The crowning of Liverpool as England’s domestic football kings reminds us about the generational changes witnessed in society at all levels from national to global. Thirty years ago we had Gazza’s tears at Italia ’90, Madonna topping the charts with ‘Vogue’ and the release of Nelson Mandela from prison – another event long overdue. This was an era of pay box telephones not smartphones, audio cassettes not downloads and in-store shopping not online. In football terms, adopting a sweeper system was seen as innovative.
Fast forward to 2020 – we have ‘false 9s’, wide forwards and ball playing goalkeepers. Jurgen Klopp’s ‘heavy metal football’ rooted in ‘gegenpressing’ has written itself into Liverpool’s history with its distinctive methods of execution. The importance of Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold to Liverpool’s attacking play (yes this is the era of defenders being central to attacking play!) is clear and evident.
Liverpool fans have witnessed many false dawns in 30 years. Was this a curse? Should we resign ourselves to finishing in the top 4 as being the new equivalent of a cup win? Would we ever be able to compete against the financial might and artistry of our competitors? These and many other questions had been asked over the years.
Within weeks of taking charge in 1991, Graeme Souness’ silver medallists fell 7 points behind the eventual title winners Arsenal. At this stage this was still King Kenny’s team. Major surgery was to follow for both the manager and the team.
In 2002, Gerard Houllier’s UEFA Super Cup winning side which won a unique treble the season before conquered many battles but not the domestic war – falling yet again, 7 points behind Arsenal. In 2009, Manchester United benefited from some contentious refereeing decisions which saw the title slip away from Rafa Benitez’s reds. Rafa’s legacy to Liverpool is summed up in one word – Istanbul. The one wholeheartedly, completely and unanimously magnificent victory since 1990.
The most painful close encounter was in 2014 with vocal chords proclaiming ‘Poetry in Motion’, the record-breaking duo of Suarez and Sturridge and the yearning for club icon Steven Gerrard to finally lift the Premier League title. It was not to be. In between, Graeme Souness, Roy Evans, Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish for a second time, all secured cup silverware with the exception of Hodgson but there was always a feeling of emptiness. The big one eluded us.
So it had to be that Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool of 2019-20 which created clear day and night light between themselves and the rest in terms of points, had to face an almighty obstacle in the form of Covid-19. This was now an anathema and the title was never meant to be ours. Here ends the first lesson. However, Thy Kingdom was to come.
Supporting Liverpool FC is an obsession not an occupation and so it had to be that we had to strain every sinew, cross every finger and pray as hard and as fervently as possible to avoid the fate of French and Dutch football which had ended their domestic leagues in full flight. This is why when the final whistle blew at Stamford Bridge on 25th June 2020, reds around the world pronounced, ‘We Are Liverpool – This Means More’.
Riaz Ravat is a member of Liverpool FC’s Equality & Diversity Fan Forum. He writes in his own capacity.