Friday 30th April marks the 10th anniversary of the last time that the Kop stood for a home game at Anfield. This article recounts some of the moments on the Kop, both standing and seated, that are enshrined in my memory. Football is more than just the players and the game. The essential essence of football lies in the collectively of supporters and the magic they can produce when they combine to create an entity. Many of the great Kop moments are obviously inseparable from the great games and goals that helped to inspire shared celebrations of joy and elation. I’m not going to concentrate on the games too much though. I want to remember the reactions, the humour and the togetherness from my experience of being a part of the famous Kop.
My recollections are obviously by no means exhaustive, and Im sure many readers will have their own special pieces of nostalgia filed away in the grey matter. Not all the memories are particularly good but they are still lodged in my consciousness and still forge and shape my identity as a Kopite. One or two of the incidents mentioned here were before my time, but demonstrate the essential character of Kop experience.
One of the most well known stories concerns the 1965 European Cup quarter final against FC Cologne at Anfield. About an hour before kick off snow began to fall which quickly turned into a blizzard. As kick off time approached, with the ground packed, the pitch was covered in a thick blanket of snow. The Cologne players were out on the pitch warming up when the referee decided that the game had to be called off.
This presented an enormous logistical problem. Vouchers needed to be given out for the rescheduled game so the stadium exit gates couldn’t be opened. Thousands of people were trapped in the ground while the voucher situation was sorted out. Many Kopites decided to pass the time by having a snowball fight on the pitch. This developed into snowball throwing raids with some of the Kop running down to the Anfield Road end and pelting them with snowballs. The Anfield Roaders were quick to respond and launched their own counter offensive as the Kopites retreated to their own end. Bill Shankly and some of the players stood in the directors’ box enjoying the spectacle.
This is the version of events that have entered into Anfield folklore. In many ways it demonstrates the humour associated with being a Kopite and maybe the ability of Liverpool people to be able to make the best out of a bad situation. It is also an example of the togetherness that was evident at Liverpool FC at the time as the players and manager shared the experience. It's the same togetherness we shared with characters such as Bruce Grobbelaar when we went through the almost weekly ritual of chanting 'Brucie, whats the score?' and he would hold up his fingers behind his back to confirm the answer to our rhetorical question.
There is another version of that night though not often mentioned in the history books. Away from the frivolity on the pitch, Kopites were being crushed as there was confusion and pandemonium as thousands of supporters descended upon the locked exit gates. If you talk to any Kopite who was involved in that crush they will tell you about panic and fear. One fella I spoke to who was near the exit gates on that night told me that he had never been so scared in all of his life.
I’m not going to dwell on that too much though. After all, this is meant to be a celebration of the Kop. I just thought it would be interesting to compare different versions of the event. Lets just say that much of history remains unwritten.
The Kop has always been known and respected for its knowledge about the game and its sportsmanship. If a team comes to Anfield and turns on the style The Kop will acknowledge it. If a team comes to Anfield and achieves, the Kop will acknowledge.
This can be demonstrated when Leeds came to Anfield in April 1969. A draw meant that Leeds had won the Championship and killed off any lingering chance of the title for Liverpool. The Kop responded by clapping Leeds with a thunderous ovation as they began to take a lap of honour, and the Leeds players were greeted warmly as they took the trophy down to the Kop end.
The following week a telegram arrived at Anfield addressed to ‘The Kop, Anfield, Liverpool.’ It was from the Leeds manager Don Revie. It read ‘Thanks for your very warm hearted gesture. We nominate you as sportsmen of the century. You and your team and wonder manager deserve one another. ’
The same generosity can also be said of that famous night in May 1989 when Arsenal came to Anfield needing to win by 2 goals to snatch the championship off Liverpool. We all know what happened, and I will never forget the collective sound of thousands of Kopites despondently groaning the words ‘Oh shit’ as Michael Thomas wound up to score their 2nd goal with only moments of the match remaining. We were absolutely gutted and incredulous as to what had happened. We couldn’t believe it. The Kop still found it in its heart to applaud the Arsenal team though. They had come to Anfield with almost zero chance of pulling off the 2 goal victory, but they came and conquered. It was heart breaking, but the Kop acknowledged the achievement.
Its one thing acknowledging another team for their accomplishments, its quite another to openly celebrate a teams failings. The strangest game I have ever attended was the title decider of 1995. Blackburn needed victory to clinch the title and Man Utd needed to beat West Ham to snatch it from Blackburn should they lose or draw.
I’ve never known an atmosphere like it. Kopites were arguing with one another because some Liverpool fans were openly supporting Blackburn. It came to a head when Blackburn scored and some members of the Kop celebrated. There were furious and heated exchanges. I suppose that it was a reaction to Liverpool’s demise. Kopites could no longer revel in their own glory so the 2nd best option was to bask in a hope that Man Utd would fail.
When Jamie Redknapp scored the winner in that game there was a muted celebration. It looked like the title was heading to Old Trafford. Then, the travelling Blackburn supporters began cheering. West Ham had held Utd to a 1-1 draw and the title belonged to Blackburn. The Kop joined in the celebration. It was wild elation. Anybody would have thought that it was Liverpool who had won the league. I can still remember standing on my seat and, along with thousands of others, bellowing out ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life. Der ri de ri de ri de ri.’
These times were certainly quite dark for Liverpool FC. We suffered a few seasons of less than memorable football. I can remember the dissatisfaction manifesting itself in March 1995 at home to Coventry. Liverpool were truly awful on that day and Peter Ndluvo grabbed himself a hat trick. As his third goal hit the net a few Kopites stood up and cheered. Within seconds the whole stand was celebrating the goal and supporters were jumping around wildly. It was a mass demonstration of frustration and sarcasm. It still makes me smile when I think of it.
A couple more incidents from that season still stick in my mind. I can still remember the chants of ‘no seats’ that went on all the way through the 1993-1994 season as the standing Kop neared its demise. I can also remember the same chants as we took our seats in the new stand at the start of the 1994-1995 season. Ironic humour? An expression of powerlessness? Maybe a bit of both.
I also recall one of the first games in the new Kop stand. I’m struggling to remember who we were playing. I think it was QPR. The Kop hadn’t been fitted with its roof yet and the heavens opened and poured on us. It must have rained heavily for an hour. The whole Kop was a bedraggled, soaked mess of people. I've never been so wet in all my life. When I got home I could actually wring my undies out.
There have undoubtedly been some great moments of spontaneous humour generated by the Kop. When John Wark was rolling around on the ground after taking a thunderous knock in the testicles the Kop responded by singing his name in a high falsetto voice. Vinnie Jones took the brunt of Kop humour after he had appeared on the tv. show ‘Gladiators’ and had a public spat with the Wolfman. The Liverpool supporters sang ‘Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf? Vinnie, Vinnie Jones.’ Vinnie clearly wasn’t happy.
John Fashanu stood in front of the Kop goal waiting for a corner to be taken. The Kop sang about his brother Justin ‘He shot, he come all over Justin’s bum, Fashanu, Fashanu.’ At first John didn’t understand what was being sung, but when he realised he creased over laughing and applauded the humour.
There was also the F.A. Cup tie against Grimsby. The game was won by half time and the final score was 5-0 to the Reds. In the 2nd half the Kop amused themselves by chanting to the Grimsby supporters ‘Sing when you’re fishing. You only sing when you’re fishing.’ The theme continued as the Kop began renaming many of the Liverpool players. Kenny Dalglish transformed into Kenny Dogfish and Jimmy Case became Jimmy Plaice.
One of my earliest Kop memories was the UEFA Cup game against Real Sociedad in 1975. We absolutely annihilated the Spanish team 6-0. I think everybody felt sorry for them and the kop began chanting their name. This developed into a transfer of allegiance as the Liverpool supporters began cheering every time Real got possession and booing loudly if a Liverpool player touched the ball.
All good things must come to an end though, and the Kop stood for the very last time at home to Norwich on 30th April 1994. The game was instantly forgettable and we lost 0-1 but the sense of occasion was magnificent. Everybody who was a part of that day knew that an era was drawing to a close. The Kop went out with a bang in a mass of noise and colour. There were drums, air horns and a huge assortment of Kop flags and banners from glories past. All the Anfield favourites were sung again and again and once more again for good measure. The Liverpool supporters chanted for Paisley and Shankly and also for Bill’s widow Bessie who was there as guest of honour on the day. The humour was there as always. The Kop sang indignantly to Norwich ‘You’re supposed to let us win.’ Later, it was ‘Sing when we’re losing, we only sing when we’re losing.’ This, in turn, transformed into ‘Sing when we’re standing, we only sing when we’re standing.’
Many would argue that those last words were somewhat prophetic, as the Kop has appeared muted of late. Whether it’s the fact that we are in the doldrums at the moment or that the singing supporters are dotted around the Kop in little groups so it’s harder to get a song going, especially when groups of supporters are all singing different songs in different parts of the stand without one really gaining momentum throughout the whole of the Kop. Maybe its because there aren’t as many kids on the Kop anymore. We can still do it though when we have the mind to. Some of those UEFA Cup games at Anfield in 2001 had exceptional atmospheres. It just seems to take a little more effort these days to generate something special and magical.
‘Sing When We’re Standing’ is an audio cd of the Kop in full voice recorded during the home game when the Kop stood for the very last time against Norwich City on 30th April 1994. It captures a moment in history and the end of an era. For more information and details about how to purchase this unique cd go to www.kopcd.co.uk
Credit Where Credit's Due:
I consulted Stephen Kelly's book 'Its Much More Important Than That' for background information concerning paragraph 4 of this article.
© Copyright B.Williams 2004