As the fixture lists for the forthcoming season were released last month, my excitement for the campaign ahead increased dramatically.
Despite only being mid-June, and World Cup only a few days old, I was already plotting our possible route for a successful year ahead.
With a tricky start, that includes trips to Man. City and Tottenham before the end of August, and to what could be a make-or-break month in February (which could also include a Champions League knockout tie), I (like most of us) was already oohing and aahing at possible wins, losses or draws.
We immediately all look for the big ones: Man United, Everton, and Chelsea. As well as how the Christmas week may pan out and whom we’ll face on the last day (Stoke away is not ideal, that’s for sure).
However, as I was scrolling down the list a name jumped out at me that sent a shiver down my spine: Leicester City.
Sounds strange I know — they’re neither a local, nor a direct rival by any stretch — but Liverpool’s chequered Premier League history as thrown up some dodgy encounters from the East Midlands club, which has denied us valuable points and cost us dearly.
As a bogey team, Leicester City is one of a few sides to have unexpectedly turned us over on more than one occasion — which is every football supporter’s worst nightmare.
I remember in particular one balmy summer night in August 1997, when the Foxes came to Anfield for our opening home game.
Michael Owen was just bursting onto the scene, Paul Ince was our new captain, and the Anfield Road End was under construction.
Leicester City, a standard mid-table team, were there for the taking. Low-and-behold, they left the pitch with a well-deserved 2-1 victory. Matt Elliott and Graham Fenton the scorers.
The following season revenge was in the air. What happened? Well, they beat us home and away with Ian Marshall netting a last minute winner at Anfield. How frustrating!
Okay, so the 1999/2000 campaign we were now pushing for Champions League qualification against Leeds and Chelsea. We’d just lost to the latter 2-0 at Stamford Bridge and those pesky Foxes were up next at Anfield.
And yes, as you might expect, we lost again, 2-0 — this time Tony Cottee and Phil Gilchrist the culprits.
How could this have happened? Three years on the spin Leicester City winning at Anfield! Were they a great side back then? Did they cause other top teams heartache as well as us?
Well, under Martin O’Neill they were decent: a couple of League Cups was certainly an achievement.
However, when the Northern Irishman left the club in 2000. They began to struggle and were eventually relegated in 2001/02 — although not before turning us over once more at Filbert Street in 2001.
Does this then suggest it was Martin O’Neill whom was the bad guy all those years ago, and not Leicester City?
He did, after all, bring a Celtic side to Anfield that knocked us out of the UEFA Cup in 2003, but in the four years as Aston Villa manager (2006-10) he managed only one solitary victory over us, so putting it down to just the manager being the main factor doesn’t quite fit.
I believe there’s more to it than that – something lurking in the air perhaps! Those who believe in bogey teams can feel it in the atmosphere shortly before kickoff, and if we don’t score within the first twenty minutes or so, the nerves kick in, and well… anything can happen.
Whatever it is, it’s hard to rectify a long-lasting solution. I suppose that when Leicester and Liverpool meet at the King Power Stadium on December 2nd we’ll soon find out if we’ve laid the Leicester City ghost to rest.
On paper, we should wipe the floor with them, but beware though; they may sting another surprise if we’re not careful.
Other Bogey Teams
Southampton have left us red-faced on a number of occasions too — the latest of which was indeed last season at Anfield.
They’ve also has successes over us in front of the Kop in 1998 and 2003, and on a number of occasions at either The Dell or St. Mary’s.
However, now that we’ve pretty much bought most of their first team, perhaps we’ll fair better this time around!
Special mention though has to go to a club whom have struggled hugely over the last 10 to 15 years (on and off the field), yet caused Liverpool so much aggro in the mid-to-late nineties: Coventry City.
Their highlights include the Sky Blues taking four points off us in 1994-95 and 1995-96. Winning at Anfield in 1997. Knocking us out in the third round of the FA Cup in 1998 – again at home, and beating us again in 1999.
And all occurring as they continued to flirt with relegation. Again, how was this all possible?
The result that hurt the most however was that victory at Anfield in 1997. We were up there challenging for the title with Man United, Newcastle and Arsenal, and had just beaten the Gunners 2-1 at Highbury.
The day before, United had lost at home to Derby County and they looked like they were going to wobble. A home victory over Coventry would have given us a huge boost and put the pressure on Alex Ferguson’s men.
Robbie Fowler put us 1-0 up only for us to switch off and go down 2-1 after David James had one of his ‘moments’ in goal.
Dion Dublin got the winner in the last minute and every time I see him nowadays on TV, I can’t help but feel slightly sick.
It is results like this that really get us all wound up. How can this continue to happen, we all cry. How can teams who continue to struggle in the league upset the odds and beat the top teams?
Are ‘bigger’ teams just not preparing correctly? Are they not taking these ‘lesser’ sides seriously? Jason McAteer admitted recently – concerning Coventry’s 2-1 victory in 1997 — that most of the Liverpool players had the forthcoming Man United in sight.
United game on their minds and were just caught off guard that day. Whether this is lack of professionalism or lack of mental strength is up for debate, but it does prove we weren’t good enough to win the league under Roy Evans.
Thankfully, our league double over Coventry in 2000/01 ensured the Sky Blues’ relegation from the top flight, and we could all breathe a huge sigh of relief of not having to face them ever again!
Other clubs’ thorns in sides
On the international stage England have had a poor record against Sweden, whilst Deportivo La Coruna have upset the mighty Barcelona if we look even further afield.
Whatever it is, whether it’s a dodgy refereeing decision, an unplayable pitch, a tight ground, failure to prepare properly, or just simply pure bad luck when the ball just won’t go in, these familiar excuses always seem to raise their ugly head whenever a bogey team works their magic upon their nervous counterparts.
Some suggest bogey sides don’t actually exist and that teams need to simply try harder next time around. And, with the Premier League being the most competitive league in the world, there simply are no easy games.
However, whatever side of the fence you’re on you have to admit that when a Leicester, Coventry, or a Southampton takes to the field against Liverpool, there’ll be that lingering thought crossing your mind of: Oh please no, not again!