After last nights dissapointing result against Reading Liverpool supporters from around the globe will be looking towards the Europa League to add some much needed silverware to Liverpool’s trophy cabinet at the end of this seasons campaign. With the Premier League being a distant, albeit statistically possible, dream Europe’s second competition offers Rafa’s reds their only true hope of bringing a cup home for the supporters.
Many have labelled the recently renamed competition a ‘Mickey Mouse Cup’ but the fact of the matter is Liverpool supporters of days gone by have always held the UEFA Cup in high regard and with nothing but fourth place left to fight for it’s an attitude many current Liverpool fans are beginning to increasingly adopt in the face of extending the clubs barren spell to four seasons. While our past UEFA Cup wins may not be placed at the top of the Liverpool F.C honours list here’s a brief recap of our successful history in the competition.
Whilst left in the shadow of the famous European Cup victories in Rome, Paris, London and most recently Istanbul Liverpool’s first taste of European silverware came in the form of the UEFA Cup under iconic manager Bill Shankly. It was the 1972-73 season and after a host of unsuccessful runs in both the European Cup and the Cup Winners Cup the Reds finally struck lucky in a two-legged tie against German outfit Borrusia Monchengladbach. The Reds stormed to a 3-0 victory in the home leg and despite defeat in Central Europe the Reds lifted the cup for the first time. Little did we know we’d go on to meet the plucky German side on a much bigger stage, the European Cup Final in Rome, a game which saw Liverpool win Europe’s top competition for the first time.
For the two years following the Red Army didn’t make an appearance in the UEFA Cup, instead having unsuccessful runs in both the European Cup and Cup Winners Cup. However in 1975 Liverpool were back in the competition and as with the last time went all the way, beating FC Bruges in two legs played in April and May of 1976. Little did Liverpool fans know but this would be the teams last victory in the tournament before going up a level and bringing the European Cup back to Anfield in 1977. Seemingly great managers have a history of making their mark on the UEFA Cup before the European Cup as this was Bob Paisley’s first European trophy since he took the helm after the retirement of Bill Shankly.
An interesting fact (or at least to me, anyway) as I already mentioned Bill Shankly’s Liverpool won their first UEFA Cup against Gladbach and then went on to beat them years later to secure our first European Cup under Bob Paisley. The pattern re-occured with our second UEFA and European Cups, with our second wins in both competitions coming against FC Bruges. Of course this record was broken when we went on to beat Real Madrid for our third European Cup.
To say there was a long period between our second and third UEFA Cup wins would be a bit of an understatement. Our third and most recent win in the competition came in 2001, some 25 years after we beat FC Bruges in 1976. Of course lots had changed over that period, Liverpool had won four European Cups and more leagues than you could shake a stick at. But for may reds the win in 2001 against Spanish side Deportivo Alves was probably our most memorable win in the competition. The game, which ended 5-4, was won by a golden goal, which although was put down as an own goal I attribute to the super signing Garry Mac. Not only did this represent our first time winning the competition in two and a half decades it also completed the treble-winning season off 2000-01, my favourite as a Red.
So, there’s a brief recap of our great history in the under-rated competition. As many have mentioned since we were knocked out of the Champions League, if it’s European, silver and shiny Liverpool F.C should give their all to win it. IT’s the kind of attitude I like to hear for a competition that gave me my favourite final ever on a mad night in Dortmund.
Here’s hoping we bring home number four this year.