Liverpool FC Season Review
Liverpool's quest for their 19th title continues after failing to win the 2008/09 Premier League, despite accruing 86 points - the most they have ever won.
The season started with good results, albeit because of late winners against lower class opposition. Newly-signed Robbie Keane failed to make an impact alongside Fernando Torres and, as usual, it was often left to captain Steven Gerrard to lift the team to victory.
By midseason the team's luck was running out and valuable points were dropped at home to Fulham, West Ham and Hull City among others, as Manchester United continued their run of form.
Things had to change and, after a very disappointing away defeat at Middlesbrough in February, it was time for Rafael Benitez to abandon his over-cautious tactics and let the team play positive attacking football. They went on to win their next five Premier League games and also humiliate Real Madrid in the Champions League. Morale was at an all-time high.
Defeat to Chelsea in the quarter-finals of the Champions League was a blow as was the 4-4 draw with Arsenal in the league, but the team continued to remain positive and push United to the end. It wasn't until United's win at Wigan on 13th May that the title was won, and the first time for a long time that Liverpool have been challenging right up until the last month.
A positive season for the club and one which we can build on over the summer and return in August even stronger. Next season will be Liverpool's.
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The Hillsborough Tragedy
Justice for the 96
15th April 1989 is a date that indelibly
emblazoned across the hearts of every man, woman and child on
Merseyside. A day that started with all the joy and expectancy of an FA
Cup semi-final but which ultimately ended with ninety-six football fans
losing their lives, for the support of their club.
Whilst Liverpool fans lay dead and dying on the Hillsborough turf, as trained police officers looked on, the cover-up into the causes of the disaster began. Graham Taylor falsely claimed that Liverpool fans had forced open a gate. The Hillsborough disaster was a catalogue of calamitous events- the incompetence of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club, the ineptitude of South Yorkshire police, the ineffectiveness of Sheffield City Council (the club never even had a valid safety certificate) and the arrogance of the Football Association. The Association that chose to give Nottingham Forest considerably more tickets than Liverpool, despite having considerably fewer fans, citing traffic logistics as a reason.
The events served to bond the people of Liverpool closer than ever before as fans of all clubs paid their respects to the dead at Anfield. It was difficult not to be moved by the sight of a Manchester United fan sat crying and bewildered in the Albert pub next to Kop.
In the days that followed the disaster and despite all evidence being to the contrary The S*n newspaper decided to publish an article entitles “The Truth”, in which it claimed that Liverpool fans had robbed and urinated on the dead and had attacked the police, apparently our saviours. The investigations and evidence were to prove this to be lies. The police had chosen to open an exit gate at the Leppings Lane end of the ground, at the other side of the gate was the entrance to a tunnel leading to the central pens. There was no stewarding or policing at the tunnel, nor was there any signs to indicate alternative entrances to the terracing. At the end of the tunnel lay closed pens from which there was no way out for the ninety-six fans who lost their lives.
Since that day the S*n newspaper has been reviled on Merseyside and remains the subject of a mass boycott. We would urge all football fans of all clubs to consider how The S*n portrayed fellow football fans, in the days while we were all grieving, and would ask them to join our boycott of this vile rag. A recent media week study into the boycott on Merseyside estimated that the boycott had cost the S*n around £25 Million since the article.
Please Do Not Buy The Sun!
The Lord Justice Taylor inquiry into the events found the main cause of the disaster to be “The breakdown of Police control”. No court of law in this land has ever considered events after 3.15 on that day. Events such as the police refusing entry to the Stadium for Ambulance-men on the grounds that “People were fighting on the pitch”, events such as the Police sending for dog-handlers rather than emergency services with fence-cutting equipment. Anne Williams, who lost her fifteen year old son, Kevin, at Hillsborough describes the actions of the Liverpool fans that day as “heroic”, young untrained men trying to save the lives of the dead and injured, whilst trained Police Officers formed a cordon to keep fans off the pitch, and turned away ambulance-men armed with life-saving equipment.
Nobody has ever been held accountable in a British Courtroom for the events of that day, and the cover-up around Hillsborough continues. Anne received £3500 compensation for the loss of her young son whilst former police sergeant Martin Long received about one hundred times that amount for the Post Traumatic Stress he received whilst carrying out his duties.
In the fifteenth season since the disaster, the dead, bereaved and survivors of Hillsborough still fight for Justice. There has to be some accountability for the death of ninety-six people, even if the authorities see them as merely football fans, in 1989 the lowest of the low. It appears increasingly likely that the fight for Justice will never be resolved in a British Courtroom and will reach its ultimate destination in the European Courts, but the people of Merseyside and the fans of Liverpool Football Club will not let the fight for “The Truth” go away.
Justice is a complex notion, it can mean so much on so many different levels. It is not something which is black and white, justice is the truth of Hillsborough and Justice is a struggle. It will not be achieved overnight, but it will be achieved, and it is only through truth and accountability that it can be achieved.
History of Liverpool Football Club
Liverpool's rivals Everton were formed in 1878 by John Houlding, a local businessman and future mayor of Liverpool.
They began playing at Anfield Road, a field rented from a brewer named John Orrell. As Everton became more established Houlding began to build football stands at Anfield Road. However, after a dispute in 1892 the club split into two groups. One group decided to move over to Goodison Park, while Houlding and a few others remained at Anfield Road, and adopted the name Liverpool Football Club. His friend John McKenna was appointed manager, and he went to Scotland to recruit players. After their first year McKenna decided it was time to apply for entrance into the Football League.
Despite winning promotion to the first division in their first year in the league, they continued in the shadow of neighbours Everton, with many local people refusing to watch a team of Scotsmen. They struggled in their first season, and were relegated to division two. McKenna swore that the club would be back in the top flight within twelve months, and their drive and determination won them the second division title, and promotion to division one. This time they finished a credible fifth, higher than rivals Everton.
They won their first championship in 1900/01, but were again relegated two years later. After another year in the second division they bounced back up and immediately won their second championship in 1904/05. As a reward the directors built the legendary Spion Kop for the fans. Named after a hill in Natal where a Merseyside regiment suffered heavy losses in the Boer War. Three hundred died in a vain attempt to lift the siege of Ladysmith, many of them Liverpool lads. "Spion Kop" means "vantage point" in Afrikaans. In 1928 the stand was extended and roofed, providing cover for 30,000 fans.
Liverpool won two more championship titles after World War I, but hit poor form following World War II, despite being runner up to Arsenal in the FA Cup final of 1950. They came last in division one in 1953/54, and were relegated. After several bad years Bill Shankly came to the rescue. He was appointed manager in 1959, and over the next fourteen years turned Liverpool into the greatest club in English football. In his first twelve months he sold twenty four players. By 1963/64 they won their sixth championship, and the following year added the FA Cup to their list of titles, beating Leeds in the final. They continued their run of success with another league title in 1965/66.
It was another seven years before they won another cup, this time the UEFA Cup in 1972/73, followed by the FA Cup again in 1973/74. Shankly then surprisingly called it a day, handing over the managerial role to his right-hand man Bob Paisley. It wasn't long before he won silverware, taking the league championship and UEFA cup in his second season, 1975/76. Next year they just missed out on the treble, winning the League and beating Borussia Moenchengladbach in the European Cup, but losing 2-1 to Manchester United in the FA Cup final. They became the first British club to retain the European Cup, beating FC Bruge 1-0 in the final of 1977/78. Two successive League titles followed in 1978/79and 1979/80. 1981 was another great season for the club, winning the first of four consecutive League Cup titles and beating Real Madrid to win the European Cup for a third time. Two more successive League titles followed in 1981/82 and 1982/83, before Paisley resigned. During his nine years in charge he won the Manager of the Year award six times.
Joe Fagan took over as manager and in his first season they won their third consecutive League title, the League Cup and the European Cup, beating AC Roma on Italian soil. The following year disaster struck. During the European Cup final against Juventus at the Heysel stadium, rioting broke out. A wall collapsed killing 38 Juventus fans. The game was won by Juventus, but more importantly English clubs were given an indefinite ban from European football.
Kenny Dalglish became player-manager in 1986, winning the League and FA Cup in his first season in charge. They won the League again in 1987/88, but just missed out on a second double when beaten by Wimbledon in the FA Cup final. 1988/89 was the worst season in the history of Liverpool Football Club. During the FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough 96 Liverpool fans were killed as the Lepping Lane stand became overcrowded. They went on to win the semi-final, and met Everton in an emotional final at Wembley. Both sets of fans were as one, singing 'You'll Never Walk Alone' and observing a one minute silence before the start of the game. Liverpool won the game 3-2, with substitute Ian Rush scoring two late goals. They should have won the League title in the same year, with challengers Arsenal needing to win by two clear goals at Anfield. With Arsenal winning 1-0, Michael Thomas scored in injury time to steal the title, and ruin Liverpool's chances of another double. Dalglish resigned in 1991, blaming stress for his shock exit.
Ronnie Moran became caretaker manager, before Graeme Souness took over in April 1991. He bough a host of new players, but his strict managerial style was unpopular and failed to recreate the success of previous years. Much of the problems surrounding the club today stem from the Souness era.
Roy Evans took over and immediately won the League Cup in his first full season in charge in 1995. Despite building an exciting team of young players, many from the youth team he failed to win major trophies. Fans and directors demanded success and in 1998 brought in Frenchman Gerard Houllier in a joint managerial role with Evans. The shared job proved unsuccessful, and Evans backed down after only three months of the new season, ending a 35 year association with the club.
Houllier went on to develop the squad by bringing in relatively unknown players and was not undeterred by criticism from the media as the Liverpool style became more defensive. He was rewarded with five trophies in 2001 as Liverpool remained unbeaten in all cup competitions that season and qualified for the Champions League.
The following season saw Liverpool make a serious challenge for the Premiership, while also putting in a good debut performance in the Champions League, reaching the quarter-finals only to be beaten by Bayer Leverkusen, who went on to the final.
Illness to Gerard Houllier left Phil Thompson in charge for much of the season, but his Boot Room background gave him the ability to keep the club ticking over in the Frenchamn's absence. Liverpool went on to finish runners-up to Arsenal in the Premiership and once again qualified for the Champions League, although this turned out to be the high point of Houllier's period in charge.
After narrowly qualifying for the Champions League by finishing fourth, way behind Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United, in the 2003/04 season the board decided it was time for a change. Rafael Benitez was the man earmarked for job and Houllier agreed to move on.
Benitez had turned Valencia into a force in Spanish football and, more importantly, done it on a shoestring. He won a league and UEFA Cup double in 2003/04 and in his first season in charge at Valencia he led the club to their first La Liga title for 31 years.
He didn't waste much time bringing in his own backroom staff and relieving Phil Thompson, Sammy Lee and Joe Corrigan of their duties. Suddenly Liverpool started playing attacking, pass-and-move football again, pleasing both the supporters and the critics and showing promise for the future and it wasn't long before they became European Champions, beating AC Milan in the most exciting Champions League final in the history of the game.
The investment of new owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett puts pressure on Benitez to succeed in the Premiership and only time will tell if he is up to the challenge.