Away Days: Liverpool 1989

Away Days

Cast your mind back to this June when the fixtures came out, what was the first game you looked for?  Many would say a trip to the title holders Manchester United away.  Back in the 80’s the answer was a resounding Liverpool and the computer had given the newly promoted Palace a midweek trip to Anfield in mid September.  For me, this was perfect. I was still a student, university hadn’t restarted and plans were instantly put in place to see Wright & Bright tear the most dominant team of the last decade apart in their own backyard.  The banter down the pub had started long before the day of the game amongst the plastic Liverpool fans where I lived, these plastic scousers were all born down south and had never actually been to Liverpool.  My last words as I left the pub on the Sunday night was that the next time I see them I’ll be holding up a back page of the newspaper as Palace will be the headline makers.

Monday arrived, we loaded up my orange Escort mark 2 and Tilbob, Dawn & I set off for Stoke where we were staying that night.  The Stones Roses, A Guy Called Gerald & the Happy Mondays accompanied us on the uneventful journey and it wasn’t long before we were supping a cold one in a pub, full of excitement about the game the following day.

"This was a sign of the good things that were going to happen later, this was our day, Palace would win."

Match days come in many forms, this one started with a hangover, a fry up and for some reason a game of pitch & putt at a course in Newcastle Under Lyme.  It had seemed a really good idea as we got chatting with a local lad in the pub the night before.  Seeing as none of us could actually play golf the novelty soon wore off as we searched for balls in the rough.  Having eventually managed to hit one off the tee in the air the 70 yards towards the green, I turned to gloat to my friends when a cheer went up from the 4 guys on the adjacent tee.  I’d only managed a hole in one,  This was a sign of the good things that were going to happen later, this was our day, Palace would win.

By early afternoon we were parked up in Birkenhead as we were staying in a dodgy B&B near Tranmere’s ground.  Sash away shirt on & out we went for pre match drinks.  A fair few Palace were already drinking in The Arkles by the time we made our way to Liverpool and as kick off approached we sang our hearts out much to the bemusement of the bar staff & locals.  We made the short walk to the away end, entered Anfield in time for the kop to raise their scarves and sing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’.  This what it for me, this was the big time, my regular away trips supporting Palace had started in the mid 80’s, you didn’t get an atmosphere like this at Shrewsbury on a cold Tuesday night.  Many things have been written about our 9-0 defeat that night and it still hurts too much to want to dissect all nine goals, so I won’t.

"The first arrived on 7 minutes."

The first arrived on 7 minutes as Steve Nicol coolly bent the ball past the diving Perry Suckling in front of us.  The second arrived 8 minutes later as McMahan lobbed an exposed Suckling, Liverpool had scored from their second attack.  For the remainder of the half Palace matched Liverpool, Wright came close to pulling one back on the half hour and on 40 minutes Hopkins headed over when it looked easier to score. Right on half time, Beardsley went on a mazy run, the ball broke to Rush who fired home.  *^@.  3-0 at half time in a game we had competed in.  The next goal would be crucial.  If we could get it then we had a chance of coming away with a point.  How can you lose 9-0 and think at half time that you’re still in the game but I honestly did.

I don’t remember much of the second half.  Goals flew in, 6 of them if we’re going to be precise.  The one that hurt the most came on 66 minutes.  With John Aldridge warming up ahead of making his final appearance for the club, Liverpool were awarded a penalty.  The substitution was quickly arranged and out trotted Aldridge to slot home the penalty and score with his first touch.  It was as if it was a testimonial for a retired player and this was the obligatory penalty so the home fans could cheer their hero off.  It might be irrational but I’ve hated Aldridge ever since.  The only other incident I remember from the half was the ball back on the penalty spot but this time it was Geoff Thomas placing it there in front of us.  I turned to Tilbob & Dawn and said I’m going on the pitch to celebrate.  As I made my way down to the front the ball passed over my head.  Nicol finished the rout that he started.  9-0 and 8 different goal scorers must be some kind of record.  We’d made more than the back pages of the newspapers that I’d promised my mates down the pub, we’d make the front as well.  Paddy Crerand described us as a disgrace, the worst team ever to play in the top flight.

"We left Anfield numb."

We left Anfield numb and walked back to the town centre.  Drink was needed and so I joined a big queue outside an off licence, the bloke in front saw my Palace shirt and said that I needed a drink more than him and let me in front of him.  Before I knew it, the queue moved out of my way and I had 12 beers in my hand for a late night drink once the pubs kicked out.  Split up from my friends, the night was truly topped off as I got locked out of my B&B.  I slept the night on the steps of Tranmere Rovers FC.

I’ve seen us win at Anfield more than once, those victories pale into insignificance compared to the victory at Villa Park later that season when we took our revenge in front of the country on TV.  My most memorable trip to Liverpool came that night in September in 1989 and I think you had to be there to be as euphoric as I was the following April.

Follow Carl Davies on Twitter @carl_babs

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