30 Years - Part One “Decline of a Dynasty”
At the time of writing, Liverpool are on the verge of collecting their first league title in 30 years and their first ever Premier league title. When Liverpool last lifted the then First Division championship, it was inconceivable that they would need to wait such a long time before they would again reach these heights. It raises the question, “Why have Liverpool not won the title?”. There is no one answer to this question, rather a combination of factors, Liverpools journey back to the summit of English football has been arduous and littered with success and failures. This article will take a walk through the first stages of their journey, the decline of the dynasty.
The 1980s are synonymous with Liverpool dominance. Twice Liverpool were European champions in this decade and six league titles complimented this success, not to mention a further two FA Cups. The 1989 - 1990 campaign saw Liverpool ease to another league title by nine points over Aston Villa. This would be their last league title to date.
The title winning side of 1990 boasted club legends such as Alan Hansen, Ray Houghton and Bruce Grobbelaar. These players however were beginning to decline and would shortly leave the club, if Liverpool were to be successful they would need to invest in youth and rebuild. Liverpool chairman John Smith addressed this in 1990, he stated the importance on continuity with their successful past and evolution, he dubbed it “The Liverpool way”. Smith placed great belief in tradition at the club and he will have envisioned that club legend and player-manager Kenny Dalglish oversee the rebuilding process. However, midway through the 1990 - 1991, Dalglish suddenly left the club, citing personal reasons.
The rebuild was not off to an ideal start, not long after Dalglish announced his departure, club captain Alan Hansen retired following battles with injury. The cornerstones that built the club were beginning to crumble.
Liverpool did remain competitive however under the leadership of caretaker boss Ronnie Moran who remained in charge until Liverpool were able to permanently appoint Graeme Souness late in the season. The season would ultimately be classified as a failure, Liverpool finished second in the league and Cup campaigns resulted in early exits.
The squad Souness inherited was past their best, he would need to build a new backbone in order to remain competitive. In the years following Souness’s appointment he brought in Dean Saunders to replace Peter Beardsley, he also added the likes of Paul Stewart, Nigel Clough and Julian Dicks to his squad, all of whom underwhelmed. To his credit he prominently featured new talent such as a young Jamie Redknapp and local boy Steve McManaman. It was the transfer dealings however that would come to define the Souness years.
The early 90s rebuild that Liverpool hoped would invigorate the aging squad simply did not succeed. A single FA Cup triumph in 1992 was the only silverware of Souness’s reign at Anfield. Liverpool slipped down the table as bitter rivals Manchester United took their place in the foreground of English football. The legends that had defined the Liverpool sides of the 80s were replaced by journeymen and busts. Souness would resign in 1994.
The period that would follow was to be defined by a young and brash group of players, a new Liverpool for a more modern game. The road to another title would go on a while longer, enter “The Spice Boys”.......