Dickie Felton

I write about music and football

Liverpool FC's Main Stand housed club officials, retired Kopites and a bizarre 'wing section' with worse sight-lines than a blind Kentucky cave shrimp.

As a brand-new-super-human-ultra-modern Main Stand prepares to open, will the old bricks, mortar (and ash-cloud-coffee) ever be missed?

Most of my key Main Stand memories involve the car park outside. This was where the tiny LFC ticket office was housed.

I spent many a day queuing there for tickets for important matches. Hours and hours in the trenches waiting to enter a ticket office the size of a broom cupboard.

Still, at least you had some cover from the elements. A luxury today's Kop ticket office does not afford.

Best queue experience was for Norwich tickets. Norwich? Yes 1994 and the prize on that Tuesday morning was the chance to buy terrace tickets for the Kop's last stand.

I already had my Kop season ticket. But my mate Mal - rather exotically travelling the entire globe - sent a postcard from Australia urging me to get him a Norwich ticket "at all costs".

So while Mal sunned himself on Bondi Beach, I got up at 5am following a heavy night in the indie room at Southport's Manhattans nightclub.

I staggered to the Main Stand ticket office in time to get Mal's golden ticket.

I should look fondly on the old Main Stand, but on the whole it was a rather unremarkable piece of football furniture.

The pillars at the front meant many seats suffered from dire obstructed views.

On the rare occasions I sat in there my bum was planted on dark wooden hard seats. The texture of which you might find in Victorian train station waiting rooms.

You didn't sit here for comfort or the view.

I may be mistaken, but the Main Stand had a bit of a geriatric reputation. And by the late 90s the stand was well past its best.

I guess compared to the vibrant and 'younger' clientele on the Kop, Main Stand supporters had an older demographic.

In fact my mate Davo - a Kopite since 1892 - used to joke that when he reached 80 he'd "retire" to the Main Stand with his Zimmer frame.

Facilities inside the Main Stand were cramped and basic.

Curiously, The Paddock in front was both 'part' of the Main Stand yet 'separate' of the Main Stand.

My mum and sister had terrific season tickets in The Paddock directly behind the tiny dugouts.

I sat there myself for a few seasons 2008 to 2011 ish.

Great fun being within touching distance of away managers who had the piss ripped out of them on a weekly basis from the too-close-for-comfort Paddock patrons.

Occasionally opposition managers would rise to the occasion and fire quips back.

I remember Chris Coleman - then an under-pressure Fulham manager - getting grief off a few fans: "you're getting sacked in the morning!"

Coleman turned round, head in hands, and said "I know."

Enough of The Paddock, with its even more cramped "concourse" which pre-smoking ban could create a "steam room" of cigarette smog.

Not pleasant going for your half time cuppa ash cloud.

The first time I went in the Main Stand was actually my first ever visit to Anfield: the mini-Derby of 1984 (or 85?).

I was school mates with a lad whose dad was the club doctor. And he offered to take us in the Directors Box.

We were late and missed the goals which were unhelpfully all scored in the first 10 minutes.

I think Liverpool reserves won 2-1. My key memory of that night, more than three decades ago, was staring out at the empty Kop.

Even without a soul in there it oozed atmosphere and intimidation.

At the end of the game we left our seats in the Directors Box and looked around the trophy room.

Can you imagine the awe? Twelve-years-old and coming face to face with the Championship, Milk Cup and best of all: a row of four European Cups.

It got better. We were allowed deep underneath the Main Stand and into the Boot Room. And then up and out through the players' tunnel.

Wow.

In 1986 I won tickets in the Main Stand for an evening fixture between the Reds and QPR.

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I'd scooped first prize in the weekly competition in the Anfield Review programme.

This involved a quiz question with a first past the post postal entry.

In 1986 I discovered that match programmes actually became available in the LFC club shop on the Friday afternoon before the next day's match.

So, if I could buy the match programme early, answer the quiz question correctly, and get my entry in that evening's post, I'd win.

And I did.

Could this be classed as cheating or just a stroke of genius on my part? I'll let you decide.

Anyway, that night from my "winning" Main Stand seat I again stared out at the Kop and took this photo:

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An injured Jim Begin was sat nearby and I got him to sign my programme.

I got my first Anfield season ticket in 1987 - in the family section of the Anfield Road end.

By 1990 I was in the Kop. A position I retained for more than 20 years.

So appearances by me in the Main Stand were exceedingly few and far between.

Bizarrely I went in there to watch my local non-league team Marine in the FA Cup.

They were drawn against league opposition in the form of Rochdale in November 1989. Marine's College Road ground was deemed too small to cope with the big crowd and Anfield stepped in to host the match (which Rochdale won).

That night the Marine fans sat in the Main Stand and Rochdale had a corner of the Annie Road.

Six years later and I was in the Main Stand for one of my most bizarre football experiences ever.

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I was in my last year of university and shared my Kop season ticket.

For the final match against Blackburn I was ticketless until Kev came up with two obstructed view seats in the Main Stand.

Blackburn were head to head with Manchester United for the title and needed a win.

That day was a strange one as a Liverpool fan because some of us wanted our team to lose.

We all disliked United. No, we hated United.

The thought of them winning the title made us sick.

So I remember sat there willing a Blackburn win. I know, pretty treacherous behaviour.

Jamie Redknapp lined up a freekick and he scored. I didn't know whether to cheer or cry.

Odd. Very odd. As it turned out United cocked-up away at West Ham, Liverpool beat Blackburn, and Blackburn were crowned champions.

Their manager Kenny Dalglish beamed as his side paraded the trophy around his former fields of Anfield Road.

We all celebrated. A great, strange, eccentric, football occasion. Seen from a seat in the old Main Stand.

I nearly forgot. I was in the Main Stand this January. To watch the Reds beat Exeter in the FA Cup.

Even now, I spent half the night looking at the Kop rather than the match. My lad, came in the Main Stand with me - aged six.

That may be one to tell his grandkids in the year 2089: "I remember sitting in the old Main Stand."

This weekend the Reds will run out to a gleaming, stunning, space-age Main Stand holding 20,000 fans.

It's farewell to the old and in with the new.

About time really.

 

Dickie Felton writes about music and football. His 2009 book The Day I Met Morrissey was a huge hit nowhere (apart from in Eccles and in Croatia). It's still buyable. In fact buy the tome here  and we'll also ship Dickie's second book free: Morrissey International Airport. 

Dickie held a season ticket at Anfield for more than 25 years but abandoned the Premiership in 2012 for a life less ordinary mostly in non-league football.

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