Liverpool legends & fans salute the 96

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Liverpool legends gather after the 2-2 draw in the Celebration of the 96 match at Anfield. Pic © David Rawcliffe/Propaganda

Liverpool legends gather after the 2-2 draw in the Celebration of the 96 match at Anfield. Pic © David Rawcliffe/Propaganda

Legends of Liverpool FC’s glorious past gathered in front of a sell-out 45,000 crowd at Anfield on Monday to take part in the ‘Celebration of the 96’ charity match.

On a sunny spring afternoon, Kop heroes such as Robbie Fowler, Luis Garcia, Jan Molby and Ian Rush returned to entertain the famous stadium one more time to help raise funds for the Hillsborough Family Support Group and the Liverpool FC Foundation.

If last Tuesday’s memorial service was about remembrance, Monday’s game was the celebration it was billed as.

The match, which ended in a 2-2 draw, was the highlight of a day designed to celebrate the lives of those who never returned from Hillsborough 25 years ago, and saw former players from the UK and Ireland pitted against those from overseas.

The ‘local’ legends were managed by former player and manager Kenny Dalglish, whilst Gerard Houllier, who won the treble as manager of Liverpool in 2001, took charge of the ‘internationals’.

It may have been played at a considerably slower pace than Liverpool fans have been used to this season,, but an entertaining 90 minutes ensued.

Fowler, affectionately known as ‘God’ by the Anfield faithful, was no stranger to goals during his playing days and once again showed his proficiency in putting the ball in the back of the net with strikes at the end of each half for the local XI.

Celebration of the 96 match at Anfield. Pic © JMU Journalism

Celebration of the 96 match at Anfield. Pic © JMU Journalism

One of Liverpool’s heroes in Istanbul, Vladimir Smicer, got on the score sheet with Bruno Cheyrou, who was reunited with fellow Frenchman Houllier, scoring the other for the global XI.

In the 42nd minute Fowler rolled back the years to put the home legends ahead. After being put clean through on goal he expertly rounded ex-Reds shot stopper Sander Westerveld and ran the ball into the empty net.

The internationals came out stronger in the second half and started their fightback in the 52nd minute through Smicer. After Didi Hamann pulled the ball back for the Czech midfielder, he hit a shot that found its way into the back of the net courtesy of a deflection off Michael Thomas.

The comeback was completed in the 77th minute when Cheyrou guided the ball left-footed into the net after comedian John Bishop – on as a second-half substitute for the global XI despite being born just seven miles from Anfield – was unlucky to see his shot cannon off the post.

Bishop was again unlucky as he saw his late penalty saved by David James in the 87th minute.

Soon afterwards, referee Anthony Taylor was pointing to the spot again after Sami Hypiia brought down Fowler in the area. Despite calls from the crowd for Dalglish to take the spot-kick, the Glaswegian was reluctant to do so meaning the responsibility lay with Toxteth-born Fowler.

After a stutter in the run-up the forward made no mistake driving the ball into the top right hand corner past Westerveld to draw the teams level with the final kick of the game.

Robbie Fowler celebrates after scoring in the Celebration of the 96 match at Anfield. Pic © David Rawcliffe/Propaganda

Robbie Fowler celebrates after scoring in the Celebration of the 96 match at Anfield. Pic © David Rawcliffe/Propaganda

Whilst the ex-players gave everything on the pitch, the Anfield crowd played their part with good-natured boos ringing out early on whenever ex-Manchester United star Michael Owen got a touch of the ball, as well as calls for Molby to ‘shoooot’ from any position he happened to find himself in.

Other events on the day included a rendition of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ by 12-year-old Liverpool chorister Jack Topping and a half-time penalty shoot-out that saw Bishop and fellow comedian Russell Howard, Lawson frontman Andy Brown and radio and television presenter Colin Murray live out their collective boyhood dreams of taking a penalty in front of the Kop.

Whether they expected that penalty to be taken against LFC mascot Mighty Red is another matter. Television presenter Clare Balding also took part in the penalty shoot-out and found the net.

Following the game Margaret Aspinall, chair of the HFSG, thanked the club and the fans for their continued support and offered words of encouragement to the current first team. “It’s been a great day and yet again the sun has shined on us,” she said. “And Liverpool for the league? Yes!”

 

 

 

 

 

About Jack Birch, JMU Journalism