AFC Liverpool v Morecambe
Arriva Stadium / Friendly / 16th July 2014
I feel Lost Boyos is still too far into its infant years to write about each and every match I attend. Firstly, it would probably knacker me out and secondly, I feel it would get rather repetitive; I went to Old Trafford 6 times last season and nobody wants to hear about Old Trafford that many times in a season. So, with that philosophy in mind, it is still rare for me to write about my second visits to grounds as I’m still yet to have my first visit at god knows how many grounds across the UK alone. However, here I am writing about my second visit to the Arriva Stadium in Crosby, Liverpool. My first visit was a belter with me watching a decent battle between the ground’s inhabitants Marine FC and league leaders, at the time, Hednesford Town. Plus, I met Swansea legend Lee Trundle, who was the virtually the main reason I went to watch Marine in the first place, as he was playing for the Evo-Stik Northern Premier club on a short-term contract. You can read about that trip here. My second visit on this mid-July evening though would have nothing really to do with Marine FC; instead I was back to watch a club who had intrigued me a for a long while now: AFC Liverpool. Plus, it also helped that AFC Liverpool would be playing my favourite Football League club, who regular readers of this blog will know is Morecambe FC.
AFC Liverpool had spent the whole of their 6 year existence playing at Prescot Cables’ Valerie Park ground, located in the Merseyside suburb of Prescot, but this year has seen the club decide to move closer to the centre of Liverpool and to Marine’s home ground in Crosby. In fact, this evening’s fixture against Morecambe was the club’s first game at their new home.
So what is AFC Liverpool and why was I so intrigued by them? Well, unlike FC United, who adopted a more aggressive stance towards Manchester United as they became more and more disillusioned with the way the club was heading in the mid-2000s, AFC Liverpool acts as almost a non-league extension to Liverpool FC. The club have adopted the same colours, fans and chants as the illustrious club, yet with the aim of being affordable to all fans, who cannot perhaps afford to go watch Premier League week in, week out. Club founder Alun Parry stated that he wanted AFC to be seen as Liverpool’s ‘little brother’. The club, who now play in the NWCFL Premier Division having achieved their first promotion in 2011, average crowds of just over a 100, but the club hope this will improve with their move to the Arriva Stadium for the coming season.
With work finished for the day I put on my new, very, very, very red flat cap and found myself leaving Irlam and heading to Blundellsands and Crosby via a quick change at Liverpool South Parkway – a large, rather dull train station, but much-loved by me purely for the talking toilet. No time for novelty toilet trips today though and shortly after 5pm I was arriving into Crosby.
It seemed that I remembered my way around the area well from my last visit and with my stomach rumbling I headed to the chip shop next to the ground. For my £1.40 I got myself probably the largest chip butty (or chip ‘balm as they call them up here) I’ve ever had in my life. It was a beautiful monster! I had to stop on a parkbench to eat the thing as it was too gargantuan to eat and walk at the same time.
Suitably full up for the evening, I made my way towards Crosby Village to revisit a pub I had drunk at on my last visit. Stamps was as quirky as I remember it being from my last visit with plenty of nice lagers available behind the bar. Of course, I went for a bottle of Estrella, as always, and delighted to find it only costing £3.15 – about as cheap as I’ve ever paid for the stuff.
Shortly before 6pm, I was back by the Arriva Stadium and there were now some Morecambe players, officials and fans mulling around the place. My next stop was to be the Edinburgh pub, located practically next door to the ground. This place is a cracker of the pub and I enjoyed a few drinks in here after watching Marine last time. On this Wednesday evening the place was quite busy and it soon became clear why: the pub was showing Liverpool’s preseason friendly against Brondby. I walked in just as the second half was kicking off and so I was quite content with a pint and football to watch on the TV.
The final whistle out in Copenhagen was my cue to leave and to head next door into the ground. Entry left me £5 lighter and I was soon back in the familiar surroundings of the Arriva Stadium. I’m a big fan of the Arriva Stadium with its fairly unusual three-sided setup with an open terrace behind one goal, a sheltered standing area practically down the whole of one side of the pitch and the large main stand behind the goals nearest to entry. The other side of the ground is adjacent to several back gardens which must acquire a whole lot of footballs by the time the season is finished.
AFC fans were already in the ground with 30 minutes until kick-off and I have to say that I am a big fan of the replica kits that the fans were wearing – a very retro Liverpool vibe. I headed for the bar, which is housed in a separate building behind the main stand, to find it empty. Eventually, a gentleman turned up to serve and I was delighted to find Tuborg on tap – a particular favourite of mine from our week in Copenhagen last summer.
I was soon joined in the bar by some pals from Morecambe, Steve and Sama who both work at the Globe Arena. I should add here that I also had my Morecambe away shirt on to help me live up to my moniker as ‘Jack Shrimp’ (as the Morecambe fans dub me).
Marine’s vice-chairman Dave then came over to say hello having met him on my first visit to the Arriva Stadium, when Dave and the other staff at the club had made me feel very welcome. He explained he was there tonight to help AFC Liverpool move into their home and help with any transitional issues.
After Swansea lost to Liverpool 4-3 at Anfield last February, I ended up in the Arkles pub behind Anfield Road. “Lost Boyos!” exclaimed a fairly drunken looking scouser behind me. “You’re that lad!” I confirmed that I was and I was invited to join him and his other fellow Reds for a few drinks. It turned out my new friend, ‘Fozzy’, also regularly attended AFC Liverpool as well as going to Anfield and he encouraged me to attend an AFC game in the near future. So I was unsurprised to find him in the bar too, where he questioned whether I even remembered him from the Arkles. I wasn’t that drunk! I promised him he could have a trademark ‘double thumbs up’ photo with me tonight for this blog, as he had asked for one in the Arkles a few months ago but no blog was written about that game/day.
With kick-off looming we headed outside and headed around to the far standing terrace where the younger generation of Shrimp fans were perched ready for the game to get underway.
As the teams emerged onto the pitch, I was immediately taken aback by both kits on display. Firstly, Morecambe’s new purple and black away shirt is a delight (although obviously not as good as Swansea’s purple/yellow ensemble from last season); AFC Liverpool on the other hand, after praising their home kit earlier, well, their away shirt was a bit ugly with it looking like something the staff might wear at McDonalds thanks to yellowness of it.
It has to be remembered that Morecambe are a stable League Two club, whilst AFC Liverpool play in Step 5 of non-league football, meaning there was a 5 league gap between the two teams. For the opening 20 minutes it really showed, as Morecambe, with many of their first team on show, easily passed and worked their way past their hosts. Inevitably, the Shrimps went 1-0 when trialist Paul Mullin stabbed home after a mix up in the box from a corner.
Morecambe continued to pepper the Liverpool goal with shots only for blocks, a couple of saves from the home goalie and the bar from a Ryan Williams freekick denying the Shrimps.
It was midway through the first half when I bumped into Marine fan Dickie, who looked after me on my last visit. I’ve been very jealous of Dickie recently as I followed his tweets as he went around California following Morrissey’s tour; Dickie is a Morrissey super fan who has even had books published about his experiences following the musical icon. It was good to briefly catch up with him.
It looked like at this stage that the Shrimps were going to utterly annihilate the NWCFL opposition, but AFC Liverpool valiantly fought back and gave an excellent account of themselves in the last 20 minutes of the half. They were unlucky not to be on even terms by half-time, especially when they hit the bar with a brilliant volley from the edge of the box.
Half-time: Morecambe 1 – 0 AFC Liverpool.
Unsurprisingly, half-time was spent in the club bar where I caught up with Fozzy and his thoughts on the first half with a nice pint of Tuborg, before joining Fozzy and his mate behind the goal in the main stand for the second half.
As always in these sorts of games, many changes were made at half-time and it is fair to say that the second half was far easier going for the visitors. The second half scoring for Morecambe began not too long after the interval with Jack Sampson heading home from a Jay Devitt corner.
With Morecambe now comfortable, I thought it was now time for Fozzy to have the double thumbs up photo he coveted and so here it is below my scouse friend. There’s one ticked off his bucket list.
Morecambe were now truly showing their superiority as they held the ball for long periods with the home team rarely breaking into the away team’s half. It was soon 3-0 as Alan Goodall buried a header from a corner in almost identical fashion to the second Morecambe goal.
Morecambe’s 4th goal was to be the best of bunch as a great low ball into the box by Sampson, saw Mullin dummy and leave the ball for the unmarked Devitt to fire home. 4-0 to the Shrimps.
The scoring for the evening would come to an end in the last-minute with Mullin getting his second goal of the night, after rounding the keeper and slotting into the net.
Full-time: AFC Liverpool 0 – 5 Morecambe.
The result obviously displays how dominant Morecambe were over the 90 minutes, but it must be remembered that there is a huge gap between the two teams in regards of leagues. For the huge difference, I felt AFC Liverpool gave a good account of themselves, especially in the final 20 minutes of the first half. I really hope AFC Liverpool do well this season as I’m a huge fan of any fan -owned club and any club that promotes such an ethos.
The evening also acted as a reminder of how much I liked the Arriva Stadium and how much enjoyed watching Marine on my last visit; I should definitely return sometime in the near future to watch the ground’s usual tenants.
Finally, of course I made a visit to the talking toilet in Liverpool South Parkway on my way home.
Highlights: good to return to Crosby, Stamps and The Edinburg (top pubs), nice ground, good to meet up with the Morecambe lot and some of the folks at Marine FC, good display from Morecambe.
Low Points: AFC Liverpool away shirt – yuck.