This Friday will mark the 30th Anniversary of Liverpool's 4th European Cup win in Rome, 30th May 1984. I Was talking to someone about my trip and thought it might make an interesting ( or not) post … unfortunately I'm not skilled enough to convey the..erm!…’intensity of the events’…..in written words as I can verbally ( with hand actions and mime!)
You have to remember thirty years ago it was a wholly different way of travelling to European games than now ,less controlled more freedom but none of the modern day 'comfort' benefits that link you to home; a mobile, internet, ATM’s or even the homogenisation of City's with Mac’s , Starbucks etc which provide a sense of familiarity…..travelling to a European away was a lot more of an adventure and dare I say ‘foreign experience’ that it possibly is now….you felt a long way from home.It was thirty years ago so memories have faded and some blurred…but some seared never to be forgotten……
Easter 84 I finally got a job after being on the Dole for two years…happy days indeed, although it hadn’t cramped my match attendance going to all home and away league and cup games (back of a van, few bob ale money was all you needed for the always) but Europe was out the question, however with money now in my pocket Rome was in my sights and soon as the final whistle went against Dinamo Bucherest I was planning my trip.
Most of my mates could afford to fly, so it was left to me and two other lads to make our way over land and sea. Transalpino, the student cheap rail fare company who transported many a scall across Europe was the plan. So with tickets in hand , hope in our hearts and without a fucking clue in our heads off we set. The plan: Set off Friday over night train to London…then London -Dover - Calais - Paris..Saturday in Paris and then Sunday overnight train straight to Rome….Roma…the Eternal City….Liverpool’s European Cup City!
The journey to Paris was enjoyable but uneventful..though I recall the lack of fellow Reds concerned me….where are the hordes?.....anyhoo!..Paris was great, visited a few haunts from ’81
and on the Sunday whilst collecting essentials for the overnight train journey ( wine, bread, cheese,ale..more wine) we bumped into Paul Weller and the Style Council making a promo video in a Parisian back street….Paul comes out of shop and bumps into Mick Talbot and ..well that was it…we weren’t impressed and may have offered a view at the time.
The night train to Rome got a bit mad as a few other Reds where on it, a long journey with not much to do but drink…some lads who were bunking their way slept under our pull out seats in the carriage…crossing the Swiss border early morning we were woken early in the morning by ticket collectors and passport control and the sound of cow bells from the adjacent fields...having checked our tickets and passports they moved on...we called the lads below our seats who had been ensconced for a few hours...silence...we were worried. No one had thought about the ability to breathe..when we opened them up I wasn’t sure if they had made it ..there they were sleeping like little cherubs...
Many a famous General had entered Rome on chariots....later hordes of Vandals...this Monday morning it was just a handful of bleary eyed hung over Scousers. We hadn't made any particular plans for arrival and where happy to be enticed by a lovely young girl waiting at the station holding a placard with a hotels name on who pointed us to a waiting cab who would take us to a hotel...now I know what you’re thinking here..classic set up..nope , we ended up in a stunning place, a massive house or mansion turned into a hotel...a balcony inside running around a courtyard full of trees and flowers...it was a touch faded glory about it was like something out of a film.. surprisingly it was cheap , well run and we appeared to be the only guests...there was no catch, but....years later I found out it was in the dodgiest part of Rome...the place they tell tourists not to go to now.
My other mates weren't due to arrive to the Tuesday so we took in a few bars...pretty low key, went for a pizza in a restaurant and had a massive kick off when the bill arrived...we didn't know they charged for the bread sticks on the table we were eating by the basket load.
Tuesday arrived , met the mates at their hotel and we had an epic day visiting the sites...and beers...few of us got off to the catacombs which was an experience , more so walking through the dodgy apartment blocks after wards trying to get a cab back into the City where we met more mates who had flown in...by this time the buzz was beginning, a European Cup final…..ok so it was Roma's Ground but this was our City.
Late evening about 30 of us holed up in a bar, quiet but ideal for a beers , laughs and singing...it had to be said there was some talk of it getting dodgy the next day, but by then we had been drinking all day therefore full of Bravado....then someone said 'there’s a load of Romans outside!!'...you could heat a fucking pin drop...one lad went to check it out...furtive glances around..not laughter or singing now...he came back in..." they want to know if we want a game of football"
Now it’s become a bit of cliché about visiting fans playing a match with locals in a square...but this is how it was...there was about twenty of them, , late teens, we all piled out and started a game on square next to the bar...now I have to say it’s about one in the morning by now, and we had been drinking all day so it should come to no surprise they where more nimble than us..but it was great fun and at the end it was handshakes all round, I thought this is what it’s all about and all those shithouses worried about trouble, it’s going to be fine...that feeling lasted about ten minutes. As me and me two mates made our way back to our hotel we passed an bar with some lads outside across the street , next thing bottles and glasses rained down on us and about eight blokes ran at us..with nowhere to go we backed up to the wall and thought this is it... thank god one of them had the good sense to calm the others down otherwise we were done for….he jestured to us to get off and we needed no further encouragement.
The Wednesday welcomed one of the worst hangovers of my life..after discussing the previous night’s events we felt as everyone else was leaving after the game , it was probably best if we did too, especially if we win...our plan was this......there was an overnight train heading north leaving around 01.15 , so plan was leave bags in the main station Termini
, than after game pick up our bags, few beers, then cab to the other station our train was leaving from Ostienese
....seemed a good idea at the time
We dropped our bags off and met up with the mates at the Trevi ...still dying with a hangover I doubled back to my mates hotel and got me head down for a few hours...by the time I woke everyone was in the hotel bar and the mood had definitely changed, not the normal pre match nerves but something extra...
The trip me mates where on had booked a coach from the hotel to the ground and where going straight to the airport after the game..so we jumped their coach to the stadium and it got there quite early around 5pm...it was already moody , at one point a mob of about 40 appeared looking like they want a fight…but it turned out to be Lazio looking to join up with us…no takers.. a decision was made best if we didn’t go looking for a bar around the stadium, so it was a long wait for the gates to open and get in
The Game is well documented but a few things I recall from the game…
• Our numbers where disappointingly low at the time( 17,000) but with hindsight a fantastic turn out.
• Roma fans made one hell of a noise even with no roof, they had been given these plastic souvenir gloves and when they clapped it was deafening
• They unfurled a massive flag which covered their entire end.
• A very entertaining medieval battle took place in the no man’s land between us and them before the game..stick, rocks, flares..
• I’m convinced it’s the first time I heard ‘Liverbird on my chest’
• A crazy Greek Leeds united supporting airline pilot sat in front of us and he told us how he tried to the take UEFA to court over the 1975 European Cup final saying the ref was biased ( and showed us the letter to UEFA he carried around with him)
• I realised I needed glasses as couldn't see the ball.
• We won! Joy!!
Leaving the ground in the dark around 10:30pm the mood became very serious and the joy of winning had left us. At this point we realised we hadn't actually made any plans to get back into the centre of Rome and it was pointless getting on my mates coach...so though best if we headed away from the noise of police sirens ,fighting and smell of tear gas...likewise quite a few other reds did too...we headed down a poorly lit dark street leading to a dual carriageway and the little twats where everywhere on scooters , with sticks and knives, saw one old guy get caught, but we had to get out of there.
We saw two coaches parked up in a lay-by in darkness but Liverpool fans were heading towards them , we approached ..Liverpool coaches...as we realised there was no way we could make it back to the centre on our own we asked could we get on their coach, thankfully the coach was heading back into the city centre to their hotel and give them there due they were sound, of course, in fact there where a few others who had just bailed on, it was getting tense , some women crying cos there partners hadn't got back yet....after a while the coach driver said he had to go..with the coach not full....the journey into the centre was fraught...and when we go there we knew it was time to get off, the people the coach to their credit offered to let us stay in their hotel after we told them our plan...they wished us all the best and patted our backs.. Fuck me , it felt 'we're going over the top' ...I recall as we stepped off thinking we should have took up there offer....where the fuck are we...and where was the station?...and time was running out for our train...
There streets where empty ..but lots of lads on scooters and in cars...very moody, we headed in a direction we thought the station was in and coming the opposite way was a flat back truck with about twenty Roma fans in the back waving sticks and bars... in what felt like an age in slow motion the truck drove past..phew!...one of the lads confessed this was the point he really was shitting himself…and it what made it worse was he was in the Army!!...I had bought my kid brother a Roma hat and without a shred of shame I put it on to blend in...I looked like a Scouser with a Roma hat on.
We didn't have a clue where we were and one mate said shall I get out the map. We had a map of the city. Not those cute pop up things you can buy now .. this thing folded out to the size of a bed sheet...so there we stood..rolling out a map like tourists looking lost , pointing in different directions...with loads of Roma driving past..but I had me Roma hat on so we blended in.
Thankfully we were just around the corner from Termini .. and with some relief we saw police wagons at the station ..but about 100 lad hanging around....but Reds...turns out bit earlier there had been a massive mob of Roma , kicked off but police got there in time. So partly relieved , we picked up our bags from the station left luggage...and this is where our plan began to fail.....we saw a taxi rank but no cabs....that night Roma Taxi drivers decided to go on strike...now I’m all for the workers’ rights to withdraw labour...but why fucking now!!!
It was approx. 12:30am..our train was leaving at 1:15am...we were at Termini but with our train was at Ostienese..think Lime St to Edge hill...no cabs , no buses...and also we only had £30 of Italian lira left ..what where we going to do..then .like an angel from heaven this guy walks up says, 'Taxi?' !! yes! yes !! ..he wasn't of course but saw an opportunity..we told him we had to get to Ostienese by 1:15..he said ok but wanted the equivalent of £25...which is like saying £150 from Lime St to Edge hill...so realising our situation I say fine...and to my amasement one mate says 'no! it’s a rip off’....five mins off heated exchanges later we were in the 'cab'..it was about 12:55.....now give the fella his due , he went like the clappers, real crazy stuff and got us to the station with about seven minutes to spare...now the station was full of reds....the special was leaving from there..so quick decision ..jump special..yes? no? what if we don’t get on ?....get our train! we crossed the platform bridge onto the platform ..just as the guards where waving it away, I swear we ran opened a door and it began moving , it was like a film, throwing our bags on and jumping on...we made it!!
We slumped on each other , about 8 hours of heightened anxiety, joy , fear , terror , relief came gushing out....'We won the European cup!!..' first time it was mentioned since leaving the ground. We jumped and hugged..I think mainly because we felt safe.. and we were going home.
We shuffled down the aisle of a surprisingly busy train, and found a compartment with a teenage lad in a suit with a big suitcase , he looked like his mama had dressed him. We slumped on the seats , calmed his startled look and began to relax..I noticed he had a giant bottle of coca cola....we hadn’t drank for 8 hours...he graciously offered it to us and between the three of us we knocked all but dregs...I can still see the look of shock and disbelief on his face...well fell into a deep sleep.....I woke few hours later needing a pee..the lad was gone, as I walked down the aisle there he was sitting on his case.
We woke, morning...tired happy relieved and proud as the train pulled in Turin Station a gable wall bore the legend in six foot painted letters "Grazie! Liverpool
”. Some station staff had Liverpool hats and flags...the special must have passed through...we were heroes..with the little money we had left we dined on a giant punnet of strawberries and 1.5 litres of cheap Italian plonk
Our onward journey was Turin to Lyon, then Paris, Friday night then home Saturday ...when we went to the ticket office to sort train time all the ticket staff stopped serving to congratulate us ..”leeeverpoool!!” I must have thought , we will always be welcome here.
Train from Turin to Lyon...we had a two hour wait then a long journey to Paris arriving early evening...but then the TGV hooved into view..a stunning piece of engineering and more importantly it could shave about 5 hours of our journey...so got on ...superb , like a plane....like a bullet...only down side was after half an hour I noticed our tickets weren’t eligible on the TGV...but what where they going to do , throw us off?...the guard arrived , “Liverpool?” has asked and then had a very pleasurable 15 min conversation with him about how great Liverpool where...he asked for our tickets... I sort of sheepishly showed him my Transalpino ticket and very gallantly he waved it away giving a ‘ doesn’t matter’ gesture . The respect for Liverpool Football Club made that happen.
Paris earlier than expected, so a quick decision stay the night of straight on home...home. The journey from Paris to Calais to Dover to London was arduous, the fun had gone we were tired, skint and homesick...but when spirits where low ,all we had to do was remember the Mighty Reds and had done it again ..we'd won European Cup..four fucking time!!..and on the other teams ground.
We arrived back in Liverpool on the Friday night, one last pint together, we walked into the central and as we ordered a drunk at the bar , turned around , looked me up and down and slurred " you want to fight?".