For many years long-time Liverpool FC fan Ali Erkekli assembled a large amount of club memorabilia to fulfil a dream.
His dream was to put together a fantasy team image where many of the legendary LFC players, and other important personnel, who have graced the club since it was created in 1892 could be present together in a single image celebration of the abundant talent that has defined the history of the club.
The idea was borne out of the desire to have all our champions, legends, and long-time servants assembled together as if "time travel" were possible, and the painting was to encapsulate all that is grand & majestic about Liverpool FC.
There have been previous attempts to create a collage of photographs of past players using digital technology but due to the disparate sources of the images, and the difficulties of getting them all to match, the results have never been very successful.
Ali's dream was to create a mural-sized painting of 5.53m x 2.3m using the traditional medium of oil on canvas to realistically represent the players as if they are posing together for a team photo. As far as he was aware the idea has never been done before.
He assembled images of 106 players, coaches & managers and organised them into a team photo of five rows and the final 106 people were chosen in respect of their grand service to Liverpool FC. Ali had decided to have 96 players, in symbolic tribute to the unfortunate supporters who did not make it home from Hillsborough, and another 10 mangers & officials who were intrinsic to the formation, character and reputation of the the club that it deservedly has today.
In early 2016 Ali met another 2 passionate LFC fans, Triffin Dalikouras & Jim Kellam, who immediately loved his idea and agreed to help him make it a reality. After numerous meetings and ideas they finally had a coherent plan in place and got to work.
Ali looked around at for painters in Melbourne and found Mattie Walsh (a local artist who is, handily enough, also an LFC fan) and after discussing what needed to be done to make the dream a reality work started on the painting in August of 2016.
So here we are in April 2017, 125 years after Liverpool FC was formed, and the Legends Of Anfield Painting dream is now a reality.
And that is the story of how this one-of-a-kind piece of artwork came into being - we hope you enjoy both the idea and the result.
Ali, Trif & Jim
How to choose the 96 players and 10 managers officials to be in the painting?
There have been many "Best Of", "Greatest" and "Legends" lists done over the years - most notably "100 Players Who Shook The Kop" done by LFC TV in 2006 - and there are obviously those people who pick themselves on any list of LFC personnel done anywhere: Gerrard, Fowler, Dalglish, St John, Shankly, Paisley and so on but sometimes the hardest part of such a list is those whom you leave out.
It was a painstaking process for Ali which took years of research as he felt an enormous amount of personal pressure to produce the most accurate & worthy list of the "creme de la creme" of this great football club's personnel.
Having to eliminate many names worthy of inclusion was deflating but necessary otherwise the list would have stretched out to several hundred people.
His selection criteria consisted of how well the person served the club and what they achieved there - in terms of players how many games they played, goals they scored was important - and finally the "x-factor" impact the person had on the Anfield faithful.
Many long-term Liverpool players wore several kits over their career and kit designs change regularly these days. Ali elected to portray each player in the kit worn, in his view, at the peak of his contribution to LFC.
There are many worthy players, managers and officials whom it could be argued should also be in the painting but in the end only 106 could be chosen and these are the personal choice of a long-time Liverpool fan trying to achieve a dream.
Trif and Jim both totally supported Ali's choices and while we don't expect everyone to agree with 100% of them we hope any discussions or comments about who should in be in or should be out will be done in the spirit of how we all like our Reds to play the game - fiercely but fairly and determined to embrace the fantastic football family that is Liverpool FC and it's fans.
Mattie Walsh is an oil painter living and working in Melbourne, Australia. His works are predominately figurative with interests in people and places. He has developed skills in portraiture and taken on commission work as well as other independent projects, and has contributed to exhibitions in the past.
Born in Blackpool, England in 1981, Mattie moved to Australia at the age of two. He started oil painting at the age of ten, getting lessons after school from a local artist in the Perth hills.
Returning to England at age 14, he continued drawing and painting. In 1996 England were hosting the European Championships and Mattie inescapably fell into the fanaticism surrounding the sport upon his arrival, choosing football/soccer as a subject for the first time. Studying and sketching players he developed his skills in anatomy and figures through his new-found interest.
In Blackpool, north-west England, most young people in the mid to late 1990s followed Manchester United (the most successful club of the decade) and a much smaller number followed Liverpool. In keeping with his nature, Mattie chose to be different, he started supporting Liverpool.
Although not purely because it was a controversial choice among his peers, he had a love for the city of Liverpool and had been hooked on the city's iconic Beatles since the Fab Four's global revival with the Anthologies CDs in 1995. This period was a tough few years for LFC and its Spice Boys and Mattie became disheartened with his chosen team and slowly stopped his teenage scribbles of football players.
He went on to study Fine Art at Oxford University, graduating in 2005. Although he continued to paint, Mattie went onto become an animator, establishing a studio with two friends. Their most successful project was the animation for Dino Run!, a BBC-funded smart phone game where Mattie worked as the lead animator. The studio disbanded after 3 years and, realising computer arts weren't for him, Mattie returned to painting.
Although it seemed unthinkable to him at the time some 15 years later, on the opposite side of the world, Mattie would not only get to depict Liverpool FC again, but this time it would be in full oils, on a mural-sized canvas, 106 people in number plus the chance to revisit his old 90s heroes like Robbie Fowler & Steve McManaman.
The Legends Of Anfield Painting is the project to launch Mattie back into his original profession and is (quite obviously) his biggest project to date.
A closer look at 25 of the players and managers in the Legends Of Anfield Painting.
Mouse-over (tap on a mobile device) to see their stats and click to view a larger image.
Ali Erkekli, Triffin Dalikouras & Jim Kellam are 3 are mad-keen Australian Liverpool FC fans with a combined 114 years supporting the club.
Ali began supporting the Reds in 1981, during the greatest era for the club.
His earliest memories of Liverpool FC were of Alan Kennedy marauding down the flank, the King lording over proceedings and the tireless running of fellow Aussie, Craig Johnston.
Ali dabbles in several fields of art & design, has had his own t-shirt brand and continually seeks to develop his creative, eclectic & eccentric "left-field" ideas. He currently runs his own niche perfume label.
Trif has been a Liverpool FC fan for 35 of his 39 years.
Always a keen soccer player he still finds time to moonlight as a striker for a local club in between his work & family commitments.
Jim has followed Liverpool FC since watching his first FA Cup final on Australian TV late at night in 1974.
Since then he has stayed up on many, many, many late nights & early mornings to watch The Reds, seen a game at Anfield, been present when King Kenny scored the title-winning goal at Stamford Bridge in 1986 and attended both the 1986 and 2012 FA Cup finals.
When not working on projects like the Legends Of Anfield Painting Jim is a photographer, graphic & web designer and trivia host.