The Anfield Talk’s Paddy (@pallenlfc) spoke to the voice of Anfield, George Sephton…
“He shook my hand, he bowed his head and he clicked his heels.” This was how Jurgen Klopp greeted George Sephton after the German’s first Anfield game as Liverpool boss back in 2015 against Russian side, Rubin Kazan.
“The Voice of Anfield,” will enter his 50th season on the Kop when the 20/21 season starts, whenever that may be and it’s clear to see his presence is felt from top to bottom.
Sephton’s father had trials at Liverpool in the early part of the 1920s and when George came along in 1946, there was little doubt to whom his footballing allegiances would lie in the years to come.
“Liverpool was it, it was always going to be it, it was in the genes.
“I don’t think there was actually any choice in doing anything else.”
As a child, Sephton shared his idol with his father amongst many other Liverpool fans at the time.
The great Billy Liddell spent his whole professional career at the Reds and scored goals for fun in the 50s and 60s. However, it wasn’t just Liddell’s on-pitch exploits which drew the Scotsman to Sephton’s heart.
“When I was 10, Billy Liddell and his wife came to open the church fate just down the road from where I used to go to the Cubs.
“He was my first bit of paparazzi photographing. I had this old-fashioned Box Brownie and I took a picture of him and his wife.
“When I got it printed I got two copies and I sent him one, I don’t know why really, but I got back a handwritten letter from his home address to say thank you very much.”
George was a regular attendee at Anfield in the 50s and 60s but in 1971, his role at the club would change massively for the next 50 years after a blunder from the then PA announcer.
“I said to my wife this fellow is embarrassing and she just looked at me deadpan and said ‘I bet you couldn’t do any better,’ and I thought well, I’m sure I could actually.
“Just to be awkward, I went home and got the typewriter out and I wrote a letter to Peter Robinson (LFC club secretary 1965-1992).
“Apparently they had decided to give this fellow the push at the end of the season. My letter landed on Peter Robinson’s desk and they decided to give me a trial. In theory, I’m still on trial 49 years later,” Sephton chuckled.
Doing well in his Anfield role, UEFA contacted George to work a few major finals in the 80s and onwards, including the fateful 1985 final at Heysel between Liverpool and Juventus.
Crowd trouble resulted in 39 Juventus fans losing their lives, but George believes the blame shouldn’t be placed solely on Liverpool fans.
“It really, really wasn’t our doing. The Italian fans had a grudge against Liverpool going back to the previous year when we beat Roma in Rome.
I was in the corner of the Juventus end and the guys in front of me all had their black and white scarves around their faces.
“They were deliberately taking chunks of brick out of the wall and they were dismantling crush barriers to make weapons.
“It was more than criminal that Liverpool fans took the blame for it.
“I was just so glad to get out of the place. I’ve never been so frightened in my life.”
The atmosphere at the club changed drastically in the 90s through Georges eyes as Liverpool lost their grip on the league and Phil Thompson dismantled the famous “boot-room,” but this all changed in 2001 as the Reds won 5 trophies in the calendar year.
The now 74-year-old was, again, contacted by UEFA to be the stadium announcer in Dortmund for Liverpool’s 5-4 triumph over Alaves, a night which George remembers particularly fondly.
“I had a wonderful few days in Dortmund. If you watch the video of the podium when the trophy was presented, I was standing underneath that cascade of red confetti. I’ve got buckets full of it.
It led onto the Super Cup and I got taken to Monaco, it was another great few days in my life. I had a fabulous year.”
2005 wasn’t the same story for George as UEFA “didn’t want him there.” Rick Parry’s (LFC Chief Executive 1998-2009) chartered plane flew to Turkey without George on it, even though there were spare seats.
Sephton described it as “very frustrating,” especially because, when dropping his two sons off to fly out for the final, he saw the assistant secretary who he’d contacted about getting on the LFC chartered plane.
“During the day, it was slightly embarrassing with people saying to me ‘oh why aren’t you in Istanbul? To which I responded with ‘well I don’t know.’
George spoke about how the atmosphere behind the scenes continuously changed for the worse after Benitez’s exit and Roy Hogdson’s torrid time at the helm. This changed in 2011 when King Kenny, Sephton’s good friend, returned to the Kop during a Youth Cup game at Anfield.
“One of the guys next door in match control had a spy down at Melwood and he came running into saying ‘Roy’s gone, he’s gone.’
“No more than half an hour later he comes running back in hysterics saying ‘Kenny’s back, Kenny’s back.
“You could see stewards and people picking up their phones and talking to their mates. Everyone was shaking their fists and high fiving. It was such a great relief, he’s part of the DNA of this club.”
4 years later, when Jurgen Klopp replaced Brendan Rodgers, George met the German after the Europa League game against Rubin Kazan and, from that moment, Sephton knew that Klopp was completely the right man for the job.
“I followed him up some stairs and said ‘Klopp!.’ He turned around and I put my hand out and I said ‘I’d just like to introduce myself, I’m George I’m the…,’ and that’s as far as it got.
“He just looked at me and his eyes lit up and he said ‘ah yes, you’re the famous Voice of Anfield. I was completely and utterly gobsmacked.”
Despite his old age, George has no plans to fully retire yet, despite calling time on his full-time job a number of years ago.
“I’ve been saying for a while, I’ve got to get through 50 years but I couldn’t just walk away.
“There’s talk of the club expanding the Anfield Road end, I want to be a part of that.
“I’ve seen everything, I’ve been the luckiest boy alive.”