THURSDAY’S game against Zenit will present an opportunity to welcome back an old friend to Anfield – atmosphere.
Much was made after the depressing defeat in Russia last week of the restorative powers of the Kop and how the assembled throng at L4 would provide a wall of noise that would drive Liverpool on and force Zenit to withdraw behind the Iron Curtain whence they came. Well if they had any representatives at the West Brom game last Monday they’ll have thought that a laryngitis epidemic had struck the city. I could have sworn I heard a cat wearing slippers walking across a mattress in Arkles Lane at one point in the first half.
Even five goals racked up against Swansea on Sunday didn’t exactly have the Kop rafters ringing to the tones of ‘Fields of Anfield Road’ or ‘Scouser Tommy’.
Apart from the valiant efforts of a few diehards at the back of the Kop, the rest of our famous terrace seem content to sit on their hands and wait to be stirred by some encouraging action on the pitch, or the clarion call to remember the 96.
Sure we can still rustle up a storm when the big boys are in town, but the more run-of-the-mill fixtures are now often played against a backdrop of respectful silence that would shame a group of Cistercian monks playing charades. I know it shouldn’t bother me when a few hundred West Brom fans sing ‘where’s your famous atmosphere?’ but by jingo it certainly does.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t exactly conduct my neighbours in the Lower Centenary in rousing renditions of ‘We’ll be coming down the road’ – partly because we’re all crippled with pain from our knees being lacerated by the seat-back in front – but I do my bit at away games and, besides, I’ve served my time on the Kop when I was young and smart enough to run up and down steps and keep my shoes dry. But do those who currently populate our seminal monolith not appreciate the responsibility they bear, the flame they hold in their hands, to uphold the grand tradition of raucous support that has rolled down that stand since the 60’s?
Even the Annie Road End occasionally bursts into song, seemingly irritated by the passivity displayed at the opposite end of the ground.
Why don’t we sing at Anfield any more? Some would say it’s hardly surprising we’re not exactly jumping for joy given some of the dross we’ve been served up in the last few years. More will blame the seating, insisting that the comforts of plastic sap their energy and make it nigh-on impossible to rouse yourself to sing. Others will blame ‘out-of-towners’ and ‘tourists’ for taking over the Kop and gentrifying it with their cosmopolitan ways.
But maybe it’s just that we’re all getting old. With the rising cost of attending Premiership games, and the preponderance of season tickets, the raw energy of youth is being lost not just to Anfield, but to Old Trafford, the Emirates and other big clubs. The likes of Stoke make more noise because younger fans can get tickets and the atmosphere benefits as a result.
Which is why tonight should be a welcome reminder of what Anfield can be like, as many regulars turn their nose up at the Europa League and are replaced by those whose infrequent attendance in no way diminishes their fervour. Go for it boys.