As Jurgen Klopp’s team celebrated their title win together in a Liverpool hotel, three Reds across the other side of the world were uncorking a fine red of a different variety, one that had been a decade-and-a-half in the drinking.
Fifteen years ago, three die-hard Liverpool fans from Australia bought a rare South Australian wine worth $1500 (roughly £830) at a fundraising auction and agreed to save it for Liverpool’s next title triumph, not realising at the time just how long that wait would be.
Now in 2020, Jason Kilic, Ryan Paul Scott and Phil Halliwell have finally been able to toast a Liverpool team for the ages in the most fitting way possible, and This Is Anfield’s Samuel Cox caught up with Jason to share some of their story.
Like many older Australian Reds, Jason fell in love in his youth with the swashbuckling Liverpool sides of the 1970s and has remained a diehard supporter ever since.
All based in Adelaide and members of the local supporters’ club, Jason, Ryan and Phil met by chance 20 years ago, brought together by their other shared sporting passion, the Australian rules football club Sturt FC.
However, they quickly discovered they shared another deep sporting passion, that being the Redmen from Liverpool.
From then on it has been a friendship moulded by weekends of Aussie rules games during the day and Liverpool games into the early hours of the morning.
Fifteen years ago, was, of course, the year of Liverpool’s dramatic European Cup triumph in Istanbul.
Jason was in Dublin at the time of the extraordinary win, watching the gripping game at his hotel with a motley collection of Reds fans.
After winning in incredible circumstances, even Jason’s wife—who was pregnant at the time—understood the magnitude of the situation and gave him the night off, as Jason celebrated the win into the early hours with the Irish Reds fans on the streets and in the bars of Dublin.
A few months later and still riding a post-Istanbul high, Phil, Jason and Ryan found themselves at a Sturt FC fundraising auction.
When the red wine—a 1994 bottle of Henschke ‘Hill of Grace’, one of Australia’s premier wines—came up, the three friends decided to all chip in, with the agreement it would remain unopened until the day “when Liverpool next won the league.”
The bottle nearly uncorked itself a couple of times, as first Rafa Benitez and then Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool teams came awfully close to achieving the fabled feat.
Indeed, last season Jason revealed he found himself slipping down to the cellar several times as Liverpool closed in on Man City, almost in preparation.
But although they achieved the third-highest points total in Premier League history, City ultimately held on by a point to claim the title.
The wait would stretch on a little longer.
However, the season was far from over and Phil and Jason made the trek halfway across the world to be in Madrid for last season’s Champions League final.
Although like many others they were unable to get tickets, the Adelaide-based pair had the time of their lives amongst the sea of 50,000 Reds fans assembled from across the world in Madrid’s Plaza Felipe II, stationed near the stage for the unforgettable scenes.
Jason explained they “didn’t get in, but it was worth every cent to experience” as Reds fans continued the party into the night following a sixth European Cup success.
As satisfying as that victory was, the wait for the next league title was now certain to clock over into its 30th year and there remained another ageing red, still collecting dust in a faraway Adelaide cellar.
Bottled in the year Graeme Souness left Liverpool as manager, bought following Rafael Benetiz’s successful first season at the club, the wine was now awaiting the outcome of the Klopp era.
Fortunately, Jurgen’s team has proved to be every bit as fine a vintage.
Jason explained that the three friends had always felt the title drought would be broken and even in the darker moments they had never given up hope.
As it became apparent that Liverpool would be claiming their 19th league title this season and climb back on their perch, curiosity got the better of them and they decided to see how much the bottle was now worth, 15 years later.
In the interim, the bottle had appreciated to $2500 (£1385) in value.
Was there ever a question as to whether they would open it?
“Never a doubt.”
The three long-time friends and Liverpool tragics even invited a few fellow Reds to join the celebratory opening.
How was the wine?
Jason summed up: “The wait was long and painful…the wine was divine.”
Ryan offered, “unlike some wines that have been cellared for that long, it was amazing. Strained and decanted it a couple times as well.”
All in all “magnificent. Just like Liverpool Football Club!”
I think we can all share a drink to that; a special toast to Jurgen’s fine Reds, 15 years and three Liverpool lives in the making.