A Life In Liverpool Matches 6
Liverpool 0 Arsenal 2, May 26, 1989

The ball is bobbling around somewhere in the Liverpool half, but with other fans, goalposts and players in front of me, I can’t quite make it out. Then, suddenly, a figure – I’ll later learn it’s Michael Thomas – breaks free and bares down on goal with the ball at his feet. My heart should be in my mouth. I should be saying “No, no, no…” like I normally do when the Liverpool goal’s under threat, but instead I’m thinking that it would be mad if he did score, if Arsenal did win the League here. I don’t want it to happen, but the sheer drama if they did…

Thomas looks up, pulls his foot back and dinks the ball, almost gently, over the advancing Bruce Grobbelaar. The ball bounces into the net. To my left there’s an eruption. A sea of hands and faces (some with the St George Cross painted on, oddly) burst up from the confines of the away enclosure, a swaying mass of human joy – grabbing, punching, screaming. It’s a release of emotion like I’ve never seen before. The impossible has just happened.

The final whistle goes. My mate and I stay behind, along with, it seems, most of the Kop, to watch the celebrations and, once the shock has subsided, to applaud the new champions. Winning this means so much more to them than losing it does to us. I should be devastated. I’m not.

Because how can you be devastated when in the last few weeks you’ve seen your fellow fans die all around you on a football terrace in South Yorkshire? When you’ve stared at a crush barrier, torn in two by the sheer weight of people suffocated against it and placed your precious pin badge on the scarf that now decorates this piece of mangled cast iron? When you’ve queued up outside a funeral home just to make a call to tell your parents that you’re OK? When you’ve laid flowers in the back of the most famous goal in English football?

How can you get annoyed about Liverpool’s sudden defensive frailty when West Midlands police has been knocking on your door, all false smiles and burgundy shirts, asking you what you were doing in the lead up to the game, and how many people you saw that were drunk? What is the point of waiting around near the Arkles for Arsenal’s mob when you don’t really care whether Liverpool win or not? Does it really matter? ? No.

Though I don’t know it yet, they’ll talk about tonight’s match as the greatest climax to a League Championship ever. In the future, TV companies and football clubs will try and engineer similar occasions, skewing fixtures in a vain attempt at recreating this evening’s events. They will fail. The match tonight is a one-off, the final League game of the season played after Liverpool’s FA Cup Final victory because of the Hillsborough disaster. Usually, the Cup closes the curtain on the season. This evening, the League will take prominence – and from now on this will increasingly be the case. Something, perhaps everything, has changed.

We finally leave our seats and make our way to Kirkdale station as normal. I see a lad I run into at most away games.
“Fucking sickener, eh?” he says. “Gonna find the Arsenal now. Up for it?”
“Nah, just going to get off.”
“Alright, lad, sound. See you about.”

I nod, and start on the familiar walk back to the station. I should be thinking about renewing my season ticket – next year will be my last watching the Reds before I go to university. But my mind’s made up: I won’t be bothering with the game any more. It’s not just the disaster that’s changed me, it’s other things too: like women, like Saturday nights dancing to house music and the Stones at Macmillan’s off Bold Street or searching for raves around the industrial estates of Lancashire. There’s talk of a party coming up called ‘Biology’ in Essex. I want to go to it.

I don’t need football any more – not after Hillsborough. No more crowded terraces, no more long coach journeys for 90 minutes of watching other people perform while I just stand there and lap it up – a happy, clapping Scouser, all funny songs and ready wit. Someone else can have my season ticket. I have other plans.

This article appears in the brilliant Liverpool magazine, Well Red


  1. Fucking brilliant tale

    89-92 are the lost years for me as far as LFC were concerned

    Blackburn Raves and Quadrant Park replaced The Kop


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