Liverpool 7-0 Tottenham Hotspur: Out Of Time
Thirty eight years ago, almost to the day, on September 2nd, 1978, Liverpool and Spurs played out one of the greatest encounters in the history of the fixture. The game ended 7-0 to ‘The Reds’ and, according to Bob Paisley, it was marked by the greatest goal Anfield had ever seen. I was ten years old, a Liverpool fanatic, and I was there.
The school holidays were nearly over, but nobody had told the weather. I woke up early, as I always did on match days. My Dad was already up, making a breakfast that I would pretend to eat, but would end up in the bin. I was too excited for food.
The sound of Radio City filled the kitchen. A musical revolution was emerging in Liverpool, as the city struggled to emerge from the shadow of The Beatles. This was the year that a club in town, called Eric’s, was helping a local band called Echo And The Bunnymen on their way. It was a hotbed of Liverpool’s musical underground, but I was oblivious to all that. My song of summer 1978 was ‘Gordon Is A Moron’ by some fella who called himself Jilted John. I was made up to hear its tinny tones over the clatter of dishes, as I walked down the stairs, eyes full of sleep and mouth yawning the day into existence.
The living room curtains were open and outside the the sun was ‘cracking the flags,’ an expression my Mum was fond of. It meant it was really sunny outside. Sometimes it would be so hot, she would be “sweating cobs,” she had a million of them. Anyway back to our story.
This was a good day to be alive. My favourite song was on the radio, the weather was nice, Liverpool were Champions of Europe and had started the 78/79 season as they’d finished the last. ‘The Reds’ cruised to victory over QPR at Anfield on the opening day, and followed that up with away successes at Ipswich Town and Manchester City. They’d won their last game 4-1. In total they’d scored nine goals, conceding just two for their troubles. Kenny Dalglish was already helping us to forget Kevin Keegan, and I couldn’t wait to get to my second game of the season against Spurs.
Funny how footy has the power to colour your life’s history and mask reality. These were tough times and if you search the archives, as I have, you’ll find that my parents had worked wonders to ensure that I knew nothing of the difficulties they had lived through. I remember my mate’s Dad had worked for Triumph, the car factory in Speke, in the south of the city. I knew this because they made this really cool looking car called the TR7. Apparently it was a pile of crap, but that didn’t stop me being dead impressed that his Dad made it.
What I didn’t know at the time, was that there were grave doubts about the future of the plant and his job would have been under threat. My own Dad worked for the ‘Water Board’ and had been on strike. Yet all my mate and I ever talked about was football and Liverpool F.C. We were oblivious to our parent’s woes.
We’d been looking forward to the Spurs game with a mixture of excitement and anxiety. All the talk was of their two new signings – the stuff of Panini sticker album fantasy, Osvaldo Ardiles and Ricky Villa. Tottenham had just been promoted to the ‘top flight’ from the old Second Division and had caused a bit of a sensation by signing two Argentine World Cup winners. This was now becoming a trend, with a number of foreign players gracing the English League. All of our previous foreign signings were of the Scots, Welsh or Irish kind.
Match day wouldn’t pass quickly enough for me, and when it was eventually time to leave I was bursting with anticipation. We drove to the game in style. My Dad had recently bought a second hand Vauxhall Viva, we’d actually passed the time that morning washing it. Actually it was probably third, or even fourth hand, but I remember it was bright red and in immaculate condition; a fitting metaphor for the team that was about to dismantle a Spurs side that hadn’t beaten Liverpool, at Anfield, since the year the Titanic sank, 1912.
We parked up in a street near the ground and my Dad gave some kid ten pence to “mind” the car for us. It was a sort of protection racket come entrepreneurial venture that probably kept the local lads and girls in sweets for the rest of the week. I remember wishing we lived nearer to Anfield so that I could get in on some of that action.
The pub was quiet when we arrived, so it must have been early. I was sat with my cousin Tommy. My Uncle and Dad were at the bar. We were reading some European away programmes my Dad’s mate had brought home and discussing whether ‘The Reds’ could bring home number three. For some reason this fella, who I’d never met, until that day, had donated all of his away day souvenirs to me; not that I was complaining at all. To this day my only memories of this generous guy, are that he ruffled my hair when I shyly thanked him, and that he later got a Phil Thompson perm in ’81 following an ill informed and beer fuelled bet. It didn’t suit him, but then it never suited Tommo.
The area around the ground is about to change forever, but it has largely remained unchanged in all the time since that day. History and memories are etched into the walls of the houses, the pubs and the pavements. To this day, when I walk from the pub to Anfield, my mind drifts back to sun kissed days, wandering through the back alleys near the stadium and weaving our way to the turnstiles. Back then we made that journey fully expecting, not just a win, but a drubbing of the enemy. These days there’s more uncertainty; but the emotions are just the same. It’s like a pilgrimage and a timeless duty.
We were in the Main Stand for this game. I can’t remember if we had a ticket, or if we paid on the gate. Our seat was between the half-way line and the Anfield Road end. I’d wanted to be in The Kop, or at least close to it, but beggars weren’t supposed to be choosers. Turns out I needn’t have worried; I ended up having a ring-side seat for the most magical goal I have ever witnessed.
Within half an hour Liverpool were three goals up. Two from Kenny in the 8th and 20th minutes had set us on our way, and a third from the great Ray Kennedy had us coasting by half-time. The Kop was as cruel as it was witty at times, and wasted no time in rubbing salt in the Londoner’s wounds. “What a waste of money!” is a cliche chant these days. Back then it was fairly new and filled with irony. Me an my Dad laughed and gleefully joined in and soon the whole ground seemed to be singing it. Who knows what the two Argentine’s were thinking, but as far as we were concerned, they’d joined the wrong club.
‘The Reds’ made a substitute in the second-half, bringing on the local lad, David Johnson. He’d come to Liverpool from Ipswich Town, but had started out as an Everton player, a fact no one really cared about. Johnson enjoyed his best days playing for Liverpool and averaged a goal every 3 games, before rejoining ‘The Blues’ in the early ’80’s. As the game restarted the men in red moved up a gear. Tottenham, still reeling from the first 45 minutes, were like lambs to the inevitable slaughter.
Johnson made it four almost immediately and then added a fifth ten minutes later. This was sublime and I was in raptures. Liverpool were indeed mighty in my eyes, invincible even. My bedroom walls were a shrine to the players and to Bob Paisley and Shanks of course. It’s fair to say my young life revolved around this team, and here I was up close and personal, and witnessing the complete demolition of some team from down south. The Kop sang “London Bridge is falling down”. I laughed. Poor old Tottenham.
Back then ‘The Reds’ rarely took any prisoners. These days, at five-nil, teams sometimes make a few substitutions. Maybe the players relax and just see the game out. Perhaps their minds switch to the next fixture. Not back then. Liverpool were a killing machine and would relentlessly attack, urged on by a baying crowd, until the opposition were ground into the turf. Teams came to Anfield and were often humiliated. This is what created the Anfield fear factor. It got into opposing players heads. They were sometimes beaten before they left the team bus. It’s why one manager famously quipped “The only thing you get from Anfield is a cup of tea”.
We had no sooner finished celebrating the fifth goal, when Liverpool won a penalty. I can’t remember the circumstances now, but I do recall Phil Neal, stood over the ball, hands on his hips, as he waited for the okay from the referee. I stood next to my seat, my hands clasped in prayer over my mouth. There was no need to worry. ‘Zico’ never missed. He didn’t – 6-0.
This was a wonderful game. Michael Charters, writing for The Liverpool Echo, summed it up perfectly.
“Have you ever heard 50,000 people purr with pleasure? Well, the Anfield spectators were doing that constantly as Liverpool stroked the ball around with one-touch moves of staggering accuracy. This display confirmed for me, particularly after the splendour of their wins at Ipswich and City the previous week, that the current Liverpool team is playing better, more exciting, attacking football than any side I’ve seen since the war”.
If the whistle had gone at that moment, it would have still gone down as one of the greatest games of my young life. However, ‘The Reds’ weren’t finished. I wouldn’t leave the ground that day, until I had witnessed a goal of such sublime quality, the likes of which I don’t believe I will ever see again.
You can watch it yourself, thanks to Youtube. Maybe you already have. My recollection may not be accurate, but here’s how I remember the goal. The ball breaks on the left hand side of the pitch, facing the Anfield Road end, and Steve Heighway is onto it. The Kop sways and, in the Main Stand, we rise from our seats, sensing something is about to happen. The noise levels rise, and in my minds eye I can see Terry McDermott racing from his own half and crossing the half-way line. Heighway motors down the wing and looks up. I know what he is going to do and I hold my breath.
The pace of Liverpool’s attack has caught the Spurs defence out and they look ill prepared to defend the onslaught. Heighway sweeps the ball towards the penalty spot. At the precise moment the ball arrives, so too does McDermott. The ball and his head align like planets in some cosmic dance and in an instant it’s in the net.
Sheer wonder, amazement and unadulterated joy. How did they do that? They must be magic. The timing of it, the precision and then bang, goal, 7-0. Tottenham were vanquished and joy and emotion exploded. I wanted to relive it over and over again. We had no video recorders then, just Match of The Day and I couldn’t wait to see it once more.
I can still remember sitting on the floor in front of the telly that night, complete with cup of tea and a plate of toast for supper. I drank the replay in, eyes wide, mouth open in wonder. But for all it’s greatness, the sight of that sublime piece of brilliance, on the old Colour Decca TV, we rented from Rumbelow’s, could never come close to the pictures in my head.
I’ve seen it many times online since. I’ve watched in on DVD, but frankly you just had to be there with me and my Dad, on the 2nd of September 1978, to really appreciate just how great that day was. A lot has changed in football since then, but the superiority of being there when history and life long memories are made, over a TV highlights reel, is an eternal truth.
This article by me was originally published on This is Anfield