A life in Liverpool matches, 1 November 1987
Liverpool 2 Everton 0

The ‘friendly derby’ isn’t feeling too friendly today. It’s not so much what I can see from my spec in the centre of the Kop, but more what I can hear. The game isn’t due to start for an hour, but already there are shouts, sways over to the left-hand side and the roar that only comes from men in casual wear about to start hitting each other. Everton, as tradition demands, have taken the left hand third of the Kop, but today, their presence feels like an invasion – an invasion led by fat men in bad leather jackets, but an invasion nonetheless. A year before I’d have gone with the many Evertonians from my school. Today, it’s just me and my Red mate. Go with Everton to the game? Not any more.

November 1987. With the clocks going back the week previously, at 4pm Anfield is already smothered in gloom. We’re playing – and it’s something we’re increasingly getting used to – on a Sunday afternoon as the derby is being televised. Our private argument is now on show for the whole country to observe – but make no mistake, this is Our Thing. And ever since we took the double from them the year before, this Thing has started to get nasty, especially off the pitch. There are many theories as to why it’s got like this, but the truth seems obvious (to me at least) – on both sides of the divide we got bored with being nice to each other.

As a Liverpudlian growing up in the ’80s, I never realized how much our success hurt Everton fans, until 1985 when they captured league completely out of the blue. And boy, did they let us know. So, when we got our mojo back the year after, they didn’t like it one bit. Maybe it was the humiliation of the joint homecoming, when Liverpool’s trophy-laden bus glinted in the Merseyside May sunshine, while they had to make do with Southall, Ratcliffe et al waving… well, that’s it, really, waving. They were dead good at waving, were Everton.

A year after, despite the fact that striker Gary Lineker had left to join Barcelona with that other scourge of the Reds, Mark Hughes, they won the League again. Our only solace was knocking them out of the Littlewood’s Cup in the semi-final, which turned the Park End into a sprawling, jumping mass of human joy.

So, today is a big deal. The Kop is in full voice early on – a rarity, because the old terrace hasn’t had much of an atmosphere since the late 1970s. Scarves are a thing of the past – when we sing You’ll Never Walk Alone, it’s now with our hands raised – and most of the ‘interesting’ characters are near the away fans in Kemlyn Road. What makes the Kop special is no longer us, but what takes place in front of it. We’re witnessing history every week as the Barnes-Beardsley-Aldridge combination takes apart defences from Highbury to Highfield Road and all parts in between. We should smash Everton this afternoon.

Outside the ground, the atmosphere is tense. We’ve all heard tales of lads getting smacked in the Gwladys Street or the ‘half-eaten pie shower’ which is a speciality at Goodison when Liverpool score, so there’s definitely something in the air. As we queue up to get in the ground, an Evertonian in a T-shirt with a cartoon of a drunken Everton fan on it who looks just like its wearer is led away by a copper, struggling to control his charge. “Gobshites,” the Blue spits at us, “fucking murderers.” Kick-off cannot come quick enough.

The game is as frenetic as you’d expect, with Liverpool a class apart from Everton, our manager’s tactical and purchasing nous putting Colin Harvey’s in the shade. Steve McMahon, he who crossed the park (via Aston Villa) not only controlling the midfield, but scoring our first. And then Peter Beardsley steps into the frame. Words cannot truly describe how good this footballer is. A magician with the ball, who combines vision with a knack for scoring beautifully crafted goals, when he puts Liverpool two-up, it’s like a great weight has been lifted off the collective shoulders of 40,000 Reds. If we can beat Everton like this, then they might as well give us the league now.

As the game ends and the Kop empties, the previously unseen Everton mob moves to the centre of the terrace. With the sound of Tequila coming from the tannoy, a group or 50 or so stand in the middle, surveying the enemy’s territory, a look of triumph on their faces – seemingly unmoved by the result of the match. I look at them, a 16-year-old boy with pretensions at manhood, wanting, willing for someone take them on and clear these intruders from our sacred space. But no-one does. I look around at my fellow Kopites. We’re kids – without the strength, without the belief to do anything. Instead, I nod to my mate and we leave in silence, out of the Kop, into the crowded streets of Liverpool 4 and deeper into the night.

This piece appears in this month’s Well Red magazine.


  1. Anonymous7:44 am

    Away fans are on the section of the anfield rd nearest the main stand. 2/3 of it was home terrace - hence the anny road aggro

    Nice piece though - the bitter "merrderers" chanting is taught to the toddlers now

  2. Cheers for the comment. Back then though, the away fans were in the Kemlyn Corner on the Road End. They had some seats and the little terrace. For the Derby, Everton always had that, plus a third of the Kop, like we did with the Street End (though we used to stand underneath them – hence the "pie shower" comment). Glad you liked it.


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