Growing up as a Liverpool fan in the last 20 years has probably been more of a challenge then it would have been the 20 years previous. Instead of witnessing the Glory Days, young adults like myself have had to just listen to the stories. We have grown up seeing the club go through some really challenging and tough times, and can only imagine what it was like winning one of those 18 league titles. But despite this, we have also seen some historic and glorious moments ourselves that we can relay to our children in years to come, moments that I can safely say are only possible at a club like Liverpool.
One of the earliest glories I can remember is that treble winning season of 2000/01. Ok, it wasn’t “The” treble that we won, but it was still three more trophies to add to our vast trophy cabinet and was a great achievement by anybody’s standards. It did seem that maybe Liverpool were putting a marker down, that they were on their way back to the top, and with champions league qualification also achieved, we were to be in Europe’s most prestigious competition once again.
Of course it turned out that the treble season was a bit of a false hope as we only went on to win one more league cup in the Houllier era. And while we were still qualifying for the champions league, the glory days were definitely not back completely.
So in came Benitez, and well there’s only one thing you can really talk about when it came to his first season. That champions league win. That was amazing. I was a very happy 11 year old. It was probably one of the greatest achievements ever, not just by Liverpool, not just in football, but in sport as an entity. That image of Steven Gerrard lifting the big old trophy will be one I remember for the rest of my life, no doubt.
The hype of that historic win was built on as well with another great final a year later, this time the FA Cup in which the mighty reds were again victorious. West Ham may not have been as big an opposition as AC Milan, but the score line in this final was still the same, 3-3, and it was just as nerve racking. But 2 trophy wins in as many years began to get me, and a lot of Liverpool fans believing that the glory days were returning in some way.
A lot of fans have probably forgotten, or chosen to do so, but a year later (2007) we did reach another final, the champions league again with AC Milan the opposition, again! This time though we were to be defeated 2-1, and I am one of those fans who has basically chosen to forget that final.
The problem was though it would be 5 years and 2 changes in management before we won anything else, or even got to another final for that matter. And in that time the club was almost run into the ground by the infamous Hicks and Gillette. They broke promises to the fans, and ran us up the most ridiculous debt they could. They were very dark days for the club, and eventually it did all begin to take its toll on the team. In 2009 we finished second. In 2010 we finished seventh. It was unheard of that we didn’t finish in the champions league for a good few years, but since then it has unfortunately become the norm.
So in 2010 Roy Hodgson was appointed manager, and well, the less said about his reign the better, but one good thing did happen while he was in charge. We were taken over by FSG, and Hicks and Gillette were finally gone and the club stabilised somewhat. Unfortunately though, the team was underperforming under Hodgson and so yet another change in management had to be made. And this time, it was the return of the king.
This was the best thing to happen in a good few years. It bought a lot of fans together, and we seemed to do very well under him for the half a season he was there at first. While we didn’t qualify for the champions league, we at least put up a bit of a challenge, a great achievement considering the first half of the season.
The following year, the King delivered us our first piece of silverware in 6 years as well, with Liverpool defeating Cardiff at Wembley to lift the league cup once again. That was much needed. Unfortunately though, we lost out in the FA Cup final to Chelsea, and only finished 8th in the Premier League.
At the time Dalglish was sacked, I was bitterly disappointed, like many others. I was really wondering where were we going to go from there, and was worried we were getting like Chelsea with the way we were going through managers. Plus it just seemed a bit disrespectful to be sacking the great Kenny Dalglish.
Then eventually, FSG appointed Brendan Rodgers. Of course I was unsure at first, he had only had one season as a premier league manager, and while he had done well with Swansea, managing Liverpool is a whole different “ball game” as it were. After his first interview though, I was very impressed, he came across very intelligent, and most importantly very knowledgeable about the game. One thing he would get as well was time, which I was happy about, because maybe, just maybe, for the first time in a good few years, the club as a whole would have stability.
The first season was a bit up and down, but overall the main agenda was for Rodgers to put his stamp on the team, and he certainly did that. Only have to look at the form towards the end of the campaign to realise we are heading in the right direction. And then this summer there have been some good signings, with competition added to areas like left back and central defence, as well as the attacking positions. And with the start we’ve had to this season, 3 wins out of 3 and top of the league, it is all looking very promising. Of course though there is a long way to go, and if there’s one thing we have learned as Liverpool fans over the last 20 years, it is not to get too carried away. But let’s enjoy being up the top while we are there.
So, Liverpool in my life time so far has not been a club that has dominated like it did the 20 years previous. It has had, ups and downs on and off the field, not as tragic as the ones that have occurred before, nowhere near, but it certainly hasn’t achieved what it could have done on the field consistently. There have been some great memories already though for me and people my age, even while the team is not as great as it once was. And one thing that shows more than anything is what a special club it is. Let’s hope Brendan brings some glory days back!
You’ll Never Walk Alone.