I think in a way we all knew our lives had changed in just a small way on May 25th 2005. Some people, they might have been around a while, they might have seen it all, 77,78,81,84…some might even have seen the bulk of our 18 championships during their lifetime of supporting the club that these days I call my religion. They could have seen those greats, Barnes, Rush, Dalglish. Some might even remember the days of A-L-B…-E-R-T…Albert Stubbins.
But I wasn’t one of them. All I ever was until that night was a young 15 year old, forced, sometimes unbelievably, to sit through stories and stories of our glorious history. Yeah, I loved it. Always have done. But for whatever reason part of me just wanted to live all the glory of those years…and for one night I just wanted to remember those heroes, and create some of my generation. I wanted to stand together with those supporters of yesteryear I knew, and I wanted to say ‘I remember a night of our glorious history’. I remember the night when the players I idolised became heroes. And it wasn’t long ago I never thought it could happen.
For many years I was still on the sidelines. Sure, we had some good times, the 2001 season, those glorious Anfield nights like Roma…but there was still something missing. I couldn’t say the players I watched were legends. I couldn’t say they compared to the likes of Rush and Dalglish. And most of all, I still couldn’t tell you I saw the night they became Anfield legends. Alright, I enjoyed every cup run, every glorious game, but where was it leading? Were Liverpool FC, the greatest team of all, ever going to come back to their glorious history, the likes of which corrupted oil billionaires couldn’t buy, no matter how hard they tried? Or were we just reduced to Europe’s lesser competition? Dortmund was great, and you won’t find many say otherwise, but the thing is…I just couldn’t see where the players were going to be immortalized.
I’d watched Evans’ team self-destruct, despite being perhaps the most talented group of young players I ever saw play. They aimed for the moon, but they were shot down. And last year, it appeared the same had happened to Houllier’s treble winners…the ones who had made me believe again. They had failed in THEIR shot at immortality. Where next?
I don’t believe I’ve ever been more downhearted, by the way, than Leverkusen 02- when Houllier was in charge. I felt that was the night for us to be heroes. I still firmly believe we could have been European Champions then. But we blew it, like so many opportunities. It seemed like I was doomed to simply being a footnote in Liverpool’s past- we were there, but we still hadn’t scaled the heights. We were close, but yet again, thwarted as the promise of immortality was there. Could we ever experience nights like St Etienne, Roma...etc. ever again?
And so came THAT night. I’ll be honest, I was in tears. That was the night. Something I’d been waiting for, for a long time. And to get it in that fashion…? Well, those players simply would never be forgotten. And to me, you can say what you wish about Luis Garcia, or Joesmi, or Djimi Traore…but somewhere in Liverpool’s glorious history book, they will be there. As will Rafael Benitez. Could we have possibly imagined a night like the one we had back in May 2004, when we were all despondent? We had lifted the European Cup for a magnificent FIFTH time, after one of the greatest sporting comebacks- perhaps THE greatest sporting comeback- in history. It was and is the pinnacle of my support so far.
Therein lies the problem for me and so many more fans. We’ve seen the glory. We’ve sat there with our mouths agape as those players we idolise write themselves into the Anfield records. We’ve seen Stevie and Carra dancing, singing Ring Of Fire, as they held OUR European Cup. We saw close to a million people (not scousers, clearly, they’re Everton fans) pack the streets of Liverpool to welcome our religion, in some cases (particularly mine) our lives, home with a trophy from a victory we could never have imagined in all our lives.
So what do we do now?
Some Liverpool fans, even me, know that they will never forget that night. When you’ve had Cheryl Tweedy(for Kri5tian!) covered in Nutella, it’s a bit of a comedown to in the bus shelter with Cilla. But it’s easy to say that it’s a comedown and all that, or that we’ll never experience another night like it. But how true is that statement? It’s impossible to know just yet.
However, the Miracle Of Istanbul was indeed memorable. It’s something I’ll never forget. But never forget something. We’re Liverpool FC. We’ve had a glorious past. We’re in a promising present. Now it’s time to write those history books of the future, and carve yet more names into that book of Anfield folklore. But most of all, it’s time to give us all more nights that will live in immortality.
© John Porter, 2005.