We’ve all dreamt about running out at Anfield and playing alongside some of the Liverpool legends we’ve watched from the stands. On Friday that dream became a reality for a host of supporters.
The 5Times, former Liverpool Players Association, Legends vs Fans match took place and lifelong Red Ryan Conroy had the challenge of marking Patrik Berger. He describes the match and his day…
AS HE TRAVELLED with the ball at pace I was determined not to let him past me again. At 41 Berger was still a force to be reckoned with and had previously ghosted by me with ease. This time however, with the aid of a lucky ricochet and an accidental nut-meg, it was me coming away with the ball.
The ground into front of me seemed to part like the Red Sea and in the horizon was the goal at the Annie Road end. This was my chance. Concentration and composure soon deserted me though, as the ball crashed into a row of empty seats in the upper tier. Nobody wants to score at that end anyway I reassured myself.
Having the opportunity to grace the hallowed turf with your heroes is something that every young boy dreams of and in my case at 30 it was still just as special. From the moment I knew I would be playing in a charity match for fans v LFC legends I tried not to get too excited. In true pessimistic style I felt that I would somehow jinx my experience by having the same degree of excitement as a child on Christmas morning.
As I sat in the home changing room waiting for instructions my stomach was in knots. Here I was about to embark on the experience of a lifetime and my legs had already gone. Just as I contemplated an escape route, in strolled Phil Thompson full of charisma and swagger to put me at ease. Hand on my shoulder, gaze fixed, he told me to relax and just enjoy it.
Throughout the match it was similar all over the park. The game was competitive but being the true professionals they are, regardless of who had possession of the ball the instructions were clear; keep the ball, play it short, recycle it. You’re playing at Anfield and this is how we do it.
For some of them their age had caught up and their legs were gone, but who needs to run when your team always has the ball and are 3 steps ahead of the opposition? At full back an evergreen Alan Kennedy meandered repeatedly into attack.
Jan Molby played by simply deflecting passes to their next destination whilst Vladi Smicer, Berger and Gary McAllister put in a technical master class that most Championship clubs would pay millions for.
In the end the score was irrelevant (the legends won 10-3). As the full time whistle echoed around the empty stadium the legends had proven that you never lose it.
An afternoon of socialising, having shirts signed and re-living old boot room stories courtsey of Roy Evans lay ahead. No collection of words could describe the feeling as I sat under Carra’s old peg reflecting on what just happened. I had managed to play at Anfield against a team of internationals who had won everything in the game and not messed up.
Somewhat relieved and quite satisfied with my afternoon’s work I thought my woeful shot had been erased from history. Then out of nowhere the match ball bounced in front of me. As I looked up I was greeted with a smile and in true Scouse humour I was told to keep it as a souvenir – seeing as it had been to outer space and all.
- The 5Times former players association donated £20,000 towards The Royal Liverpool Hospital’s new Teenage and Young Adults Cancer Unit.