A victory parade planned three weeks in advance always promised to be a hostage to fortune. In the end though it didn’t matter that Liverpool had won two trophies instead of four, nor that they fell agonisingly short of European glory on Saturday night, as hundreds of thousands of fans welcomed their heroes home on Sunday.
Liverpool’s players danced alongside the DJ Calvin Harris as their open-top bus was met with fireworks, flares and flags on a raucous lap of honour around the city, where fans hung from traffic lights as helicopters hovered above.
Alice Ferrebe, 51, had spent all morning crafting two tin-foil trophies and a poster imploring her crestfallen team: “Don’t be sad” after they lost 1-0 to Real Madrid in the Champions League final in Paris.
“They noticed me on the bus! I got a thumbs-up from Trent [Alexander-Arnold]!” she beamed moments after the vehicle passed through the crowds on Allerton Maze.
“We were devastated last night, but were so glad this was going ahead today and we just wanted them to know that we couldn’t be prouder even if they had won everything,” she said.
Her 11-year-old son, Douglas Trafford, one of many Liverpool children who stayed up past their bedtime to watch the match on Saturday, said: “I was devastated but then again we’ve won two. It’s not really a big deal.”
The disappointment at the result in Paris was sharpened by anger at the way Liverpool fans were treated by French police, who fired teargas at crowds after funnelling tens of thousands of the club’s supporters through a narrow underpass causing a 36-minute delay to kick off.
Cheering the team on Queen’s Drive, Joan Marney, 85, said the behaviour of French security officials had been terrible. “People are looking for trouble with Liverpool fans but this is what genuine Liverpool fans are about. They don’t want trouble,” the retired teacher said.
Council officials expected hundreds of thousands of people to fill the nine-mile route, which was announced three weeks ago when Jurgen Klopp’s team were still in with a chance of becoming the first English club to win the quadruple – the League Cup, FA Cup, Premier League and Champions League.
In the end, the club had to settle for the first two trophies, but that did not seem to have dampened the party atmosphere on Sunday.
The parade started a short walk from John Lennon’s childhood home at Allerton Maze, where thousands of flag-waving fans gathered to worship their heroes, among them the Egyptian talisman Mo Salah and Colombian favourite Luis Diaz.
Defenders Virgil Van Dyke and Andy Robertson danced enthusiastically at the back of the bus alongside a more sombre-looking James Milner as the entourage made its way through packed crowds on Queen’s Drive.
Life-sized cardboard figurines of Klopp and Salah stood sentry outside the home of Claire and Sean Doran, who blasted out Liverpool anthems from a sound system two hours before the celebrations officially began.
Sean Doran, an Everton fan, insisted he played no part in decorating his house in Liverpool red but would enjoy the party regardless: “I will not touch the bunting or the cardboard cut outs,” he said, serving up hot dogs and beers.
Leon Evans, a family friend, said he was very disappointed with the result at the Stade de France, but that it was important to celebrate Liverpool’s achievements – and even those of local rivals Everton, who narrowly avoided relegation.
“It’s been a fantastic season and they’re a fantastic side,” he said. “We fell at the final hurdle in the league and on [Saturday] night but we win, lose and draw together and we’re very proud of the team. The fact that Everton stayed up as well makes everything better.”
In a football era increasingly dominated by sovereign wealth and state owners, Liverpool still feels like a club rooted deeply in its community. James Trafford, 38, said it was important that, unlike some other clubs’ victory parades, Liverpool players travelled across the city so that “everybody gets to see it and everybody is part of it”.
Mike Burns, who had wrapped his black-and-white cavapoo, Oreo, in a Liverpool scarf, compared his club’s trophy tour to Manchester City’s a fortnight ago: “We had a nine-mile parade and Man City did a 0.8-mile parade. That says it all, doesn’t it?”