Soccer: Hey Liverpool, another title before I’m 64, please!

By Stephen George

I sat back and thought about what the Fab Four from Merseyside would sing in these situations. I convinced myself it would be something along the lines of needing help from somebody, but not just anybody.

For the last 19 years, supporters of one club have been searching far and wide for an answer to what they consider one of the most complex sporting questions of modern times: “Why can’t Liverpool win another English Football title?”

In 1990, the trophy room of Anfield was graced with Liverpool’s 18th English title, a feat that surely couldn’t be equalled or surpassed in my lifetime. Great confidence was taken from the fact that our fiercest rival, Manchester United, had at that point only seven titles.

The master Scotsman, King Kenny Dalglish, had not only been a master on the pitch but he had shown his prowess off the field by taking us to three titles in six seasons.

Times were surely upbeat and it would not have been out of place for adults and children alike to be chanting along with Paul, John, Ringo and George that things are definitely getting better all the time!

Following King Kenny’s departure in 1991, surely the tried and true recipe of a Scotsman in charge for the next full season would continue to reap the rewards and widen the gap between us and the pretenders.

Not true this time, oh band of loyal followers.

In a little under three years one of our favourite onfield Scottish stars, Graeme Souness, failed to deliver that elusive 19th title.

Move over, laddy, time to let an Englishman have another go. After all, when Bob Paisley took over in 1974, the mighty Reds bullied their way through England and Europe, winning 22 pieces of silverware in 11 years!

Three years without that elusive title called for a little bit of calm and a return to the mantle for this great club.

My optimism didn’t appear to be shared by those taking to the pitch each week as another 41/2 years passed with only a Football League Cup to our name.

In the classics it is often said that desperate times call for desperate measures.

When considering how to gain that 19th title, one can imagine the boardroom banter going along the lines of “How about we appoint dual managers? And to make things more interesting, let’s have one a Frenchman and one an Englishman. After all, the French and English have always got on and that’s what we need in these troubled times.”

And so began what we hoped would be a long, successful, ground breaking partnership which would break Liverpool’s drought.

We had waited eight years: it wasn’t as if it another eight would pass without ultimate success.

Don’t Let Me Down (again) would have been an appropriate mantra as the 1998-1999 EPL season began. A cursory glance at the tally of titles showed that Manchester United had moved to 11. A large gap was still evident but a little sweat on the brow was starting to surface.

Well, after four months, the Englishman gave the reigns solely over to Gerard Houllier, who was going to be our French saviour.

Armchair experts of the world game had stood up and taken notice of France’s 1998 World Cup win; French Managers would become the flavour of the month and we thought we had one of the best.

Further agony followed!

Another 51/2 passed with no English title. We were however able to add a little more silverware than the previous seven years with two Football League Cups, one FA Cup, one UEFA Cup, one European Super Cup and one Charity Shield.

Perhaps the tide was turning.

In the meantime, Manchester was celebrating with another four League titles. I was starting to wonder what they would say in the classics at this point: perhaps, ‘times like these call for anything legal to be done to win just one more title’.

I am sure many supporters sat back, some may have wept a little and quietly sang or hummed:

“Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away

Now it looks as though they are here to stay…”

We had to believe that yesterday’s glory days would come around again.

The only positive at this stage was the gap of three to the Manchurians 30 miles up the M62.

16 June 2004: would this be the key date in future that all Liverpool supporters would look back on with fondness. The day on which 14 years of misfortune would change?

They had moved swiftly to appoint Rafael Benitez from Valencia in Spain’s La Liga. Benitez had successfully masterminded Valencia’s first League title in 31 years, overcoming the might of Barcelona and Real Madrid along the way.

Look out Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea. Liverpool was on their way back to their rightful position.

The first two years produced Liverpool’s 5th European Cup and 7th FA Cup but alas no 19th League title.

By the end of the 2006-2007 season, those aptly named Red Devils had reduced the margin to two with another in their trophy cabinet.

Desperation?

Perhaps thoughts of singing about wanting a revolution but being assured that everything was going to be all right as there was a real solution to the problem wouldn’t be out of place at this juncture.

We were told that all was not lost.

There appeared at least one last remaining light on the horizon. Our Spanish manager was able to convince one of the great young strikers of world football to join us prior to the 2007-2008 season.

Enter Fernando Torres, El Nino (‘The Kid’), Liverpool’s No.9, Our Saviour – no pressure, Fernando, no pressure. We just haven’t won the thing for 17 years!

To say seasons 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 weren’t frustrating for us supporters would be misrepresenting the truth.

El Nino, in his first season, dominated and broke the record for the number of goals scored by a non-English player in his first season. The only trouble was, the rest of the team were not as consistent as they needed to be to lift the trophy.

At the end of the season the title race read: Manchester United 17, Liverpool 18.

Like many seasons before, I read the previews of the upcoming 2008-2009 season.

Hope sprung eternal.

According to experts, this was our best chance to win the title in the last 18 years.

The following eight months demonstrated that there was either one large conspiracy theory occurring or it just wasn’t meant to be (again). Injury after injury, draw after draw compelled us to (a so called competitive) second spot.

In a nutshell: unacceptable compared to the lofty standards of the 1970s and 1980s.

Final tally at season’s end in May 2009: Manchester United 18, Liverpool 18. No extra time or golden goal. Level with our fiercest rivals.

What seemed impossible 19 years ago had eventuated.

What came so close in 2009 led us to believe things would turn around in 2009-2010. A third of the way through the season and already our hopes appear dashed. It’s OK; we are immune to it at the moment.

All I can say is: thank you Roman Abramovich and your billions for getting Chelsea to the top of the League. The title race looks like staying at 18 apiece for at least another season.

Where to for now?

My thoughts at this point can appreciate (in part) what Bill Shankly was referring to when he famously said: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death … I can assure you it is much, much more important than that”.

Be assured, it has been a long 19 years and when that elusive title finally (and deservedly) arrives, it will be worth the wait and I trust the Liverpool stores stock up on a wide variety of merchandise.

Until then:

“I get by with a little help from my friends

Yes I get by with a little help from my friends…”

About Stephen George

I am an avid sports fan who admires anyone who can play or participate in sport at pretty much any level. My favourite sports are AFL, soccer, Major League Baseball, Rugby League and NFL. I have recently finished my Diploma in Sports Journalism and I am interested in improving my skills by contributing to the Footy Almanac

Comments

  1. John Butler says:

    It could be worse Stephen,

    I used to follow Leeds.

  2. Stephen George says:

    I know John – it looks like we can both see the humerous side to our side’s (mis)fortunes

  3. MachedaManc says:

    Two things:

    (1) Astounded that you’re calling the title race so early!!! Wishful thinking on your part? United will believe they have plenty to say about the destination of this season’s title for some time yet.

    (2) Would be intruiged to know your reasoning behind why your boys ‘deserve’ another title…haven’t seen an indication in the last 19 years that suggests they were more worthy winners than the actual champions of that season. Maybe it’s just big club…big sense of entitlement? If you do ever win the title again you will deserve it. No team finishes top of a complete home and away fixture without fully earning their triumph.

    Fergie spoke about knocking Liverpool off their perch when he first took over – everyone laughed themselves silly. ‘The sounds of silence’ are the only reverberation from Anfield about his claim now.

    Race you to 19!

    Cheers,
    S.

  4. Martin Reeves says:

    Stephen – great read, though this piece makes me feel old. Seems like only yesterday that I grew an affinity for the Reds watching Monday night highlights on ABC during the Grobbelaar years.

    Long time between drinks at Anfield. As a Richmond supporter also, I’m glad Melbourne Victory exist.

  5. Stephen George says:

    From a Liverpool perspective let’s hope things turn around quickly. As for Richmond my Dad barracks for them so I have a little bit of a soft spot. I have been a little more fortunate with North winning 2 flags in the last 19 years!

    Thanks for the kind comments

  6. Stephen George says:

    Thanks MachedaManc.

    Just taking a light hearted look at what as been a long time between drinks for LFC.

    Haven’t got the squad this year to compete if we have injuries so not unreasonable to concede on 1st and 2nd but certainly can take 3rd or 4th.

    Pretty confident that sometime in the next 50 years we will at least another title :) If status quo remains, the race to 19 will be yours.

    Be interesting to see what happens to Chelski during African nations – can they maintain it?

  7. Richard E. Jones says:

    SG: hope you’re 84, or even 94, before Liverpool salutes again.
    I’ve been following mighty ManYoo since 1952 and of the 4 we have to beat — Liverpool, poncy Man City, Chelsea and the Gunners — Liverpool ranks NUMBER 1 !
    Not a proper EPL season unless ManYoo finishes higher than Rafa’s boys, so it goes without saying that a win over the Anfield rabble is a bonus.

    Take a Dec. 8th look at the current EPL table. It won’t be this year for Liverpool but Sir has my boys very handily placed. Plus, historically, we’re the best of the contenders in the run home after the Xmas-New Year schedules have been completed.
    Watch for United to steamroll Chelski in the title race from February-March on.

    The prospect is so delicious my fingers won’t work properly any more.

  8. Stephen George says:

    Thanks Richard, I am 41 now so I am giving them until I am 64 (like the beatles) before finally giving up. As I keep saying to mates, in the EPL world today, we can’t compete unless we have squad depth. Unfortunately, best chance was last season when we were the best team (in terms of results against main rivals and losses) but 2 or 3 draws cost us.

    It’s a healthy rivalry and Man Utd are well on top at the moment

    I’m still smiling tho

  9. MachedaManc says:

    Thanks for the message, Stephen.

    Some are speculating that Chelski will be fine during the Africa Nations Cup, as they have a very weak draw during that period.

    Whatever the case, if United are within half a dozen points of them when we roll into February/March, we’ll be still believing we’re a big chance.

    Quite seriously, I’m a big fan of supporters who stick it out through the tough times (I was 35 before my beloved Cats finally saluted on that one day in September) so kudos to you!

    While I’ll never have the faintest skerrick of sympathy for LFC, I have nothing but admiration for supporters of any team who continue to hold the line despite what seems like unending disappointment.

    Keep the faith,
    S.

  10. Richard E. Jones says:

    WHAT’S with all the bonhomie and good cheer on Daff’s and Harmsy’s website ?
    On another thread some roosters are happy the flippin’ Kiwis made the final World Cup cut of 32.
    Absolute blasphemy, in my book. That’s like considering the Irish should have been installed the 33rd team after Thierry Henry’s “Hand of Frog” effort.
    I was in the UK and saw that match live on the goggle box. Sports writers with Paddy and Mick affiliations were the most vocal after the event, floating the 33rd team line.

    Nah, Mac. When you’ve got ’em down, keep ’em down. And preferably grind them into the turf.

  11. Mark Tanti says:

    Hi Steve,

    Well I think it’s about time someone knocks Man U off their pretty little perch. LFC had the 70’s & 80’s all to themselves, where everyone else sat behind & watched. Don’t get me wrong I watched Liverpool put 4 passed Arsenal at Highbury in 85′ & it was a joy to watch all those homegrown Liverpool stars with your own eyes. Being a Chelski supporter as you know for a very long time (about 31 years), I have watched us struggle between divisions & win the odd FA Cup, Super Cup & League Cup, but never a League Title till Roman came along. But nowadays the Super Powerhouses that are highly financially backed are going to be up there whether we like it or not. Liverpool’s problems lie deeper, with the owners not wanting to spend & the Manager left to pick up the pieces. You obviously won’t win anyhthing this year, but the pain will only worsen next year if your unable to compete in the Champions League. It’s sad cos I have a soft spot for Liverpool & a true hate for Man U, but I think tougher times ahead for LFC. Sorry!

    Mark.

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