The Kop’s Last Stand 10 years ago today

Posted by pee-jay on April 30, 2004, 09:35:34 AM

Ten years ago today, the world famous terrace, the Kop at Anfield saw its last competitive match against Norwich City. The most powerful 12th man, a sea of scarves, flags and banners, accompanied by the massed chorus of You’ll Never Walk Alone.

On that day before kick-off the chant of “Shankly, Shankly” filled the air, followed by “Paisley, Paisley”, whose ill-health prevented him from being there. Then the Kop roared when Joe Fagan walked on the pitch with Paisley’s wife Jessie and Shankly’s widow Nessie. Then Gerry Marsden stood in front of the Kop to sing with them You’ll Never Walk Alone as past players stood on the centre circle holding a huge banner with the words ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ on it.

The Kop was originally known as the Oakfield Road Embankment or Walton Breck Bank. In the summer of 1906, after Liverpool had won the League Championship, the exposed wooden terraces where replaced with the construction of a huge new banking, a vast roofless sloped mound of soil and cinders surrounded by a white picket fence.

The Kop was named after a famous battle during the Boer War, which took place at Spioen Kop, a hill in Natal, a province of South Africa,  on January 24th 1900. More than 300 men lost their lives during the battle, whilst attempting to break the siege of Ladysmith. Most of them from the Lancashire Fusiliers and many from their homeplace of Liverpool and South Lancashire. The name Spion Kop was suggested by Ernest Edwards then sports editor of the Liverpool Daily Post and Echo.

To commemorate the new Kop, the topmast of Brunel’s giant Great Eastern six-masted iron steamer ship, one of the first ever, was erected on the outside corner of the Kop at the junction of Walton Breck Road with Kemlyn Road after the new Spion Kop was built in 1906. The ship had been broken up at Rock Ferry, Birkenhead, in 1890 and the club officials in search of a flagpole managed to buy it for 20 guineas, a reasonable price. The mast was floated across the river Mersey to Garston and transported to Anfield and hauled up Everton Valley on two wagons, hauled by a team of three horses. It still stands in the same spot at the corner of the Kop and known as ‘Flagpole corner’, and will have been there 100 years in 2006.

The first match played in front of the Kop was against Stoke City on 1st September 1906, Liverpool winning 1-0 in front of a crowd of 30,000, Joe Hewitt being the first to score in front of a jubilant Kop.

In 1928 it was slightly extended and finished with a vast iron cantilever roof to house nearly 28,000 standing spectators. John McKenna, the then president of the Football League formally opened the new roofed Kop, on 25th August 1928, where a crowd of 40,000 washed Liverpool beat Bury 3-0. Miller scoring a brace and Whitehurst scoring the third.

In October 1963 Gerry and the Pacemakers were top with a new version of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ which stayed there for six weeks. When the song stopped being played thereafter, the Kop spontaneously sang YNWA over the new number one, and from that day ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ became the official anthem of Liverpool FC.

It was during the 1960s that the Kop’s fame spread throughout the world and on the day Liverpool clinched the League title in 1964 the seething terrace was filmed by the BBC for its Panorama programme.

During the summer of 1987 a collapsed sewer under the Kop forced the Reds to postpone their opening two home games whilst repairs where made.

After the Hillsborough tragedy of 15th April 1989, the Kop and the pitch became a sea of flowers and scarves as Liverpool families, friends and fans paid their respects to the 96 who lost their lives.

So to the last match before the old standing Kop would be demolished to make way for a new all-seater grandstand. The 30th April 1994, Norwich City the visitors who won the game 1-0 with a goal by Jeremy Goss.

The Kop terrace measured 394 feet wide, stretched 135 feet from the front to the back and was 50 foot high. No other stand can have witnessed so much that has gone down in footballing history.

The Kop and its family of Kopites have always been known for their singing and chanting. Their ability to conjure up many a famous tune and off-the-cuff quips to happenings on the pitch is now world famous.

The swaying Kop, the twelfth man, with their singing and chanting inspiring the Reds to many a famous victory.

YNWA

© peejay 2004

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