In this week's instalment of our new series: "A View from the People", we are joined by Linda Robinson, who was a valued employee at Liverpool in the club's halcyon days in the late 1970s and early 1980s. She came to know the players very well and enjoyed the company of the great Bill Shankly!
The lovely Linda and Helen did their turn as models!
I worked for Liverpool Football Club from 1975 until October 1982 when my husband's work took us to Hong Kong. I was the only member of staff working at LFC who was also a Kopite. To cut a long story short, we lived in the South of England and used to hitch hike to Liverpool whenever we could. Once my husband had his degree we moved to Liverpool and bought a house in West Derby. When the souvenir 'shop' first started it was at one end of a hut in the car park where the Development, Golden goals etc. were. I asked if they had any vacancies and I got a job as a match day girl. We were given a cardboard box with a selection of souvenirs in it and had to set up in different kiosks in the Main Stand. The problem here was that I had to wait until the match had been playing for 5 mins before I could go and sit in the Main Stand and watch the match. We also had to leave five minutes before the end of the match to open up our kiosks again. I missed a few goals that way and also left to the jeers of 'Part-time' supporter. I would look longingly at my spec on the Kop where my hubby stood. Once the club had built a souvenir shop under the Kop I started to work more full time for the club. My first day of going to have lunch in the club where all the players sat was very nerve racking. I remember to this day that I had tomato soup and sat opposite Kevin Keegan! How lucky was I? I used to sit in the players' lounge after lunch and watch the television and listen to the lads' banter etc.
Working at the club had restrictions placed on me with regards to secrecy. One example, I saw a player in the car park in the morning who could hardly walk. In fact he asked me to help him get to the main entrance from his car where Ronnie Moran met him and took over. Standing on the Kop that night this same player was on the pitch but not playing as well as normal. People were making unkind comments about him (yes, it even happened back then!) but I had to keep quiet as I knew he was playing with an injury.
Linda (on the top right) saluted the players on their way to pick up the FA Cup trophy in 1974
I used to pop into Melwood on my way up to West Derby Village to do my shopping and I always got a lovely cup of tea. I had to work for it though. When the team had left (they used to come by coach to Melwood for training in those days) I had to help knock the pitch back. I once got the team coach to drive me to the butchers in the village to buy a chicken!
The team never arrived until about 10:00 a.m. but on this particular day I was there early - sometime between 9 and 9:30. I couldn't see anyone around so I headed towards the small kitchen they had there and shouted 'Hello'. A voice answered which I recognised. 'Helloo!' It was Shanks standing in the kitchen with a cuppa in his hand. Leo, who worked there, poured me a cuppa and I stood facing Shanks whilst he talked about LFC, the world, anything... I did manage to get the odd word in but most of the time Shanks held court. There I was... standing face to face with this incredible man... with our feet almost touching - the kitchen was quite small. I mentioned Kevin Keegan and Shanks replied 'Ahh, Keegan, if he wanted he could be Prime Minister!!' He believed it, and you know what, when you listened to Shanks you believed it as well. After he had left Leo told me that ever since Shanks had retired he still went to Melwood. He would train, have a shower, get changed and then have a cuppa in the kitchen. He always left before the team arrived.
Shanks had difficulty in leaving Melwood behind
On another occasion there was an England U21s' match at Anfield. It was after Shanks had retired. For some reason I was stood in reception and the area was full of England 'big wigs' and a 'who's who' of football managers. All chatting away and it was quite noisy. There were a couple of steps up to the door. Suddenly the door opened and there stood Shanks. He didn't say a word, he just stood there with that smile on his face. Gradually the chatter stopped and all eyes were turned towards the door and Shankly. What a man, he had such an aura about him.
One day working in the souvenir shop, Shankly's dentist came in! He was making a new top plate for his teeth and he wanted a picture of the club crest. He wanted to surprise Shanks by putting the club crest into his top plate. He eventually chose a 20p car sticker which had a nice plain club crest on it and left. I often wondered if he did actually do that for Shanks. It would be nice to think of him up in heaven with a club crest inserted into his top plate. Bless him!
As an LFC employee I could always get a ticket if I wanted one but I never asked. My hubby and I had season tickets on the Kop and we tried to go to most away games. We relied on our number coming up for tickets to finals etc. One year only one of our season ticket numbers came up for an F.A. Cup Final so what did I do? I sang down the phone to Radio City and won a ticket!! I always queued up for my ticket with the fans and then went into work. I remember some of the reserves passing me one day whilst I was in the queue and they couldn't understand why I was queueing up. In my mind I wouldn't have been a true fan if I didn't get my tickets like any other fan. I tried very hard to keep my being a Kopite separate from working at the Club. I would have lunch with the players the day before a match, and the next day I would be stood outside the ground waiting for the team coach to leave after the match. As I said, being a Kopite first was most important.
Linda brought her nephew Martin to Melwood - These three were all from Scunthorpe!
We left West Derby and moved to Formby. Whenever I saw a player 'out and about' I would tend to ignore them, or at least just acknowledge them because I respected their privacy. I would meet Alan Hansen in the butchers and Ray Clemence in the chippy. A quiet hello or a nod would do but I hadn't reckoned on Emlyn! My husband and I were entering an Italian restaurant in Formby and I noticed that Emlyn was sat at a table with a group of friends. He immediately stood up and shouted across the restaurant 'Hello Lin'! I felt so embarrassed as everyone looked at me, but that was our Emlyn. I kept in touch with him after we both left the club and when we returned from Hong Kong I had become quite ill. I was diagnosed with a condition called Dystonia. To cut a long story short, Emlyn arranged a Celebrity Soccer match for the Dystonia Society which included him and other football and television stars to raise money for the Society. On top of that he also became a Vice-President of the Society as did Princess Alexandra. Emlyn and his wife kept in touch and we exchanged christmas cards every year. I was heartbroken when he became ill and then left us to join Shanks and Bob. Bless him, I can still see his infectious smile whenever I think of him.
Emlyn was a firm fixture on Question of Sport, here with Princess Anne
Working in the souvenir shop I didn't have to miss any matches as I worked until the last minute and then went to my spot on the Kop. One European night we were so busy in the shop that I had left it too late to get into the back of the Kop. What did I do? I went around to the main entrance, along the corridors and down the steps touching the 'This is Anfield' sign on the way. (By the way I was offered that sign but refused. I must have been mad!?) Where was I? Oh yes, walking along the tunnel onto the pitch. As I neared the pitch the noise and the lights drew me in. I walked out into the stadium. I couldn't believe it, me Linda Robinson, walking out of the tunnel on a European night with the floodlights blazing out across the ground and a packed house. I knew how it must have felt for the players. I turned right and walked along the side of the pitch, left at the corner flag and then behind the goal. I climbed into the Kop and gradually made my way up to my spec to join my husband and all the regulars whom we always stood with. I was in a bit of a daze that night having done something that most supporters would only ever dream of.
After I had moved to Hong Kong with my husband, luck would have it that the players came there on a pre-season tour in 1983. One of the players had bought a radio and Brucie turned it on and had me dancing around the reception!! I took Brucie and Graeme for a walk around Hong Kong. It started to drizzle with rain and Souness was worried about his hair so he walked around with a newspaper held over his head. Brucie spotted a pair of goalkeeping gloves in a shop window and they were the "Bruce Grobbelaar gloves". He went into the shop and tried to explain to a very confused Chinese shop keeper that they were his gloves!! Walking around Hong Kong nobody took any notice of the players as well as when we all went to the beach. They wouldn't be able to do that today!
Linda with the newspaper that saved Graeme's precious hair!
At the beach with Sammy Lee in Hong Kong
I have so many fond memories which I can only touch on here. My husband and I in Paris spending the night on the floor with Ian Rush in Ronnie Whelan's room at the hotel. Selling my bike and my husband cashing in his Life Assurance so we could get to Rome. Standing next to Bob Paisley in the players' lounge watching the first space shuttle coming into land on the television. Taking my tiny transistor radio into the kitchen at Anfield to listen to the F.A. Cup draw with the players huddled around trying to see who we had got in the next round. We drew Everton that day! Walking to a match in Birmingham past a pub full of Birmingham supporters who were drinking outside. We didn't have our colours on as you had to be very careful back then when going to away games. Unfortunately, the team coach decided to drive by with a police escort. Some of the players were banging on the window and shouting 'Hello Lin!' They were told off in no uncertain terms the following day! Luckily the Birmingham supporters didn't pay any attention to us so we got away with that. Life was great back then, but I still say that standing on the Kop singing my heart out and walking miles up and down the terraces during the match was the most important thing to me. Looking back down the years, perhaps I didn't realise how lucky I was, but I do now.
YNWA - JFT 96 - Linda.
Linda with her former work colleague George Sephton
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