This year, 2008 is the European Capital of Culture for the City of Liverpool. You would think it a couple of years off, with giant cranes, building sites, scaffolding, traffic diversions and temporary barriers.
You can still take the most famous ferry ride in the world The Ferry Across the Mersey. from Birkenhead across the River Mersey to Liverpool's Pier Head in the shadow of the Liver Building, and to the sound of Gerry and the Pacemakers famous hit. We chose the less glamorous route via the Mersey Tunnel, having spent a pleasant morning in the walled city of Chester, a former Roman town with a harbour on the River Dee that has been silted up for centuries and is now the site of Chester Racecourse on the Roo Dee. You can actually watch the races from the wall that surrounds the city, started by the Romans and improved in medieval times. There is an excavation of the largest arena ever built in Britain, opposite the tourist office, when the city was called DEVA. The name lives on as the name of the stadium of Chester F.C. whose stadium is half in England, half in Wales.
There is a magnificent cathedral and the famous ROWS, two tiered medieval shops, and the Town Crier welcomes tourists every lunchtime from The Cross, the centre of the busy city. Round the corner on City Hall Square is The Dublin Packet, where we stopped for a photo opportunity. It was run for many years by former Everton FC hero Dixie Dean after he stopped playing. the Dublin Packet was, and still is the nightly mail ferry from Holyhead to Dublin, which a couple of hundred years ago was the second most important city of the British Empire. Dixie Dean, 1907-1980 died of heart failure while watching an Everton vs Liverpool 'Derby' in 1980. He played 433 times for Everton, scoring 383 goals, 50% with his head, and scored 60 goals to help win the league title for the Blues in 1927-28, still a record. He also scored 18 goals in 16 appearances for England.
We first drove to Liverpool FC, Anfield Stadium for some photo opportunities at the stadium, soon to be relocted a few hundred yards away in Stanley Park. There are the Shankly Gates and the Hillsborough Memorial with the names of those who died needlessly at Sheffield Wednesday during an F.A. Cup Semi-Final against Nottingham Forest. The memorial has all the names, and an eternal flame, and lots of flowers, notes and wreathes at Christmas from relatives and fans. At the other end of the stadium are the Bob Paisley Gates and a statue of Bill Shankly at the entrance to the KOP, or Spion Kop. Its an Africaans word for hill, and the Battle of Spion Kop was fought for by the British Army with many Merseyside troops during the Boer War in the late 19th Century in South Africa.
Half a mile away across Stanley Park is Goodison Park home of Everton F.C. They call it The Peoples Club. On two sides are terraced houses on Goodison Street and Gladwys Street. I remember these steets with flags from around the world to welcome fans for the 1966 World Cup. Brazil, the defending champions played all three matches there,against Portugal, Bulgaria and Hungary and it also hosted the famous quarter-final North Korea vs Portugal. The Koreans took a 3 goal lead before Eusebio fought back to win 5-3. Before the kick-off a young girl dressed in a blue and white long dress and bonnet tosses Everton toffee to the fans from a basket, since the team is nicknamed the Toffees orToffeemen. The team marches onto the field to the theme song from popular TV series in the 60s and 70's Z CARS, a cop show set in Merseyside. On a corner outside is a huge statue of Dixie Dean, erected in 2001, proclaiming Footballer, Gentleman, Evertonian.
Goodison Park has the old fashioned 'shell' with the four stands overwhelming the field, giving a splendid atmosphere. The team, under David Moyes is 5th in the table on a winning streak, except tonight when they suffered a 'blip'. they were leading 1-0 against the Culture Club- Arsenal, who are usually as smooth as silk. If you put them off their game, as Middlesborough did a few weeks back, they lose their rythym. Give them an inch and they will take a mile. Our indecision is final was the theme of the second half as keeper Tim Howard and his defense hesitated and were lost at sea.
Two goals from Croatian forward Eduardo, his first league goals for Arsenal, one from always dangerous substitute Emmanual Adebayor of Togo, and a last minute 4th goal by Czech Tomas Rosicky more than answered Tim Cahill's 17th minute Everton goal, and The Gunners were back on top of the Premier League. Arsenal had finally outmuscled and out skilled the Blues.. The Culture Club had beaten the People's Club.