After a pair of defeats like the ones that we recently suffered at home to Arsenal, we have to ask ourselves how useful is it to get seriously depressed about what is, after all, just another couple of games out of just another season. Don’t get me wrong, I’m just as disappointed as anybody; I just don’t see the point in dwelling on it. Rather, I’d prefer to try and put it all in perspective and see just how trivial a couple of losses can be.
Looking back over the years that I’ve been a Red, it’s truly amazing how many trophies we’ve actually won. It’s often been said that we are the most decorated football club in English history, but of course the critics always ask: ‘œBut what have you done lately?’ The only answer to that is to point out the treble of 2001, the League Cup of 2003, the European Cup of 2005, the FA Cup of 2006, and of course a couple of Charity Shields and UEFA Super Cups to go with them. If the question is being asked by one of those smug supporters of one of those other ‘œbig’ clubs, it might be worth pointing out who we beat on the way to winning those trophies, and then ask: ‘œSo, what have you done lately?’
But what exactly do we mean by lately? If we want to consider the past fifty years, we can look back to when we were just a once-promising club that had some previous success in the League, but not much else. Going back forty years to 1966 we are now looking at a club that is definitely on the rise. After being built up by the legendary Bill Shankly they have just won two League titles as well as our first ever FA Cup, and have also become a force in European competition. Now let’s look back over the past thirty years from 1976 to 2006, which is after all just a blip in the long history of the sport (our recent FA Cup win was in the 125th final of that competition, with our own club now 114 years old). With this period we can see a much clearer picture. By this time Bill Shankly had built up a second great team, winning the League, FA Cup, and UEFA Cup, and then handed the management over to Bob Paisley. In the thirty years since 1976 we have won no less than ten League Championships, five FA Cups, seven League Cups, two UEFA Cups, five European Cups, and a plethora of other lesser trophies, cups, shields, etc.
We’re not just living on past glory by looking back in this way, since it clearly points out the continuing greatness of our club. In the early part of that thirty year period, English football was dominating Europe with Football League clubs winning seven of the eleven European Cups from 1977 to 1984. Nottingham Forest won two and Aston Villa won one after each winning the League to gain entry to the competition, but where are those clubs now? During the same period of time, the much esteemed Man Utd had fallen down to the old Second Division and then made their way back up. Also consider that Everton, Newcastle United, West Ham United, Leeds United, Tottenham Hotspur, and other storied clubs have failed to maintain their once proud status.
Our worst League finish, not just during those thirty years but all the way back to our resuming play in the First Division in 1962, has been eighth place (twice), and there have only been six years in all where we finished out of the top five. That’s truly amazing consistency to say that we have spent most of those forty four years comfortably in the upper third of the table while all of those other ‘œlegendary’ clubs have either been relegated or in serious danger of it at least once.
What is perhaps even more amazing is realizing that we have had several barren periods where we have won very little in terms of silverware. For the six years from 1966 to 1972 there were no trophies won. Then we went on to win three in Shankly’s final two years, before an unmatched nine year run of success under Bob Paisley. Kenny Dalglish took over from Joe Fagan who had won three in the first of his two years in charge, with King Kenny picking up five in his five and a half years. Our last League title was won during Dalglish’s last full year as manager in 1990, and then during the next ten years until 2000 we won an unimpressive two trophies (FA Cup in 1992 under Graeme Souness, and League Cup in 1995 under Roy Evans) before Gerard Houllier’s side won another four major trophies over the next three years.
This pattern of winning trophies in clumps between barren years is quite normal, even for some of the other allegedly great clubs. Arsenal went for a period of eighteen years from 1971 to 1989 without winning the League, while Man Utd were blanked for twenty five years from 1967 to 1993. Chelsea take the prize for their fifty year gap from 1955 to 2005 before winning only their second of three titles. As for European competition, Man Utd went thirty one years between their two European Cups, easily surpassing our twenty one years from 1984 to 2005 between our fourth and fifth (Arsenal and Chelsea have yet to win it).
Finally, if you want to compare total major domestic and European trophies won by the current top four clubs, we can count eleven for Chelsea, twenty six for Arsenal, and thirty two for Man Utd. You’re probably thinking by now that we must have won more than any of the other three, and you’d be absolutely right. We have a total of forty, comprising thirty two domestic and eight European trophies.
The fact is that we have been so spoiled over the years that we now feel seriously disappointed if we don’t win something every year. It could well be that after two magnificent seasons under Rafa we are destined to be without silverware this time around. That is, if we don’t count the Charity Shield from the beginning of the season. We have to look back at our past forty or fifty years and see what we have achieved and how we have continued to achieve greatness during that period. Surely we will continue to do so in the years to come, even if it is not to be this season. As one of my favourite banners says: ‘œLiverpool FC ‘“ Pride in our Past, Faith in our Future.’ And, as I always say: ‘œThere’s always next year.’