wednesday before Cup final day I managed to buy a ticket in the Liverpool end for a fiver, this was an extortionate amount to pay for a ticket, but I gladly paid it. Lime Street station was awash with red and white, everyone seemed to be dressed in red this was going to be some very special football occasion.Wednesday turned into Thursday, I had a knowing glint in my eyes. My dad again bedecked in red and white said “tarra” to us all and away they went on another journey in an attempt to drink London dry. The crafty bugger had told me Mum that his works had booked a coach down to London, but for the wrong day and that he couldn’t let his mates down. If she only knew?
Friday night was “WISPA” night, the WISPA was a local club in Litherland, it was dead handy to get too and a great place to go too. We all met up in the Nethy and walked up to the club. The place was bouncing every man and his dog was in here getting some drinking practice for the next day. Can’t remember what I had too drink, but I remember I was stone cold sober, I was far too excited thinking about the Cup Final.
Next day, we made our way to Lime Street, flags and scarf’s hanging out from the top deck of the bus, singing our heads off like there was no tomorrow. Lime Street was choker block full of suitably attired Koppites, everyone seemed to be well up for this one.
The journey to Wembley seemed to take an age, we took some cans of ale with us but these didn’t calm us down in the slightest, we where all to excited. The twin towers of Wembley were sighted on our left the people on our train went absolutely ballistic, your ears just ached with the noise we all made.
Wembley Way was very special, all manner of people in every conceivable state of drunkenness Red and White and Black and White mixed together all singing all dancing all excited at being at Wembley. The ground was a dump, what a letdown, grotty railings between the car parks and the concourse had rubbish everywhere on it.
I confess at that time I had no idea where Newcastle was and had no idea what Geordies sounded like? I couldn’t understand a word they said.
The Geordies we bumped into were great people we just seemed to get on with each other, “Howay the Lads” they sang at us “No way the Lads” we boomed back. “Super Mac” they retorted to us, in a flash “Super Mouth” was spat right back at them. They sang the “Blaydon Races” we came right back at them with our own special version.
Oh me lads we're never off the tele
We hate the fucking coppers
Cos they murdered Jimmy Kelly
United are the bastards
City are the runners
And when we get to Highbury
We'll kick fuck out of the Gunners
Newcastle Brown it has to be a winner
Twenty five pints on a Saturday night
And twelve for Sunday dinner
We taught the Geordies how to sing
We taught them how to sup
But most of all we taught them
How to lift the FA Cup
Around the ground were various huge trees, those without tickets climbed up them and straddled planks of wood across to the windows in the stairways, (thirty or forty feet above ground level) hundreds of supporters got in for nothing this way. Others tied flags and or scarfs together and climbed up, whilst their mates held on the other end.
This was the first game I saw “scouse snakes” out in large numbers, these were streetwise lads who mingled in with the crowd and snatched tickets from unwary supporters. My ticket stayed very safely in my pocket gripped by my hand.
Once inside (after the two turnstiles) Wembley exposed itself in all its glory, an open expanse with a sea of red and white and black and white at each end. God Save our Gracious Queen” the tannoy system blasted out, “God Save our Gracious Team” boomed out from the travelling Kop.
Then minutes before the kick-off, one of the best ever versions of “You’ll never walk alone” was rendered to the unsuspecting Geordies and millions of television viewers. It was sung very slowly, sang correctly, and sang from the heart.
During the week prior to the final, all we got in the papers was how “Super Mac” Malcolm Macdonald was going to destroy us and win the Cup for Newcastle, yes even then a lot of the press were anti-Liverpool its not a new thing?
We had our very own “secret weapon” to combat “mighty mouth” Macdonald, a certain young local lad with big blonde curly hair and sparrow like legs, Phil Thompson.
The first half was a stalemate as both teams prodded each other trying to find a weakness, “Super Mouth” Macdonald had one half chance which he ballooned very high into the jeering travelling masses from Liverpool. The second half was a different kettle of fish, Shanks and the backroom boys certainly made sure we were up for it. We came out and tore Newcastle United apart in what is generally accepted as one of the finest footballing displays ever witnessed in any Cup Final. Poor old Alec Lindsay, scored one of the best ever goals seen by mankind, only for it to be ruled offside by the referee.
The final whistle was blown and the biggest atomic bomb ever went off. I swear the noise from the travelling koppites could have been heard halfway around the Earth, it was out of this world.
Everyone went ape, grown men hugged grown men, everyone grabbed anyone like a long lost friend the place was buzzing. With hindsight I think this is where the punks first saw “The pogo” the place was jumping, we had won the FA Cup again?
The history books say “Liverpool 3 Newcastle United 0” but in fact the real score line was Liverpool 4 Newcastle United 0. They forget to mention the “goal” the Spion Kop achieved in out singing the Geordies, the twelfth man? Had yet again played its part in full.
Once outside the ground we walked back to Wembley Central, everyone was having a ball, it was party time “BIG TIME” people were singing and dancing in the streets giving each other piggybacks rides, just going mental?
The Geordies on the other hand slowly and quietly walked single file devastated back to their train platform, then one of the most memorable things I have ever witnessed in all my years of following the Tricky Reds occurred. The Newcastle United supporters started throwing their scarves around us and shaking our hands, even hugging us, I still have my Liverpool silk scarf, red beret and a Newcastle United scarf from this game they remain amongst my many treasured Liverpool possessions.
The trip home was one long singsong with many conga lines going backwards and forwards right along the full length of our train. Lime Street was awash with red and white, as wives, girlfriends, mums, dads, aunts, uncles, sons and daughters waited for the Spion Kops return home.
No body could have imagined what was in store for us in the years ahead, nobody cared about tomorrow, This was a very special moment for the thousands and thousands of Liverpool supporters from that era and indeed a special moment in the history of our beloved Liverpool Football Club.
Copyright - Robbie "Mottman" Ashcroft
We've got all the results from official games, appearance stats, goal stats and basically every conceivable statistic from 1892 to the present, every single line-up and substitutions!