Talking Reds columnist Daniel Rhodes swapped the Kop for the Anfield press box against Borussia Dortmund on Sunday. Here's the story of his day…
The plan was to go Anfield for the final pre-season game of the season, get a first-hand look at some of our new signings and wonder about what could happen over the next nine months.
The plan changed a couple of days before the match, and with the help of Gags Tandon who runs Anfield Index, he asked me and Zak Forster to cover the game - representing the website - in the press box.
Now if anyone saw me play football when I was younger, the option of being an actual footballer never really crossed my mind, because my feet and the football never really got on very well. Nevertheless, being a sports journalist was always something that appealed to me and to be given the opportunity to cover the club I support at Anfield, without all the fever-pitched emotion of a competitive fixture, was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
The process starts by taking some ID along to a secret location. They give you the co-ordinates for this location before you set off, all by Morse-code, and you have to plan your route like an SAS agent. Or that's how I imagined it, in reality, I asked a friendly security guard outside the main entrance and they told me where to go.
They gave me this (which I may never remove from around my neck):
Each member of the press also receives a match programme, a separate sheet with the line-up of each team and the chance to try the lasagne that was on offer in the press room.
The space you're provided with is a touch cramped, especially when you bring a decent-sized bag! Even so, the atmosphere and view strikes you immediately, and the close-knit working environment suddenly feels cosy. It is, just about, the best view in the stadium to watch the match; optimum height and distance from the pitch, slightly to the right of centre, with a small monitor of the game provided for each individual.
Our remit was simple: tweet about the best bits of the game from the Anfield Index Twitter account. I noticed one or two other journalists doing this, as well as other Liverpool fan sites. It isn't as easy as it sounds - or at least wasn't for me.
For example, I was typing out a tweet from another incident when there was a roar from the crowd - we both looked up, and saw Sturridge, as he so regularly does, calmly slot home into the side-netting. We celebrate (I rather unprofessionally did for all four goals), and then try to regain composure to construct a tweet. However, we missed the creator of the goal - by Liverpool's new chief architect. Although, after his performance during the whole of the pre-season, we just guessed anyway:
What an assist it was though, and that was just one moment in many from the maturing Brazilian. Here it is, from six angles, for your viewing pleasure:
There were plenty of other talking points throughout the game: Liverpool's fluid formation, which morphed from 433 to 4123 to 4312; Henderson playing a far more advanced role; Sterling and Coutinho's identical wavelength; both full-backs constantly trying to push forward and stretch the play; the communication from the defence was constant, especially from Lovren and Mignolet; and some of the passing interplay was breath-taking (listen to the commentator when Coutinho glides by his marker... "Bye bye"):
Other particular highlights for me - and remember I was just a fan masquerading as a journalist - the LFC emblem on the soap dispenser in the fancy toilets; being able to see Rodgers praise each player after each substitution; the small card handed out with the official attendance on it:
The Dortmund fans singing 'Yellow Submarine' after the Reds just made it 4-0; the standing ovation for Coutinho and to a lesser extent, new loan signing Javier Manquillo; but of course, no trip to Anfield would be complete without a group photo and some wonderfully timed photo-bombing:
(Me, Gags, Nina, Kosha and Enzo (front))
Finally, we head into the post-match press conference, and I got to see Rodgers up, close and personal for the first time in my life. In fact, I was given the responsibility to place a recording device on the table he was sitting at when he arrived for the questions. I was concentrating so hard on not tripping up, slipping, forgetting to switch it on or press record, and had anyone asked me to pose a hard-hitting, Paxman-esque question to Brendan, the best I had in my head at the time was: "what's your favourite colour?"
Furthermore, huge credit to the real journalists who have to cover these games, and not only tweet about the game live, but produce a match report, online content, player ratings, ask the questions we all want answered and try to stay focused and objective, under huge time pressures from demanding editors. It was a joy to experience, and it isn't something I'm cut out for, as I need a bit more time to process information, giving me chance to think about what to write - so in reality, my match report would be ready three days after the match had ended, rather than the 10-15 minutes professional journalists receive. Although, if I was asked to sum up the Dortmund match briefly, the key for me was: teamwork.