I am the most fortunate of men.
I live in a tranquil backwater where a traffic jam consists of 12 cars, a motorcyclist and two persons walking their dogs. 115kph is considered an extremely fast rate of travel and there are no charming villages with painted shop fronts attracting tourists by the bucket load. Yet through the magic of television, I have a window on the world.
Not withstanding these attractions, I believe that one should go and look at the world 1st hand from time to time. So 8 weeks ago, my wife and I decided to shake the Tasmanian dust from our feet and visit the UK. We spent some time there 8 years ago, however this time I made a secret resolve to watch some football.
From this point of view I fell on my feet, my cousin’ s home on Merseyside backed on to a sports ground similar to Wentworth Park and my 2nd cousins are both Liverpool season ticket holders. Everton would have been better but one must be grateful, for small mercies.
Therefore I watched soccer matches ranging from under 6, Premier league and back to district/pub leagues.
Each Saturday morning I would sally forth to the Hightown Sports ground and watch the local youth in action. I was dumbfounded. The skills and application of the children (because that’s what they were) were astonishing. In addition to ball skills of a very high order, their vision and grasp of game strategy were remarkable.
It is not every day you see a 7 year old control the ball look up and cross the ball to his colleague on the far side of the field then move into position for the return. Never have I heard the expression “get your kick in“ rather than more positive expressions of support by parents and supporters. Along the lines of “have you picked up your man”, “are you goal side” and “get to the back post”.
The ability and standard of play increased along with the participant’s ages. The under 10 boys displaying truly remarkable skills.
Off the field was also of interest I stopped and spoke to all and sundry including two men clad in Blue. I asked them where they obtained such sartorially acceptable clothing. The Club they both responded. They were Everton scouts looking for suitable talent to enrol in their academy that incidentally starts at age 6.
Don’t worry Liverpool; Bolton and Burscough were also around. Once the child is enrolled in the Academy, he is not allowed to play for his local side for fear of injury. He thus enters the cocoon that nurtured such talented players as Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen and Steven Gerrard.
Then on to Anfield in company with Trevor and 39000 others. Firstly through open countryside then through progressively more built up areas. Culminating in the streets of terraced houses that surround the Liverpool ground.
Besides the pedestrians clad in Red the streets were full of individuals enjoying their first wet and consuming vast quantities of Barm Butties, Fish and Chips and other delicacies at the same time conversing in those strange adenoidal tones peculiar to Merseyside.
Finally through the good graces of Trevor’s brother Lewis I was ushered to my seat. The top row of the stand behind the Managers boxes.
The roar that greeted the two teams defies description, as did the explosion of sound, which greeted Liverpool’s 3 goals. Not to be out done the response from the Norwich supporters as they encouraged their side was equally boisterous.Embed from Getty Images
Television does not convey the speed and accuracy of the play. At times the Liverpool attacks resembled a pinball game such was the movement of the ball. T V also does not demonstrate the awesome striking power of the players. Little wonder that we often see the goalkeepers stand and stare.
However all good things have to come to an end so we retraced our steps to the Hightown Hotel where we enjoyed our first wet of the day together with our families.
Next morning I was alerted to something being up by movement on the sports ground. The 1st round of the Liverpool Challenge Cup was being played between Pinewoods (Top of the Southport and District league) and a side from some 20 miles away.
The crowd numbers nor playing standard did not match the previous days match but the atmosphere was present as was the determination of both sides to win.
Over the following weeks I saw a number of “Pub” league matches. Conversely the expression ‘Pub “league is a misnomer. I saw no gross individuals take the fields; the sides warmed up before and warmed down after the game. Their average age was that of the NPL TAS player and with out being unduly critical may I say that more than one of their numbers could have played in our National Premier League. They would have beaten any of our Division 1 sides.
So what did I learn from my experiences, well the one element that bound all levels of soccer in Liverpool together was passion. Passion on and off the field. Passion in the streets, in general conversation, passion in the sports shops. Passion in the community at large.
I think it is all summed up in the following;
What can we do after the game Dad?
Would you like to go and kick a ball son?
Submitted by Brian Roberts (Tasmania)