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Where’s our Famous Atmosphere?

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Dan Holland examines the reasons why more often than not there is a lack of atmosphere inside Anfield.

kop_flags

Some may find the timing of this article strange after last week’s raucous performance from the Liverpool fans which I have no doubt inspired the comeback against Zenit, an evening which came so close to etching itself into LFC folklore. But for me this underlines the points I am to raise in this article.

I have been attending Anfield on a regular basis for some 16 years, in those 16 years financial restraints prevented from seeing the majority of games for two seasons. But that aside I would class myself as a regular and passionate follower of Liverpool Football Club. During these years I have noticed the atmosphere diminishing season by season, be it an early kick off, late kick off, weekend, Monday night or midweek, the noise from the ‘terraces’ is nowhere near what we or the rest of the world come to expect from Liverpool fans.

There is however one exception from this, European nights when we reach the knockout stages or when the result really matters in the group stages, on these evenings there is still nowhere better. Celtic may argue with this so might Galatasary but from my very biased point of view the noise generated inside Anfield, the passion, the backing we give to our team will never be beaten.

European Memories

Let me recall a few of my more recent memories of those European nights. March 2002, Gerard Houllier makes a return to the Liverpool dug out on an evening where we needed to beat a Roma side to progress through to the Quarter Finals of the Champions League. Before the kick-off as our spine tingling anthem was being sung with pride a mosaic is unveiled on the Kop, there was the usual mix of flags and scarfs being waved in the night sky. As the game got underway the atmosphere was frenzied, we took an early lead as Jari Litmanen scored a penalty, this only turned the volume up and chants of “Allez, Allez, Gerard Houllier” rang around L4. Deep in the 2nd half Emile Heskey scored with a flick header at the Kop end of the ground. The noise that resulted from that goal was immeasurable; the mass hysteria that followed meant you could feel the reinforced concrete structure that is our famous Spion Kop literally move beneath your feet.

May 2005, we welcomed a pre plastic flag Chelsea to Anfield after our 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge. The result from the 1st leg ensured a very nervy evening with any potential away goal being fatal. The game got off to the best possible start with the Luis Garcia goal that Chelsea fans still dispute. Was it? Wasn’t it? I think I speak for all Liverpool fans when I say, who cares! All I know is it prompted a carnival atmosphere inside Anfield, with all fans dreaming of a first European Cup Final in 20 years. As the game progressed the nerves increased but that didn’t deter the Liverpool fans from encouraging their team and giving them the kind of vocal support that would help you find that extra grit and determination that was needed. In the 95th minute the ball fell to Eidur Gudjohnsen who had what looked like a simple chance to put his side in the final as there would be no coming back from that. As the ball dropped to his feet he was met with a wall of noise coming from 12,000 kopites – facing that is there any surprise he missed. Liverpool fans again helped their team progress.

kop_euronight

Other notable evenings for me are the 2007 Champions League Semi Final against Chelsea and the 2005 Group Stage game against Olympiakos, but the list is endless going back over 40 years. Why now is our truly unique and special atmosphere confined just to this sort of evening?

The Problems

Every game starts with promise, scarves held aloft, flags waved and passed across people’s heads, You’ll Never Walk Alone sang with such passion that every person inside that ground home or away feels the hairs stand up on the back of their neck. But after the opening few minutes’ falls near enough silence until the team spur the fans into action – it used to be the other way around. Not many games pass where the away fans sing either ‘Can you hear the scousers sing’ or ‘where’s your famous atmosphere’.

What has remained is the unrivalled backing we give our players and manager, booing is seldom heard inside the ground, this is reserved for the pubs or the drive home. So why has the atmosphere gone from the majority of our home league games. I have a few suggestions.

The obvious one is that we are no longer challenging for honours in the league so fans maybe see it as unimportant or are just totally unimpressed with the performances on the field. If indeed this is the reason I see it is a disappointment as I feel we as fans could be the 12th man more often and maybe help generate a few extra points a season. The most recent example of this would be the 2-0 defeat to West Brom. I think a cacophony of noise inside the ground that evening may have helped lift the players during an otherwise poor performance and had one player responded on one occasion at 0-0 it could have turned no points into 3. Now I know that is all hypothetical but I hope you get my point.

Could the reason be all seated stadia compared to the old terraces? Now this is a very emotive subject especially within our great club so I won’t dwell on it but all I will say is that our away fans don’t let all seated stadiums stop them creating an atmosphere nor do the visiting fans to Anfield, so I can only assume this isn’t the reason either.

The third and final reason for me is the main contributor to a sterile atmosphere at a lot of games. The allocation of tickets combined with the cost of tickets – when I say the allocation of tickets the easy sector to criticise are your corporate supporters but as they sit in quieter sections of the ground usually I think they are the least of our problems.

Now I am unsure as to how to classify the type of fan I am pinpointing here, I can’t say the out of towners – as I am one of those, but due to my regular attendance and understanding of ‘The Liverpool Way’ I class myself as an honorary Scouser as do a number of other people who live outside Merseyside and are either season ticket holders or regulars at Anfield. By regular I mean those who attend at least two thirds of games in a season.

kop-crowd_wide

When I say the term true Liverpool fans this may sound very dismissive of a large number of people who visit this site and I don’t mean to underestimate your value to the club or your credentials as a Liverpool fan but in my opinion there are too many occasional visitors and tickets are too accessible. You can spot the fans I mean at any home game; they are the ones who come to their seat with bags full of shopping from the club shop and they are wielding a camera/camera phone anytime a player comes within 500 yards of them. If anyone sees me with my camera in the Paddock it is for purely journalism reasons I promise.

I know football is now a business and these fans who buy bags full of shopping from the club shop are swelling the clubs coffers and that is why the club encourage them to attend. But in doing so they are compromising the atmosphere inside our once feared ground. The problem is they don’t get regularly enough to games to know all our songs or dare I say speak the same language. They know the obvious ones and will join in on the two or three they know. They don’t have the local sense of humour for impromptu chants.

Such as the one that was started in last season’s FA Cup match against Brighton. In a response to the usual “Luis Suarez, you know what you are chant” a small section of the Kop responded in super quick time with “Your from Brighton WE know what you are”. At one time this would have reverberated round Anfield but unfortunately this ended as quickly as it started.

In an ideal world I would like to see ticket prices slashed and the crowd made up of season ticket holders with a small number of corporates and ‘occasional’ fans. This to me would vastly improve the atmosphere inside the ground and who knows possibly make a small difference to the onfield performances.

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Dan Holland

LFC Season Ticket holder (Paddock). Regular at Anfield for 16 years during which I've travelled abroad to follow the Redmen, been to Cup Finals and even presented a player of the year award to Jamie Carragher. I've also arranged several Charity Dinner events which has enabled me to meet many Liverpool legends including Joey Jones, Ian Callaghan, Tommy Smith, Jimmy Case and Neil Ruddock.
  • daft lad

    Really considered article. As a match goer for 20 odd years I would agree that we don’t get up for it like we should. My view is that whilst the day trippers may not add too much they are not sufficient in numbers to impact the atmosphere. Its too easy to blame them. Local scousers who understand the Liverpool way do not sing – I once had a season ticket holder tell me that if I wanna sing I should sit in the Kop. For me fans are simply not up for it and their attitude is wrong. If we can get up for European nights then sitting down shouldn’t matter. Maybe going so long without the league has had an affect. For what its worth I go to the games and try to get it going. I would rather we have a cauldron of noise every game no matter the opposition.

  • micknic

    You make some reasonable points, but the example of the Brighton chant
    is a poor one. I was in the Kop and the reason it didn’t get started, I
    hope, is because it verges on homophobic. At the very least it was
    unimaginative. At a time of being labelled as racists, it’s not the type
    of ‘quick wit’ we need. It isn’t even quick wit, it’s using a chant that
    is directed at Brighton fans all the time, by not so enlightened
    supporters of other clubs. Recycling other teams’ chants is not the ‘Liverpool Way’ but you’ll know that already being a ‘true Liverpool fan’.

  • Xile

    Very true, some games you can hear the managers shouting from the side lines.

    The price of tickets are now so high regular fans are being forced out, those who can afford the prices without affecting their standard of living are probably not the vocal type, but want to quietly sit and enjoy the match.

  • Don

    Good article exploring all the possibilities for lack of atmosphere, however, I personally think it is simply because the team isn’t competing and isn’t in the CL. In my opinion, “day trippers” or “out of towners” are being used as a scapegoat or excuse because even if they don’t sing/chant, what’s stopping everyone else. For long periods there is dead silence from all over the stadium. There aren’t even nearly as many banners & flags as there were in days gone by. Maybe the newer generations of younger supporters holding season tickets aren’t as passionate as the older generation in the days of Shanks & Paisley and don’t fully identify with the history of the club.

    • http://www.thisisanfield.com This Is Anfield

      Sorry, but ” Maybe the newer generations of younger supporters holding season tickets aren’t as passionate as the older generation in the days of Shanks & Paisley and don’t fully identify with the history of the club” couldn’t be further from the truth.

      The fact the club refuse to offer discount tickets for 16-21 year olds doesn’t help the situation.

      The number of corporate tickets and tickets to agencies such as Thomas Cook also dilutes the atmosphere.

  • http://twitter.com/downeytrev Trevor Downey

    Nice piece, Dan. Been writing about the same topic myself. As it goes, I would disagree with your thesis that a vast majority of ‘seasie’ holders would be preferable. As an Irishman who can only see his beloved team when time, money and the wife allow, it’s been my experience that the much-maligned Out-Of-Towners and daytrippers are far more passionate inside Anfield than many locals, whose manner is often jaded, cynical and moany – and these are lads I know, who would openly admit to whinging for 90 minutes. It’s a complex one….

  • http://twitter.com/cjfox21 Callum Fox

    There’s a big elephant in the room that no one seems to have considered. The regular matchgoers at Anfield are getting older and older. I’d be prepared to bet that the average age of season ticket holders is well into their 30s and 40s. That may well have had an impact on the atmosphere when younger people can’t afford tickets. It’s not that older fans are more or less passionate, it’s that young blood is needed who can chant and sing for 90 minutes.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bill-Ward/1467560966 Bill Ward

      Actually a lot of season ticket holders are in the 50-70s age group.

    • Rederik

      Proves the importance of a bigger ground that would give the young ones a chance to get a season ticket, I personally think that anything planned that holds under 70,000 is negative thinking.

      • http://www.thisisanfield.com This Is Anfield

        “Young ones” only have chance of a season ticket if it’s affordable. It’s not as LFC don’t discount for young adults. Young support are being priced out.

        And 70,000 is too much, 60k is the correct amount, something that has been detailed here and numerous other websites.

        • Rederik

          Is it not better to have slightly over capacity than under thus enabling those in control to reduce the ticket prices for young adults.

          May I take this opportunity to thank This Is Anfield for all the great articles they post which give the supporters world wide a chance to give their views

  • steve martin

    The problem is seating allocation. If you were allowed to sit where ever you wanted, once passed the turnstiles, then people would sit with friends and be more likely to sing and chant. simple.

  • sideshow_bob

    To be fair , I think this is a problem for all the big clubs whether their supporters choose to admit it or not. From a Liverpool perspective , I think the atmosphere has been a bit stale for league games going all the way back to the Souness era when I used to stand on the Kop for a fiver! Sure the atmosphere was still special for the big games but I remember some dreadful home perfomances when all we could really muster was a “we love you Liverpool we do” or my worst football song of all time “and it’s Liverpool, Liverpool FC, are by far the greatest team the world as ever seen”. Perhaps, if it was actually true at the time of being sung it wouldn’t be so bad but it isn’t and Irish folk song or not the tune grates on me. Things started to improve under Houllier, but there seemed to be a real burst of creativity under Rafa, but unfortunately since the appalling mismanagement of the club many Reds seem to have fallen out of love with the club just that little bit. Ultimately I think a succesful period breeds excitement which leads to better atmosphere overall. That said, the club should do more to make sure the supporters that sit on the kop are up for singing.

  • prsm3

    I have been going to anfield since 1976. My wife and I have season tickets in the upper centenary. The reason for the atmosphere being crap is simple. This is probably the worst Liverpool team in the last 35 years… It’s hard to get enthusiastic when you know we are not very good…. We rarely beat anyone decent these days, so what can you expect… The days we start chanting we are going to win 3-2 when we are getting beat 2 nil is the day I give up. Sorry, negative I know but it’s a fact. I have never felt so depressed watching the reds, and I see everyone clinging onto hope with Rodgers, I hope they are right. I don’t see it, at least under kenny we had the great days out at wembley. This season has been total crap. I can’t even think of a highlight as we have beaten no-one decent.

  • Nobby Yates

    I do not think that you’ve hit it on the nail at all. I was never what you’d define as a regular at Anfield, but I always managed to get to around 7 or 8 Anfield matches a season from 1990 until I emigrated far far away in 1999. I remember the chants coming from all sections of the ground for most parts of the matches. In November, I made it back to Anfield for the first time in years to watch the Newcastle match. On that day, I was your “occasional” fan, with a bag full of shopping from the club shop and a video camera in my hand. I was back visiting mates and had a season ticket loaned to me, so I was sitting right next to the press box in the main stand surrounded mostly by regular match going Scousers (it certainly seemed that way from the accents and the funny jokes). However, nobody around me was making much of an attempt to join in any chanting that was started – mostly from the kop. I was desperate for there to be chanting where I was, I wanted to chant my heart out and rouse the players – to do my bit. Whenever the Kop did start up a song, I yearned to join it, but I would have felt like a pillock being the only one singing in my section. I felt like a stranger. Who was I to break into song on my own? It was nothing like when I was more regular. It was the one thing that put a dampener on my day. Still totally loved it though and can’t wait for the chance to get back. The people around me were regulars and they were not even close to chanting, so you’re wrong in your conclusions.

  • Daft Lad

    As I said below I’ve been going for 20 years home and away (love away). PRSM3 below explains the reason why he doesn’t sing and I believe it is representative of others. He doesn’t sing because in his mind the team is crap. Now for me I don’t care what state the team is in -i’m up for singing regardless – this is the point of the article. Success does breed confidence no doubt but backing your team should be unconditional (in my opinion). And some fans have talked about seating arrangements, being scattered across the ground and others have mentioned the older generation but I believe these are minor points because on European nights we raise the roof. If we can do it then we should be able to do it for games against West Brom, Wigan, etc. My son is now 7 and has been attending games with me since last season. This is his second season and whilst we’re both from out of town I’ve taught him the songs, details about the justice campaign and so on. I treat him to items from the shop and we might have a bag in the stadium but that doesn’t prevent us from singing.

  • karl

    It is a good article it does touch on the elephant in the room – Terraces and standing.This is a sensitive matter for the obvious reasons and I hope my comment is not taken in offence but it is my opinion that atmoshpere and the ability to price in younger supporters would be aided if a certain amount of standing was reintroduced. At Anfield away fans stand – at away games Liverpool fans stand. Safe standing is an engineering and planning fact – see German grounds and appreciate their better atmospheres. Remember the old Boys Pen – something like that for may work cheap entry and the uninhibited youth not afraid to start a chant the seats can then follow. Computer controlled entrance gates mean there is no more “two through one clocked” practices available to overfill standing areas. I don’t advocate mass standing areas but selected areas.

    As i said I hope this is not taken as offence to the families or memories of the 96

  • REDMH

    I think part of the reason is the growing PC’ness in society in general. I’m not saying that there should be any racist/homphobic/lewd chants etc but im saying becuase of this culture in day to day society people are lot more cautious/wary of what they say, or of offending people and thus are a lot more controlled/sanitised. It might only add a moments hesitation but it’s enough to take away from the frenzied atmospheres of old. I don’t think it’s just Anfield where football crowds seem much less vocal.