When I was living in South Yorkshire as a teenager, I used make monthly visits to Anfield to watch Liverpool. This journey necessitated taking two trains from Sheffield (there were no direct trains back then) and meant getting home very late after the game on a Saturday night. Of course, none of that mattered.
Making that pilgrimage over the Pennines was a small price to pay for the privilege of queuing at the turnstiles to buy my ticket, before standing on the Kop, bag of chips in hand and watching my team. Afterwards, there was often a great victory to savour as I walked back down to Lime Street station with the masses, ready for that long trip home.
Why am I saying all this? Well, the clue is in the ‘queuing at the turnstiles to buy my ticket’ part. The point was that I COULD. I could turn up at Anfield at 2.30 pm and get a ticket, no problem.
Then one season, all that changed. I turned up for the first home game of the season (I think we were playing Manchester City) with a friend, and the game was sold out. I was stunned. We ended up paying a tout way over the odds for tickets, but I vowed never to do that again.
I had hoped it was just a one off occasion, but, sadly, it was the beginning of the end of spontaneously turning up for matches at Anfield and knowing a ticket was a certainty.
Not long after that, not being able to afford a season ticket, I could only manage to get a ticket for away games, and eventually that became impossible too. Now I am reduced to what I never dreamed I would become: the old ‘armchair fan’. I know from conversations from many fans, of other clubs as well as Liverpool, that what I have described above more or less fits the pattern of what happened to them, too.
This brings me to the ongoing debate of whether or not Liverpool should move to a new stadium or redevelop Anfield. There are good arguments for both. Several Arsenal fan friends of mine have told me that a new stadium is the best way to go; the increased seating capacity at the Emirates has meant they can attend many games that they would have had no chance of getting tickets for when Arsenal were still playing at Highbury.
That is appealing of course, but personally, and sentimentally, I would prefer Liverpool to redevelop Anfield and increase the number of seats, if it’s at all possible. The club owners themselves, Fenway Sports Group, also find themselves on the horns of this dilemma, and are said to be unsure of whether to redevelop or move.
Further fuel to this fire has recently been added by Liverpool’s managing director, Ian Ayre, who has confirmed that the club is ‘actively seeking’ a naming rights partner for a potential move to a new stadium (probably on nearby Stanley Park), although he did stress that renaming Anfield was not an option were the club to remain there.
Most fans seem to favour remaining at Anfield, and the thought of a new ground being given an unpalatable name will likely only strengthen this majority.
If the decision is eventually made in favour of moving, expect to see plenty of passion from the fans regarding the bestowing of a name on Liverpool’s new home. In fact, it would probably be best if they were given a say in what the new moniker should be, although given that they are unlikely to bow to commerciality, this is unlikely.
I like the sound of ‘The Shankly Stadium’ or ‘The Paisley Stadium’, but most of all, I would like it if I was an ‘armchair fan’ no longer because of my regular visits to ‘New Anfield’.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.