On Monday I took a trip to Liverpool. I parked in Mossley Hill and got the train to Lime Street. After arriving the normal routine in recent years would be to grab a taxi and head towards the ground or one of the pubs near it. However, yesterday I did something different. I walked to Anfield.
Why did I do that? I was a hot day for Christ’s sake! Because this was our Liverpool match day routine in the eighties and nineties. We had a tongue in cheek phrase then “The Boughton Army Walks Everywhere!” Great Boughton was the area of Chester the majority of us were bought up in and the bravado about walking was initially there to hide the fact that we just wanted to save on bus or taxi fare! However, as we got older is was nice to walk, talk, laugh, joke, chew the fat and generally bull**it. We were the “Last of the Summer Wine Juniors”!
Before I go on I would like to say that this is not a piece eulogising about the City of Liverpool or wallowing in nostalgia. Nor is it trying to jump on the some City of Culture “Isn’t Liverpool great” bandwagon by making “right on” comments about the City.
I’m not from Liverpool and have never ever pretended to be so. I love what I know and have seen of the City and have been there countless times for p***ups concerts and well as the footy but in truth, the football club aside, I know and have seen very little. For example anyone who has an intimate knowledge of the City will look at this walk will probably say “Is that it? Is that what you used to do on match days?” and then rightly point out hundreds of other more interesting and potential pleasurable alternatives to our chosen path! However, that’s what we did and I wouldn’t change it.
We’d arrive at Lime Street from Chester and then, as time and careers moved on, from all corners of the country. My best friend had moved to Liverpool and was always first in our meeting place, The Lord Warden on London Road. Christ, we even got that wrong by ignoring “The Yankee”. There are three pubs that side of Lime Street Station. The Warden, Ma Egerton’s, behind the Empire Theatre, and The Legs of Man which is now the Empire’s Box office. Although The Lord Warden was the furthest away it had a vital advantage over the other two – there was a William Hill next door! Perfect! Invariably the first pint would be a quiet one as we poured over the fixed odds coupon. Oddly enough none of us would bet on Liverpool!
After that we would begin the walk up London Road. Machine Mart, The Bed Shop, T J Hughes. The Statue of George III astride his horse but his regal pretentiousness pricked as invariably there would be a seagull perched on his head! We’d then branch off on a route finely tuned over the years to make maximum use of all the short cuts available. Left into Audley Street, then Ilford Street, Gildart Street, Devon Street before emerging at New Islington and crossing to Shaw Street.
Shaw Street could be grim especially if it was dark or raining. Everton Terrace, all scrub and litter then but now looking better, ran parallel to it. It was a hard climb up the terrace, past the fantastically named People’s Church. To this day we had no idea what denomination it was but we always greeted it with a Wolfey Smith style clenched fist! Once at the top we were rewarded with a great panoramic view of the City. Next was Heyworth Street. Past the Orange Club, The Old Campfield, The Mere Bank and down Mere Lane past the Derry Social Club. If my mate was feeling lazy, or had missed his train, he’d park his car in Ermine Crescent but not before paying some young kid a quid or two to “look after” it though quite why he should be too concerned about a battered, brown mini metro was beyond me!
We emerged on Robson Street which always drew a childish sneer or two because of Captain Marvel 40 miles down the East Lancs Road and into the now condemned Granton Pub. Here we’d have a game of pool or, if it was near kick off time, a cramped game of pool! We’d often bump into my mate’s work colleague who had been there seen it and done it as far as Liverpool were concerned. However, unlike some fans he didn’t ram it down your throat or belittle you with a “Cup Finals attended, games seen, on the table” approach.
Next up was the maze of cramped now condemned houses that surrounded the ground. Herschel Street, left into Adam Street and then Venmore Street before Anfield, full of silver and million pound players, flanked by The Park and The Albert, burst out. A massive and disturbing contrast to it’s surroundings?
A long walk, but a routine that we loved and looked forward to. It was a breath of fresh air after the trials and tribulations of the working week, a chance to catch up if we’d not seen each other since the last game and was, truth be told, just as enjoyable as the match! With hindsight the walk could have be anywhere it was the company that made it memorable which became more and more important when I moved away from the North West.
On Monday the walk was all the poignant as the reason I was in Liverpool was for a funeral. The funeral of a fellow red and Cestrian, who I had walked that route with on countless occasions as well as travelling to away games. However Liverpool FC was just one thing, above all he was a friend, taken from those who loved him when the time was wrong, so very wrong.
RIP Ian 1963-2008.
“…..I know it’s okay okay”