Best posts of the week – as chosen by Chris Rowland and Daniel Rhodes
1 – Tony Mc in FA Cup Final week (apparently!) with a personal account of the 1974 final:
It’s the week of the 2021 FA Cup final between Chelsea and Leicester and the excitement is building! The whole country is transfixed! Or maybe not. The final on 15 May will share the weekend with 8 Premier League fixtures and there are 2 more full rounds of Premier League matches still to be played after the final. Remember when the FA Cup final was the final game of the season? Remember when the FA Cup final was the jewel in the English football crown? Remember when the hunt for an FA Cup final ticket consumed your life?
That was certainly the case for the 1974 FA Cup final when Liverpool played Newcastle at Wembley on 4 May. Liverpool had only made 1 appearance at Wembley since I started attending games in 1966. I missed out on the 1971 FA Cup final against Arsenal (thank God I didn’t have to witness that Charlie George winning goal and celebration in the flesh) and I was determined to make my Wembley debut. But getting hold of a ticket was very difficult in those days with the two participating teams getting about 20,000 tickets each when Liverpool’s average league attendance was about 43,000 and Newcastle’s about 33,000. This was when Wembley had a capacity of 100,000. Where did all those tickets go?
(Incidentally, in an earlier example of FA cowardice in the face of a rampaging mob, Newcastle’s sixth round home tie against Nottingham Forest was declared void after a riot on the field by Newcastle fans when their team was losing 1–3. The game was delayed until order was restored and Newcastle won it 4–3. Forest made a written protest to the FA and Newcastle were very close to being disqualified from the competition. The FA relented and ordered that the match must be replayed at a neutral venue. Two replays were needed before Newcastle won through.)
Most of Liverpool’s ticket allocation went to season ticket holders. The small number of tickets that remained were allocated via a process whereby vouchers were given out at one of the remaining home league games to those who paid at the gate, and a tiny number of those vouchers qualified the holder for a ticket. My older brother was one of the lucky ones with a winning voucher. My younger brother also got lucky when his sports teacher, a Liverpool season ticket holder who couldn’t go to the game, raffled his ticket amongst the Liverpool fans in the school football teams. The luck of the Liverpool Irish did not touch me in the same way. I was on the hunt for a ticket in the 2 weeks or so before the final.
One evening, the phone went at the family home. It was Bobby, one of the guys my brothers and I went to the game with. He was upset. He told me that his dad, who had suffered ill health on and off for a while but retained his Liverpool season ticket, had died. I was 17 years old, what could I say? “Sorry mate. Who’s having his cup final ticket?” “Bastard!” he said as he hung up. “Who was that?” asked my older brother. “Bobby. His dad has died.” There was a respectful pause of all of 1 second. “Did you ask who is having his cup final ticket?” asked my brother. Funnily enough, that ticket didn’t come my way. The hunt continued.
My mum was a barmaid in the delightfully named Bluebell Pub, Huyton. Sounds idyllic doesn’t it? The reality was that it was a hive of scum and villainy to rival the Mos Eisley Cantina on Tatooine in Star Wars. It was one of those places where you could buy and sell anything, no questions asked. Once, the pub had a “grand reopening” (ie a few complimentary dishes of crisps and peanuts on the bar) after a “major refurbishment” (ie a lick of paint and new carpets). At the end of the night, there was a rectangular hole in the new carpet in the lounge bar, cut to the exact size of the living room in the council flats in the nearby high rise block. Anyway, my mum phoned home from the pub one evening. “There’s a lad here selling cup final tickets in the Liverpool end for £15. Do you want one?” The face value of those tickets was £1 and £15 was more than my week’s wages. I didn’t hesitate. “I’ll have one!” Hunt over.
Or …. not. A couple of days later, the front page headline on the Liverpool Echo screamed “POLICE WARN FANS TO BEWARE OF FAKE TICKETS”. The story told how there were thousands of top-quality fake FA Cup Final tickets on sale in Liverpool. The only way to tell if a ticket was genuine was to hold it up to a light to see if it contained a watermark, like a bank note. My hands shook as I followed these instructions …. no watermark, it was a fake. My mum told me that she had bought the ticket off one of the pub’s regular customers and she would get me my money back. Good as her word, and not a woman to be trifled with, my mum returned my £15 to me that night. Hunt back on with only 8 days to the game.
The Echo carried an advert for a Liverpool furniture store owned by Alan Whittle, the ex-Everton striker who was with Crystal Palace at the time, offering a free FA Cup final ticket with £100 of furniture bought. My dad was in his favourite armchair watching the wrestling on ITV on the Saturday afternoon before the final. “Hey dad, this 3 piece suite is looking a bit tatty. Any chance of you buying a new one?” I ventured. “Not unless I win the pools son. Ooh, you dirty bastard!” he replied through a fog of Capstan Full Strength cigarette smoke. I think that latter comment was aimed at Mick Manus, “The Dulwich Destroyer”, not me. He didn’t win the pools that day (or ever) so I could not avail myself of Whittle’s generous offer.
After exploring all possible avenues without success, by the Friday evening before the game I was reconciled to watching the game on the telly when my older brother got a call from Jim, a workmate. He had just got hold of a ticket, too late to book a coach or train ticket, so he was going to drive down to Wembley. Did my brother want to go with him and share the cost of the petrol? My brother declined as he had already paid for the coach with our younger brother and our mates. He repeated the offer to me and, thinking that I might pick up a ticket from a tout, and I would at least be able to meet up with my brothers to celebrate after our certain victory, I agreed. Jim picked me up on Saturday morning in his bright yellow Ford Escort Mexico. I eyed up the car’s 8 track stereo player (a tape playing system that preceded the cassette player, they were all the rage in the 1970s, even though the pre-recorded cartridges were the size of a large paperback book) and asked Jim what musical treats we had to look forward to. He looked rather glum and explained that his car had been broken into earlier that week and all but one of his music cartridges had been stolen. The deep scratches in the dashboard were evidence that the thieves had tried but failed to remove the player itself. He had not had time to replace his cartridge collection but the good news was that he had found 1 remaining cartridge under the passenger seat, a Beach Boys compilation album with all-time classics like California Girls, Surfin’ USA, Good Vibrations, Help Me Rhonda, Little Deuce Coupe, Barbara Ann, When I Grow Up To Be A Man, etc. It turned out that Jim, who I had never met before, wasn’t a great talker and all my conversational gambits failed to engage him for long. Jim preferred to play that damn cartridge non-stop on high volume throughout our trip. After 4 hours of the “California Sound” I was ready to hit him over the head with a surf board.
Arriving in Wembley, we parked up, arranged to meet up after the game and went our separate ways. I knew that both my brothers had tickets for Turnstile Area A so I made my way there, looking out for tickets touts as I went. I had £25 to buy a ticket – 25 times the face value and nearly 2 week’s wages. It soon became apparent that I had been hopelessly optimistic; the touts were asking £50 a ticket – and getting it. I was mooching despondently around Turnstile Area A about half an hour before kick off when a quite unexpected opportunity presented itself. Those familiar with the old Wembley Stadium might recall that there were long, thin openings part way up the stadium wall (rather like arrow slits in a castle wall) from which those inside could shout, or even pass things, to those outside. I looked up and saw that Liverpool fans inside the stadium were passing their used tickets to those outside. I managed to get a bunk-up from another Liverpool supporter and grabbed one of those tickets. I soon learned from another supporter that on its own this ticket was useless. Wembley had a two-entrance system – an outer turnstile where the complete ticket was presented to the operator who detached the smaller portion and retained it; and an inner gate where the larger portion of the ticket was shown to the operator but retained by the supporter. I had a larger ticket portion. Out of nowhere, a young Scouser appeared with a plastic bag stuffed inside his jacket. “Wanna ticket stub lad?” he asked. I guess that he had snatched a bag of the smaller ticket portions for Turnstile Area A unnoticed by the operator because he was passing them out with impunity within feet of the turnstiles. I accepted with alacrity.
A quick check revealed that I had the requisite two portions of a ticket but crucially they did not match – they were for the same outer turnstile but for different inner gates. But time was running out and it was now or never. Screwing my courage to a sticking place, I approached the turnstile clutching a ticket portion in each hand. I handed the smaller portion to the operator. “Where’s the other part?” he growled. “Here” I replied, holding up the larger portion, with a strategically placed thumb hiding the inner gate number. “I thought I’d save you the job of separating them.” He didn’t ask to examine it and without another word passing between us there was was click, I pushed forward and I was in the stadium! I could scarcely believe it and, terrified that I would be rumbled, I hustled across the concourse to the appropriate inner gate, showed the operator the larger ticket portion, he opened the gate and …… yeeeeessssssss! I was in, with my £25 still in my pocket. Even better, I quickly spotted “The Mighty Reds” banner which my brothers were holding aloft as my incredible luck continued and I found myself in the same section of terracing as them. I quickly joined them and we enjoyed a remarkably straightforward Liverpool victory. A completely dominant performance saw us run out easy 3-0 winners and Shankly’s rebuilt team had now won the Football League, UEFA Cup and FA Cup in 2 seasons.
All that remained was to meet up with garrulous Jim for the drive home. He was actually quite animated as we discussed the game while we extricated ourselves from the heavy traffic around Wembley but as we joined the M1 …
… Well East coast girls are hip, I really dig those styles they wear ….
2 – MK’s relationship with Sky seems to be over:
I see the Chuckle Brothers on Sky have come up with a new narrative on why the oil caliphate and gas oligarch are successful. Guess what? Its because of the managers. Un%^&ing beleivable, the bilge those two clowns come out with. Last week it was the greedy evil American owners that’s the problem with football. (Although to be fair the Glazers are doing a very good impression of Hicks and Co). This week, its the ‘great managers’ are the reason for Manshiekh’s and Chelski’s success in Europe. It’s never that they obliterated the FFP code, which enabled them to buy a squad that cost close to 1 billion dollars each, for nth time. Or that they spent between them the best part of 3/4 of billion dollars on players during a pandemic when every other club on the planet were hemorrhaging money. Or the hand that Sky are playing in creating these inequalities. Or the role the Premiership are playing in standing by and allowing it to happen. Nah its the great managers. You couldn’t write this &^%$. The more Carra opens his gob the more I’m going off him! Yeah I said it and I wrote it! Can’t believe it, but words fail me. What’s it they say, never meet your heroes. That should be revised to include “and never listen to your heroes if they’re a wage slave pundit to sky”. I’ll be honest, I’m this close to shutting down my tv subscription to football. I’ve done it before. For ten years, no less. I despise Sky football. It used to be because of the other unmentionables that used to host it. I’m seriously considering shutting it down and instead listening to the game live on LFC and watching the game on LFC the day after. You could do worse than suffer this garbage. And I only bought the subscription for the first time in ten years this season. Any advice welcome
3 – Kloppelotti has all the stats to show Joe Gomez’s value to Liverpool, after somebody’s mate said we should get rid:
Joe Gomez turns 24 later this month so he should have all his best footballing years as a CB ahead of him which Paul has showcased numerous times. If we were to get rid of Gomez now, we have basically developed a world class defender for another club and he won’t spend his best years at Liverpool.
So apart from telling your ‘fellow fan’ that Gomez has been our most important CB (Gomez has played 80 and Matip 56 matches over the last three seasons) after VvD (108 matches in the last three seasons), while picking up all the major trophies in world football, I’ll feed you with some stats ammo as well.
In 2018/19, when we won the CL for the sixth time as well as posting 97 points in the PL, Gomez missed a lot of games through injury, though during his 16 games in the PL, Joe averaged 2.63 PPG. The average score for the season without Gomez was 2.50 PPG.
In 2019/20, we won the league with 99 points. In 28 PL games, Joe averaged 2.64 PPG. The average score for the season without Gomez was again 2.50 PPG.
In 2020/21, Gomez averaged 2.00 PPG in 7 games and without Joe it has dropped to 1.59 PPG.
Based on these numbers, we could have had more than 97 and 99 points in the two previous league seasons if Gomez had been available to play more games. Just mentioning that we were only one point behind City two years ago. Gomez averages of 2.63/2.64 over the two PL seasons = 100 points per season.
And this season we might have ended up with around 76 points with Joe in the team for the majority of the games, though I admit that a sample of 7 games is quite small for stats purposes.
Also, I haven’t weighted the opponents during the three PL seasons, though that could in theory make Gomez’s stats appear even stronger or not fully as strong. Based on this season we’re picking up more points against the better teams so a tricky one to measure and weight accurately.
Hope this will help you in educating the ‘fellow fan’, Chardo!
4 – Jeff reacts to the victory over Manchester United:
We all know that Paul wrote a book and talked about Liverpool as Mentality Monsters and I agreed with him To me today’s match was about character and Liverpool’s lads showed a massive amount of character. Before the season if anyone said with the season on the line that young Phillips and Williams would be Liverpool’s starting center backs no one would have believed it and yet they were today. I think every Liverpool supporter should give a massive shout out to these young lads because with the season on the line they came through and Liverpool won the match.
I have more I want to say but I am mentally and emotionally drained. I am getting too old, I am too old to deal with the 90 odd minutes of a game such as the one Liverpool played today and WON. Please remember how hard it is for Liverpool to win at Old Trafford and today with Williams and Phillips as center backs they won and until Mo Salah scored number 4 I was sitting and watching and just waiting for the late goal or goals to ruin the day, and when Mo Salah scored the goal I simply could not believe what I saw. As I wrote above, the win today says bags and bags and bags about the character of this Liverpool team. The season should have been buried sometime ago but these lads are going to fight and fight and today have a decent chance of finishing in the top 4 which I always hoped was possible but sometime ago I thought was gone and not coming back.
I need some time and some good malt to calm down and hopefully post something intelligent and coherent tomorrow morning my time.
5 – Alex does the same for the ‘nail-biting’ victory:
I know it’s a significant result when my Dad rings just after the final whistle, asking “Have you calmed down, Kidder?”
The opening 25 was so horrid I almost went back to bed, the sun wasn’t even up then. But of course I am glad I stayed up now; seeing it live and reading now the game is over is way better than a catch up.
What struck me the most was Man Utd rested 10 players against Leicester and lost. They came back with a full strength, give or take, and lost again. Those 10 replacements equal our 10 injuries. If I hear Ole complain of tiredness he can think again. You played two squads, get back on your toadstool.
The block busting second half was great football, even if nail biting. We looked in control, lost it and regain it again with, as mentioned above, a trademark late goal at Old Trafford. The roof came in, which may just happen at Old Trafford if reports are to be believed.
Those who follow my Instagram know I do a Funday Friday, today will be Firmino Friday. My little one has gone off to school with a smile almost as bright as Bobby himself, he’s her favourite player. It’s football club trivia night, she’ll be wearing her top.
Articles published since last Friday, with excerpts:
Sunday May 9th:
Post-Match Analysis: Liverpool 2-0 Southampton, by Daniel Rhodes.
Most of the match stats also continue on the same even theme: 14 shots for Liverpool to Southampton’s 12; six shots on target each and four big chances to three in favour of the home side.
Dig a little deeper though, and in terms of chance quality, the Reds definitely had the decisive edge: 12 shots inside the box to the visitor’s six; and if you look below the expected goal models suggest our chances were nearly worth double that of Southampton.
The players to attempt a big chance: Mane (scor#ed), Salah, Phillips and Jota compared to Che Adams (who missed two) and Tella.
Tuesday May 11th:
Liverpool are back in Manchester for the re-arranged clash against Manchester Utd on Thursday evening, with Ole Gunnar Solskjær pretty much guaranteed to field a heavily rotated side against Leicester on Tuesday evening, keeping the majority of his preferred starting XI fresh for the visit of the Reds.
Friday May 14th:
Post-Match Analysis: Manchester Utd 2-4 Liverpool by Daniel Rhodes
That felt good, didn’t it? After the protests, the postponement, and the pontificating – this rearranged fixture, with rotation shenanigans earlier in the week, cranked up the pressure on the biggest fixture in the English calendar. Despite going a goal down, the Reds fought back to secure three points and kept Champions League qualification in their own hands. Klopp’s side continued the recent attacking form by creating a plethora of big chances, and thankfully, this was the game when we finally converted the majority of them!
Liverpool’s Champions League qualification fate for next season’s competition lies in their own feet and hands following the superb 4-2 win at Manchester Utd on Thursday night.
With Chelsea and Leicester facing off against each other on Tuesday, at least one or both sides will drop points, which means three wins from our final three matches will see us finish in the top four.