Top 5 Scariest Moments
By Paul Bretherton
From Issue 56, Spring 2002
As much as I’ve enjoyed following the Reds over the years, there have been those occasions when it’s been real heart in the mouth stuff………or to be totally frank and honest with you, times when I’ve just been plain crapping myself!
I make no excuses for admitting to pangs of nervousness and slight bowel irritation, whether that be due to being sat in United’s Road End surrounded by their lot baying for Scouse blood. Or being perched in the East Stand at Spurs after Michael Thomas has just slotted home. Or alternatively, just totally forgetting where I was at Maine Road last season when Heskey bulleted that header and I was up like a shot.
In truth, this could easily have been a top 50 listing. If I could write that many words that is, or live with myself for boring you good people stupid. Nor do I feel the slightest bit of embarrassment about splashing my right trouser leg in Wembley Park tube toilets in 96. It’s always best to check who’s stood around near you (and who they support) before you decide to start singing a rather derogatory ditty about their team! Oooooops! And before the name ‘Pee-Wee’ gets mentioned, it was a dribble and nothing more, okay? Just a dribble! So there you have it. And with the current trend of Channel 4 showering us with their top 100’s regularly on a Saturday night (voted by you the viewers of course) it might well set the scene further if you read this to yourself in a slightly camp Irish accent. I give you;
NUMBER 5: LIVERPOOL v CHELSEA 1984/85
Most people remember this end of season game for the seven-goal thriller that it was, but I remember it for totally different reasons, namely one of the first times that I could remember seeing trouble inside the ground. As a 13 year old stood on the Kop that day with my bother Ged, I watched in amazement as fighting broke out alongside the dividing fence of The Anny Road, just as the game kicked off. I was brave enough to join in with fellow Kopites as the shouts went up of ‘getting ’em outside later’ (from a safe distance of course!)
And that was it, or so it seemed, until we got back to Lime Street and got on the local outward-bound service. Now remember that this was back in the days when it seemed every away support seemed to travel by train and get deposited at Edge Hill. As our train slowly moved through the tunnels, every Red in the front carriage moved to the windows ready to abuse these invading southerners, and cheerily send them on their way with the obligatory cat calling and v-signs. And I just loved this, this was all part of the match, the ritual, and I for one couldn’t get enough of it. I only now see the irony later on in life, that my mother would regularly frown, and sigh, if I asked for pocket money for the Thursday night youth disco, worried that it was a battle-ground and full of bad influences. However, wanting money for the match was never a problem. I think she had nostalgic memories of fans side by side, mingling happily, jumpers for goal posts………if only she’d known the truth.
Well, there I was, leaning against the carriage door, head out of the window like a dog in the passenger seat, flicking V signs and telling ’em where to go, when abruptly, the train ground to a halt. DEAR GOD! Red light! The noise that followed, I can still remember to this day. Distant and low, then getting nearer and louder, mummmeeeeeeee! I know how Michael Caine must have felt in Zulu. Everybody, and I mean everybody, in that carriage slammed the windows up, made feeble attempts to remove any article of give away clothing and sat down waiting for the worst. I must admit to clutching tightly to my ‘1974 FA Cup Winners’ flag attached to it’s bamboo stick; they might take me I thought, but not my precious flag…… and anyway, I might be able to shove it up somebody’s nose, or arse.
And just as it seemed we were doomed, the train magically pulled away. Nobody was brave enough to move or take a peek out of the windows until we were safely through Wavertree I can tell you. The relief was indescribable. Lots of bravado followed after that, mixed with nervous laughter by yours truly. That was a close call I thought, and I vowed there and then, to be a good boy and never get involved in that kind of thing when I was old enough.
Thank you Chelsea, you gave me an important lesson in life that day.
No 4: ARSENAL v LIVERPOOL 1988/89 League Cup (the Villa Park ‘un)
Easily one of the best performances I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. We battered them from the first minute to the last, and could have easily scored six that night, such was the completeness of the performance, and that was with key players missing. Enduring memories? The atmosphere we produced, King Kenny tossing a packet of sarnies back into the Arsenal section, Beardsley showing up Steve Bould for what he was………
Oh, and the walk back to the Asda Car park. We’d taken up residence in the left hand section of the Holte End, right next to the dividing fence. And let’s face it, at certain times, there’s nothing better than to be situated next to the opposition support when you’re playing them off the park (quite another when you’re getting hammered though). On full time, we celebrated and made our way out, into the middle of a fucking war zone. Hundred of Gooners had made their way out first, and were now looking for revenge, as they pushed their way through the flimsy police lines. Lord, it was do or die and this is where I got separated.
Now, (and this is an important point, so listen), if you’re gonna engage in friendly ‘banter’ with the enemy, like I did that night, puhlease, wear something inconspicuous, for your own safety. Not like this idiot, and sport a bright luminous fluorescent Ski jacket. Standing on a crush barrier, waving, saluting, blowing kisses, and making the score line out with your fingers – well, it ain’t that great an idea when you’re gonna want to blend in later. I might as well have been wearing a target on my back. Trying to catch my mates up, whilst attempting to look as cool and unruffled as possible, the hairs on the back of my neck suddenly sprang up as I heard growling voices behind me: “There’s that loud mouthed Scouse, f**kin do im”
Oh sweet Jesus! Did they mean me? I quickened my pace till I was most definitely speed walking for team Great Britain. There I was for all the world, looking like a competitor from that most ridiculous of sports, except my cheeks were clenched even tighter than theirs, for fear of my sphincter literally falling off onto the Birmingham pavement. I broke into a run hoping to lose them somewhere in the car park, and then it happened, I had a fit of the giggles. It was like I was a seven year old again. You know, those hazy days when you’d be getting legged by the local bully, and for some inexplicable reason you’d start to crack up. Why I ask you, does this happen? Something I’ll have to ask Desmond Morris, I suppose.
Maybe it was just the relief that I’d thought I’d shaken them off, and so I stopped to catch my breath and cease with the laughter. And from nowhere, they re-appeared. When the first punch rained in, boy I can tell you that woke me with a jolt. And I re-discovered my running shoes. Like a mirage in the distance, the getaway car appeared, revving and ready to roll, and in my final few steps I could have doubled for Jonathan Edwards, hopping, skipping and jumping. Now I’d never dove onto the back seat of a moving car prior to this (I’d always wanted to) and it is just like in the movies, but there the stuntmen do it a whole lot better than I mustered that night. Throwing yourself full length and attempting to clutch the parcel shelf, whilst your legs are flailing outside and bashing into stray shopping trollies is no easy task I can tell ya. My right trainer dropped off, leaving my tormentors to scoop it up as a trophy and gloat whilst I looked back at them through the rear window.
All in all, I was just relieved to have come away relatively unscathed, and we had won as well, but having to suffer the indignity of wandering around Sandbach services with one trainer on, drawing puzzled looks from all and sundry, ruined a great night in my opinion. If memory serves me correctly, I recall telling the bemused checkout woman it was the ‘In thing’ right now, and soon enough the Fashion houses and catwalks of Paris and Milan would be touting this. This was in reply to her asking me whether I knew I only had one trainer on. “Oooooooo, no, I didn’t, thanks for pointing it out though, I thought my foot was a bit cold”. The daft old bat.
I never did get the trainer back (you don’t say? – ed) and would like to think it sits proudly on a mantelpiece, somewhere in North London, where a man sits a child on his lap, and proudly recounts to him of the night he punched a Scouser in a dayglo jacket for taking liberties.
No 3: SHEFFIELD UNITED v LIVERPOOL 1990/91
The first day of the season and a glorious sunny hot day in Sheffield. Another good solid performance from the defending champions, and after this display we had no reasons to doubt that League Championship Number 19 was well on it’s way to us. Oops! There was what the police would describe as ‘minor skirmishes’ outside, prior to the game, but all in all it was nothing unduly worrying, just the usual verbal spouting and posturing from beer bellied tattooed representatives of the ‘Yorkshire nation’.
We took up our standing position, right at the front of the terrace, and I quietly read through the papers and checked the coupons. Now if you’re like me, visiting an away ground for the first time, my mind does tend to wander and drift, as I take in the new surroundings. Yes, even that of the architectural masterpiece known as Bramall Lane. As I gormlessly watched the home ends fill up, quite quietly and from some twenty odd feet away, I first heard the strains of ‘You fat bastards, you fat bastards’ begin to echo. I didn’t bother to check out who had appeared on the scene, but assumed it was some journeyman footballer currently plying his trade with the Blades, who had decided to warm up at the wrong end. Then suddenly… BOOM…it happened. The fence in front started to shake violently and I looked up, mouth agog. Quite possibly the two largest women I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet, were above me clambering up the fence whilst everybody jumped back…all except me of course.
“Fugggggg ooffffff thee Scouse bast-uds, fugggggin get ‘ere and say it” (RATTLE RATTLE!) and with that, one of them gobbed on me. Not a little spec of spit though, a real phlegm ball, which I took right to the face. Bemused and a little shocked, I moved forward to confront my aggressor. I had no intention of punching her, I couldn’t hit a woman after all, even if the lump of lard in front of me blocking the sun out barely resembled one. I merely wanted to restrain her (and wipe my glistening cheeks on her sleeve). Without warning, the other one grabbed me through the bars and held me by the scruff of the neck. Indecipherable Yorkshire language followed, bawled out by these two moon faces pressed up against mine. More spit rained down which this time horrifyingly contained chunks of meat and potato pie for that gruesome splatter effect. Eugh! The sheer embarrassment of being turned over by two big Yorkshire women was enough for me to come to my senses, discover the strength of ten men, and yank myself away.
Where were my mates, you may ask? Pissing themselves stupid with laughter and shouting such witticisms as “We think they like you Brev, get in there!” A brave (or alternatively stupid) police officer intervened, yanked them down from the fence and sent them packing, all of this done with a grin on his face as wide as a Cheshire cat. I must admit to a fleeting thought of getting his number and asking his superior officer why the two gluttons hadn’t been arrested and deposited in the back of a van. But the thought of being in the papers, looking all sad and glum in black and white with the headline bearing down “Sheffield sisters assault young man with spittle and pie” would have been too much to bear.
Plus if it had gone to court, I’d have to see them again, Christ, they might even bring their mother with ’em this time, so I thought better of it and put it down to one of life’s rich experiences. ‘Never coming here again…EVER’ I mentally scribed. One gobbed-on face, speckles of pie crust nestling on my head, and a torn t-shirt, all this prior to the game even kicking off. What a day. Ah well, stuff them, we won 3-1.
As they would say in Yorkshire I was ‘reet chuffed’ when the shower finally got relegated.
No 2: DERBY COUNTY v LIVERPOOL 1990/91
With our title defence getting all jittery, Dalglish having abdicated, Ronnie Moran was attempting to keep us going, and on paper, this looked like a very tricky March time fixture. They were fighting for their 1st division lives and at best I thought we might sneak it, or at least get a point. Now for me and the lads, this had been our first year as season ticket holders. Getting fed up with having to get in the Kop early for the big matches, we had decided to part with some hard earned cash and pay the princely sum of £95 for a Kop ticket. Those were the days indeed!
As well as the bonus of being able to stay in the pub for longer pre match periods, it also gave you priority for those vital away games. We’d decided on going to the Baseball Ground only a couple of weeks previously, and as things turn out when you leave them to the last minute, our end had already sold out. Now my dad at that time worked on the railways and had numerous colleagues employed the length and breadth of the country, who were only ever a phone call away. One it turned out was a Derby County season ticket holder. A few days after telling him of our plight, through the post duly arrived four tickets. Nice one…oh, in the Derby end?….hmm right. The guy told him he thought they were for the family section, but couldn’t be sure…..smashing, that’ll do for us.
We got to the ground and duly took up our seats in the ‘C’ stand Paddock (Ground spotters alert, it was the one facing the camera’s where the dugouts were) and all was well, until about 2:30. Family stand?…oh no it wasn’t. Every mean looking get from the provincial town was in there and they seemed more interested in baiting the travelling reds than watching the game itself. It was only a couple of years later when I met a Derby fan on holiday, who re-confirmed that ‘C’ stand was indeed notorious, and he was more than a little impressed that we’d lasted the course. Ha-ha! Respect!
First it was pretty mild and tame, but closer to kick off time, the first predictable strains of ‘You scouse bastards’ started to ring out, followed by an unfortunate Red being ‘outed’ in the back of the stand. He was set upon in droves, but was fortunately rescued by the stewards. This was gonna be a grin and bear it day all right I thought.
Not that we were overly worried, after all there was four of us, but we did want to see the full game and not risk the wrath of the East Midlands bizzies (just as bad as the West Midlands ones in my opinion). So what happens? We go and score seven goals, fucking SEVEN goals, and away from home, puhlease!, And there’s four of us Reds having to keep shtum, stifling broad grins, and trying to look as disappointed as possible. Speedie cracked one in, and decide to run past us and the Neanderthal goons, sticking his tongue out and grabbing his crotch. Much to our shame, we had to leap up and shout abuse back to him, admittedly in extremely poor imitation accents. Fortunately the locals were more interested in conducting threatening gestures to the fiery Scot to notice our tragic efforts at sheepspeak. And that happened seven times, who could have predicted that eh? We purchased the video of the game from the club, just so we could all savour it time and time again. I last viewed it just a couple of weeks ago, and apart from being embarrassed by my hair style and appalling dress sense, it was amusing to see four familiar pale faces grimacing through those 90 minutes of sheer ‘hell’.
Well, you may ask, did we get away scot free? Well, in a word, yes…and no. We trundled out with the rest, ambled back to the car, and discovered someone had slashed one of our tyres. It transpired that Batesy had inadvertently forgotten to remove his hanging Liverpool pennant from the dash. Get the jack out, la! And hide that friggin’ pennant next time.
No 1: LIVERPOOL v COVENTRY 1999/2000
A strange choice you may think? Scratching your brow trying to recall serious pre-match bouts of trouble in the Flattie or Sam Dodd’s hmm? Still searching the memory banks for memories of a huge Police presence around the ground that day?
Well, if you were sat in the Paddock like me, near the bench, things should start to become a little clearer to you. Still hazy? Yes? Now, think back to about 2:55, and that strangely familiar looking middle-aged bloke stood on the touchline watching his son lead the teams out. That’s right… ……step forward, Chris De Burgh.
Nothing particularly frightening in that is there? And no, in truth there isn’t (apart from some of the old dear’s in the front rows getting rather over excited over the bushy eye browed one’s surprise appearance). That was until he decided to give us all an impromptu solo, and no it wasn’t Lady in Red I might add. He turned to his admirers and assembled Paddockites and shouted out: “Come on guys, get behind the boys…….come on….we lurrvee you Liv-er-pool, we dooo, we lur…….” Need I go on?
I’d forgotten all about this until I recently read about him attempting to heal Markus Babbel through the power of touch. Like some suppressed memory of abuse, it all came flooding back as I remembered and winced with the agony. The look on the majority of faces that day spoke volumes. It was a real peeking through the fingers moment and one that I don’t care to witness again. Now, you may say there’s nothing wrong with his ‘performance’, the total opposite in fact. He should be given some credit for getting behind the team, trying to whip up a red-hot atmosphere, and at least showing us that he cared. The fact that us silent Paddockites chose not to take up his offer is more of a statement about us. And I’d concede that.
BUT it wasn’t the fact that he was singing, or of that cheesy smile of his that had me gritting my teeth. No, it was his total over the top, attention seeking manner that left me thinking he should save this kind of thing for Wembley Arena, not Anfield.
The more we ignored him, the more he attempted to cheerlead us, waving his arms and punching the air. ‘For God’s sake man, this is the Paddock’ I wanted to scream, ‘Go to the Kop and get them going, we don’t sing in here doncha know’. Everybody shuffled their feet and mumbled, praying for George to read the teams out and SOON. It lasted only a few minutes, but seemed like an eternity. When he’d completed his ‘set’, he saluted us all to a ripple (and I mean a ripple) of applause, resulting in much shaking of heads and raising of eyebrows all around. This was beyond scary.
In truth, if he had drunkenly sung like me or you I wouldn’t have had a problem with it, but this was real staccato Three Tenors stuff. All that was missing was his piano, and a sparkling white suit. Hmmmmmm, that’s actually got me thinking a little, maybe it wouldn’t be too bad after all, if the club ask him to perform for future games. Given regular exposure to desensitise us to it, we could be onto a real winner here. He could even duet with Dr Fun and his hand puppet?
Let’s be honest here, you would get in early to hear him croon and tinkle on the ivories wouldn’t you, just for the sheer hell of it? I know I would. To hear him belting out such classics as ‘We’re the Barmy Anny Road Army’ in D minor would be something else. We could all hold up gas lighters in unison (evening matches only) as he regales us with ‘A Liverbird upon my chest’, or alternatively we could stamp our feet and clap our hands as he pumps up the volume with: ‘We hate Nottingham Forest….we hate Everton too (THEY’RE SHIT!)’, and all of this done with the self styled mad Kopite from Huyton, resting his elbows on the grand next to the candelabra.
Oh my God, I feel a letter to Rick Parry coming on!
FINAL THOUGHT (sorry Jerry)
By the way, I do hope De Burgh’s boy entered the Carlsberg Challenge or whatever was required, and won the prize draw, enabling him to be our mascot for the day, just like us peasants are required to do. I would be appalled if he’d just picked up the phone and pulled some strings. In fact I demand to see his son’s 1000 word dissertation on ‘What makes the Reds great?’. Oh, and his drawing of Michael Owen in action in felt tip. Rules are rules after all. Oh yeah, doesn’t his wife look different these days?