|Nowhere near Great Britain's largest city, and not even in Europe’s top
fifty in terms of population, this port town on the River Mersey has,
particularly over the last two centuries, been part of the collective
western conscious more often than cities twice its size or even larger.
From decades as the world’s most active shipping port, to a few short
and heady years when it influenced music in ways only a few cities have
ever done throughout the course of human history, Liverpool has always
punched above its weight. And within the annals of the world’s most
popular sport, Liverpool’s storied football club has also defied the
odds and achieved greatness normally reserved for clubs and cities much
Liverpool is an iconic port city
Over this past New Year’s holiday, I had a chance to live the dream of
many American soccer fans; to go and see the sport, which for the rest
of this article I will properly refer to as “football”, played in it’s
country of origin by some of its grandest clubs. We began our journey in
Liverpool, the home of England’s most successful team on the European
Liverpool FC has won Europe’s top club competition an astounding five
times, placing it third on the list below Real Madrid and AC Milan and
above Bayern Munich and Barcelona. If you have ever been to any of those
cities, or seen the monstrous stadiums they play in, when you come to
Liverpool and sit in the somewhat quaint Anfield ground, you will fully
appreciate the magnitude of this achievement.
The original purpose behind our journey was to bring my cousin, a
lifelong fan of Liverpool, to see his team play in person. Since he
first kicked a ball, he told us when he graduated college he wanted his
gift to be a trip to Anfield. He had finally made it, and when we passed
through the turnstiles and made our way into the view of that gorgeous
pitch, a sense of achievement overcame all of us. The boy had worked for
years towards this, and here we were. It is no wonder when Liverpool’s
legendary Steven Gerrard entered the game and scored a fantastic goal to
seal a 3-1 victory for the home side, I swear I saw a tear well-up in
The next day the two of us sat at The Baltic Fleet, a cozy
nautical-themed pub across the street from Albert Dock. It was New
Year’s Eve and it was hard not to be a tad bit pensive, but I suppose
that can happen anytime you move an item from bucket-list to memory.
So we sat for a few minutes, talking football, rather unaware of our
surroundings. You see, I did very, very little pub related research
before I arrived in the United Kingdom. Most of my pre-journey
preparations were centered around getting to and from stadiums, not
always the easiest task when you barely understand the street lights.
All I really knew was such a pub existed and that it was only a few
steps from our hotel along the Mersey. Trips like this are a whirlwind,
and the two of us only had an hour or two before we needed to get the
the Cavern Club for a holiday event.
Looking around, The Baltic Fleet is understated and comforting. It’s
nautical theme hits just the chord for its surroundings without trying
too hard. But the real surprise comes when the glasses hit the table.
The ales are brewed on premises, from what I understand. They are called
Wapping Beers and they make a selection of terrific ales on hand-pumps.
If you are looking for a taste we on this side of the Atlantic would
call “English”, Wapping hits the mark. Served at just the proper
temperature, the drink is perfect for coming out of a cold and wet
Merseyside evening, and soon we found ourselves wishing we had just a
little more time to spend here.
Like everything else in this feisty city, The Baltic Fleet and Wapping’s
ales exceeds expectations. Driving by, the pub looks nice and inviting.
But it is much more than that. The spirit of Liverpool haunts its
walls, a spirit of a town that sneaks up on you and leaves its mark.
Let me close by offering a bit of a personal disclosure on this subject.
I am by no means a fan of Liverpool’s football team. In fact, quite the
opposite. But I am now a dyed-in-the-wool fan of this wonderful city
and the spirit represented by its team. I may never pull on one of those
famous red shirts, nor sing a chorus of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”
before a match. But I now know every time I watch a game played in
Anfield from my living room, it will bring back warm memories of a
Liverpool FC trophy case.