The words “Should be a good game to watch” have been uttered countless times but oh so often the actual match fails to live up to expectations. Only Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield rarely falls short of being just that. Of course, it depends on where your loyalty lies and I don’t suppose too many Spurs followers with long memories want to be reminded of a mauling or two they’ve been on the end of at Anfield.
April 12th 1963 Liverpool 5 Tottenham 2
It was Good Friday, 1963, Liverpool’s first season back in the First Division. It was the norm in those days to play three games in the space of four or five days and the extended Easter weekend was often a point in the season where titles could be won or lost and although Liverpool weren’t in the title fight, Tottenham most certainly were, along with Everton and Leicester City.
Over 54,000 were packed into Anfield including a large Tottenham following who spent a good part of the first half singing ‘Glory, Glory’ when Spurs seemed as if they’d go marching on. Goals from Cliff Jones and Terry Dyson had given Spurs a well deserved 2-0 interval lead and rubbing salt into the wound, both had been scored at the Kop end. A Kopites mood would have been a bit hot and cross as well because Liverpool hadn’t ‘turned up’.
Ron Yeats would later tell the story about manager Bill Shankly told the players at halftime they’d let the crowd down and how Bob Paisley said things to individuals that actually hurt. Forty-five minutes later the dressing room mood might have been somewhat better.
The second half was said at the time to be one of the best periods of play seen at Anfield in many-a-day, maybe even ever. Spurs were simply taken apart and it certainly became a Good Friday. Two goals inside three minutes early in the second half lit a fuse at Anfield which caused an explosion of noise. Firstly Willie Stevenson in the 52nd minute and then two minutes later Jimmy Melia wiped out the deficit.
Spurs needed to win and went for it but they were now playing against a tidal wave of Liverpool attacks and a tidal wave of Mersey sound. In the 72nd minute Ian St John put the Reds ahead and in a frantic final ten minutes further goals from Kevin Lewis and another from Melia left Spurs wondering just what had hit them. Meanwhile the Kop went wild. It’s not very often a Liverpool win is greeted with joy down Goodison way but this was. George Sephton, AKA DJ George, once said it was the best atmosphere he’d ever known as an Anfield match goer and those who left the Kop, sweating and shaking might have just agreed with him. It was possibly the first time the Kop had sung “London Bridge is Falling Down” and for Spurs that’s how it must have seemed.
On East Monday in the reverse fixture Spurs hammered the Reds 7-2 but let’s forget about that.
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March 30th 1964 Liverpool 3 Tottenham 1
Like the memory of the Good Friday 1963 game this one the following season also fell over the prolonged East holiday on East Monday. Liverpool was in hot pursuit of their first title win since 1947. The Reds had stepped up the heat in their two away holiday games winning on Good Friday at White Hart Lane, before putting an end to the Leicester bogey by winning at Filbert Street on Easter Saturday. However, defending Champions Everton still topped the table and Spurs need to win to get back into contention. Almost 53,000 crammed into Anfield with gates locked well before the start and thousands more being locked out. In fact the Echo reported the Kop gates had shut 45-minutes before the kickoff and other parts of the stadium soon followed suit.
Two of the best teams in the country locked horns and both knew it was a ‘must win’ game. Spurs, under the legendary Bill Nicholson knew only one way to play and that was too attack. Liverpool was of a similar ilk so a great game ensued but one filled with more tension than usual.
For the first 35-minutes the sides went at each other and then with Anfield going wild St John scored twice inside three minutes [36 & 38 minutes] only for Spurs to get back into the fight sixty seconds later through Alan Mullery.
The tension seemed to be becoming unbearable only then the great Alf Arrowsmith put the Redmen 3-1 ahead less than ten minutes into the second half and there would be no way back for Spurs. It wasn’t that they threw in the towel, that would never happen but Liverpool had class and control all over the pitch. We were watching a team emerging from Second Division footballers to greatness. Two years previously when watching Liverpool play the likes of Scunthorpe and Rotherham Kopites wouldn’t dared to dream of games such as this. Horace Yates reported in the Echo this team hadn’t a weak link, and against a side such as Spurs you couldn’t afford to have.