“My greatest challenge is not what’s happening at the moment. My greatest challenge was knocking Liverpool right off their f*****g perch.”
One of Sir Alex Ferguson’s famous words, describing Liverpool’s form, back in 2002. He said this exactly 16 years after he took over of the, then, a struggling Manchester United side. But if you really brush up your football memory you must remember the whole context of the infamous quote. Although, it describes how his managerial takeover brought success to Old Trafford, while also reflecting on how Liverpool’s years of dominance was gone in just over a decade.
During the time when ‘SAF’ delivered this quote in an interview, in September 2002, he had already won his 11th title with the Red Devils. Meanwhile, to add to it, Liverpool had gone 12 years without winning the premiership during the same period of time. And no one did know, at the time, that Liverpool were not going to win a title for another 18 years!
However, as Sir Alex mentioned, “knocking Liverpool off their perch”- the perch that he talked about is one of the most revered eras in the history of the Club. Highly rated, not just amongst the Liverpool faithful, but football fans around the world still see it as a great period- The Shankly-Paisley Golden Era.
“Bob Paisley & Bill Shankly, the fields of Anfield road…”
One of the “holy verses” from the infamous Kop chant, “Allez Allez Allez”- is a whole era of dominance for Liverpool expressed through a single line. Well, you would not need any introductions of two of the world football’s most highly-rated managers. As they not only revolutionized football in Merseyside but across the whole world.
William Shankly OBE, a former Scottish player turned manager, took over the Liverpool side in the year 1959. At the time of his joining, the Reds had already spent a whole 5 years in the second division and were not in their best of shape. So, it did become Shankly’s top priority to change the complexion of the squad and to start afresh. In his first season, alone, he had put 24 players on the transfer list as he believed they were lacking the attitude to compete at the big level. Now whether the strategies were too harsh for some or not, it is a topic of discussion for another day. But what matters is the success it did bring, it was just unbelievable.
In the 15 years that Bill Shankly was in-charge, Liverpool won 10 silverware including, a 2nd division title, 3 x League titles, 2 x FA Cups, 3 x FA Charity Shields and a UEFA Cup- Club’s first-ever in the year 1973. These were the major trophies Shankly had won, apart from all the personal/individual accolades he received for himself. However, he called his retirement in 1974 and the whole footballing world saluted the man for the efforts he had put into the club’s development.
Eventually, the baton of carrying the Reds forward was passed on to one of Shankly’s support systems during his tenure as the Liverpool manager – Bob Paisley.
There are not enough words to describe Liverpool’s surge of dominance under Paisley
The last success Shankly had with the Reds was the 1974 FA Cup, following which he announced his retirement. His assistant coach, Robert Paisley OBE, was handed the vacant position after much insistence from the board.
What unfolded after his appointment is, to this day, a footballing miracle! For many who have seen, or even heard of his success, have called him a Messiah ever since.
It took Paisley less than a decade to assert his dominance in World football, as Liverpool accumulated 20 major trophies in 9 years when he was at the helm of things. Apart from the debut at Anfield, Paisley’s Liverpool went on to lift at least a silverware per season for the 9 years to come. In that time the club went on to lift 3 consecutive European Cups. An unprecedented feet up until Carlo Ancelotti & Zinedine Zidane matched it, in the years 2014 and 2018 respectively.
Not just that Liverpool went on to lift the English league title for another 6 times between 1974 to 1983, under the guidance of Paisley. How euphoric it must have felt, to be a Kopite in such times.
But, all good things come to end. And so did Paisley’s unprecedented reign at Liverpool. With his retirement, Liverpool’s dominance in England and in world football came to an end, as well. After almost 3 decades of dominance, Liverpool were not even close to the same as they once were under the Shankly-Paisley so-called golden era.
The post Shankly-Paisley era is seen as a shambolic period in the club’s history, where nothing went according to plan.
Since that era, many managers came in to guide Liverpool to the same success. Or even to maintain the same status quo that was set by the predecessors, mainly by Shankly & Paisley. But, to no fruition.
A total of 8 managers were changed over the period of the next 3 decades, post-Paisley’s retirement. One of the noticeable managers being, the great, Sir Kenny Dalglish. His success was regarded greatly, and for a fact, as his Liverpool side was the last one to lift the league title in the year 1990 prior to the ‘great drought period’.
After his retirement, the club went through a period that many termed as a “Red curse”- where the team went for almost 3 decades, without lifting the English league title. While it may sound that they might be going through a financial crisis where the board could not muster funds to sign new players, it was not really true, was it?
During the same period only, players like Balotelli, Gerrard, Torres, Suarez, Coutinho and many others, donned the squad. But the title wait was far from over, for the Reds. Although, they had some great European moments as one of the “top English clubs” – Liverpool were not winning any league titles to show for that remark.
But, this was surely meant to change. I mean, for how long can a club of Liverpool’s underlining success can go without winning a title, right?!
Liverpool’s one of the few closest moments to lifting the title was the infamous Gerrard slip in 2014
And it still remained to be so, up until the Reds literally did lift the title in 2020 breaking the ‘curse’ exactly after 30 years of waiting. One of the many other reasons, that has made Klopp so famous amongst the fans.
Jurgen Norbert Klopp joined the struggling Liverpool side in 2015. His achievements prior to his move to Anfield, in Germany, were enough to tell you that he meant business from the start. In one of his early interviews, the German called out to his players and demanded respect for the club’s history and values, by asking them to put Club’s desires over their own.
With Klopp’s arrival on English soil, the concept of gegenpressing arrived as well. German’s in-famous hardcore pressing style was profound in the parts of the world where he had left his mark. Likewise, his tactics were doing wonders at his new club as well.
In his first season in charge, Klopp guided Liverpool to two finals- League Cup & Europa League. In that particular season they finished 8th in the league, but the next year they qualified for the Champions League football finishing 4th in the 2016/17 season.
There was something about this revamped Liverpool side, though. Something that was reigniting hope amongst the fans, that their long wait for the title is about to be over soon. However, before we even talk about the Premier League title, we have to look at the build-up to the title-winning campaign.
Since Pep Guardiola’s move to the Etihad from the Bavarians, Manchester City have been unstoppable in the Premier League. But Klopp’s side challenged City neck-to-neck in the 2018/19 campaign when the Reds finished just a point off of their rivals. It felt the closest they can ever get to winning the title, as they finished the season with 97 points and were still not able to get their hands on the silverware. But, to all the hard work the players and the coaching staff had put in, Liverpool managed to scuff out a 6th Champions League trophy out of that campaign.
The prominent rise under the German gaffer was evident, after coming so close as to losing the title by just one point and still managing to win the Champions League showed just how good this Liverpool side really was.
It was a new season, but the same old mentality. “We go again, this season”. But, since the start of the 2019/20 campaign, there was this whole new buzz to the Liverpool side. It was as if they were not done, they want to win it so badly. Klopp devised a whole new system. Press in numbers, attack in numbers, defend in numbers and use the full-backs for crosses in the box.
Games were passing by, Liverpool were getting better after each and every 90 mins they were playing. Liverpool were clear on the top of the Premier League table, in the month of Feb 2020, when the covid outbreak started. Matches were being postponed, the Kopites were fearing for the worst, yet again.
But, eventually, the inevitable did happen! On 26th June 2020, Liverpool were crowned as the Champions of England for the 19th time in total and their first since 1990.
Jurgen Klopp has been hailed since then. And rightly so!
It is true, Pep’s City are incomparable right now, with the way they are moving right now. But in all fairness, Klopp has not have the same level of financial backing as Pep has had from the Saudi owners of the Club. The German had to make do, with what he had- and let me tell you he did not had much!
We are almost coming towards the end of the 2021/22 season, and Liverpool are looking just the same formidable side that is capable of shelving up trophies. It is 2022, and Liverpool are rising from the shadows of their golden era, as they look to take on the unprecedented feet of lifting a quadruple. This is not done, yet! It is, indeed, far from over…
This is ANFIELD! You Will Never Walk Alone.