Recharged under Jürgen Klopp, 2018 Champions League runners-up Liverpool FC are serious European contenders once more. Despite the sale of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona, Liverpool rolled over Porto, Roma and Manchester City for the showdown with Real Madrid in Kiev, Mohamed Salah simply unstoppable.
But stopped he was, a malicious tug-of-the-arm by Sergio Ramos forcing the Egyptian striker out of the final before calamitous errors by goalkeeper Loris Karius allowed Real a third straight Champions League trophy.
On the plus side, lesser-sung players such as Scots left-back Andrew Robertson and England international right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold both had outstanding games. With the ambitious Fenway Sports Group investing £115 million into the development of Liverpool’s legendary Anfield, now holding 54,000, and £150 million-plus on the likes of goalkeeper Alisson and his Brazilian compatriot, midfielder Fabinho, for 2018-19, Liverpool are in as good as position as ever to claim a first league title since 1990.
The biggest club in the English game until Ferguson’s Manchester United came along, Liverpool are all about mass popular support. If the club’s story starts in 1892, the formation of the club after a local dispute with Everton, who headed across Stanley Park to Goodison, their real story started in the 1960s with motivational manager Bill Shankly.
After 1892, Liverpool remained in the locality, known as Everton. Their first silverware came after World War I, then after World War II. They gained a loyal fan base, whose first hero was striker Billy Liddell.
On December 14, 1959, a Monday, ex-Preston half-back Shankly walked in to manage a club festering in the lower flight and recently dumped out of the FA Cup by Worcester City. Mercurial Scot Shankly provided inspiration, coaching associates Bob Paisley and Joe Fagan tactics, communally devised in the soon legendary Boot Room.
Proper training facilities, the all-red kit, the Anfield sign, Shankly’s messianic methodology worked wonders. A strong defence backed by Scots centre-half Ron Yeats, and a prolific attack of Roger Hunt and Ian St John saw The Reds win two league titles in the mid-1960s, and come close to European honours. Behind them roared The Kop, and the start of mass modern fan culture.
Shankly retired, savvy protegés Paisley and then Fagan buying wisely (Kevin Keegan, John Toshack and notably Kenny Dalglish) to go one better and win the European Cup – four times. After a memorable 3-1 over Borussia Mönchengladbach in Rome, The Reds simply dominated Europe, though later finals were poor affairs.
The 1980s also saw tragedy. With Ian Rush scoring the goals, Liverpool were unstoppable in the league but lost their European privileges after the Heysel Stadium disaster at the European Cup final of 1985. In 1989, 96 supporters lost their lives at Hillsborough, before an FA Cup semi-final. The last of 19 league titles was won in 1990.
As Manchester United dominated, a team starring Robbie Fowler, Jamie Carragher, Michael Owen and Steve McManaman – the so-called Spice Boys – came to the fore. Although McManaman left for Real Madrid in 1999, dynamic young midfielder Steven Gerrard was a first-choice player by 2000-01. This was the treble season, when manager Gérard Houllier, a former Liverpool teacher, led The Reds to League, FA and UEFA Cups. The latter was a simply incredible 5-4 extra-time win over Alavés.
With Houllier bowing out for health reasons, Spaniard Rafa Benítez then arrived for a six-year spell, signing key compatriots Xabi Alonso and Luis García. By now Gerrard was captain and his drive – after a crucial late goal against Olympiakos earlier in the tournament – allowed Liverpool to come back into the 2005 Champions League Final. Trailing AC Milan 3-0 at half-time, and hearing the opposition celebrating in the adjoining dressing room, Liverpool stormed back to bring the game to 3-3, then win the trophy on penalties. Milan got their revenge in the final two years later. In between, two-goal Gerrard produced a heroic trophy-winning performance in a memorable FA Cup Final against West Ham, his second last-minute strike as dramatic and definitive as almost any seen on such an occasion.
Behind the scenes, financial ruin beckoned. Boston Red Sox owner John W Henry stepped in to take control here in 2010. After the League Cup win of 2012, talk turned to the future of Anfield – and a real Premier League challenge.
With prolific if controversial Uruguayan striker Luis Suárez, incoming Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho and impressive prodigy Raheem Sterling, manager Brendan Rodgers had the talent to win the title in 2013-14. Swift and prolific up front, Suárez and Sturridge the Premier League’s top two scorers, Liverpool were the popular favourites to win the title – not least as 2014 was the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.
It wasn’t to be. With three games to go, Gerrard’s slip against Chelsea was followed by a 3-0 lead surrendered at Crystal Palace. The Reds strolled out at a booming Anfield in the last game of the season against Newcastle knowing that a win would probably not be enough. It wasn’t.
After talismanic one-club captain Steven Gerrard trooped off for California, there was a near messianic welcome for Jürgen Klopp. After a cautious start in October 2015, Klopp was doing cartwheels by the end of the month at Stamford Bridge following Liverpool’s devastating 3-1 win over champions Chelsea. Klopp then led the Reds to two major finals, reaching a Europa League showdown with Sevilla after a heart-stopping win over his old club, Dortmund, 4-3 at an effervescent Anfield.
Though Manchester City won the League Cup on penalties and the Spanish turned the final round in Basel to reverse a stunning Daniel Sturridge strike, things had turned a corner at Liverpool. Between the two finals, a verdict of unlawful killing of the 96 Liverpool fans at Hillsborough in 1989, vindicated the 27-year struggle of victims’ families for truth and justice.
Without the distraction of European football in 2016-17, Klopp’s team finished above Arsenal and Manchester United to claim a Champions League berth for the following season. It was to be a rollercoaster of a campaign, 44 goals in all competitions coming from the irrepressible Mohamed Salah, ably supported by Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino. Anchored by James Milner and Jordan Henderson, Liverpool could flatten opponents in ten-minute bursts, demonstrated by three memorable victories over previously unbeaten Manchester City.
Though Liverpool failed to take home Europe’s premier club trophy for the sixth time of asking, the club spearheaded a notable revival by English teams in the competition. At home, Liverpool remain very much in contention – but that may not be enough to end the title drought.
It was all change at Anfield in 2016. A £100 million expansion extended capacity to 54,000, 8,000-plus added to the main stand.
Home to Liverpool since Day One, 120 years ago, Anfield originally belonged to Everton. LFC took it over and made it theirs, building new stands either side of the new century. The one along Walton Breck Road was dubbed ‘The Spion Kop’ by ‘Liverpool Echo’ journalist Ernest Edwards, referring to a hilly battle in the recent Boer War involving a local regiment. Shorted to ‘Kop’, this is now not only synonymous with Liverpool, but steep-sided home terraces everywhere.
The Kop earned its reputation during the Shankly era, when the crowd could almost will the ball in, collectively. The man who inspired such belief was later honoured with a set of gates bearing the motto ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. Bob Paisley has been remembered in similar fashion. Shankly also appears in statue form outside.
The Kop houses the Museum & Tour Centre and Anfield Superstore. At the opposite Anfield Road goal is where you’ll find the Shankly Gates and Hillsborough Memorial. The Main and Sir Kenny Dalglish Stands hug the sidelines. Away fans are allocated the nearest section of the Anfield Road end to the Main Stand.
Anfield is served by a frequent Soccerbus service that operates from Sandhills station, two stops on the Merseyrail Northern Line from Liverpool Central. From Liverpool Lime Street, it’s one stop on the Wirral Line to Liverpool Central, then change. When buying any rail ticket into Liverpool, a Soccerbus pass can be added for £1.75/single, £3/return. Otherwise, the Soccerbus is £2 single, £3.50 return. The service is also included in the various day pass tickets on sale in the main Queen Street bus terminus – more details can be found on the club website. The Soccerbus runs to Walton Breck Road, near the Kop end of the stadium but close to the Main Stand. After the match, there will buses lined up along Walton Lane – head down Anfield Road (at the other end of the Main Stand) towards the King Harry pub.
Stagecoach match-day bus No.917 (single from driver £2.10) sets off from St John’s Lane near Queen Square and Liverpool Lime Street from 3hrs before kick-off, then at frequent intervals. Other services include bus No.17 from Stand 6 at Queen Square terminus close to Lime Street that drops off directly behind the Kop on Walton Breck Road. Allow 15mins though traffic will be heavier coming back. From Stand 3 at the Liverpool ONE bus hub, the No.26 also goes to Anfield, journey time 20min.
A taxi from Lime Street should cost around £8. Post-match, there’s a taxi rank immediately behind The Kop.
The sat nav code for Anfield is L4 0TH. There is no parking available at the stadium on match days and street parking is inadvisable. On the other side of Stanley Park, closer to Goodison, Oakmere Community College (L4 6UG) at Cherry Lane/Walton Lane offers secure match-day parking for £5. It’s 15min trek but there’s a stop alongside for the No.19 service to Anfield Road, four stops away. Closer alternatives are invariably £10/car, such as St Domingo car park (L5 0PR) on St Domingo Road, close to Walton Breck Road, and around Goodison Park (L4 4EL).
Tickets first go on sale to those with Local Membership. Additional Membership is divided into two main categories, Full (UK £36, Europe £41, World £45) and Light (£27 for all), strangely with the same benefits in terms of ticket allocation. In July and November, a minimum of 10,000 tickets are offered for sale for each home league game to Additional Members, preference given to those with a previous purchase history. Tickets also become available around two weeks before each game.
Local, then general, sale then take place about a week before each match, according to availability.
All sales are online. For general sales, you must register.
For all ticket enquiries, call 0151 264 2500 (Mon-Wed, Fri 8.15am-5.45pm, Thur 8.15am-6.45pm, & until kick-off). On match days, the ticket office windows are open from between 8.15am and 10.15am, until half-time.
Ticket prices start at £37 in a corner of the Kop, rising to £59 for the best seats in the Main Stand. A decent spot in the sideline Sir Kenny Dalglish Stand is £57. Over-65s are charged around £10-£15 less in each area of the ground, under-22s (‘young adults’) around half-price, under-17s (‘juniors’) £9 across the board.
Away fans in the Anfield Road Stand are charged a flat £30 (£22.50/£15/£9).
Note that restricted view seats offered at a very modest discount can mean just that.
The club has its own hospitality packages, including a ticket in the Anfield Road Stand and catering at specific bars, pubs and hotels either within the stadium or around the city. These include the nearby Sandon pub, Aintree racecourse and the Hilton Hotel. Minimum price is around £200.
Thomas Cook hospitality packages (£260-£340) includes a night’s stay at a hotel, as well as a ticket in the Main Stand and a free drink at the Anfield Beat Lounge there.
For LFC fans outside the UK, particularly those in Ireland, Donegal-based Champions Travel (074 912 3882, outside Ireland add +353 and delete the 0) also offers packages (€400-€600) including a hotel stay and a match ticket.
Unveiled for the 2017-18 season, the Anfield Superstore (Mon-Sat 9am-5.30pm, Sun 10am-4pm, extended hours on match days) behind The Kop contains a vast video wall, seats from the original Main Stand and a VIP area with signed and rare merchandise. No fewer than 20 shirt-printing stations allow you to have your name stamped on the famous red shirt, the current bright purple away top or the calmer whiteish-grey third kit. Its linear graphics are said to have been inspired by the new Main Stand… Retro shirts show the strange range of club sponsors down the ages, Crown Paints, Hitachi and Candy, Italian domestic appliances of all things.
There are also two city-centre outlets, at 11 Williamson Square (Mon-Sat 9am-5.30pm, Sun 10am-4pm, hours extended on match days and day before) near Queen Square bus station and huge store at Liverpool ONE shopping centre (Mon-Fri 9.30am-8pm, Sat 9am-7pm, Sun 11am-5pm). The newest shop is at the Pyramids Shopping Centre (Mon-Sat 9am-5.30pm, Sun 10am-4pm) in Birkenhead.
Tours & Museum
The Liverpool FC Story museum can be visited on its own (£10, seniors/students £8, under-16s accompanied by a paying adult, £6) or as part of various stadium tours. Enter through a tight, dark, heavy Spion Kop turnstile to emerge in a red sea of LFC history. Featured exhibits present the stories of ‘King’ Billy Liddell, Shankly, Paisley, Anfield and The Kop, not forgetting that night in Istanbul. Also on display are the five European Cups and memorabilia donated by Steven Gerrard. A 40-minute multimedia presentation by Phil Thompson guides you through.
A visit can be combined with the LFC Stadium Tour (£20, seniors/students £15, under-16s accompanied by a paying adult, £12), guided by a nine-language multimedia handset (including Arabic, Mandarin, Thai and Indonesian). Tours take in both dressing rooms, the press area, the players’ tunnel and dug-out, and finish in The Kop. Tours (45min) can also be taken on a match day (£22, seniors/students £18, under-16s accompanied by a paying adult, £14), or accompanied with a 1hr Q&A session by a former club legend (£40, seniors/students £30, under-16s accompanied by a paying adult, £20).
The entrance is by the Superstore behind the Kop. The tour and/or museum visit finishes at the Boot Room Café, where you can muse on the history of the football boot display while tucking into a steak or salad.
The Sandon Hotel 200 yards from the The Kop on Walton Breck Road, is where LFC were founded by John Goulding in 1892. Previously, the hotel was the home of Everton, whose team would change here before playing at Anfield. Today the pub is home to the Spirit of Shankly fan group, who successfully helped remove American owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks. It’s an official LFC match-day pub, so very much home fans only, as is the Dodds Bar (166-172 Oakfield Road) alongside.
Right behind The Kop, The Albert and The Park are other options for a pre-match sing-song amid LFC (and opposition) memorabilia left by visitors.
For away fans, the prime choice is The Arkles, on the corner of Anfield Road and Arkles Road. It’s bright and lively pub, with plenty of screens dotted about – and often queues on match days. Further down Anfield Road, away from the stadium at the junction with Walton Breck Road, the Flat Iron is a handy alternative.