The Reds of Merseyside

Liverpool F.C., often simply known as ‘The Reds’, are one of the most decorated and prestigious clubs both in England and Europe and boast a proud, rich history since their inception in 1892. The Merseyside club has amassed a huge collection of trophies over the years, highlights of which include eighteen League titles, seven F.A. Cups, five Champions League wins, 3 UEFA Cup trophies and eight League Cups. The club has become synonymous with the song and phrase, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, a tradition which begun in the sixties after Liverpool-based band Gerry and the Pacemakers had chart success with the song. The tune quickly caught on at Anfield and remains a permanent feature of the club’s games to this day. Liverpool have two fierce, long-standing rivalries with other local clubs, the first of which is with fellow Merseyside residents Everton and the other being with Manchester United, a rivalry which emerged out of the two clubs’ continued success, as well as their relative proximity. Both fixtures are known to be highly passionate and combative affairs both for the players and the fans. Liverpool’s famous badge is based on the liver bird, the symbol of the city, and although there have been various redesigns over the years to include other iconic images such as the Shankly gates and the flames to commemorate those who died in the Hillsborough disaster, the current badge is remarkably similar to the first incarnation, with the bird taking centre stage.

Formation and Entry Into the Football League

Liverpool F.C. was founded by John Houlding who was at that time the club president of Everton as well as the owner of Anfield, where the Toffees were then based. After an argument between Houlding and the rest of the Everton committee, the club relocated to their current home of Goodison Park and Houlding decided to form his own football team to take residence at Anfield and thus Liverpool F.C. was born. Because of the circumstances surrounding their birth, Liverpool were first seen sporting blue and white shirts similar to Everton but it didn’t take long for them to make the switch to the famous Red they continue to wear proudly to this day. A year after their founding, Liverpool joined the second tier of the Football League and were immediately successful, quickly gaining promotion to the First Division. The Reds’ first League title came in 1901, with a second following five years later, establishing Liverpool’s first taste of the league dominance they would later experience. After this initial glory, it would take the Anfield side until 1922 to pick up another league title but as before, the trophies came in pairs with Liverpool also winning the First Division in 1923 – the club’s first back-to-back titles. Although they experienced plenty of success at league level during this era, the Reds struggled when it came to cup competitions, falling at the final hurdle on several occasions.

Brief Decline and The Shankly Era

Despite winning another League title in 1947, Liverpool were unable to achieve sustained success and suffered the embarrassment of relegation in 1954 – the first demotion in the club’s history. The decline at Merseyside continued, reaching a nadir with an F.A. Cup exit to a non-league side. In order to reverse the club’s fortunes, a new manager was appointed in the guise of future Liverpool legend, Bill Shankly. Shankly made a host of sweeping changes to the set-up at Anfield including the introduction of a more tactics-based approach and significant alterations to the playing staff. The measures were immediately successful and Shankly led Liverpool back to the First Division in the 1961/62 season. The upward trend didn’t stop there however, and two seasons later, Liverpool would once again claim a League trophy, swiftly followed by their first F.A. Cup victory the next year.

Seventies and Eighties Glory

The Shankly era ended on a high with another League title, an F.A. Cup victory and Liverpool’s first taste of European glory in the form of the UEFA Cup but inevitably, Bill Shankly retired from football in 1974, having already secured his place in the club’s history and was succeeded by his assistant Bob Paisley. It didn’t take long for Paisley to adopt his former colleague’s winning ways and the new manager swiftly delivered another League and UEFA Cup double in 1976 but went even further the following year when he led the Reds to their first European Cup – now known as the Champions League. During this period, Liverpool made history when they became the first club in England to have a company’s logo on their shirts as a sponsor. The company was Japanese electronics firm Hitachi and soon after, shirt sponsors would become a common feature of football kits in all leagues across the country. Paisley’s time in charge of Liverpool would prove incredibly fruitful, bringing the club a total of three European Cups, six First Division victories and three League Cups. For the first time, Liverpool F.C. were able to build a period of sustained success in all competitions and through a variety of managers such as Joe Fagan and Kenny Dalglish. Tragically, the eighties not only saw Liverpool achieve massive success on the pitch but also brought two horrific incidents that would haunt the world of football forever. The first occurred in 1985 during a European match against Juventus at the Heysel Stadium when, after aggressive behaviour from both English and Italian fans, the Liverpool section of the crowd rushed towards their Juventus counterparts and breached one of the stadium’s fences. Both Juventus and Liverpool had expressed concern prior to the fixture about the Heysel Stadium being unsuitable for such a large match and their fears proved well founded, as the confrontation resulted in a large number of fans being crushed against a concrete wall as spectators struggled to escape the violence and rioting. In total, thirty-nine football fans lost their lives in the disaster, with a further six hundred sustaining injuries. The second disaster occurred four years later at Hillsborough during a match against Nottingham Forest that saw ninety six fans tragically lose their lives. This incident occurred due to mass overcrowding within the stadium, exacerbated by decisions made by the match’s police presence. Although initial blame was placed upon the supporters, recent inquiries have proven otherwise, vindicating Liverpool fans completely.

Managerial Struggles and Gradual Decline

After a brief slump under the charge of Dalglish’s successors Graeme Souness and Roy Evans, Frenchman Gérard Houllier was hired and he promptly restored Liverpool to their place at the top of English football, winning the Cup Treble in 2001. Unfortunately, although Liverpool continued to find success within cup competition, glory in the Premier League eluded them and this trend continued into the appointment of new manager Rafa Benítez who, although revered by fans for a further Champions League trophy in 2005, still struggled in the League and eventually left the club after a seventh placed finish. Benítez’s sacking would, however, spark further decline at Anfield during a time of managerial instability that saw Roy Hodgson, Kenny Dalglish and Brendan Rodgers all take the reins with varying degrees of fortune but none could return the sense of prestige and dominance that was felt at Liverpool during the eighties. In spite of this, several key players rose to prominence during this era that would go on to become bona fide club legends, namely Steven Gerard, Jamie Carragher and to a lesser extent, Fernando Torres who would cause controversy by leaving Anfield for Chelsea in a huge January transfer. Eventually, after a spate of changes both on the pitch and in the dugout, Liverpool F.C. found itself under the guidance of widely-respected and much sought after German manager Jürgen Klopp, previously of Borussia Dortmund. Although Klopp’s tenure is still in its early stages, he appears to have restored the feel good factor at Anfield with a series of impressive results and attractive, attacking performances.