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history of the kop

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history of the kop

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What started out as a huge, sprawling mass of soil and cinders would, over decades, transform itself into much more than merely a terrace on which to observe football.  The Spion Kop and those who stood  - or now sit - on it have become the stuff of legend.

The Kop itself ws a gift to the fans from the club.  In 1906, Liverpool were crowned League Champions for the second time and the grounds average gate of 18,000, while not bad, was not all it could be.  The majority of fans chose to stand at one of the modest terraces on either the Anfield Road or Walton Breck Road ends of the ground.

That summer the club built a vast terrace at the Walton Breck site and while it was hardly a feat of engineering - it had no roof and just a small white picket fence at its bottom - it did offer a great view and got off to a winning start on 1st September 1906 when Stoke City were beaten 1 - 0 in heatwave conditions.

Originally known as the Oakfield Road Embankment, it needed something catchier.  Spioenkop was a hill in South Africa that had witnessed one of the recent Boer War's most bloody battles.  In January 1900 British and Boer troops clashed and 300 Lancashire Fusiliers (heavily recruited from the Merseyside area) lay dead.  Ernest Edwards a local sports journalist, suggested that the new terrace pay homage to those who died and so Anfield now housed The Spion Kop. 

After the Great War and with Liverpool winning back-to-back titles in the early 1920s, Anfield regularly enjoyed 50,000-plus crowds and so in 1928 a new, improved Kop was opened, the biggest of its kind anywhere in the country.  It was expanded to now house 28,000 spectators, it measured 425 x 131 feet and more importantly cantilever roof that amplified the roars of what was by now a vociferous support.

The years up to and following the Second World War saw no let up in the popularity of either the Kop or the reputation it was getting for its noise and humour.  One man, invited to Anfield in the 1950s, sat in the directors' box and rather than watching much of the match, his eyes feated on the famous terrce and he fantasised about how special it would be to send a team out every other week to play for them.  That man was Bill Shankly.

The Scot soon got his wish and with his team blossoming into one of the best around, the Kop's notoriety grew and grew. In April 1964, with Liverpool needing to beat Arsenal at Anfield to win the title, BBC's Panorama sent a camera crew to the ground to study the all-swaying, all-singing Kop who didn't need asking twice to put on a show.  The reported was awestruck but managed to put it into works.

"It used to be thought that the Welsh international rugby crowds were the most musical and passionate in the world, but I've never seen anything like this Liverpool crowd....The Duke of Wellington before the battle of Waterloo said of of his own troops, 'I don't know what they do to the enemy, but by God they frighten me.'  I'm sure some of the players in today's match will be feeling the same way."

Just moments before a European Cup quarter-final with 1965, the match was postponed the Kop packed, its cold inhabitants took to the pitch and started a snowball fight that escalated into a running battle with those fans at the Anfield Road end and viewed by Shankly and his players who had ringside seats!

Such camaraderie with the rest of the ground was highlighted on one foggy night when Liverpool scored at the opposite end of the ground.  The Kop, blighted by the fog sang, "Who scored the goal?"  The Anfield Road fans obliged by shouting back "Tony Hateley"!

In 1994, the Kop as a terrace closed.  The last match was a 1 - 0 defeat to Norwich but the day was all about the fans ("they did their bit, we didn't do ours" said Ian Rush after the match).  As a vast seating area (it today holds over 12,000) it remains as famous as it ever has been, with even supporters of clubs who play their football at shrines to the game like the Nou Camp or the Bernabeu pleased to have said they have seen it after a special night at Anfield.

Deafening songs, an unforgining wit (a favourite is when John Wark took the ball fully in the groin and finally got up with the Kop singing his name in high-pitched tones), a vast knowledge for the game and an unparralled sense of fair-play (away goalkeepers have been applauded for years and even Arsenal players were in shock when in 1989 they snatched the league with their last-minute winner only to be clapped off by a packed Kop) are all evident on the famous terrace that has become known as the world's best "twelfth man".


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