The date was April 16th 1988, and yours truly was on his way to see Liverpool FC play at Wembley. For the best part of a couple of decades, Wembley was my ‘local’ stadium. I went to see plenty of games there, mostly to watch England play. But on this day I was going to see the mighty reds grace Wembley’s hallowed turf for the first time. England’s finest at the home of football. The occasion was the Football League Centenary tournament. A two day competition featuring some of the games most traditional teams in a 20 minute each way knock out. I couldn’t wait.
Except I had to. I don’t remember the reason for the delay in gathering up the necessary funds for the ticket. I possibly had to wait on Max the newsagent to hand over my paper round wages. But gain the funds I did, I jumped on the Tube, I purchased my ticket at the gate and made my way inside the stadium. Just in time to see the last couple of Liverpool players trudge off the field, having been knocked out of the two day mini tournament on penalties at the hands of Newcastle. I was one very disappointed 15 year old footy fan.
Fast forward to August 6th 2016. There is a shiny, modern new and improved Wembley stadium built on the site of the old 1920s original, glistening in the sun of a glorious summers day in London. Liverpool’s team is new too, as Jurgen Klopp begins his first full season as the manager. We hope that it is an improvement over last years team. My organisational skills and sense of timekeeping have definitely improved over the years. I bought the tickets on the day of release and despite Wembley no longer being terribly local, I was in London with time to spare.
The occasion this time was a friendly pre-season fixture. The sort of game that is normally a fairly meaningless and pedestrian affair. Not so this fixture though. The opponents were Barcelona, featuring Luis Suarez, who played for LFC for three and a half glorious years from 2010 to 2014. Undoubtedly the most talented player to have ever pulled on the red shirt, he received the biggest cheer when the team sheets were read out. We’d come to see him as much as we’d come to see Liverpool.
So I got to see my football team play at Wembley at last, albeit nearly 30 years late. They won handsomely too, which made the day even better. And it is quite something to hear nearly 90,000 fans belt out Liverpool’s anthem before kick off. I should probably have kept recording till the end of the song though…