Dave Davis had a chat with George Sephton, commonly known as The Voice of Anfield, about summer transfers, the special bond he has with the club and running the show on Champions League nights.
What makes Liverpool Football Club special is the unique relationship between the supporters and the players who often seem like distant, untouchable figures a lot of the time.
Despite having worked at Anfield for almost half a century, George Sephton is as much a fan and die hard supporter as he is an employee of Liverpool Football Club.
It’s for this reason that talking to him is not so different to chatting with any other supporter making their way to a game on the weekend.
How do you think we will get on this season?
Silly answer is that it depends. I’ve said to a number of people for the last few months, there’s two things we’re missing. One is a couple of Scouse players, although we’ve got one in Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jon Flanagan is still with us. I’d be inclined to give him more of a run-out too. The other thing we need is muscle.
Looking back to the years we had the likes of Graeme Souness there and I speak to people who played alongside him, they looked up to him and idolised him. He didn’t take any messing from anybody and was a great guy to have on your side. It’s important to stop the opposition playing and he could more than do that.
Jurgen says he’s happy with his current squad and I read the papers and know as much as you on that score.
I always say you need a bit of luck and low and behold, look what happens to Adam Lallana. If Coutinho is staying, we can cope without Adam for a few weeks. We’ll have a number of fixtures though with the midweek games in the group stages and the league cup. If we’re still in those at Christmas then the FA cup comes along, so we need a good squad.
I’m a great fan of having a strong squad and a bench of players that frightens the opposition as it’s a great psychological blow.
We do want top names throughout the squad and on the bench. Would you rather see all top-names or a few Scouse kids on the bench?
It’s a happy medium, isn’t it? You wouldn’t necessarily be able to keep all marquee names on the bench happy. You need someone keeping those type of players in check and knowing what’s expected of them.
We used to have the likes of Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher making sure that everyone knew what was expected of them and no-one got away with anything.
Those characters like Steven and Graeme Souness are great blokes to have on your side and not to be playing against.
A lot of fans do wonder, and it’s telling that you’ve mentioned those former players, are we maybe a bit too nice?
Oh yes. Absolutely. We don’t seem to maybe have anyone that can really put their foot in.
I always remember Shanks’ quote about Tommy Smith: ‘he’s firm but he’s fair’. That was him, not dirty but he didn’t take any prisoners. We’re missing someone like that.
Emre Can tries but he’s inclined to maybe lose his rag and he does worry me a bit at times.
Out of the players we have brought in, who do you like the look of?
Mo Salah definitely. If we hadn’t had all the talk of other players, Liverpool fans would be chuffed to pieces to have him. We’ve spent a lot of money, but he already looks a good player.
Having said that, I think Dominic Solanke could be THE BARGAIN OF THE CENTURY!! I really do.
He’s a big, strapping centre-forward and I wonder why on earth Chelsea let him go. They’ve made a monumental mistake and we’re benefiting. There’s talk of loaning him out, but I think he’ll be a valuable asset as time goes on. He definitely knows what he’s doing. He was unlucky not to get a goal against Palace.
So too was Andy Robertson though, who had a great debut and I was very impressed. I wondered how he would get on.
I’m not sure Jurgen knows his first XI, but nowadays you have a first 18.
You stressed the need for a Scouse heart and muscle at the back during our last interview. The buzz player after the first leg against Hoffenheim was Trent Alexander-Arnold, just how good could he be?
He could be brilliant. He made one bloomer during the first leg but he was great. It strikes me that he’s filled out a bit since last season too. Going back to the days Shanks was in charge, he was a great believer in feeding the players steak and ‘beefing them up’.
Trent and Joe Gomez have filled out too, so the people at the club that are responsible for these things like the nutritionists/fitness coaches are all doing the same thing and filling them out.
Thinking around match-day, the styles changed somewhat over the years. Do you and Peter McDowall rehearse at all or is it off-the-cuff?
No we don’t, we’ve both got different things to do. I get the running order emailed to me about three days before.
I play music 2 hours before kick-off and with the fan zones, street stalls and other bit it entices people into the Anfield area earlier than we used to.
The deal is Peter does everything at pitch level like the athletes we had on Saturday against Palace and we’re good mates, but he knows I’m not happy that he gets to read the teams. I understand when you’ve got something on the pitch going on, that you need someone down there. We used to wheel out local comedians back in the day for penalty shoot-outs and other things on a rota basis.
My pet phrase is I do all the work and he gets his face on the telly. If you watch Match of the day it’s always his face that’s on there!
We get a running order from someone at the club and they make us aware of anything going on that day.
The schedule seemed tight on Saturday against Palace, did it all go to plan?
Saturday was a bit of a disaster. In the running order we’d allowed a couple of extra minutes as we needed to announce the minute’s silence and then actually have it, alongside You’ll Never Walk Alone as normal. The ref bought the teams out 2 minutes late though. They did the handshakes and we got You’ll Never Walk Alone on at the quickest possible point.
I get emails to say fade You’ll Never Walk Alone out and let the crowd take over, so I always do unless it’s very quiet. On Saturday, I’d put it down to zero and the crowd were singing as the ref bought the players up for the minutes silence.
Poor Peter had to announce this silence and is competing with the Kop! They realised there was something going on and quietened down, which was a bit of a mess. Rest assured we both complained about what happened, so it shouldn’t again.
Is it any different for the Champions League?
I was in Anfield the day before Hoffenheim to get the running order and talk to the UEFA people too. I also had to get an accreditation pass too which is always a bonus!
About 7-8 years ago we had a new UEFA guy at the stadium and when I got to the reception door, one of the stewards wouldn’t let me in as I hadn’t got my UEFA pass. I explained that I’d tried but no-one was in the UEFA office to give it me the day before, so I was nipping in to pick it up. The new guy came charging out saying he wouldn’t let me in as I hadn’t got my pass. I explained it was on his desk, but he wouldn’t budge. He basically told the stewards to throw me out!
I said id be quite happy to go home and watch it on TV, but after about 5 yards a number of people ‘carefully’ explained to the guy who I was! They couldn’t have started the match without me as they do need someone there to orchestrate the address system. I didn’t see this guy again, so I guess it didn’t go to plan for him.
These are the things you have to put up with on the Champions League nights as they’re so many people involved now, it’s insane. I even have to ring the speaking clock as my watch has to be right to the second, so my wife thinks I’m crazy! Due to the money involved it’s got to be and I’ve got the hang of it after 46 years.
We got The Life Of Riley by The Lightning Seeds and Listen to Your Heart by Starsailor last Saturday. Any other local bands or playlists planned for the near future?
Nothing majorly special. I play The Beatles whenever it’s a European night and something that is in the opposition’s language. Since Jürgen’s been here, I’ve got a few German bands on my playlist.
I’ve yet to find out what he exactly likes. When he came, I was told he was into his rock bands. I emailed my friend at Kicker magazine and none of the staff there seemed to know really. They did say though Mr. and Mrs. Klopp had been seen coming out a German singer Helene Fischer’s concert so I’ve played a few of her tunes. I’ve not got any feedback though, but I’m waiting for an email off his P.A.
Jurgen always comes out and watches the players warm-up and no manager we’ve had has ever done that. I watch him through my binoculars and if he starts to shake his head or put his fingers in his ears then I’ll know I’m wrong.
Having a brick outside must have been special for you. How did it make you feel?
That was unbelievable. I was completely unaware until a steward noticed and someone else I know sent me an email. I emailed the people at Anfield responsible and said I’d love to thank the person responsible personally. I got an email back from a junior clerk who said we can’t give you the details. I replied to say please ring them and thank them so they know just how grateful I am. I got a response saying that it was a huge fan and it made his day just by saying thank you.
I’m also hugely proud that in the Anfield Code lounge on the third floor, there’s a big picture of me on the walls next to Ronnie Moran which is even more startling. I said to my family recently if you’d told me 50 years ago that one day my name would be on the stadium walls, I’d have said you were crazy!
Below the picture there’s a quote from Kenny Daglish saying I’m a part of the history of the football club. He said that on my 65th birthday. I was out with my wife and family when he was interviewed on LFCTV and he came out with the quote. My phone started going crazy and I wondered what was going on. When I found out I said to my wife ‘shoot me now as it’s not gonna get any better!’ That’s as good as it gets for a Liverpool fan.
There’s talk that you may have a book on the way, is that right?
I had one out in 1998 called “This is Anfield Calling” and there is another one in progress. I’m contractually not allowed to release it until after I’ve retired, but it might be worth reading. Sometimes I think I’ve had enough of it and it’s too much hassle so you never know how close it is.
Then I think that Ronnie Moran managed an incredible 49 years with the club, so it would be great to manage 50. A few games like Hoffenheim or even Palace that I’m gonna have a coronary with Liverpool, so I might as well just get on with it now.
I would like to do another one though as the 1998 one was low-key and I toned it down, but I would like to write book 2 and not worry about anyone.
Where do you find the time to do it all?
I only work match days at Anfield though and they still class me as Casual Labour. That cracks me up as I’ve been here for 46 years! I did a couple of jobs to pay the bills over the year and I saw my ex-boss the other day and I said I wonder how I ever found the time to come in your office as it’s insane right now.
The biggest change around Anfield is I go through my CD collection daily and burn them onto a single CD for the match. A while ago, I used to take CD’s like the Brit Awards or best rock albums ever and just play a few tracks like that. I listen to a lot of radio and I’ll think it’s ideal for Anfield too.
I get a lot of local bands send me stuff daily and with a great band like Starsailor, James is a personal friend of mine, so I get well sorted there. He’s ideal for Anfield as he loves it and his rock music is well suited to Anfield.
Most of it is good, but about 35 years ago I used to get some utter garbage! I bumped into John Peel’s widow and said I get sent things similar to the way John did. I listen to them, separate them out and whilst some stuff’s brilliant, it won’t work at Anfield. I’m always honest with them.
One guy took my feedback on board, re-recorded it and it got in the souvenir shop.
Have there been any big bands you’ve helped?
Oh yeah. The Zutons and The Lightning Seeds know I’m the first person to really play their stuff to a big audience. The Teardrop Explodes say they owe me their career! I said it was over the top, but they were adamant!
You’re well known for your charity work within the community, have you got any major events coming up?
The one I definitely know is on 8th September in Bristol, Nicky Tanner is raising money for The Offside Trust and I’m compering that with Graeme Souness. I’ve never done a gig with him before and I’m looking forward to it, although Graeme can have his own script. I’ve done a few with Ian Rush and he’s a lovely bloke who will tell you stories and is a delight. I’m a Liverpool fan deep down so I love these events.
Locally, I’m hopefully doing one with Jan Molby in November around the weekend of the Chelsea game but we’ve not confirmed the date. Jan did my dinner for Parkinson’s and he’s still my favourite speaker. We’ll split the proceeds between Parkinson’s and Clare House Hospice. The Molby family do a lot of work with Clare House and my son whose 42 has Parkinson’s, so it’s a big thing in our family.
We’ve had people enquire about being your assistant, could there be any positions coming up?
Ha! I’m notorious for not letting the club down. My son got married in Crawley in October 2008 and he gave me 12 months’ notice of the date. I was praying we were away, but we weren’t so I gave the club over 4 months’ notice. Peter McDowall had come and stood in that day.
I had a mate that helped in 1993 a few times. He stood in and then ended up doing the same job at Goodison for three years before he got transferred with the BBC to Media City in Salford.
At this point, George voluntarily discussed details of his collapse at Anfield in October.
I was having a bad reaction to the new medication I had and it was having a side effect, which left me completely dehydrated. At the time, the stadium manager said we need to get someone trained up as your stand in.
I said it’s lucky as my mate who’s moved to Media City will be happy to be on standby. The stuff he works with at media city is far more sophisticated. I’m afraid the job’s taken.
How do you like to be known by Liverpool fans?
I like to be known as someone who gave their best. I still believe the most eclectic mix of music is at Anfield and 99.9% of people who listen are happy. Come the day it’s the other way around, I’ll be out of there like a shot. I would like to be known though as someone who was loyal to the club and always gave his best.
A big thank you to George for yet another brilliant interview, with great insight into what it’s like working for Liverpool Football Club.