The word spread like wild fire - soon the decks of the ship resembled a Red and White ant colony as we slowly entered and docked in Le Harve. A multitude of Liverpool songs spewed across the terminal forecourt as we made our way to the coach picking up points. The early morning sunshine blazed through the coach windows as we sped our way through Rouen and onwards towards Paris. In time cries of "Hey drives – can we stop soon – me belly thinks me throats been cut" started to fill the air. Some people hadn’t eaten anything since leaving Liverpool – some people couldn’t afford to buy food. You see the trip to watch the Reds was more important? We stopped at a few motorway service stations along the way [not like ours at home these where very basic and sparse] the French people we encountered were very abrupt and it was clear too see they didn’t want us there. They paid for their insolence as some people helped themselves to various foodstuffs and whatnot, this was the biggest takeaway we’d seen for some time.
On the outskirts of Paris we noticed that we had been joined by the Gendarme, [On high-powered motorbikes and a couple of cars]. Our Police escort stayed with us right until we had passed Paris, Vézelay and a couple of other one horse Towns along the way. Mid afternoon we arrived in Lyon free from our Police escort and where well chuffed when the coach driver informed us we could stop here for an hour or so, the police escort had ensured we where way ahead of schedule. Swarms of Scouser’s from a multitude of coaches soon enveloped the numerous cafés, restaurants and hostelries the afternoon air was filled with songs borne from the Mersey. Police sirens filled the air as entrepreneur types tried their hands at various jewellers etc. Highly branded and much sort after watches changed hands for ridiculously cheap prices, I never considered the option my Timex watch meant more to me. At this point it should be noted that back home we where in the middle of a bread strike on, so it came as no surprise to find that many on our coach had acquired some of finest bread that France had on offer. We decided [If the opportunity arose] to see if we could grab a couple of loaves on the way home [They would be fresher?] The aroma of the coach was surreal, freshly baked bread combined with the stale smell of sweat and alcohol.
We made our way into St Etienne and parked up near the ground, we decided to check out our end of the ground before we returned to a local square for an all out sustained attack on some much needed beer’s. The place was jumping; bipping and bobbing as the Reds let loose some of the frustration of such a long journey in that heat. Song’s were sung like they had never been sung before, I don’t think I’m qualified to express the feeling at that time and indeed in the ground that night. The queue into our end was immense as it turned and twisted along its way. We where just relieved to get in… Up on the terracing to find that it was very nearly full already, quite a few never made it even to the ground as dehydration and excesses of alcohol took its toll as they slept in the nearby pubs and coaches etc. The crowd inside built and built, it was clear that many outside would not get in. If the atmosphere in the pubs had been a cracker – then this was something else? We soon found out that the other half of our end was chocka block full of St Etienne supporters, the two sets of supporters divided by a line of Frances finest Gendarme.
Watching the St Etienne crowd it soon became clear that a large number of there support was of Turkish nationality, they seemed intent to make this as hostile as possible in more ways than one. It came as a bit of a surprise to us to find that the St Etienne fans started throwing bread rolls over at the Liverpool supporters. It some became clear what was going on. The bread rolls had bricks inside them, most of the lads picked up the rolls, threw the bricks back and ate the rolls. "You're not getting' yer bread back, you're not getting yer bread back na na na na na na na na" was immediately also thrown back at them - Bon Appetit!
A wall of noise greeted both teams as they walked out onto the pitch. Joey Jones immediately legged it up to our end giving us his famous clenched fist salute – thousands of clenched fists saluted the sky as "O Joey Joey Joey Joey Joey Joey Joey Jones" suffocated the ears. You could tell that the St Etienne support had never seen anything in their lives like our Joey, as Liverpool song after Liverpool song echoed around the ground. The rest of the Liverpool team was applauded as they warmed up defending the goal at our end. Every player’s name was sung individually loud and proud and acknowledged by each of them in turn. It was evident to see that they had come to take on the Lions in the Lions den, this was going to be some game?
Every time the St Etienne supporters sang "Allez Les Verts" we immediately responded back with "Allez Les Rouge, allez les Rouge allez" any attempt by them to create any sort of atmosphere was drowned out by the Liverpool support. The crescendo of noise rose as the teams lined up for the big kick off. The Tricky Reds were without Kevin Keegan and to make matters even worst Big John Toshack wasn’t 100% fit, nagging injury problems would soon hinder the number of appearances Big John would be able to make. A couple of finely tuned rash tackles from the French defenders soon put paid to the big fella after half an hour or so it was clear to see Big John was struggling – Now it was a backs against the wall job. Bob Paisley had no other option but to replace the limping Toshack with Dave Johnson. Strangely, the enforced substitution seemed to gel the Reds into a more mobile and comfortable pattern of play and the Frenchmen had a number of questions asked about them. The majority of the St Etienne players continued to make on and off the ball challenges which neither the linesmen or the referee appeared to see. With the Reds getting no protection whatsoever from the officials – you could see that Joey Jones and the lads had had enough of this nonsense. A couple of Joey Jones specials soon made the St Etienne players realise if they wanted to mix it Liverpool where more than capable of matching them. What started as a feast of football slowly deteriorated into a rough and tumble affair thanks to the official’s ineptitude.
Argentinean centre-half Oscar Piazza nicknamed “The Beast” or "The Wild Bull of the Pampas" received a yellow card for nearly chopping Ian Callaghan in half with one of the worst tackles ever witnessed, this booking meant that he would not take part in the second leg. A Steve Heighway thunderbolt nearly broke Curkovic’s cross bar, no-one was on hand for the follow up and the ball was unfortunately played into safety. Ten minutes later with the match beginning to look like a no score draw until Jean-Michel Larque miss kicked an attempted shot which conveniently fell to the feet of Bathenay hit this strike that even Ray Clemence couldn’t stop - Liverpool didn’t deserve to be a goal down. As the final whistle blew, the St Etienne supporters quite rightly went ballistic they knew they had also witnessed a superb game between two very good sides. The Liverpool players saluted the away cacophony of support who boomed out "We’ll support you evermore" as the players made their way to the tunnel there was a bit of a commotion. The St Etienne players wanted to swap shirts but the Liverpool players had been instructed not too [as a protest about the way they behaved on the pitch] Without an away goal the odds were slightly less favourable for the Reds, especially with the French side looking slick. Walking out the ground cries of "One goal's not enough tra la la la" resounded throughout the Liverpool section [An act of defiance] and a clear indication that this game wasn’t over by any stretch of the imagination?
We sang our way back to the coaches and some realised that it would take some time to sort everybody out onto the correct coaches, we went for a drink? The few St Etienne supporters that had made it to a nearby bar sat in silence as we ordered some beers and helped ourselves to a couple of sarnies. "What’s with all this bread throwing malarkey" one of the lad’s said, they didn’t have a clue what we where on about so we left it as that. We told the French supporters that if they thought that tonight’s atmosphere was special "Wait until they hear 26,000 like minded on the Spion Kop". We nearly cacked ourselves when one of them replied "Yes we have heard all about the Liverpool Spion Kop and how famous it is" We asked them if they would be coming to Liverpool for the 2nd leg "Non" was the reply? "Good job lad – your lot are gonna get snotted for what they did tonight" He had no reply, so we got off back to the coaches with a couple of bottles of wine to see us on our way.
The traffic congestion was something to behold eventually we made it to the motorway and a slow night-time trip to Le Harve. We woke up to find that we where not too far away and we would be stopping for a while at Rouen. The people descended upon Rouen like locusts eating anything they could get there hands on, near enough everybody was walking around with every type of bread known to man to take home for the families. Sirens again coincided with our visit as some helped themselves to fancy designer label goods, this ensured that a police escort to Le Harve would be in situ. The ferry trip back home saw much wheeler dealing as entrepreneur types cashed in on the goods they had acquired. It was great to get back home.