This Is Anfield tunnel sign (Photo: Sven Hoppe/dpa)

This Is Anfield – The story of Liverpool’s famous sign and why players touch it

Three different versions throughout Liverpool’s history have adorned the Anfield walls, but all held the same message: This Is Anfield.

The words ‘This Is Anfield’ are synonymous with Liverpool Football Club and its place inside the Reds’ spiritual home holds significance across world football.

It is not just a casual motto nor is it a marketing ploy, the words resonate with both players and fans alike and have done so for over half a century.

But how did the idea come to be?

The ‘This Is Anfield’ sign was first installed by Bill Shankly, but the concept was not one of his own making.

“It was actually recommended to him by a groundsman,” Danny Dwyer, once Liverpool FC Stadium Tour Guide, told This Is Anfield.

Liverpool manager Bill Shankly pictured on his side's homecoming to the city of Liverpool following their FA Cup Final defeat by Arsenal at Wembley. Thousands of people lined the streets to welcome their heroes back from London. 9th May 1971. (Trinity Mirror / Mirrorpix / Alamy Stock Photo)

“The groundsman then went to our then-secretary Peter Robinson and said, ‘listen, let’s put a sign up in the players’ tunnel’.

“And then Shankly approved it, but the original sign which was recommended said, ‘Welcome to Anfield’.

“Bill said, ‘No. We’re not having that, you’re not here to have a good time, you’re not here to have a nice day, let’s have This Is Anfield’.”

A statement piece that underpinned one of Shankly’s most famous quotes: “It’s there to remind our lads who they’re playing for and to remind the opposition who they’re playing against!”

And so the famous sign was born, and it is one which will forever define the club’s past, present and future.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - WEDNESDAY JUNE 16 2004: Rafael Benitez poses for a photograph with the famous 'This is Anfield' sign in the tunnel at Anfield as he is unveiled as Liverpool FC's new manager. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

But the version of the sign introduced by Shankly no longer takes its place at Anfield and has not done so since before 1974 – it instead resides behind the bar at a bed and breakfast in the Isle of Man.

A surprising location for a piece of the club’s history, but it was the first of three versions which have been used up until present day.

The second took its rightful place at Anfield in 1974, the year Bob Paisley succeeded Shankly, and remained in the old tunnel until 1998.

The particular sign bore witness to a prestigious era in the Reds’ history, with 10 league titles, five League Cups, four European Cups, three FA Cups, two UEFA Cups and a Super Cup all added to the honours board.

Paisley, Joe Fagan, Kenny Dalglish, Ronnie Moran, Graeme Souness and Roy Evans all led their sides out with the sign proudly displayed before they descended the set of stairs and graced the Anfield pitch.

But it was taken down in 1998 and would not return until 2012, with a third sign taking up its position in the intermittent years.

Brendan Rodgers was the man to restore the second version after digging it “out of a storeroom” merely weeks into the job, putting it back in its place as “a mark of the Anfield of old.”

While the success Rodgers was looking to revive at Anfield did not come during his time at the helm, Jurgen Klopp‘s Red juggernaut has had no such problems.

TBGFF6 Manager of Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp celebrates with his players and the trophy - Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool, UEFA Champions League Final 2019, Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, Madrid - 1st June 2019. (PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo)

The Reds’ 19th league title, sixth European Cup, ninth league cup, eighth FA Cup, fourth Super Cup, first Club World Cup have all been secured under Klopp’s tutelage, with the promise of more.

It means the current crop of players can now touch the ‘This Is Anfield’ sign as they make their way onto the field, having earned the right after adding to the club’s honours board.

It was a condition set by Klopp early in his reign, as he revealed: “I’ve told my players not to touch the ‘This Is Anfield’ sign until they win something. It’s a sign of respect.”

Jordan Henderson was the only player who had been entitled to do so after lifting the League Cup in 2012, but he resisted out of respect for his team-mates and the desire to again achieve success.

That has not been in short supply.

To this day, it remains a sacred act and only a handful of players have regularly taken up their newfound freedom, with Henderson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk and Fabinho headlining the list.

The sign is one which holds a significant place in Liverpool’s history and while opposing managers, players and even Spanish newspaper Marca have claimed “This is Anfield – so what?” over the years, the Reds have more often than not left them eating their own words.

Klopp’s actions showed the significance of the sign and the symbolism of interacting with it.

It is a continued statement of intent first made under Shankly, which has transcended over 50 years, 13 managers, countless players and well over 40 honours – with many more in the pipeline.

* A version of this article was first published in February 2020.