Penalties, glorious defeat and a long night at Anfield - Carl Marston’s Travels with Town
Football writer Carl Marston has visited 120 Football League grounds over the last 30 years, many of them reporting on Ipswich. Here he recalls a trip to Anfield.
There was a time when rarely a year went by without Ipswich Town paying a visit to Anfield.
The two clubs rubbed shoulders with each other in the top flight for most of the 1960s, 1970s and the first half of the 1980s, right up until the 1985-86 season when Liverpool were crowned First Division champions and Town were relegated into the second flight, along with Birmingham and West Brom.
Town's trips to Anfield have been few and far between since then, with just eight visits during the intervening 33 years, three of them in Cup competitions.
This coming season, of course, the two clubs start further apart than ever before.
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Liverpool, fresh from being crowned Champions League winners, will be among the red-hot favourites to lift the Premier League title, while Town are facing up to life two divisions below them, in the third tier, for the first time in 62 seasons.
My first visit to Anfield was back in the late 1970s, when I was in my early teens. Friends of the family, on Merseyside, secured us tickets - to a Reserves fixture!
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It was actually more glamorous than it sounded. We had passes to the VIP lounge, where we could inspect the impressive trophy cabinet, and I also bumped into England and Liverpool centre-half Phil Thompson, who was then in his prime … or did he bump into me?
Speed on three decades and I was back at Anfield, this time in the press box, to report on Town's League Cup tie in December, 2002.
Club: Liverpool FC
Town's first visit: 6-2 defeat on Christmas Day (December 25), 1945 in Division Two Old
Town's last visit: 1-1 draw on December 4, 2002, League Cup
Town's overall record at Anfield: P37 W2 D10 L25.
Quirky fact: Anfield was the original home of Everton, from 1884 to 1891. Liverpool moved in, during 1892, with Everton having departed for Goodison Park.
Wednesday, December 4, 2002: This fourth round replay ended in a 1-1 draw, after extra time. Tommy Miller scored for Town, El Hadi Diouf equalised, and Liverpool went on to win 5-4 on penalties.
I was a passenger in the car, driven by then EADT sports editor Tony Garnett, who was the Ipswich Town correspondent for more decades than he probably cares to mention.
Given that it was a midweek Cup game, we had decided to book into a Guest House, which I seemed to recall was situated in the middle of nowhere - I think it may have been close to the infamous Saddleworth Moor (an hour's drive away), but I could have been mistaken.
True to form, as with all long-distance away cup replay ties, at least the ones you hoped and prayed would finish after 90 minutes with a positive result, this one went into extra-time.
That's not to say it wasn't exciting - it was thrilling.
Town, back in the second tier after relegation the previous season, were in dream-land when German defender Markus Babbel passed the ball straight to Tommy Miller, who duly tucked home past keeper Jerzy Dudek on 14 minutes.
Alas, El Hadj Diouf saved Liverpool's blushes by equalising in the second half, and then scoring the vital penalty in a 5-4 shoot-out success, after Jamie Clapham had missed for Town.
By the time that Mr Garnett had penned his match report, and I had scrambled together some quotes from the respective managers, Town boss Joe Royle and Liverpool's relieved Gerard Houllier, it was past 11pm when we finally left Anfield.
Attention then switched from the game, and the pressure of newspaper deadlines, to our accommodation. There were many questions that needed answering.
Would Mr Garnett find our guest house without the aid of a Sat Nav (this was 17 years ago, remember) in the dead of the night? Would the proprietor still be awake? Would the front door be locked, chained and bolted? More to the point, would there be a bar?
It was a worrying time.
Fortunately, the answer to all of these questions, except the one about the front door, was 'yes!'
We did get in and, despite the bitter taste of a Town defeat (it was actually a 'glorious' defeat), we did enjoy a beer.
A few months later, Liverpool lifted the League Cup at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, while Town were stuck in administration.