EXCLUSIVE: Behind The Scenes – Part One: George Sephton

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George Sephton - The Voice of Anfield speaking at Liverpool's award ceremony gala dinner.
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George Sephton, the Voice of Anfield, runs us through his daily routine at Anfield, granting Rousing the Kop an exclusive insight into the behind the scenes goings on at the club.

In the time between matches, I spend my days building my playlist for the next home game. I like to have a balanced and eclectic selection of music for the Anfield crowd. Obviously, the age range is basically 3-93 so I have to try and keep most people happy.

I usually try to include some current chart hits, classic rock, Liverpool traditional songs, local talent and crowd pleasers. I get input from various sources. I have a few promoters who send me new music and lots of local bands will get their stuff to me. I try to play as much as I can but obviously, there are limits on my time!

Lots of people don’t realise that I do almost two hours of music before every game, Occasionally individuals will message me on social media to say: “Have you heard this track by…”

When a big star has passed away, I’ll play their music as a mark of respect. Sadly, that happened a lot in 2016!!! Other than that I’ll hear something on the Radio or TV that will prompt me to include a particular track. I still get numerous requests for dedications, welcomes, shout-outs and whatever and have to turn them down.

I’m not allowed to do them anymore. Very often people will say something like: “But you always do dedications“ or blame the current owners for a change in club policy. I have to point out that it was Rick Parry in February 2003 (Nearly fifteen years ago) who stopped me from doing them!

For the past few years, I’ve been given a running order for match-days. I usually get it about two days prior to the game and it’s then, and only then, that I discover whether or not there’s anything happening on the pitch at half-time during the game or pre-match.

At that point, I can work out how many tunes I need to have ready for half-time and finalise my running order. For my match-day routine on a good old-fashioned Saturday 3 o’clock kick off my day will pan out something like this.

I like to be in my chair two-and-a-half hours before kick-off. Two-and-a-quarter latest unlss there’s a special reason to be ultra-early. Recently we were testing the new scoreboard before anyone was in the stadium for example.

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Normally that means leaving home (near the Racecourse!) before midday. Luckily I now have a parking place directly opposite the Shankly Gates at the Anfield Road End of the Kenny Dalglish Stand. I have to get in by driving through the Stanley Park Car Park from Priory Road and wait for a steward to unlock the bollards at the other end. This is always fun because there’s invariably a new steward who hasn’t the first clue who I am.

I’m quite often get greeted by one of the new breed of hosts around the Anfield Road Car Park who will politely ask if I know where I’m going! After 47 seasons I should know!! I am supposed to check in at the Stewards entrance to the Anfield Road Stand which is down towards the Main Stand end but I have special dispensation to phone through to say I’ve arrived.

At the beginning of 2017, I could hardly walk 10 yards after damaging my back. Treatment has worked wonders but I’m still a bit limited so its a blessing not to have to walk down Anfield Road and back to sign in.

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From my car parking place, I go through the Kenny Dalglish Stand Car Park to what I still think of as Centenary corner. Quite often nowadays I have a request from some Liverpool fans from all corners of the world to say hello. I’ll arrange to meet them before I get into the Stadium and am always glad to chat. It’s nice to be recognised and appreciated!!

Once inside I’ll take the lift to the third floor then walk down the corridor to the Kop end and into Matchday Control. My room is at the far end of CMDR so I can say hello to everyone on my way through.

First job is to grab a coffee , unpack my bag of CDs and scripts then make sure everything is in working order. That includes my twin CD decks, Mixing Desk, Mini-Disc player, in-house TV feed and Scoreboard Computer. The countdown clock on the scoreboard needs to be reset to zero. During the week someone from the full-time staff will have loaded the names of the away team’s squad.

At this point, I’ll always synchronise my wristwatch with Greenwich. I mustn’t be a single second out. I’ll start playing music about two hours before the game so it’s important that my playlist has enough music to last that long and that I have some standby compilation CDs to act as filler if needs be.

I have been communicating with a young lad in Australia who has aspirations to be my opposite number in Adelaide and he once asked me for any advice. I told him to assume that EVERYTHING is going to go wrong and be prepared for ANY eventuality.

SO – 2 hours to kick-off and the music programme is underway. I have to keep a close eye on the volume levels. If I turn the volume up when the place is almost empty I will deafen people! Sometimes I get requests from TV crews to turn the volume down while they do a particular interview. Having said that I always try to keep my eye on them on the TV to make sure that I can clearly hear them above my music.

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About 45 minutes before kick-off my running order will be telling me to read out the commercial messages I have to get through. Then it’s back to the music. Usually 20 minutes before kick off. I will get a request from my pitch-side announcer, Peter McDowall, to test his radio microphone. Ten minutes later I will hand over to him and he will announce the teams.

On with a piece of “filler” music to keep us going till the two teams emerge. As soon as the two teams line up I will play the Premier League Anthem and then, immediately after the last handshake, its time for “You’ll Never Walk Alone!”

I have to carefully fade the music down until the crowd have taken over singing the tune. I slide my chair across to be level with the keyboard on the scoreboard computer and keep my eye on the referee. As soon as he blows his whistle I hit the “start” button on the clock and we’re off!

At this point, I can get my breath back, settle down and watch the match. I have to be aware of goalscorers and substitutions.

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In either case, I will announce the event and run it through the scoreboard. Tricky times are when there’s a double substitution or a substitution at the end of half-time when I’m trying to start the scoreboard countdown-clock again.

Once in a while, the fourth official’s board will be obscured if he holds it at an angle and catches either the floodlights or the sun!! (Depending on the time of day and the time of year!) In that case, I have to hope that the TV producer has got the right name!! In my room, I have a live feed to the recording of the match being made for later transmission or live broadcast so I have a screen to watch the action replays in case of doubt.

At halftime, I have more commercial announcements to make and usually scores to give out from other grounds. Sometimes there are on-pitch activities such as penalty competitions or celebrity interviews which Peter handles but otherwise, I will have time to play some more music. I have to reset the countdown clock during halftime and then make sure I fade out the music to coincide with the referee getting ready to kick off. Once again I can settle back in my chair and watch the game, ready to announce scorers and substitutions.

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My last job is to announce the added time when the fourth official displays his board at EXACTLY 90 minutes. These days I get a small number of emergency announcements to make during the game – lost children, people left outside without tickets, car windows left open, medical emergencies and so on. I used to get a lot of them but nowadays EVERYONE has at least one mobile phone so by and large, most people will bypass me and ring their message through personally.

Once everything’s finished, I turn off the scoreboard, turn off the CD decks and the TV and off I go home. The biggest battle now is to to get OUT of the car park and through the traffic. Hey Ho!

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