The Spion Kop’s last stand
30th April 1994 will always be a date etched deep into the hearts and memories of every Liverpudlian, this article is dedicated to the memories and stories that made the Spion Kop the most famous terrace in the World.
We all have our tales to tell our yarns from days gone by. In acknowledgement of 10 years to the day that we lost our soul, our identity as a people, here is my story about the Kop’s last stand.
Why the Spion Kop?
The Spion Kop at Anfield dates back to 1905-06. At the end of that season, which saw Liverpool lift the second of our 18 league championships, the directors at the club decided to reward the loyalty of the fans by building a new brick and cinder banking at the Walton Breck Road end of the ground. It was christened as the Spion Kop by Ernest Edwards of The Echo in memory of the many scousers who died in battle over a hill in South Africa by the same name during the Boer War.
In 1928 The Kop was altered from banking to terracing and a massive roof added to protect the thousands of fans who gathered to watch their beloved team play. Other teams named their stands as the Kop but the one at Anfield was the original and the best.
The terrace housed the greatest fans in the game and it was often thought that the fans were worth a goal start to the Reds. They would try and suck the ball in if their team was losing and in one of the Kop's famous nights they put the fear of God into Inter Milan in a European semi-final 39 years ago.
At its peak, it is estimated that up to 30,000 supporters once stood in it to support the Tricky Reds – Liverpool FC. The Kop was world renowned for both the atmosphere it used to produce on match day, and the togetherness from a people who as a man and as a City were generally looked down at across the United Kingdom.
We mightn’t have had the affluent life styles that many others had, we mightn’t have had money in our pockets, but we had something that money couldn’t buy, something you couldn’t inherit. Something that could only be passed down by our fathers. When Saturday came we became the Spion Kop of Liverpool FC.
Liverpool V Norwich, 30th April 1994
This was announced as the last fixture to be played at Anfield in front of the standing Spion Kop. The Taylor report had deemed that standing terraces should be replaced with sitting areas after the never to be forgotten events at Hillsborough.
February 1994 was one of the most nerve racking times of my life, my wife was due our third child and my Dad was admitted to hospital with a minor chest complaint. My brother had also moved out from his very comfortable lifestyle in Skem, to set up another home with his new lady love. The tension and pressure in the family was intense.
On 6th February our youngest lad was born (Jonathon) whilst my Dad was in Whiston Hospital now diagnosed with cancer of the throat. Backwards and forwards the visits never ended, trying to keep everyone in the right frame of mind was a struggle in itself.
The intensity of this life and death scenario took its toll, as I sadly reacted by hitting the ale – big time. I knew it was wrong, but it happened.
Home games came and went, I can’t remember much about those days, I’m sure you can imagine. The upcoming last game on the Kop simply didn't register on my horizon. However, in time I managed to claw back my sanity and took control of my life again.
The penultimate game at Anfield was against Newcastle United, my Dads second team and mine. His was because he was stationed up that way during WW2, mine was because of the magnanimous behaviour of their fans after the 1974 FA Cup final.
The week before Kevin Keegan’s Geordies hit town, we had been to Anfield and scattered my Dad’s ashes in the Spion Kop goal. In all the years of following the Reds this was the only time I had been on a pitch. The Spion Kop looked very small, devoid of life, an empty terrace.
Come the Saturday, I had my ticket in the Annie Road End right next to the Newcastle United supporters. My feelings were up in the air as I made my way to the seat.
Minutes before the start of the game, The Spion Kop boomed out “You’ll never walk alone”. I stood alone in the Annie Road on the seat with my hands held high singing it at the top of my voice. For some strange reason I felt as if the Geordies knew my pain, as they joined in with our anthem. The majority of the Annie Road sat in their seats unaware of what was going on.
Once it had finished, the Geordies clapped the Spion Kop, in appreciation to what they had witnessed. I stood on the seat and clapped the Geordies, tears running down my eyes, my Dad would have been made up with them.
The game was a tight affair with Newcastle coming out comfortable winners 2-0. I wasn’t that bothered, I had other things on my mind.
Well then, Liverpool v Norwich 30th April 1994, approached, the Spion Kop's last stand.
By this time our Kid had come clean with the rest of the family and admitted he was breaking up his family and had moved to Oldham to set up his new life. This was again an unpleasant time.
On the Saturday morning he visited ours and we made our way up to Anfield. The King Harry beckoned, this was one of my Dad’s pubs. Whilst I had been able to get most of my feelings out, he hadn’t.
Pint after pint was consumed as he opened his heart and he let his feelings known, I thought I could cope, but I couldn’t. My mates tried their best to console him, in the end I think they did.
Anyway, our kid had managed to get 2 tickets in the Kemlyn Road, I sold my ticket in the Road End to one of the lads.
The flights up to the upper stand seemed to take forever, when we finally reached the top both of us went for a very long piss.
The seats were right near the front, the Spion Kop looked awesome. Full of colour, full of noise. It was full of around 16,000 of the finest, it was a spectable to behold.
Legends from the past walked onto the pitch, legends such as Liddell, Dalglish, Stubbins, Callaghan, Tommy Smith, Heighway, David Johnson, Phil Thompson, Fairclough and Craig Johnston were saluted as Joe Fagan escorted the widows Nessie Shankly and Jessie Paisley onto the pitch before an awesome roar of approval.
Shankly, Shankly boomed the Kop, to be replaced with Paisley,Paisley, then back again to a sombre SHANKLY SHANKLY. Song after song boomed out through the game on what was both a sad day at the passing of the great terrace and a celebration of what had gone before.
After the game, a 1-0 defeat shich didn't seem to matter, we headed into Bootle and joined the family to honour the passing of the Kop, and to honour one of its sons. 10 years ago today.
Copyright - Robbie Ashcroft – Kopite.
Redman till death