Sometimes I forget that visits in my home country should be added to bexgoesglobal too, but I am not going to make that mistake today!
I am on a flying visit to the UK, but following the expansion of Anfield I felt that the new stadium tour needed to be prioritised for my agenda so I booked online at Liverpoolfc.com where I got a discount using my membership card making it just £14 – and who knew what a bargain that would turn out to be.
The outside of the stadium has had a lovely makeover with the new paved area incorporating ‘Anfield Forever’ stones marked with names, tributes, birthday wishes and more along with benches dedicated to some of the clubs heroes including Steven Gerrard, Elisha Scott and Kenny Dalglish. The area is opposite the Hillsborough Memorial that never fails to remind me of the tragedy, the fight for justice and that in true Scouse style, Liverpool FC never gives up.
The new club shop is huge and I had to restrain myself for decking out my entire house in LFC stuff! I am pretty fond of my new door mat though, and look forward to having a liver bird adorn the rear windscreen of Jeep when I return home in a few days!
The tour has had a massive upgrade since I last went in the 2009/10 season. It is now self guided and therefore you are provided with headphones (yours to keep as a souvenir) and a small tablet device that you have complete control over. The tour begins with rising to the lofty heights of the main stand expansion where the escalator sides are lined with club quotes and images of banners seen at our games – my favourite is below and links classic Liverpool heritage in the words of The Beatles to the present day with Klopp’s famous glasses:
Along the route there are numbered points letting you know which chapter to press on your device to ensure that you are listening to the right things at the right locations, and it wasn’t long before I was hearing about some of the most influential men at the club over the years, including my hero (and the man who inspired my dogs middle name!) Mr Bill Shankly. The device becomes interactive at certain points on the tour and it was possible to point the camera at each man to hear more about their story and influence over this great club.
I was eager to get pitchside and then into the dressing room, so having watched a video introduced by our current gaffs that contained some of our greatest goals I was pleased to walk out onto the sixth floor of the stand where I was overlooking the pitch.
Although I have been here many times, I still feel a great sense of pride when I am at Anfield along with a love and passion for my team and my club. I wonder if the players really know what the club means to fans and if they have ever watched the clips detailing the history and heritage of this special team?
Having moved back inside, walked along European Boulevard (which we can but dream will need updating at the conclusion of the 2017/18 season!), I began the descent into the interior of the stand. The route travels through the invitation only Carlsberg Lounge and through the corridor from the players match day entrance towards the dressing rooms.
Before arriving at the dressing rooms, you walk through the press areas including the room where Klopp has his pre and post match press conferences. Of course I wanted to try my hand at addressing the press and was keen to sit in Klopp’s chair for a photo!
Creativity has been in full flow in the Away Dressing Room as Jamie Carragher has provided his all time list of greatest opponents and their shirts are on display along with a video of Carra explaining his choices. Once you see the home dressing room you will begin to understand a little bit of the gamesmanship that goes on in the provision of the away team facilities.
The home dressing room has had major upgrades since the new stand has been built and I was keen to take some selfies with some of my favourite players shirts as I knew they were all on display. The room has some features that Klopp was keen to include from his time at Dortmund; he has an island in the middle of the room with holes for the players to discard their used kit and this area is also where the players stand for their pre-match team talk. Klopp stands at a touch screen which he uses to illustrate his intended tactics; attack, attack, attack!
The corners of the room are empty so that no player sits in the corner – psychologically advantageous – whereas the players in the away dressing room go right into the corners – and the shirts are now always in numerical order so that when they play away the opposition can not determine starting lineups or tactics from the shirts left in the dressing room overnight before the game. I wonder though if there is any disadvantage to this in terms of the players now not being sat with their similar positions – perhaps our defence could work better together if they spent more time together before the game too?!
There’s an obvious next step from the dressing room; the famous ‘This is Anfield’ sign that was introduced to remind the opposition of where they were, whose fortress this was and basically that they were going to lose! I touched the sign in its old location, and did so again as I followed the players’ route out on to the pitch.
Of course,visitors are not able to step out on to the hallowed Anfield turf, but you can take a seat on Klopp’s (albeit underused and covered for weatherproofing) seat in the dugout and fortunately, as it was a grass cutting day, I was able to collect my own little bag (I used the zip lock that the headphones came in!) of Anfield grass cuttings, which I was very excited about – who doesn’t love the smell of fresh cut grass, especially when it comes from your favourite team’s football ground?!
I had a great time and could have spent a lot longer listening to every piece of extra information provided on the tablet – there was so much to hear and learn.
The ticket also includes access to the Museum where Stevie G has donated his personal collection of memorabilia and of course there is an entire history of LFCs 125 years.
Well worth the £14 and an absolute must for any Red or general football fan!