A History of Anfield as Stadium Undergoes Expansion Work

- - Stadium

Rows of Red Folding Sports Stadium SeatsAs soon as the last ball of the 2022/23 season was kicked, engineers got to work removing the roof of the Anfield Road Stand as construction work got underway.

Around 7,000 seats will be added, bringing the total capacity up to 61,000, in the next wave of renovations, with more to follow over the next few years.

While other clubs invest in completely new build grounds, Liverpool have instead opted to retain the character and heritage of Anfield, one of the most historic stadiums in world football. Long may that continue.

Mind you, Anfield has seen plenty of upheaval since first opening its doors in 1884….

Red and Blue

Blue Table Football Player Close Up

It’s not a fact commonly known by football fans, but the first tenant at Anfield was actually Everton!

They set up home at Anfield owing to the friendship between John Orrell, who owned the ground, and Everton chief John Houlding. The Toffees even had a chance to purchase the Anfield site, but turned it down in favour of moving to Goodison Park.

Houlding decided to form a new club to use Anfield as its base: Liverpool FC was born in 1892.

Even during this formative years, Anfield was considered to be one of the best grounds in England and, as a result, hosted a number of international games involving England.

Liverpool played their first league at Anfield in 1893, and before long were winning league titles at the expanded stadium, which soon had stands on all four sides of the pitch – still something of a rarity in the early years of the twentieth century.

Creation of the Kop

Spion Kop Memorial

Spion Kop Memorial in South Africa, image by Charldurand on Wikimedia Commons

One of the new stands was built on the Walton Breck Road; the birth of the famous Kop end at Anfield.

It was given the name Spion Kop by a local journalist, Ernest Edwards, who referenced the Boer War in South Africa where more than 300 people – many of them from Merseyside – lost their lives in the so-called ‘Battle of Spion Kop’.

Amazingly, the Kop held more supporters than entire stadiums in the early 1900s, and it remains a unique feature of Anfield and a crucial part of its unrivalled matchday experience.

Major Developments

Close Up of Stadium Light Against Dark Background

Football was changing in the post World War II period, and Anfield was updated to reflect the new landscape.

Floodlights were introduced in 1957, which allowed for later kick-offs and evening games – it wouldn’t be long before those would be commonplace for the Reds, who were becoming more and more successful both in English football and on the continent.

The stadium was overhauled, with three of the stands extended and renovated – the Anfield Road end and the Main Stand in particular were both increased in capacity to capitalise on the popularity of Liverpool FC.

In the 1980s, more seats were added to reflect the changing demand from fans, although of course in the wake of Hillsborough it wouldn’t be long before Anfield was made into an all-seater system to conform to the new rules introduced in the wake of the tragedy.

An iconic feature – the Shankly Gates, adorned with ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ – were opened for the first time in 1982.

To the Future

Amidst the all-seater redevelopment, the Kemlyn Stand (now known as the Sir Kenny Dalglish Stand) was finally doubled in size with a second tier – the work had been delayed for the best part of two decades as Joan and Nora Mason, Everton fans who lived on the Kemlyn Road, were the only homeowners nearby to refuse to sell their home to the club!

The Anfield Road end was developed in 1998 as a two-tiered stand, bringing the capacity of the ground up to 53,394. That will be enhanced further by the new development work, which will retain Anfield’s iconic look and atmosphere.

The club’s owner, John W. Henry, revealed a two-phase series of developments to increase Anfield’s size once more, with construction work to redevelop the Main Stand – increasing its capacity and adding new corporate hospitality features – completed in 2017.

Phase two is the ongoing development of the Anfield Road Stand, which should – all being well – be completed and ready for the start of the 2023/24 season.

There are, reportedly, phases three and four to the Anfield redevelopment project, with parts of the Sir Kenny Dalglish Stand thought to be the next on the shortlist to be improved.

Whatever happens in the future, the decision to stay at Anfield – rather than relocate to a shiny new stadium – will ensure that there’s many more famous days for Liverpool FC in the years ahead.

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