Forty two years ago in 1977, I was awakened by my father, who said, “Get dressed, we’re going to Elstead Road”. Elstead Road is in Sparrow Hall, where the houses are separated by a thin dark alleyway, and these council owned houses were filled with Scouse characters, who either support Liverpool or Everton. This vast estate links onto the East Lancs Road, a perfect bus route for football devotees.
I haven’t returned since 2009, when my Uncle Jimmy was buried at St Philomenas Church, not because sentimental reasons, I suppose there is no reason. I suspect, that many of the old characters have now passed away. Sparrow Hall Estate is now a mixture of home owners and housing trusts. But this undescriptive estate, was part of my formative years from 1977 to 1984; from child to adolescent, and holds special memories for me. So in 1977, when Liverpool FC had won the European Cup for the first time, I quickly put my clothes on over my pyjamas, and with my family, drove down to Sparrow Hall to celebrate with Aunts, Uncles, Cousins and other folk.
Being only seven years old, I didn’t know how to celebrate. I couldn’t recall any parties I’d attended, so I tried to mimic everyone else instead, lost in the haze of Benson and Hedges and the stench of Bitter or Whisky. I can’t recall a lot from that night in May 1977, but in 1978, 1981 and 1984, the same pattern emerged; Liverpool won the European Cup and off to Elstead Road we ventured.
From 1981, I started to absorb the celebratory atmosphere, I still wasn’t allowed alcohol, maybe a weak larger top, but I did notice my Dad stepping out of his shadow, once a few drops touched his lips. I never saw him drunk, thoroughly merry though, before I got sent home with siblings in tow.
In 1984, I was allowed a few drinks, mainly Skol or John Smiths Bitter, but alcohol was always for the grown ups; still is in my opinion. I recall returning the day after with my Brother, complete with car keys to drive our Red Cavalier back, with gentle orders from Mum, “Go and fetch Andy”, only to find our Dad crashed out on our Uncle Jimmy’s couch, barely alive. We pretended we’d forgotten the car keys and got the bus home instead.
Those memories of Elstead Road, particularly number 41, where my Uncle Jimmy lived, spending time with Aunties, Uncles and Cousins, were memorable occasions, and due to fragility of youth, not appreciated at the time; carefree, playing football and cricket whilst the grown ups did grown up things that we youth did not care about. Liverpool winning the European Cups just brought everyone together, an outside community to us folk from Kirkby. Of course, Heysel in 1985, was not celebrated, and 1984 remains the final celebration in Elstead Road.
Istanbul in 2005, did not rebirth any past celebrations – my Mum had passed away and my Father became more withdrawn – so I watched that final at work, alone, and again in 2007 and in 2018. In 2019, when I was alone at home, I watched the finals on youtube, my father having also passed away by then.
But, I will always have those memories of Elstead Road. In a way, they were less about football than community. Celebrating with family and friends, belonging somewhere, even for a short time, remains a happy memory. When we were a family, before bereavement and distance separates us.
So when Liverpool beat Tottenham Hotspur, to win their sixth European Cup and I was home alone, I didn’t feel sad; the occasion enhanced the celebrations of the past. And if Liverpool continue to win more European Trophies, those memories will never fade away.
15th June 2019
Image from: openstreetmaps.org