This article was originally published on February 20, 2011.
‘This is to remind our lads who they’re playing for, and to remind the opposition who they’re playing against.’ – Bill Shankly’s quote on the ‘This is Anfield’ plaque.
The birth of a child is always an occasion treated with delight, positivity and euphoria amongst kith and kin. Every person reading this piece has a mind of his/her own; has a soul of his/her own. You stand for something. People know you for who you are and all the respect you have earned till date is because of you and you alone. Could you be someone else? No. Well, such is the story of one of the greatest arenas in world football that has been more than just a stadium for the Liverpool faithfuls. A place that not only takes one back into the eventful past but also has an air of strong faith and backing for the football club, even today. This is Liverpool’s home. This is Anfield.
1892 – The Year That Was
Interestingly, Anfield was first the home of Everton FC. The land was handed over to the club by landlord John Ordell in 1884 as an act of benevolence. A year later, one Mr. John Houlding, president of Everton FC, became the new landlord after purchasing Anfield from Ordell and thereafter charged direct rent from the club.
However, 8 years later, relations between Houlding and the Everton FC committee were on shaky grounds. The conflict was over the running of the club that also encompassed the issue of rent. It wasn’t a situation heading towards normalcy. Instead, Everton decided to move out of Anfield and to the nearby Goodison Park.
John Houlding was left with a ground but with no club. That was the period which saw the genesis of England’s most successful club, Liverpool FC – on 1st September, 1892. It was conceived as a result of the partnership between Houlding and his close friend and football enthusiast, W.E. Barclay. And from John McKenna, the first chairman and manager of the club, to Kenny Dalglish, the current manager, Anfield has been the rouge of Liverpool FC.
About Anfield – As it began
Anfield initially had the space to house over 60,000 spectators albeit that was at a time when there was lack of investment in infrastructure and most of the grounds saw supporters standing throughout the game. Although many stands were erected on an ad hoc basis during Everton’s time, it was in 1895 that the first of the four stands was constructed – The Main Stand. It held an initial capacity of 3000 spectators. But the dawn of the 20th century was a blessing to the city of Liverpool. Hosting one of the busiest ports at the time meant a lot of businesses were shaping up and a lot of revenue was coming in. With expanding success came an expanding population and keeping this in perspective, another stand was erected in 1903 – The Anfield Road Stand. Both the stands were renovated in the 60’s-70’s with the Main Stand being demolished and reconstructed with a higher capacity while the Anfield Stand was expanded to fit more seats.
Liverpool’s supporters were enjoying the growing success of their club in its infancy, and with football being a binding factor in society, they were slowly turning out to be a different breed. Their love and support for the club was recognized very early on when the club got relegated in 1904 but made it back to the top division the very next year with the same set of players. Liverpool Football Club’s success was now Liverpool’s success and a source of happiness for the people of Liverpool.
The next development that came by at Anfield was one that today, is of historic significance. The construction of the next stand was for a purpose. It was an addition whose power was soon going to reverberate across footballing nations – The Kop, formerly known as The Spion Kop. In 1900, the Boer War was fought in South Africa and due to the heavy involvement of the British Empire, there were many soldiers from Liverpool who fought in the war. During this time, in their quest to conquer a hilltop named Spion Kop, a local regiment faced a fierce battle which took many soldiers’ lives.
As an act of condolence and respect, the Kop terrace was erected at Anfield in 1906. Being a terrace, it was an entirely standing section without a roof. It could hold upto 30,000 spectators. Terracing of the Kop was done for a reason. Tickets for this section were affordable for the working class and teenagers. This move further strengthened the bond between Liverpool FC and its supporters.
In 1928, the Kop was given a roof with the purpose of amplifying the noise levels emanating from the crowd. No changes were made after that period until the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 that claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans. Following this mishap, the Taylor report was published in 1990 which made it mandatory to have an all-seater stadium for the sake of fans’ safety. Going by this regulation, the Kop was renovated to an all-seater. This reduced the capacity of the Kop to less than half. It still however, remains the largest single-tier seated stand in Europe.
“Well the Kop’s exclusive. The Spion Kop at Liverpool is an institution. And if you are a member of the Kop you feel as if you are a member of a big society where you’ve got thousands of friends all roundabout you. And they’re united and loyal.” – Bill Shankly’s words about the Kop.
The Centenary Stand
Around the time when the Kop was made the latest embellishment at Anfield, the fourth and final addition was the Kemlyn Road stand. What was first erected as a single-tier section was later transformed into a two-tier section. This is the part of the stadium that welcomes the VIPs and consists of conference halls and press rooms.
Plans were made to expand the Kemlyn Road in the early 1907’s. In lieu of this, the club went ahead and acquired land around the area but the final glitch was due to two sisters Joan and Nora who were hesitant in giving up their residence to the club. It did not take long to settle the matter and when the club finally acquired this last piece of property, expansion of Kemlyn Road stand was given the green light. The stand was inaugurated on 1st September 1992, the day of the club’s 100th anniversary and was then renamed the Centenary Stand.
Anfield is more than a stadium where matches were won, lost or drawn. Over the years, it has become an integral part of the club’s ethos and there are many landmarks at the stadium that epitomize the bond between the fans and the club.
1) Hillsborough Memorial – After 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives supporting the club they loved, building the Hillsborough Memorial at the stadium was a fitting way to pay respect to them. Every year, a memorial ceremony is held at Anfield and at a church in Liverpool.
The Hillsborough Memorial
2) Shankly Gates & the Shankly Statue – After all the success that Bill Shankly brought to Liverpool, installing the Shankly Gates and erecting the Shankly statue at the visitors’ centre was the perfect way to thank the great Scot. While the gates were put in place in 1982, a year after his death, the statue was unveiled in 1997. Inscribed on the statue are the words: “Bill Shankly – He Made the People Happy”.
The Shankly Gates were inaugurated by his widow Nessie Shankly
3) Paisley Gates – After Shankly retired, it was his subordinate Bob Paisley who took over the reins. The funny thing is Paisley did not want the job of manager at first. However, he went on to win 6 League titles, 3 European Cups, one UEFA cup, 3 League Cups, 5 Community Shields and a UEFA Super Cup. The Paisley Gates lead one to reminisce about the glorious days that Paisley brought.
4) The Bootroom – It was no office, no conference room or a business hotel. It was at the Bootroom that the great minds of Anfield strategized and engineered Liverpool’s success. Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan and Reuben Benett were the famous incumbents of the Bootroom. Cigars were smoked, Whiskey was poured and plans were drawn for a brighter Liverpool FC.
Anfield has been the home of Liverpool for over 100 years now; as the sands of time have passed by, the stadium has only reflected the growing strength of the Liverpool family. Every commentator, every spectator at a game and every football player and coach who have come to Anfield have learnt why it is called a Fortress and for all the famous nights that one has witnessed, it is hard to imagine a new home now.
“I felt the power of Anfield, it was magnificent” – Jose Mourinho after Chelsea lost to Liverpool in the 2005 Champions League semi-final.
In Part – 2 of this series, we will talk about why the expansion of the Anfield arena is a more viable option from an economical and practical perspective when compared to the construction of a new stadium.