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Liverpool vs. Man United at 11.15am! – A history of Reds’ even EARLIER kickoffs

Liverpool will be treading familiar ground when they take part in the first Premier League game of the weekend at Man City on Saturday, at a now very familiar time.

The weekend’s match will be the third occasion this season that the Reds have been drawn in that dreaded 12.30pm slot – half of the six times that is allowed to happen for one club over the course of a single campaign.

And to make things worse, each has come directly after an international break, when the challenges of fueling and physically preparing players are exacerbated by travel to far-flung destinations.

Jurgen Klopp’s team have now played at that time more than twice as frequently as any of their Premier League rivals over the last six seasons (12 to second-placed Tottenham’s five), and so their grievances are entirely understandable.

Still, a look through Liverpool’s history suggests the manager and his squad should perhaps be thankful that they aren’t, in fact, running out at an even earlier time at the Etihad Stadium.

It is easily forgotten that in the not-too-distant past, a 12.30pm kick-off would have been thought to grant the players a lazy weekend lie-in ahead of entertaining the nation.

 

11.30am for Liverpool vs. United

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, November 4, 2001: Liverpool's John Arne Riise celebrates scoring the second goal with team-mate Danny Murphy during the Premiership match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

As recently as November 2001, the Reds were contesting games at 11.30am, with Michael Owen scoring twice in a 3-1 win over Man United in that particular instance.

And just a few seasons earlier, they had been selected in the even earlier slot of 11.15am when taking on their bitter rivals from down the East Lancs Road.

The first of those came about as a result of an October 1996 meeting between the two English giants, landing at a time when both were competing in Europe (Liverpool in the Cup Winners’ Cup, United the Champions League).

With the demands of continental competition and the police ruling out several other potential TV slots, the unusual 11.15am kick-off was agreed.

And, after the same justification was used for the return fixture in April 1997, as both sides enjoyed deep runs in Europe, that start time became a regular feature for the following season.

 

The Reds’ EARLIEST ever kick off times

G96KRX Liverpool celebrate with the Milk League Cup March 1983 (back row, l-r): Mark Lawrenson, David Fairclough, Alan Hansen, Ronnie Whelan, Ian Rush, Bruce Grobbelaar, Bob Paisley; (front row, l-r): Craig Johnston, Kenny Dalglish, Phil Neal, Graeme Souness, Sammy Lee, Alan Kennedy (PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo)

Remarkably, those aren’t quite the earliest kick-offs Liverpool have been involved in across their history, with that honour going to two victories separated by almost 20 years.

The first was an April 1976 Merseyside derby at Anfield, made famous by a mazy dribble and finish in the 88th minute that saw supersub David Fairclough seal a 1-0 win for the hosts.

Less well remembered is the fact that it kicked off at 11am so as not to clash with that year’s running of the Grand National at Aintree – a recurring reason for some of Liverpool’s earlier start times down the years.

That time was also matched on entirely different grounds two decades later, when the Reds travelled to Shrewsbury for an FA Cup fourth-round tie in February 1996.

The game had been postponed twice due to the Gay Meadow pitch being frozen, meaning it was ultimately played almost a month late as the FA resisted attempts to instead play at Anfield.

And, with the police unable to change their arrangements for a date that had previously been slated for Shrewsbury’s cross-border derby meeting with Wrexham, the decision was taken stick with an 11am kick-off time.

Those Reds who braved the morning trip to Shropshire were rewarded with a Robbie Fowler-inspired 4-0 win that laid the foundations for a trip to that year’s final.

So, Liverpool’s current crop would do well to think of these games should they have any gripes regarding the kick-off time when they walk out at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

There might even be value in telling them the story of an FA Cup meeting between Burton Swifts and Coventry City in 1892 that, amid a league fixture pile up, was rather remarkably scheduled for 8am on a Wednesday.

Early kick-off, indeed!