One thing is assured in football and that is fans always believe that the era they grew up in saw the best years of the beautiful game.
My dad did it, “you would have got away with that ten years ago” he would say as football in the late eighties became soft compared to the real men’s game of the 1970’s… His dad would say the same, “football in the fifties and sixties was a working mans sport, real men, no cheating, paid thruppeny bit and tuppence.” I blame Jimmy Hill.
My mates are mad for the 90’s… They say it’s when the Premier League was at its best, but I’m older in the head, I’ve seen clips of Matthews & Di Stefano and watched the 1970 FA Cup Final on DVD… In my opinion football had long gone soft by the time the Premier League circus had arrived.
Then there’s the Millennial’s… those that remember Manchester United’s 1999 treble winning achievement as the greatest of all time, those that reflect on Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ as the best team they ever saw, those that can’t even remember Eric Cantona playing, let alone seeing Liverpool win a league.
I grew up in an era of Liverpool domination. Friends at school (120 miles away from Anfield) would say they’re “Liverpool fans” pretty much like kids at school even further out will now call themselves “Manchester City supporters” Their dads should be ashamed… But with success builds admiration, which is why so many people my age from across the country support Nottingham Forest. Because back then we used to be good. Ask a bar man over the age of 40 in any city in the world and he would know Nottingham Forest and Brian Clough. Try explaining it to a 20 year old even in London these days and you’ll simply get a bland look? “Nottingham??? Where??? Robin Hood??? No don’t know him either??”
Liverpool in the 70’s & 80’s were a machine. Under Shankly they built an empire from seven years of second division struggles finally gaining promotion in 1962 to winning the First Division title just two years later. Two further titles two FA Cup’s and a UEFA Cup would follow under the great Glenbuck born Scot before Bob Paisley carried on the dynasty with six championships, three league cups three European Cups and another UEFA Cup. Even Joe Fagan got in on the act upgrading from boot room to gaffer as he led the team to league and European Cup success before Kenny Dalglish initially as player-manager won three titles and two FA Cups in charge. It seemed whoever took control of the club success was guaranteed… That was until Greame Souness became Manager of course?
Following huge success at Rangers In his four years in charge Souness won just the FA Cup and spent a whole lot of money on players like Neil Ruddock, Paul Stewart and Mark Walters. I grew up watching an era towards the back end of Liverpool’s success and their last title win when players like John Barnes, Peter Beardsley, John Aldridge and Ian Rush were at their best… To think that in 1990 having watched Liverpool dominate for so long and to think the players they had back then they wouldn’t win a title for another 30 years I would of said “you’re off your rocker”.
But that is where we stand today.
For the record, Liverpool will finally end that long awaited first ever Premier League title win this year. Under Jurgen Klopp they have already achieved legendary like status as individuals and collectively for not just the way they play but for the ethos and manner in which the club now practices as an organisation. Liverpool are once again (like they were under Shankly) a cult, thriving in front of passionate home support, playing football the right way attacking with pace and defending with high-intensity. They have revolutionised the way football should be played almost back full circle to the old Cruyff total football of the 70’s which of course instigated the counter-acting defensive system of Italian Football, Capello and Sacchi in the 80’s and 90’s before Germany countered themselves with their 3-5-2. Most recently of course we’ve had Pep’s tiki-taka philosophy which is now practiced worryingly across all levels and at all ages in defenders own goalmouths across the world, but the Liverpool way of exciting fast attacking football is rapidly becoming proven as the best way (of this era at least) and results now back that up.
From Champions League success last year will most certainly come a 19th top division title (they already lead the table by thirteen points with a game in hand) and no doubt those millennial’s will be crying the side of Mane, Salah and Firmino as the best they have ever seen.
The best team in Liverpool history perhaps?
Well I still say Barnes, Rush & Aldridge of 88-90… My dad says McDermott, Souness, Dalglish of the seventies and early eighties whilst his dad would probably have said Hunt, St John & Yeats.
One thing is for sure… Despite Liverpool’s forgone success, the generations will never agree.