Thirty Year Absence to Defenders of the Premier League
Liverpool FC have finally lifted their nineteenth English top flight division title thirty years after winning their eighteenth. It’s not to say this team has not won trophies in the last thirty years, but that one trophy has eluded them, and the club, city and fans so badly wanted to see it lifted. Now the talk will be whether this team can defend their title for the first time since the 1990/91 season.
Will history repeat itself with a gap between titles starting to grow anew or will the talk of a 30-year gap in their English dominance fade away from the minds of those who follow the beautiful game?
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“It’s for you as well, Kenny,” said an emotional Jurgen Klopp during an interview after Manchester City were defeated by Chelsea which mathematically gave Liverpool the Premier League title. “It's for Stevie.”
Many mortals have come and failed while trying to achieve Liverpool’s nineteenth English top flight title over the last thirty years. Some have come much closer than others, as they have been the runners-up on five occasions since their eighteenth title. Many people know the story ends with a Premier League trophy being lifted in the Kop by the passionate team in an empty stadium, but let’s go back to a more unfamiliar place, the beginning of their long wait.
The 1990/91 Season.
The 1990/91 season was where the quest for the nineteenth English title started with most believing it would happen at the end of the season. Liverpool’s manager, Kenneth “Kenny” Mathieson Dalglish, was in his sixth year of managing the team he once played for as a forward in the late 70’s and 80’s. He was even able to be player-manager in the late 80’s for the club that trusted him dearly.
With the previous season ending in a trophy, it was Liverpool who were titled as the “favourites” to win the league once again. With famous players like Ian Rush, John Barnes, Peter Beardsley, and Alan Hansen, it was clear they had a strong side. The only problem was this team was getting old from their success in the late 70’s and 80’s. But why stop now when even more could be won?
Liverpool started the season off right, being top of the division by September and the streak of going unbeaten continued in their first fourteen games, as they brought a familiar feeling of dominance to the league. However, Arsenal, the team given the title as “challenger”, defeated the Reds 3-0, but Liverpool still held on to first place. Another defeat to surprise contenders Crystal Palace still saw Liverpool in first place but Arsenal had closed the gap to two points.
Then came 1991, a year of shock, tragedy, and failure for the club. The boss, Kenny Dalglish was continuously dealing with the trauma he had suffered from the Hillsborough Disaster. It is regarded as being one of the worst days in British sports, as a human crush in a semi-final FA Cup game between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest led to the deaths of 96 Liverpool supporters.
Kenny was a direct witness; he attended services for many of the victims and after breaking a twenty year silence, he stated that he regrets that the FA or police did not postpone the game. Along with that, there was the added pressure of not only being a manager of a football club but one of the best in the world. So, although Liverpool defeated Leeds 3-0 on New Year’s Day, they suffered three consecutive draws giving the lead to Arsenal in the English title race. But no one would have expected what would happen next.
It was February 22 – the day after a 4-4 draw to Everton in the FA Cup – when Dalglish handed in his resignation to the club he loved. Even though he had the chance to achieve a “double” that season, he needed to step back for his own health, the same a player would when he pulls his hamstring on the pitch.
Liverpool looked internally first and went with one of their own, coach Ronnie Moran. A game the next day forced the club to move on quickly but it would not take long to see what the effects of Kenny leaving would do. Liverpool suffered a 3-1 defeat to Luton Town, and then to start off March, they suffered a 1-0 defeat to Arsenal who were already in first place.
If the loss of a manager was not enough, a month later, Liverpool legend Alan Hansen retired from football after having joined the club back in 1977. Unable to play a competitive game during the season, even he could see the end was closing in on him and the departure of Kenny made up his mind to retire. Having won eight league titles, three European cups and much more, the players in the squad soon lost Hansen’s experience as well.
The Reds did not give up after that, however, and kept themselves in the title race. They soon found their new manager in another former player, one who even played with Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness. Having won multiple trophies and inheriting the captaincy for the elite club, Graeme was assisting Kenny as he had with his pass to his fellow Scotsman in their 1978 European Cup victory; all for the good of Liverpool. But not even the bounce Souness brought was enough and Liverpool handed Arsenal the title after defeats to Chelsea and Nottingham Forest at the start of May.
By the time the new season started, many other players such as Gary Gillespie - a defender that won English and European titles with Liverpool - and Peter Beardsley - who was a star man in Kenny’s team - were gone. But it’s not to say players were not added to the squad such as Jamie Redknapp, who was signed by Kenny in January and would enjoy a long and successful - in some ways - career at Liverpool.
The 1991/92 season would be a failure as it saw Liverpool fall to sixth in the English league, causing a decade’s worth of top-two finishes to end. In the same season, Graeme Souness needed heart surgery in April of 1992, but his team would pull together to get to Wembley and win the FA Cup against Sunderland, which he attended against his doctor’s orders. Winning a cup brought hope to the fans that their team would soon return to its glorious form on top of England.
But time passed them by.
The team turned anew multiple times with legends like Michael Owen, Jamie Carragher and a young Steven Gerrard coming onto the pitch with legendary manager Gerard Houllier. It was a team that claimed a cup treble but could not claim an English crown.
The Rafa Benitez project, which saw the likes of Fernando Torres and Xabi Alonso fill up a Liverpool squad with a bunch of superstars, still could not claim the English title. Finally, Brendan Rodgers’s high scoring team with Luis Suarez securing all the individual awards was still unable to come away with the Premier League title.
Liverpool were in desperate times, fearing they would fall into mediocrity. They researched mathematically and got their man in Jurgen Klopp who himself stated that he would eventually like to manage The Reds. He would assemble a squad with men from all around Europe’s top leagues (even from enemy teams in their own league) who he thought would become his champions; players like Mo Salah from Italy’s Roma, goalkeeper Alisson from the same team (coming to Liverpool a year after the former), and Sadio Mane and Virgil Van Dijk, both coming from Southampton.
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Trent Alexander-Arnold was part of the academy when Jurgen came, and being a local lad, he always wanted to play for his home team. He’s now crucial to their modern history with “corner taken quickly” added to his magical free kick skills. These Reds have finally brought the English title back to the city of Liverpool and they will never be forgotten or forced to walk alone again.