Turning skeptics into believers: the story of Liverpool

Liverpool are one of the biggest clubs in the world with six European championships, but two disasters that befell the team within five years forced the team to start all over again

Emblem of Liverpool (photo: from Shutterstock)

In honor of Rosh Hashanah, we will continue our review of the groups that managed to start everything from scratch. A few weeks ago, I watched a classic match from the past between Liverpool and Manchester United from 1991. During the game, Yoram Arbel called Liverpool "the reigning champion of England." Between 1976 and 1990, Liverpool won ten championships and indeed was the reigning champion in the football homeland.

During those same years, Liverpool also won four European championships and dreamed of becoming the most decorated team in Europe, as in those years Real Madrid only had six titles. From that championship win, in which the Israeli Ronny Rosenthal played a significant role, it took 29 years until Liverpool won another championship. How did that happen?

Liverpool was founded on March 15, 1892, after John Houlding, the owner of Anfield Stadium, which was one of the founders of Everton, the city's other club, had a dispute with the club's management and sought another team to play at his stadium. The team's first manager was John McKenna, an Irishman who signed 13 Scottish players, often leading to a lineup devoid of English players, a characteristic that would define the club over the years.

In nine years, Liverpool's first championship

Already in their first season, the team won the championship of Lancashire, the region where the city of Liverpool is located, and was promoted to the English Second Division. A year later, they won the Second Division championship without a loss and were promoted to the top division, where they remained until the 1953/54 season. The team won its first championship in the 1900/1901 season, and after five years, they added another championship. In the years 1922-1923, they won two consecutive championships for the first time.

After them came its longest dry period, until the last dry period when it won another championship only in the 1946/47 season, eight years later it was relegated to the second division for the first time. After five years in the second division, Bill Shankly was appointed coach of the team in December 1959, and made a revolution when he removed 24 players from the team's squad, three years after Shankly was appointed, Liverpool returned to the top league and has not left it since.

Bill Shankly's statue outside Anfield (Photo: Shutterstock)

In the 1965/66 season the championship returned to Anfield, but the real golden age came a few years later. Liverpool continued to celebrate under Shankly who claimed the sentence: "Some people think that football is a matter of life and death. I am very disappointed with this attitude. I can assure you that it is much, much more than that."

The golden age of Liverpool until the first disaster

In the 1972/73 season, along with the championship, Liverpool won their first European title, the UEFA Cup after a 1-2 victory over German Borussia Mönchengladbach in the final, which was held in a two-game format. Liverpool defeated the Germans 3:0 at Anfield, and a 2:0 loss in the second leg did not stop them either from achieving the historic win. Three years later they won the UEFA Cup again this time against Belgian Club Brugge.

At the end of the 1973/74 season Shankly finished his position and Bob Paisley his assistant was appointed coach and continued Shankly who said: "Liverpool was created for me and I was created for Liverpool". Liverpool continued to gobble up titles, winning the 1976/77 European Champions Cup again against Borussia Mönchengladbach, and completing a second win a year later again against Club Brugge. Paisley coached the team until 1983 when he was replaced by his assistant Joe Fagan.

Plaque in memory of those who perished in the Hazel disaster (photo: Randy110912 from Wikimedia)

In 1985, a year after Liverpool's fourth win in the European Championship, they reached another final, this time against the Italian Juventus and dreamed of a fifth trophy. On the morning of the game that took place at the Hazel Stadium in Brussels, the capital of Belgium, an incident occurred in the city when the English fans rioted. About an hour before the game itself, the red fans broke through the separation strip that separated the crowds, and threw bottles and cans at the Juventus fans.

Despite the disaster the game took place

The Italian fans tried to escape, but the police refused to open an entrance to the grass. As a result of the pressure, 39 Italian fans were crushed to death, and more than 600 were injured. The shocking photos of the fans wrapped in the team's flags were broadcast live. Despite the disaster, UEFA decided to hold the game and Juventus won it 0:1 from a penalty kick by Michel Platini.

As a result of the disaster, the heads of UEFA decided to remove all English teams from the European factories for five years, a decision that seriously hurt Liverpool and English football when in the previous eight years, the cup came to England seven times. Under the team player Kenny Dalglish, who became a coach after the disaster and without Europe, Liverpool won two more championships before another disaster struck the team.

Hillsborough Fallen Memorial (Photo: Shutterstock)

On 15 April 1989, Liverpool played in the FA Cup against Nottingham Forest at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, following traffic jams many Liverpool fans were late for the game, leading to pressure on the entrance gate. The police decided to open more gates, but did so in an uncontrolled manner, as thousands of fans entered through the other gates, which were without a revolving gate that was supposed to slow down the rate of entry.

97 dead fans

The pressure of the thousands of fans caused those in front to be crushed against the iron fences, and fans started climbing fences. The police, who thought it was an attempt to break into the field, prevented the fans from reaching the field or the Forest stands and caused the pressure to increase. Only six minutes into the game when one of the Liverpool players noticed what was happening, the police opened the entrance to the pitch.

94 people were killed on the day of the disaster and 766 were injured. Another person died of his injuries a few days later, and four years later, the 97th victim died two years ago after being seriously injured for more than 30 years. The disaster severely affected the club, which also faced hatred from the other clubs due to the expulsion from Europe, and false accusations of the Sun newspaper being responsible for the disaster.

Alex Ferguson overtook Liverpool (Photo: Shutterstock)

A year later they competed for the championship against Arsenal, but after that until the 2001/02 season they were unable to finish in the first two places in the league, when they finished in 6th, 7th and 8th places among others. Simultaneously with the collapse of Liverpool, a new coach arrived in 1986 for the hated rival Manchester United, Alex Ferguson with a clear goal: "to take Liverpool off its throne".

Alex Ferguson took Liverpool off the throne

Ferguson is still the last manager to win the Scottish Championship outside the top two when he did it with Aberdeen in 1980, 1984 and 1985. He came to United, which was a team that was moving between the bottom of the top and the middle of the table, and had not won the championship since 1967. He was up to the task and, at the same time as the Reds went down, turned Manchester United into the biggest club in England.

In the 2001/2002 season, Liverpool showed signs of a return to greatness when they finished in second place, but sank back to mediocrity in the following seasons. In the 2004/05 season, despite another weak season in the league, it managed to win the Champions League for the fifth time in its history when it came back from a 0:3 deficit at halftime to win a penalty shootout against the Italian Milan. In the 2010/11 season, the Merseysiders suffered another hard blow, when United won the 19th championship and overtook them in the number of championships.

Liverpool wins the Champions League in 2005 (Photo: Shutterstock)

Liverpool continued to oscillate between the top four and the center of the table, but could not get close to the championship they so desired. In the 2013/2014 season, Liverpool finally competed for the championship against Chelsea, but the slip of the captain Steven Gerrard in the game this season, resulted in a loss against Chelsea and the painful loss of the championship.

We need to turn from skeptics to believers

At the end of that season, Jurgen Klopp, one of the most colorful coaches in the world, was appointed coach of the team, who, like Ferguson, is to this day the last coach to win the German championship, outside of Bayern Munich when he did it twice with Borussia Dortmund in 2011 and 2012. Klopp, who defined himself as "normal", already said at the first press conference: "We need to turn from skeptics to believers."

Klopp took time out as in the first two seasons he finished outside the top four, but returned there in the 2016/17 season, and in the 2018/19 season he was on the verge of winning the championship when he finished with 97 points, a record for a team that did not win the championship and a point behind Manchester City with 98. That season Liverpool won the European Championship for the sixth time with a final victory over Tottenham in an English derby.

Klopp with the Champions Cup, turned the fans from skeptics into believers (Photo: Shutterstock)

In the following season, from the first second Liverpool was goal-oriented and even the break in the league due to the corona epidemic, did not stop Klopp and his apprentices on the way to returning the crown to Anfield after 29 years. The Reds also fought for the championship in the 2021/2022 season, but again finished a point behind the Blues from Manchester.

After a weak season last season when they finished outside the Champions League, Liverpool started this season with a dream, to return to being the most decorated English team of all time. So will the fans who sing to their team "you will never walk alone" return to walking alone at the top?


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