Matt Ladson - Liverpool, UK
Updated: Dec 18, 2020
From a young lad with a school project, to co-founder of one of the biggest Liverpool Fan Sites on the planet, we track Matt's incredible story.
Q. Hey Matt, good to chat with you mate. It's been, what, 20 years we've been working together on This Is Anfield?
A. Almost mate, almost.
Q. Before we chat about all that, how did the love of LFC start for you as a kid?
A. Well, I'm not originally from Liverpool and to be honest, I've asked the family and none of us are exactly sure where and when my love of Liverpool started. I do remember watching a Liverpool v Arsenal game on the telly back as a young kid and really liking the team in Red - us, not Arsenal. (laughs) Maybe that was where it all started for me.
Neither my brother or dad were really into football but my dad had a mate whose son was a Red. He got tickets for the 4 of us to go to a game at Anfield so fair-dos to me dad for taking me. It was against Chelsea, 19th March 1994 - Ian Rush scored after just 8 minutes, then Craig Burley scored for both clubs and we won 2-1.
We were in the lower paddock and it was only a month before the Kop would become all-seater. So although I got to 'see' the standing Kop, unfortunately I never got to stand on it.
That game sealed it for me, and I became all consumed with the club. I had all the VHS video tapes and would watch them relentlessly. Then I started making scrapbooks of every season, including writing my own match reports to put in my scrapbooks. I would tape every single Liverpool game from the telly, match of the day highlights, everything. I still have all the videos in the loft.
From one or two games per season with me dad, I ended up going more and more on coach trips and getting home at all hours, especially midweek games - I'd be shattered at school the next day.
The older fans would sit at the back chatting about the game ahead with, of course, the rowdy lot at the front. Being youngsters, we always sat quietly in the middle of the bus trying to mind our own business. I still remember the rowdies all up on the seats, beers in hand, singing 'row twelve, row twelve, give us a song.' (laughs)
Q. I remember those coach trips well mate. So, who's the greatest player you've ever seen in a Red shirt?
A. Ooh... that's such a difficult one. The greatest in terms of who I loved for the joy he brought to the game was Robbie Fowler. A local lad, a free spirit, how he played with a smile on his face, his controversial antics on the pitch - he was a pleasure to watch, a Scouse legend and an absolute genius of a goalscorer.
But - and when I'm asked this question I always think 'what would the team have been like without him' - the greatest has to be Steven Gerrard. In terms of overall impact, the weight of expectation on him as a local lad and captain, the critical goals he scored, Istanbul, Olympiakos, the West Ham FA Cup final..... the list is endless. He was quite simply immense.
That season people refer to as the Suarez inspired season - to me it was the Steven Gerrard inspired season. Without Gerrard, Suarez couldn't have done what he did. He was instrumental to Suarez's superb performances. Honestly mate, I'm not trying to downplay how good Suarez was that season, because he was superb, but so much of what he did stemmed from Gerrard.
Q. You don't have to convince me mate. Gerrard and Fowler, both Scouse legends. So, how about your favourite moment as a fan?
A. There are so many on the pitch, but my favourite moment from a personal perspective is having the honour of being present at the Press Conference for Klopp's unveiling as Liverpool manager.
It was an amazing moment back then, but considering what has happened since, it's just... well, it's a 'pinch me' moment. From a young lad in Lincolnshire putting Liverpool stuff in scrapbooks to being present at Klopp's unveiling is a dream come true.
Photo: members of the Press awaiting the unveiling of then new manager Jurgen Klopp
There are other off-the-pitch moments that stand out too - interviewing the likes of Virgil Van Dijk, Robbie Fowler and many other players. I never take this stuff for granted, I feel very, very privileged to be a part of it.
As for on the pitch, the 2019 Champions League final has to be the greatest moment for me, not only because we won the Champions League for the sixth time, but I was again lucky enough to be part of the Press that day and there in the post-game Press conference.
Klopp walked in beaming with pride, Virgil walked in with a beer in his hand. I mean, if you'd have told the 8-year old me I'd be sitting in Madrid at a Press Conference after Liverpool had just won their sixth European Cup, I'd have told you you were mad. It was mind-blowing, it really was.
Q. Ah, what a moment. Klopp's first trophy as Liverpool manager too too after coming so close before. So, talking about winning trophies, what was it like gearing up for the whole experience of winning the Premier League this season, then having the whole 'fan experience' snatched away by covid?
A. You know what, if someone made a movie about a fictitious club, who, let's say dominated English & European football for two decades. Then had multiple 2nd place seasons; one where they were 3 games from winning it but lost a 3-0 lead to miss out; had another season losing only 2 games and missed out again; then had another season losing only ONE game and STILL missed out.
Then, finally, a full 30 years later, this club had a 25 point lead with only nine league games left - only for a global pandemic to shut down football for the first time in history! You'd be like "ah, the script -writers have lost the plot here - this is so far-fetched it's ridiculous."
I really can't wait till we're all back at Anfield and at a parade where Liverpool Fans can finally celebrate that long awaited title the way it should have been celebrated.
But you know what.... winning it after all those years was what really mattered.
Q. Yeah, agreed mate - if and when the parade is announced, I'll be on the next flight home. Anyway, until then, tell us about the 'This Is Anfield' the website. How did it all begin?
A. It actually started off as a school project in my final year when I was 16. I started a pretty basic website back then called LFC KOP.
Some lad called Alex Malone used to write match reports on it, so I contacted him and asked did he fancy doing a bit of writing. Didn't know him from Adam but he ended up with his own column. (laughs)
It was just a hobby really. All I wanted was somewhere where people could read my stuff if they chose to. It was back in the infancy of the internet, with dial-up, slow connections, limited bandwidth and no automated software.
Then, looking around the web, I stumbled across another site called Anfield FC. I contacted the lad who ran it, Max Munton, and asked if he'd like to join forces and make one even better site.
To cut a long story short, we ended up working on a site together and after throwing a few names around we found out that 'Thisisanfield.com' was available so the choice of name was a no-brainer.
We launched it in 2001 and honestly though, we had no idea, and really no expectation back then of it becoming what it is today.
Q. When did it change from a hobby to something more serious?
A. For 10 years it was just a hobby. I went off to University for a few years, then went across to the USA as a football coach for a few summers. Then, about 6-7 years ago with the coaching winding down, reality set in and the prospect of having to get a 'real' job was horrible. (laughs)
So, Max and I decided to have a go at making the website a full time project, so that's what we did, and it couldn't have gone better, really. We have a strong group of contributors and writers now and we pride ourselves on being a professional and balanced site.
We absolutely won't publish unsubstantiated or sensationalist content - that's not who we are. There are other sites - including some of the mainstream media - who go for the 'click-bait' approach with no real substance behind the headline. We have never, and won't ever do that.
Q. What's the most satisfying thing about the site and how many followers do you have these days?
A. It's the satisfaction of bringing so many Liverpool Fans together really. It's nice when people ask what do you do, and when you say you're involved with running This Is Anfield, they've heard about it, and more often than not have subscribed to it.
In terms of followers, across all platforms now, we have 3.2 million - that's across the likes of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram etc.
Q. Wow! It's a great site mate, and I'm proud to have been a part of it for so many years. So, having met Jurgen Klopp and been at his press conferences so many times over the last few years, what are your thoughts on him?
A. Oh gosh, is there anything I can say that hasn't already been said about him? He's a giant of a man in every sense of the word. He commands a room like nobody I have ever seen.
There is so much he does behind the scenes too. Stuff that nobody sees and that doesn't get reported.
Everyone knows how great the club is in terms of their commitment to the local community. They do so much, including offering experiences of a lifetime to underprivileged fans. Nobody embraces this more than Jurgen.
He makes time for everyone personally. He'll make a beeline for individual fans and give them 100% of his attention. The club try to keep him on script but there's no chance. (laughs) He'll pose for photos, laugh, smile and joke with fans, It's not a gimmick or an expectation, he just genuinely cares about people.
When I hear rival fans accusing him of 'playing to the media' it does my head in because it's bollocks. He's the most genuine person you're ever likely to meet.
Q. Finally Matt, thoughts about the upcoming season?
A. As it stands right now, I have to admit to being a little concerned with the lack of signings, especially seeing as we've let a few players go. But that's probably my heart talking because I so desperately want to retain this title. To get number 20, to have a double celebration and a massive street parade. I truly, desperately want that.
Then when I really sit back and think about it, I realise there's no real reason to worry because the club is so well run these days from all aspects. Then, in terms of bringing players in, you have to take into account the influence covid is having on the finances. The club is - rightly in my view - taking the approach of how today's issues could, and likely will impact the finances longer term.
But then you have to remember we have a lot of superb talent coming through, so it's all a balancing act - and let's face it, they haven't done too badly balancing everything over the last few seasons have they!
The other question I keep asking myself is, can we go another season like the last two? I mean 97 then 99 points, maintaining that level of consistency for two whole seasons AND to win the Champions League, The World Club Cup, The Super Cup and The Premier League is just incredible. I'm not at all saying we can't do it, but with Klopp's style being so high energy, with everyone giving 100% every time, can we avoid burn out and injuries?
Again, it's just something that niggles me a bit as a fan. Klopp knows all of this better than any of us, and guaranteed he'll have a plan.
I have a sneaking suspicion we'll see a few surprises this season with personnel and formations. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see 4-2-3-1 being used more often with possibly Mane, Minamino and Firmino behind Salah.
Over the last two seasons, our attacking play has focused around the dynamic front 3 being fed by the brilliant wide play of Trent and Andy Robertson aided by a highly efficient and effective midfield. Other managers are wise to that now, but still haven't been able to stop it. I just have a hunch that Klopp will mix it up next season to confuse them even more.
But, you know what? However we line up and whatever tactics we use, we've proven, with the massive points total last season, that we are the team everyone has to catch; that everyone has to beat. I have very high hopes that we'll be lifting number 20 come the end of the season.
Me too mate, me too.
Well Matt, it's been a pleasure. Wishing you continued success with This Is Anfield and I'll hopefully see you back in Liverpool for a pint soon. Cheers mate.
FanConnect is a weekly blog featuring Reds fans' stories from around the world, and brought to you by the KopConnect team. If you like this feature, we would appreciate you sharing it with all your fellow Reds. YNWA. If you're not already a member, we'd love for you to join our KopConnect Facebook group.