“We are in dire need of a win,” says the man who is selling us a £2 fanzine outside Anfield.
It’s a brisk morning, with fans thronging the stadium, and a well-worn club scarf draped over his coat. He says that he has been associated with ‘Zeen’ for 20 years. Obviously, it hasn’t been very easy for Liverpool fans at the time.
Later, when Liverpool scored a goal for AFC Bournemouth within 10 minutes of kick-off, I think of this man.
My son and I are sitting in the Enfield Road stand, and it is as if someone has thrown a blanket over the stadium. The crowd is momentarily silent, bar to a small contingent of Bournemouth supporters who can’t believe their luck. Most of the 53,384 fans cheer and giggle as they do. There’s no replays on the big screen; Only one keeper is picking up the ball from behind his net.
This is March 7, 2020. Liverpool are in a difficult position that has seen them lose three of their last four matches, and this home struggle is the first time Sam, then 10, has been in a Premier League game.
We debated whether to go ahead with travel, as there have been an alarming number of cases of the new coronavirus in Ireland. But there is no advice against traveling and in that moment, we are happy. The coop stand is soon singing and waving again. The mood lifts around the ground. The team answers.
Soon, Mohamed Salah scored for Liverpool. Nine minutes later, Sadio Mane adds another. Vocals, and a 2-1 scoreline, lasted full-time.
A few days later, the WHO declares a pandemic. A week later, Ireland is in lockdown. Three months later, Liverpool won their first league title in 30 years, celebrating at a nearly empty Anfield as we stare at a laptop.
Those pictures stay in my mind forever. The intoxicating thrill of being part of a huge sporting crowd, and the loneliness of lockdown, when sport – albeit clinical and crowd-free – gave us something small to look forward to and gather (virtually, at least).
Today, in the summer of 2022, sport and travel have continued their breathtaking return. I’m not surprised. During the worst pandemic restrictions, I think many like us vowed to seize the day when they could go diving back into live sport, or book bucket-list trips.
Or both. Sports travel is booming, says James Fleming of Cassidy Sports, with whom we booked our Liverpool ‘match break’ package in 2020. The travel agent is “out of the dressing room at the moment with all things sports, but football in particular,” he says.
Unsurprisingly, Liverpool trips are among the most sought after. Sam is one of thousands of Irish fans following a tradition that you can trace from the 19th-century emigration through to Irish players such as Mark Laurenson, Ray Houghton, Ronnie Whelan, Steve Staunton and John Aldridge, who worked for the club. Played an important role in the last Golden Age. in the 1980s. Our short Ryanair flights to and from Liverpool are packed with fans of all ages.
Cassidy says trips to Arsenal and Spurs for the 2022/23 season are also proving to be popular. And an unusually good value for Manchester United. “Ticket prices for United have fallen as a result of the team not being in the Champions League this year and not doing the best last year,” Fleming says. The company also sells to Spain’s La Liga and Italy’s Serie A.
Also agents such as Cassidy, Club Travel, AB Travel, Marathon Sports, Shandon Travel, Killester Travel and Celtic Horizons have packages for sporting events such as the Six Nations Rugby Games, the 2023 Ryder Cup in Rome, Wimbledon, Cheltenham and various Formula One Games. 1 Grand Prix. Covid is not gone, but the crowd is back with a bang. Formula 1 is adding a race in Las Vegas next year, and Enfield is expanding to a 61,000-seater.
Large trips can cost a small fortune. But being in that environment, watching Sam’s superheroes play out in real time is electric. Regal Virgil van Dijk is running from center to back. Mane’s grace, balance and stinging shots. Manager Jurgen Klopp punching in the air in front of the stand. Gallant exit from the goal line by James Milner ( youtube it) Salah was walking back to the center circle after scoring a goal, touching his forehead to the ground in Islamic sujud.
Of course, you miss the angle and analysis of the TV. But you get an overview of the pitch (“It feels so small,” Sam says), and it makes sense to see what the players are doing with the ball, right down to their facial expressions. And temporarily, we are part of a tribe.
The language around us tends to be salty, and we all know the sporting crowd can have their dark sides, but our Liverpool experience is overwhelmingly positive from start to finish. We fly into the night, and spend the next morning exploring Albert Dock, watching Mercy, talking about the Beatles, buying a bag of sweets and wondering how this team has such a hold on the Irish imagination. Is. “Everton fans are from Liverpool,” our Uber driver says on his way to the stadium. “Liverpool fans come from all over the world.”
We are among them. And the first sight of Enfield rising amidst the redbrick terrace makes us laugh. We leave plenty of time to soak up the buzz, buy a scarf, browse that £2 fanzine, and take down a pie from the community-run homebaked bakery (it’s printed with the word ‘shankly’), which is located in Great Liverpool FC is the manager). We do a lap of the ground, squeeze through ridiculously overpriced LFC Superstores, stop by the loving Hillsborough Monument, and watch the team buses arrive. Bournemouth is booed. Liverpool is happy.
Besides us there are two American tourists, a father and a son. “I’m talking like I know everything,” Dad tells me. “We watched a lot of YouTube videos.”
Our hospitality package includes pre-match meals and drinks in a suite in a small corridor from the stands. Taking our seats, we watch giant LFC letters swallow as the crowd file, players warm up, and we are soon joined by the singing voices of more than 50,000 people.
“All songs start in kope,” notes Sam. “The atmosphere is wonderful.” most moving you’ll never Walk Alone, sang Before kick-off, full-tone and passionate. I have hair on my neck.
“Being in a game at Anfield is like getting high while not eating anything,” writes Guardian Columnist and fan Hannah Jane Parkinson next day, “Stands take lunges.”
Afterwards, we follow dozens of other fans to exit the stadium garage until several players pass out. Salah soars in a white Bentley, Roberto Firmino in a yellow Lamborghini, Milner in a Range Rover and Klopp in the Vauxhall estate, which seems just right.
Football itself has been nerve-wracking and tasty. But the local people get the result they want. Several games later, the three-decade-long duck would be broken.
“I’m 30 and I’m turning gray,” the Uber driver takes us back to town – a season ticketholder who took a break to attend the game. Welcome to Liverpool.
premier league package
Pole and Sam were guests of Cassidy Travel, whose Premier League 2022/23 match break package includes trips to Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Leeds and Newcastle.
Package prices start at €279pp (prior flights), but rates and availability depend on the popularity of matches, length and style of stay, and what’s included.
For example, Liverpool vs Bournemouth on 27 August starts at €439pp, while the Titanic clash with Manchester City (15 October) starts at €749pp (both prior flights).
The Liverpool Sandon Hospitality Package includes match tickets, welcome drinks and meals, post-match refreshments, a match event and a hotel night at the Anfield Road stand. Upgrades are also available.
Keep in mind that packages are sold for fixtures rather than exact dates. League schedules are subject to change, so make sure any travel arrangements allow for this.
See cassidytravel.ie/sports-breaksCall or email 01 877-9853 Sports@cassidytravel.ie for more information.
Match day tips and stadium tours
Taxis or Ubers cost around £8–£10 (€9.55–€11.94) from the city centre, and there are several bus options including an Express 917 service from St John’s Lane in front of Lime Street station. It starts about three hours before kick-off.
top tip? get there early. Eat a pie, have a pint, chat with the locals and feel the buzz building. Bring Some Cash (Sterling) – Anfield is a cashless stadium, but there aren’t a lot of vendors out there selling scarves, ‘zines, etc.
In winter, stadiums can get wet, windy, and cold, so consider layers, a hat, thick socks or boots, and gloves for cold hands. Some energy bars, water (in a plastic bottle) and a sharpie (if the opportunity for an autograph comes up) are also useful. See thisisanfield.com For more tips.
You can also book tours of the stadium at Anfield, including the dressing room, dugout, coop and museum, from £23/£14 (€27.46/€16.71). Tours are available on match days, but are more expensive at £25/£18 (€29.85/€21.49) and do not include dressing or press rooms for obvious reasons. Stadium Tours.LiverpoolFC.com
Official Tickets and Tours
It is possible to buy tickets directly (from £9-£59/€10.74-€70.43; LiverpoolFC.com) and Ryanair flies from Dublin to Liverpool (ryanair.com, Boat tour is also an option.
However, match tickets are sold to members and season ticketholders in advance, with a limited number going on sale a week or so before the game. For a one-time trip, we felt safe (and certainly very easy) to book a package.
See visitliverpool.com More to do in the city.
Note: All prices and availability are subject to change
Netflix’s Drive to Survive has fueled F1’s popularity and brought sports fans to life in lockdown. Grand Prix 2023 venues range from Silverstone to Las Vegas.
The Irish rugby team travels to Cardiff, Rome and Edinburgh for the 2023 Six Nations. Next year’s Rugby World Cup will take place in France, for which packages are also available.
Want to watch a foreign game at home? The Aer Lingus College Classic brings Notre Dame v Navy and Northwestern v Nebraska to Dublin on August 26 and 27.