“It’s the Jurgen Express, mate,” proclaimed a passenger on our 11am Virgin Train from London to Liverpool last Sunday.
By this time, more fans of the newly-crowned European champions had boarded, building further the sense of pure joy and anticipation.
In my ears then, ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ began to play, and as I looked out the window, I saw wind turbines on an English country farm spinning, almost in sync with the uplifting melody of The Verve’s classic tune.
I looked past the wondrous vista dotted with sheep, stallions and cottages and entertained the feeling of pride swelling deep within me.
I always tell people I’ve been a Liverpool fan since I was a dot on an ultrasound scan. A bit of an exaggeration, but this is the only team I’ve supported all my life.
And like all longtime fans, I’ve been through the good and bad times.
The night before, we had sealed an unprecedented sixth European title. Watching the match in a hotel room in London, I wondered if this was the beginning (finally), of our greatest years yet.
Earlier at the London Euston train station, I was greeted by the sight of fellow Reds, decked out in our colours, waiting for their trains to the North West.
We smiled and nodded at each other.
I was wearing the current season’s Liverpool kit when a local who introduced himself as Joe, struck up a conversation.
He, too, was on the way to the victory parade, but via Crewe where he would meet with his mates and drive up together. We talked about the Madrid win, the close call in the league and our love for the club.
“I have more respect for fans in Asia like yourself,” he said.
“You’re so far away, yet you feel so close to the club.”
I smiled in agreement and replied: “Yeah, and you know, the jerseys are rather expensive for the average Malaysians these days, but most of us buy them every season.”
Another Scouser gave me a high five as we walked to the train later.
“I haven’t slept since last night, mate,” he said, adding he was also at the victory parade in 2005.
As the train reached the Liverpool Lime Street Station, the PA guy urged us to be as loud as possible and sing as we disembarked the train. And that’s exactly what hundreds of us did. Oh yes, the party had begun.
Outside the station, the atmosphere was already carnival-like. Fans were flying Liverpool flags and singing our anthems as we walked towards the designated waiting areas.
We were ‘strangers’ united by our undying love for the club.
Along the way, I picked up some newly-printed ‘6 times’ and ‘European Champions’ souvenirs and soaked in the atmosphere even more. The last time I was in this town was two years ago, but of course, that was minus an impending historic celebration.
After checking in to our hotel right smack in the city centre, we made our way to The Strand, where most of the supporters were expected to be.
A nice size crowd had already lined up along the street. We then decided to look around at other areas, but when we returned, the crowd had easily tripled!
It was 4pm, and according to the parade schedule, the bus would have started its journey.
I then settled on a spot to stand. When I looked around, I saw a truly eclectic crowd; local Scousers, Asians, Africans, others European nationalities. Men and women. Young and old.
Some were not content with just being on the ground and climbed up traffic lights, road signs and windows on nearby buildings. Most of these daredevils then became impromptu cheerleaders and led the crowd in singing song after song, anthem after anthem.
“We’ve conquered all of Europe, and we’re never going to stop …”
“Andy, Andy – Andy, Andy, Andy, Andy, Andy Robertson!”
“Si senor, give the ball to Bobby and he will score”
“Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart …”
We were loud. And we were proud!
My thoughts then went back to that match in Madrid. Not a classic by far, but we did the job. Bloody hell, we did the job.
The crowd swelled even further as the minutes ticked by. One hour of waiting became two, and then it became three, but our spirits were never in danger of waning. Kids were still perched on their parents’ shoulders, and the older fans hardly moved.
At approximately 7.10pm local time, we heard loud cheering from far in the distance. Word had spread that the bus was finally arriving at The Strand!
We surged forward for a better vantage point, and mayhem was unleashed. We were bouncing up and down. The singing got louder, airhorns were blaring and fireworks were fired from the top of the Liver building.
It was delirium, even before we caught sight of the players.
“They’re coming!” screamed a young fan.
Confetti was sprayed into the already red air, thanks to the flares, and the cheers were deafening. Then, through the bits of red paper and smoke, the bus emerged into view!
I caught sight of James Milner! And Trent Alexander-Arnold. The players were waving at us, causing a meltdown for some around me.
Then it was that man Mo!
Mohamed Salah had a large smile planted on his face, as he took in the adulation of fans who had come from all over the world. I also saw Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker, before the bus rolled away slowly.
It probably lasted 60 seconds for me, but it was 60 seconds I will remember for the rest of my life.
Hours later, reports emerged that the estimated turnout for the momentous victory parade was 750,000 people!
As the city’s population was just under half a million people, it meant a sizable chunk of those who came, cheered and celebrated, were from other parts of the UK, and the world.
In 2005, I watched highlights of the parade celebrating our fifth European title with pride and envy. Fourteen years later, I made the journey to be part of Liverpool’s latest historic triumph.
We are Liverpool. And you can bet ‘This Means More’.