Istanbul from ‘We Had Dreams & Songs To Sing’

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With no football until Sunday, this week we’re delighted to bring you a part-serialisation of Liverpool fan Keith Salmon’s acclaimed autobiography, ‘We Had Dreams and Songs to Sing’.

“A football book as it should be, devotion with humour.”

– Legendary Radio Merseyside Broadcaster Billy Butler

Today we conclude our three-part part-serialisation with a chapter entitled, ‘We had dreams and songs to sing’.

Part One: The Anfield Pilgrimage
Part Two: Inside a disaster
Part Three: We had dreams and songs to sing

We had dreams and songs to sing

‘All round the fields of Anfield Road…..We had dreams and songs to sing.’

Today we dream…. Today we sing all day … tonight we ride to eternity. Sounds good doesn’t it.

It’s been worth every penny, every bit of hassle to get here and yes I will go back to getting my flight and ticket arranged but not now. I have a day of enjoyment, sight-seeing, beer and camaraderie planned, and then? And then a Cup Final, a Champions League Cup Final. I need a new memory to eradicate my last European Cup Final at Heysel in 1985. Roll on the “Ring of fire”, “Poor Scouser Tommy”, Benitez’s “La Bamba” and finally the most wonderful version of “You’ll never walk alone”.

Can you tell I am excited?

So finally the result of 48 hours travelling – the mysti-cal and magical City ofIstanbul. I am cultured, so I am off to see the sights and views over the Bospherous.

Having just arrived at the huge bus station it’s no great problem to actually get to the Blue Mosque which is supposed to be the must see. Istanbul has a good metro and tram system from what I can see. I take the metro to Askeray and then the tram towards the Blue Mosque. It is at this point that the enormity of our following becomes apparent. There are Liverpool fans everywhere and this is the Milan side of the city supposedly. I have decided this is time to start sampling the atmosphere and jump off the tram at the Grand Bazaar and walk the rest.

Logic says I have only got to follow the tramlines. The atmosphere is great and the fans are mixing well, when you see any Milan fans that is, the normal scarf swapping and photograph taking is the order of the day. Istanbul has a buzz about it all of its own. The Turkish music is filtering above the bustle of the main road as I head down to the Blue Mosque, and the crowds are getting heavier.

Not many of the Scouse day-trippers will be seeing this and I know now that I have made the right decision to undertake my epic journey.

Which one’s the Blue Mosque? Nikki tells me it’s called that because it’s Blue inside, well that’s no help when I’m looking at two massive mosques, which look very similar outside. Well I am taking pictures of both so I can’t go wrong. The rendezvous point for all the Reds is Taksim Square on the Asian side of the city, by all accounts it’s a fair taxi ride away, but I am taking my chances and walking through the city, I am going to see some of it as I stroll. I always find that the best way to see and feel a city is to walk it. Within minute of leaving the Mosque I find myself walking through shaded cobbled streets and back in time and through into a giant park advertising Tea Gardens with views over the Bospherous. I was heading the right way as the Bosph-erous cuts the west and the east and Taksim Square was in the East.

It is a good twenty minute walk through the park, and by the time I reach the tea gardens I am ready for a sit down and a drink, not beer though just yet. I want to enjoy today, and remember as much as possible. I got that one from Bob Paisley when Liverpool won in Rome in 1977. The time doesn’t come again and you don’t get a second chance. So here I am sitting overlooking the busy Bospherous and feeling pretty chilled out. After all my efforts to get here, now it’s time to take it all in. I want to see these places otherwise there is no point coming. There is a lot to see and do in Istanbul; an enor-mous city of 14 million inhabitants, so people watching is something to revel in. I want to sample the city and riverside prior to Taksim Square which for some reason I feel will have more of a Scouse feel to it.

The walk to Taksim Square is long (very long) and hot (very hot), and I pass Sirkcei train station from where I will depart on Thursday morning so I get my bearings. In the busy port area boats are shuttling across the Bospherous, passengers loading and unload-ing constantly seemingly without a pause. This is normal city life intermingled with an increasing number of Liverpudlian’s. Kebab time! 60p for a kebab that tasted fine, but unfortunately somewhat like a Boots sandwich, which promises greatness but has little filling inside. Well it was keeping the wolf from the door and I was getting ready for Taksim and to meet my mates. The wonder
of mobile phones, it makes life so much easier when meeting people.

I head across the bridge over the Bospherous, which takes me from the west to the east. The amazing thing about this busy road bridge is that along the full length of it, on either side of a four lane mass of traffic jockey-ing noisily for position to move barely yards in minutes, there are hundreds of locals fishing from it. They look as if they are catching sardines, which doesn’t seem worth
the efforts from 150 foot above the river. I am heading towards Taksim and starting to tire in the afternoon heat and the effects of my journey so far. I don’t actually have a map but will plough on in the general direction of where I have been told the square is. Walking inland away from the river into the heart of the Asian city, I ask a local for directions for Taksim and he points up a hill opposite, complete with a big smile and a shout of Liver-poooolll. The locals seem to like us, not that much though as he hasn’t give me any rope or crampons for the steep climb. Local history says that Sir Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Tensing practised here before their ascent of Everest. There is a snaking red line in front of me in single file, huffing, puffing, sweating and some stragglers left by the kerbside, sitting it out catching their breath. It is allegedly about a kilometre up this hill, and this is indeed what greets me at the top – Taksim Square. When I arrive, it looks like the Pier Head after the Homecom-ing when we won the UEFA cup in Dortmund.

There is red and white everywhere.

People are flooding to the square (by the way it is not really a square as per any normal description) in huge numbers. Flags and banners hang from every vantage point, and hundreds are standing on shop and bar roofs.

Noise is booming from the Fan festival site. “Ring of fire” keeps ricocheting around the square and all its arteries. Pockets of noise erupt regularly, fuelled by case after case of Efes lager, the local brew, which by now is warming nicely in the sun. The red and white arteries are spreading from the square with people in all directions and the noise is flowing in and out of these arteries. You could only be inspired by the fervour and passion of the Reds fans, coupled with that unbelievable Scouse self belief. Everywhere you go people are talking of our destiny. How can we do anything other than win?

Beyond the square there is a park, which is rapidly filling up in the afternoon sun, exactly what a Cup Final afternoon should be like. I meet up with Mongoose (don’t ask why he is called that because even he doesn’t know) and Phil and the Norris Green boys who had stayed on the Tuesday night. Phil, slightly gassed already, surveys the sea of red and white and declares boldly ‘we were born to do this’ and he passionately believes it. Who could argue? I finally meet Peter who, though exiled in Scotland for many years, always signs his letters with YNWA (“You’ll never walk alone” in case you never guessed). He has been my mate for over 20 years now, and we have shared freezing cold nights at Boundary Park Oldham in League cup early rounds and the like, so it was nice to share a sunny afternoon in Istanbul. It’s brilliant to see your mates in such a far off place. With Peter was Degsy (Derek to his mum), who I remember came to Chelsea in 1986 when Kenny won the first leg of the double, he crapped himself for 90 minutes.

It was hilarious. In the 19 years since, I have only seen him on a handful of occasions but that’s what happens.

Peter has blagged me a coach ticket so I can get up to the ground with him, which also means that I can leave my bag on the coach with no worries. I have had it glued to me since I left the Island.

A gang to my left are having a whale of a time and just behind them is Ian Nolan of Bolton Wanderers, Steve McMannaman and Robbie Fowler are also rumoured to be in the square, once a red always a red. This group by me have all of a sudden turned their attention to a big hotel close by, which has a gym on the 5th floor with treadmills by the window. There on the treadmill is a guy
running like he’s something out of Chariots of Fire, high kicking action and waving to the masses, he’s having a whale of a time. It’s one of their mates who has bunked into the hotel and decided to get in the gym for a laugh. The trouble the staff have dragging him off the treadmill is hilarious. Within minutes he is back to a hero’s recep-tion and a can of warm lager.

As 4 O’clock comes and goes, so do many of the squares inhabitants. Stories abound about how difficult it is to get to the stadium, as there is only one road in for the forty thousand of us. The coach is departing at 5 so Peter and I head away from the square and near to where the pick up point is. At a row of shops and bars there are hundreds of banners and people perched on top the shops.

One banner reads ‘Super Croat Igor Biscan – Used to be atrocious’ (sing that to the tune of Super-ercalafradgalistic espealidocious –if that’s right) harsh but true. McDonalds Golden arches are replaced with banners for the new fast food firm of ‘Gerrard and Carragher’. I am scouting for a suitable establishment, or area, for after the game and that’s when I see the Gotham City Reds, two guys dressed as Batman and Robin and they are having a whale of a time. The place is buzzing – tonight was surely ours, little did we know of the scale of the drama ahead.

The coach is rocking all the way to the Attaturk Stadium. Big Ethel and little Steve Dooley have posi-tioned themselves at the front of the downstairs section of a double decker coach and Peter and I are sitting right behind the driver. Ethel (by the way he is about 6 foot 8 and built like the brick proverbial) a tray of Efes at his disposal is now in prime position for the young Turkishguide who basically does what he’s told to do. That’s why we have a Turkish announcement of ‘Doonken Fergoosun takes it up the Boom’, to the delight of the whole coach. The guide keeps starting “Ring of fire” without any undue influence, he is having the time of his life. Turkish driving leaves a lot to be desired though, it seems to be every man for himself and any gaps are there to be filled with near misses a-plenty. It’s like a scene from the film ‘Duel’ at times, with trucks trying to run cars and coaches into kerbs and verges.

Heading to the Attaturk is a long and seemingly unending test of one’s bladder control. As we near the stadium all the local factory workers and families from housing projects/council estates are filling the side of the roads and they are all waving and clapping.

They seem to be glad we are here, we seem to be Turkey’s choice of team. Quite a few of our perceptions and the garbage peddled by the English media are dispelled immediately.The press seem to be desperate for trouble, it is a much better story than 40,000 northern English men actually respecting the country and the people they visit, well it just won’t sell papers will it. The only thing to report on was excellent behaviour from what I saw. Fans are giving the scarves away to local children, along with those ridiculous Carlsberg shocking red wigs. The local kids already look like cup winners, all decked out in scarves and flags.

As we near the stadium a Scouse lad has been knocked over somehow and is in the road desperately trying to get up and get to the stadium. He has a lump on his head akin to something from a Tom and Jerry cartoon. I hope he makes it even with a thumping headache. As we near the stadium, chaos has ensued due to the ‘one road in’ issue. Taxis, buses and coaches are all trying to get down this two lane road heading towards a stadium on the moon, that’s what the Attaturk looks like from our view. It’s desolate. As the coaches slow down it’s a sign for the biggest piss stop in history with thousands going by the side of the road in the middle of
never-ending scrubland. The funniest sight is a girl who is legging it away from her coach to have a leak behind a mound of rubble. Well, none of her coach can see her but another 50 coaches behind can so she didn’t quite succeed. People have now started to bale out and walk, not a great idea for after the match when you need to find your coach, but it is only four hours to kick off so
they may be worried about getting in.

As I have my world in my bag I am staying with the coach so I can find it afterwards. As we get closer I can see masses of fans at the Fan Festival site behind the North End entrance. Word has reached the coaches that there is no alcohol at the ground. People who have heard in time have trays of beer with them and all of a sudden they are as popular as Jamie Carragher. From the coach
park there are numerous hazards to avoid: loose banks of earth, two foot high kerbs and storm drains to name a few. Brian Reade in the Daily Mirror was later to compare the movement of fans to the stadium as almost biblical. Coming down a hillside is a stream of people all wearing red and white, marching through this wasteland towards a promised land, the stream flows on for hour after hour.

As we arrive Pete Wylie and Wah! are taking to the stage at the fan festival site. Wylie is decked out in red and white and has a Bez (Happy Mondays) wannabee behind him. He soon has the crowd rocking with tracks such as ‘Better scream’, ‘Story of the Blues’ (he inserts the line the Story of Emlyn Hughes), ‘Sinful’, ‘Come-back’ (which was to prove quite apt), ‘Heart as big as Liverpool’ (obviously) and a version of ‘‘You’ll never walk alone’’. For YNWA he invites the crowd to join him on stage, I am sure he didn’t mean the entire crowd but that’s what he is getting. The Turks in charge are having a fit and are having real trouble getting people off the stage. They are sure it is going to collapse and to be fair I am surprised it doesn’t.

The Reds are well ready for this and we have been for years. The common thought is why on earth did they hold it here with such bad road connections, but then again why did they ever hold anything at Wembley. It is quite obvious UEFA never walk in fans’ shoes and don’t want to, if they did they would get rid of all that phoney opening ceremony crap and let the champions show you
the cup. That view is about to change somewhat, apart from the catering which was woefully inadequate, I think this stadium itself is a wonderful venue for a Euro-pean Cup Final. The ground is a magnificent setting for such an occasion.

At the end of Wylie’s set I finally meet Zil, who I have been trying to meet all afternoon. He is on a day trip and has been delayed at Liverpool and taken straight to the stadium when he landed in Istanbul, totally missing Taksim and the city. I have been going to watch the Reds with Zil for just on 20 years and he’s the one person here in Istanbul who I want to share tonight with. I am so relieved, to have come all this way, after twenty years, and not meet would have been unthinkable. The day I got my ticket I swear he was a happier man than me.

Being in the ground two hours before kick off is not normally something I do, but this was the European Cup Final and the two hours flies by. As the players come out to check the pitch, the Liverpool end is still filling up but more rapidly. It wasn’t exactly like Rome
in 77 when everyone was waiting for the players to see the pitch, but the players tonight knew we were going to be special.

Next time I write in this dairy I hope it will be as a loyal supporter of the five Times European Champions.

Come on you can’t do nothing-wrong reds!

This incredible chapter continues in ‘We Had Dreams And Songs To Sing’

For more information and how to buy the book, please visit www.wehaddreamsandsongstosing.co.uk.

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