Old World soccer still old school

I spent part of my (9/11) birthday at Anfield Road, the home of the Liverpool Reds football team that I have supported for many decades.

Back a couple of days and looking forward to some hockey.

Britain and Ireland were a fabulous experience.

I spent part of my (9/11) birthday at Anfield Road, the home of the Liverpool Reds football team that I have supported for many decades.

Quite an eye-opener. Tourers were forbidden to touch the pitch, which was so well manicured it looked like a giant pool table.

The warnings about this were so stern that we assumed the punishment for trying to snatch a blade of the famous grass might be very violent in nature.

The real shocker, though, was the dressing room. It had a $50,000 floor specifically designed for easy manoeuvering by those in football cleats, but otherwise looked like any minor hockey dressing room in Canada – just bleacher-styles seats on three painted concrete block walls of a 20-by-20 room – the last stop before the team hits the field (20 yards away) to start play.

Remember that Liverpool has long been among the biggest teams in Europe and its players earn salaries comparable to those paid big-time pro baseball and football players here.

The spareness of their pre-game surroundings, designed I’m told to keep the focus on the old time team values, wouldn’t be tolerated by big-time athletes in North America, and doesn’t leave much room for anything but the barest of half time and game end refreshment supplies.

The Reds do have more sumptuous quarters at their training ground in another part of town – Anfield is just for game days – but seeing those game-day quarters was, well, educational.

That visit was more thrilling for all that – much more so than a visit to a big time North American facility, with its five-star-hotel-like qualities – because of the obvious purpose of maintaining the old time, play for the sake of it, focus within the team.

Very Cool, and I brought back some cool stuff.

The City of Liverpool, around which we were shown by friends-of-friends, who are now our friends Eileen and George, was a bit of a revelation as well.

Big, clean, re-developed and developing, and, like so much of Europe, home to interesting artifacts multiple times as old as anything here that is still standing.

It has, of course, the Cavern Club, which seemed a surprisingly cramped venue from which anyone, never mind the Beatles, would emerge iconic.

It also has a terrific transportation system – the kind which allows many to get by quite comfortably without a personal vehicle. Eileen used hers only once, the Anfield day, in the five days we were in Scouser land. Well worth a visit, even if you aren’t into the Reds.