Liverpool – 30 Years of Hurt Vanquished

An excerpt Ian Carroll’s Liverpool book:

Champions Again Liverpool FC

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Thirty years of hurt, frustration, and bewilderment, and three decades of failure in the top flight of English football, all came to an end on the 25th of June 2020. Liverpool, at last, were title-winning champions again.

The club ended the season with a massive haul of 99 points from 38 matches. It was the second-highest points tally in league history, just one behind the record. It could have been more, but for the inevitable ‘taking-your-foot-off-the-gas’ that occurred when Liverpool sealed the title with seven matches to spare. This, in itself, was a record.

Liverpool had won their opening game of the season, beating Norwich 4-1 at home. At the end of the first day of matches, the club lay third in the league table on goal difference.

By the time they completed their second match, a 2-1 away win at Southampton, Liverpool were top of the league. It was a position they would never relinquish on their relentless march to the coveted Premier League title.

They raced into an incredible early season lead over closest rivals Man City, and won their first eight matches to rack up maximum points. It looked like the club might go the whole campaign undefeated.

In game number nine, a draw against bitter rivals Man Utd saw Liverpool drop points for the first time in the season. This minor setback, however, spurred the team on to win their next 18 matches in the league. By the time their run eventually came to an end – with an uncharacteristic away defeat at Watford – the club had racked up 28 league games without loss, winning a magnificent 27 of those matches.

At that point, Liverpool were well on their way to becoming Champions of England. They could add this crown to the others they held at the same time, as Champions of Europe, and of the world. Not a bad treble to have.

At this point, all opposition had been crushed and nerves had been soothed by a spirit of optimism engendered by the club’s manager, Jurgen Klopp. The players carried his philosophy and winning mentality onto the pitch. They simply refused to give up on their dream. They made it happen. They were, in Klopp’s own words, ‘mentality monsters’.

It seemed like nothing could stop them. Their quality was breathtaking. Their appetite for success insatiable. It was only a matter of time. In fact, we were talking a matter of a fortnight. Just a couple more weeks would have seen the team get over the finishing line, and win the much-coveted Premier League title.

And then, with the prize that the club and its fans most cherished so tantalisingly close, the football season was suspended due to the outbreak of Covid-19, the corona virus.

There was disbelief amongst the club’s faithful followers. How could this be happening when we were within touching distance of the prize? It seemed like a cruel twist of fate.

No-one, not even Gary Neville or Alex Ferguson, could deny that Liverpool deserved to be Champions. But, would that actually happen? Would the season be cancelled? Would it go down in history as the season that ended prematurely, never really happened, and had no winner?

The possibility was too awful to even contemplate. The imminent sound of laughter was heard brewing 35 miles along the M62 and across Stanley Park.

We didn’t want to be the moral victors. We wanted that trophy. Wanted it bad. Wanted it – in truth – with all our hearts. We had waited so long for this.

Too long.

Thirty years.

Once, we were kings. Then, we were cast out into the wilderness occupied by the also-rans.

What would have been considered madness three decades earlier, that the club’s 1990 league title win would be our last for 30 years, had come to pass. That win was Liverpool’s 18th league title in total. Our biggest rivals, Man Utd, had only managed seven up to that point, across their whole, so-called illustrious history.

By the time that Liverpool eventually became Champions again in 2020, to make it title number 19, United were sitting there smugly with an eye-watering tally of 20.

What had gone wrong? What on earth had happened?

How, despite picking up a grand total of 14 trophies in the interregnum, had Liverpool lost their grip on the league title itself, the competition that the club’s legendary manager Bill Shankly had once called ‘our bread and butter’.

This is the story of the accidents and incidents that occurred during that long hiatus. From Champions once to Champions again, and everything that happened in-between.

With managers (good and bad), and players (from the sublime to the ridiculous), as well as analysis of off-the-field events – including the changes of ownership – this is a time to reflect on WTF just happened before we hopefully sail off into another glorious period of prolonged success.

With fans still isolated and quarantined, and no immediate prospect of a well-deserved victory parade, let us reflect instead on the story of this great football club as it straddled those two great highs in 1990 and 2020.

Bookmarked by success at either end of this tale, there is much to examine, ponder, love, and regret, in those intermediate years.

There may also be some lessons to be learned along the way, so that we never have to spend such an interminable period out in the cold again.

During the painful era when we were languishing, and United were top-dogs, we still managed to occasionally bag ourselves a trophy and prove ourselves an irritant. But only occasionally; periodically.

We’d soon fade away again. Close, but no cigar.

I remember my dad saying, ‘When we were great, they were shite’. That was in the 1970s and 1980s. He added, ‘And when they were great, we were good’. So, on balance, we edged it.

But how had we lost our mojo? And how did we get it back? And what happened in all the years – the three decades – when we almost had it, nearly had it, or never even remotely came close to having it?

The answers are all here as we explore that incredible journey from 1990 to 2020, and the long and frustrating quest to become Champions Again!

Champions Again Liverpool FC

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