WE GO AGAIN
KEVIN McCALLUM: Another season, another surge of hope at Anfield
I have only been to Anfield once. It was in 2004. I was treading water back home in SA inbetween the Olympics and the Paralympics in Athens. My mate in London said he could get us tickets to a Liverpool match at Anfield.
I converted my flight to Athens to one to London. We drank our merry way around London for a few days, getting particularly cheerful one night when a South African barman in Richmond heard our accents and decided we should get the house discount of £1 for a double Jameson’s.
I asked my mate who he had got the tickets from. A friend of a friend, who was called Phil the Murderer. Ah. Yes. Phil. The. Murderer. Phil was an acquaintance of my mate’s usual taxi driver, who was related to my mate’s boss by marriage.
The taxi driver, whose name I forget and who will probably prefer me not to repeat it, had told my mate that he had run with a West Ham firm, the organised "hooligans" England was once famous for before Gareth Southgate’s waistcoat.
Said taxi driver had a reputation. Also, he knew Phil the Murderer. We flew to Liverpool. The Murderer picked us up in an old sedan. He was middle-aged and bald, and he smiled a lot. He was something of a legend at Liverpool.
He dropped names like pennies. Ian Rush was a mate. Rushy apparently liked a drink or two. He had our tickets with him. I think they cost us £37 for two. I found it at home the other day. It has survived 14 years and four house moves.
Written on the envelope he gave us was the name: "Didi". They were part of Dieter Hamman’s regular allocation of tickets. Didi the legend. I met him once and embarrassed myself. He was in SA for a Liverpool coaching clinic.
My wife and I were walking into the Wanderers club as he was walking out. I stuttered: "You… it… it’s you…"
Yes, it was. The man who had come on to rescue Liverpool in the 2005 European Cup. One of my favourite Liverpool players of all time. I tweeted that I had met Hamman and had made a right prat of myself. He replied and said next time we should have a beer.
One day. Dreams come true.
'You’ll Never Walk Again'
Our tickets were just off to the left of the Kop. "You’ll Never Walk Again" was thundered out. I called my brother, Brian, to let him hear it. Liverpool won that day, beating West Bromwich Albion 3-0.
Phil the Murderer said we should meet him outside in the car park in front of the VIP section of the stadium after the match. We waited for a spell, security giving us the eye until the Murderer arrived and they waved us in.
The Murderer did know everyone. We were whisked into the player’s lounge. Jamie Carragher walked in, then Steven Gerrard.
Phil gave us some wine that had been specially bottled for Liverpool. The bottle was red, so was the wine.
The Murderer told us to go to a place that was called "The Place". A friend of his owned it. His friend had won the lottery and had spent some of his cash on a club.
A young kid walked in and was greeted like a superstar. He was a teenager and played for the Liverpool Reserves. He was going to become a superstar, they said. He didn’t.
I asked Phil why he was called the Murderer. Had he killed someone? Was he a reformed gang member? Nope.
One day he had been pushing a gurney into the warehouse in which he worked, and as he entered a cloud of steam billowed around him and someone said it looked like he had been pushing a dead man.
I was, I admit, a little disappointed. But The Murderer could murder a beer and we had several that night.
The lottery man refused any offers of payment. It was his pleasure to help me celebrate my first game at Anfield, he said.
On Sunday, Liverpool begin their Premiership campaign. Another season, another surge of hope for the title that dare not speak its name.
Liverpool vs West Ham. At Anfield. The ground of Rush, Gerrard, Carra, Didi and Phil the Murderer.