One from the Archives – The Last Day of The Kop

16/03/21

We were getting ready for issue 5 of the fanzine and thought it might be interesting to post some of the old pieces from the archives - here's Richard Jeffery on a memorable day out, for the last day of standing on The Kop at Anfield.....

What we’re gonna do right here is go back, way back, back into time…

To 1994, 25 years ago. I was young then, young and stupid. I’m not young anymore.

There was some serious stuff going down that year. Civil war was raging in the former Yugoslavia, and massacre in Rwanda. Nelson Mandela was elected as President of South Africa, the Channel Tunnel opened, and there was ceasefire in Northern Ireland.

In popular culture, Britpop kicked off with the release of Oasis’ Definitely Maybe and Blur’s Parklife (by the way, the answer is neither of them – it’s Pulp). Love Is All Around topped the UK singles chart for 15 weeks, OJ Simpson went for a drive, Michael Jackson married Lisa Marie Presley and Kurt Cobain was sadly no more.

Lads were invented when Loaded magazine was first published, Friends hit our TV screens, and film releases included Forrest Gump, Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption.

The internet became a thing with both Yahoo and Amazon starting up, and the Daily Telegraph launched the UK’s first newspaper website. Playstation was released, Man Utd won the league and cup double, and most importantly, PJ and Duncan were ready to rumble. PSYCHE!

On April 30 that year, Norwich found ourselves invited to a huge party at the home of people we only saw a couple of times a year – in the flesh, that is, as they were always on the tele again. It was a party to which we were expected to be the kind of guests who turn up, say and do the right things, have a bit of chit chat, a quick glass of punch, and then leave early “as it’s a long way home” without having caused any fuss or bother. Instead we arrived hammered, stubbed our fags out on the carpet, had a wee in the sink and got off with the host’s partner under the coats on the bed.

That party was “The Last Day Of The Kop”, and Liverpool were the hosts.

History Lesson

The name Kop derives from Spion Kop, a famous and strategically important hill near Ladysmith in South Africa which had been the site of The Battle Of Spion Kop during the Boer War. There were several football stands built around the late nineteenth and early twentieth century that also took the name, notably at both Sheffield clubs, Birmingham City, Leeds, and Windsor Park in Belfast. It was said that the steepness of the mounds of these single-tier terraces resembled the Spion Kop, hence the name.

In reality, like there is “Only One City” (to be clear, that’s Norwich), there is only one Kop. Say the name, and you think of Anfield. The Kop had stood since 1906 (making it only four years younger than us) and was famous in world football. On its completion, the then sports editor of the Liverpool Echo wrote: “This huge wall of earth has been termed ‘Spion Kop’, and no doubt this apt name will always be used in future in referring to this spot.” He was right. It became instantly known by the name locally, so much so that when a roof was added in 1928, the name was officially adopted.

Forget about petty rivalries; Anfield is one of the cathedrals of English and world football, and the Kop its choir.

This would be the last match ever to be played in front of the stand in the form that made it famous. In line with all standing areas in the top two divisions of English football, the stand was due to be made all-seater. This recommendation came in the Taylor Report published in the wake of the Hillsborough tragedy of 1989.

The original capacity of the stand was 27,000, though it’s said that often 30,000 would cram in. In April 1994 it held just under 17,000 fans, due to be further reduced to 13,000 when its steep steps were replaced with seats.

The Kop became famous for many reasons. There were the overdone stories of the #gr8banterm8 from the only knowledgeable fans in football and the apocryphal ones about the Kop sucking the ball into the net, but mainly it was because of Liverpool’s European nights.

We all had images in our heads from seeing the Kop on TV as Liverpool put another foreign team to the sword. A huge swaying mass of humanity, scarves aloft, the terrace alive with huge swirling flags and banners, the crowd surging forward as one (you didn’t have much choice really) when a goal was scored. It was also naturally chosen as the focal point for the tributes to the victims of Hillsborough, further underlining its importance to the club and its fans, and adding to its emotional bond.

The Teams

On the pitch, Liverpool had enjoyed an arguably unmatched run of success between 1972 and 1990. We had a bit of a reputation for doing well against them during that time, however, and considering the Reds pretty much swept everyone before them domestically and in Europe, our record in the league kind of bears that out. Played 32, won seven, drew ten, lost 15.

This was a different Liverpool, however, and they were not the force they had been. Some big names like Barnes and Rush remained, but those players were very much in the twilight of their careers. Alongside those fading stars they had Neil Ruddock and Julian Dicks. This was the dawn of Liverpool’s Spice Boys era, with David James, Robbie Fowler and Jamie Redknapp in the side.

Very good players they were, but it was a team not a patch on that of a few years earlier, with only Fowler likely to have got a sniff in their greatest sides. This was essentially an upper-mid-table clash between the teams in eighth and 11th positions.

This Norwich side had finished third in the inaugural Premier League season the previous year and been towards the top of the league again early in the season. But having masterminded our UEFA Cup run, Mike Walker went to Everton (what even is a wanker’s hat?) after a fall out with Robert Chase and with his eyes on bigger things. The team was on the wane: John Deehan had taken over from Walker, Ruel Fox had already left and Chris Sutton was to leave in the summer amid further acrimony.

The Day

It was a hot, sunny day. We headed to The Arkles pub near the ground, where there was a good mix of home and away fans. Everyone was in good spirits, there was no history of animosity between the two sets of fans, and everyone seemed to just want to enjoy the day. There wasn’t that tension you sometimes get before a game; people were relaxed. That could have been the beer, on reflection.

We reluctantly vacated the pub and headed just over the road to the ground. We were situated where away fans still are, at the Anfield Road End, so had a great view of the Kop in all its glory. All the flags and banners were on show and with flares going off it looked like it did on a European night, though diluted somewhat by the bright sunshine. A nostalgia-fest of a parade of former Liverpool players and managers, each introduced to the crowd in turn and peaking when King (not Mayor) Kenny walked out.

Us Norwich folk being the friendly and intelligent fans we are, we joined in with the clapping and general bonhomie among the 44,339 crowd inside Anfield. This was especially the case when David Fairclough was introduced, who was after all one of our own (two appearances, zero goals in 1985).

After some more faffing about, out came the players; there was a game on after all. They all stood while Gerry Marsden out of Gerry and the Pacemakers sang You’ll Never Walk Alone. He approached the Kop, still resplendent with flags and banners as the song peaked, and it’s fair to say he was completely drowned out by the crowd.

A football match breaks out

Eventually, the game kicked off with the boys in yellow attacking the Kop – obviously an agreement had been made that that’s how we’d start, so Liverpool would be kicking towards the Kop in the second half. No doubt they were anticipating a deluge of goals to rain in and give the old girl a proper send-off.

We were a good footballing side back then, and played some nice stuff. That they were too made for a good game, and it was clear from the off that we weren’t there to lie down and give them the win they wanted and anticipated.

In the 35th minute we struck and it was Jerry Goss, still in his career-defining purple patch in our midfield. Sutton won a soft free-kick from the brainless Ruddock on our right flank, just outside their penalty area. Ian Crook dinked it into the area as only he could and it was cleared to Goss about 25 yards from goal. He ran on to it, controlled it first time and unleashed a dipping, swerving shot with the outside of his right foot that creamed into the top corner, leaving David James and his Natty Dreads flat footed. 1-0, Kop that.

Liverpool threw the kitchen sink at us in front of the Kop in the second half, but we remained steadfast thanks to a bit of luck, some solid defending and a couple of decent saves by OG: Original Gunny. Indeed, we had possibly the better chances to get another goal, with Efan Ekoku twice wasting chances when through on goal. The final whistle went with Liverpool still pressing for an equaliser. Party Pooped. Along Comes Gossage.

I say that, but I seem to remember that Gossy’s goal was actually politely applauded by the Liverpool fans. It was that kind of day. We had a good laugh in the pubs, and the Liverpool supporters were good value before and after the game. The party carried on regardless.

After the final whistle the Kop came alive again with flags and scarves. It really was something to behold.

There was some more stuff on the pitch, as the Liverpool players paraded a massive banner which read “From all the players – thank you! We will never walk alone”. That was it for us as we went in search of the pub again, while the Liverpool fans arrived a while later after plenty more post-match festivities.

It was a privilege to be there that day, and that’s a feeling that’s grown over time. Those of us that experienced mass standing areas at football remember them with a mixture of fondness at how much fun they were, yet disgust at how us fans were treated. Our safety was disregarded and no consideration was given to how dangerous they really were. A bit like smoking in pubs, offices and on public transport, it’s hard to believe they were ever actually a thing.

It felt symbolic to be there on the day it was closed; a day brought about by the terrible tragedy of Hillsborough, which had led to such a loss of human life and, in the end, to the loss of this stand which had a life of its own.

Much time has passed

Some years later I was involved in the refurb business and had a meeting arranged at a pub near Anfield to look at refitting their function room. I arrived on time and was shown in by the landlord to have a look round and a measure up so I could do him an estimate.

The room they were looking to fit out was devoted to Liverpool FC and, I was told, did a huge trade on a match day. I could well believe it. It was bedecked with memorabilia, the centrepiece of which was a huge painting of the Kop in all its glory on that day back in 1994.

I mentioned to the guy that I had been there that day, and how impressed I was with the picture. My accent prompted a quizzical look, so I explained that I was a Norwich fan.

He never did get back to me on that quote.

WHILE YOU’RE HERE

We still have a few copies of issues 2, 3 and 4 of the fanzine left, click here if you’d be interested in getting your hands on one (or all of em)

Comments

  1. Alan Wilkinson says:

    Excellent read. More from the past would be appreciated.
    ” creamed into the top corner ” Love it.

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