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Sunday, 23 June 2013

Liverpool: Will the title come back to Anfield before 2016?

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When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, Liverpool Football Club were the team to beat. They were kings, both at home and abroad, and nobody looked like threatening their dominance. Dalglish, Souness, Hansen, Keegan, Molby, Aldridge, Rush, Barnes, Beardsley had all pulled on the famous red jersey and could have walked into any team in the world.

With 18 league titles to their name, it looked as though they were going to dominant the football landscape for ever. But in February 1991 Kenny Dalglish resigned as manager and former captain Graeme Souness took over. And it all went downhill from then.

The fiery Scot may have been a great player at Anfield but his spell as manager was an absolute disaster. He sold top, but ageing, stars and failed to replace them with like-for-like quality. He brought in the likes of Mark Wright, Dean Saunders and Paul Stewart, and was involved in huge bust-ups with his players, backroom staff and former legends at the club. Souness tried to change too much, too soon, and the move spectacularly backfired on him.

Liverpool had gone from a side who never finished a league season outside of the top two under Kenny Dalglish to a team that could even finish higher than sixth. The only trophy Souness managed to deliver was the FA Cup in 1992.

Liverpool may have won the Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup over the past two decades, but the one trophy that has eluded them is the Premier League title.

1990 was the last time Liverpool were pronounced champions of England and during their barren spell fierce rivals Manchester United, under the stewardship of Sir Alex Ferguson, have taken their crown as kings with 20 league titles under their belts.

Manchester United, of course, went through their own bleak spell in the 70s and 80s, having to wait until the start of the Premier League era to end a 26-year gap before getting their hands on the title again. That success in 1993 spring-boarded the Red Devils to Premier League domination. 

The football landscape has changed considerably since Alan Hansen lifted aloft the Championship 23 years ago. The pitches are like bowling greens, the players are earning fortunes and every match is beamed around the world. Teams have now been replaced by squads and billionaires have taken control of the boardroom.

But can Liverpool end their barren title spell and become champions of England again before 2016?

From the outside it looks as though Brendan Rodgers is on the right path with Liverpool. He knows the style of football he wants his team to play and when it comes off it looks stunning - Newcastle 0-6 and Swansea 5-0 instantly spring to mind - but then there was a huge problem with consistency last season. They could beat Norwich 5-0 one week then eight days later go out of the FA Cup to Oldham, followed by draws away at Arsenal and Man City. 

Rodgers has already been active this summer, securing deals for former Arsenal and Man City defender Kolo Toure, Celta Vigo striker Iago Aspas, goalkeeper Mignolet and Seville youngster Luis Alberto. Combined with the January arrivals of Daniel Sturridge and Phillipe Coutinho and reports of bringing Armenian international Henrikh Mkhitaryan to the club suggest that Liverpool are definitely building for the future.

Luis Suarez appears to be burning all of his bridges at Anfield, even though the club have stood by the controversial striker through all of his misdemeanours, but he remains one of the Premier League's best additions. If Rodgers can convince him to stay then Liverpool will pose a real goal threat. But if he goes then Liverpool will be looking to pocket at least £40 million, with a proportion of that surely going back into Rodgers' war chest.

Liverpool are making great strides forward and Rodgers, who has still to win over some Liverpool fans, looks like he may be moulding a team that could challenge for major honours for years to come.

But can they overtake the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Man City and Arsenal in the race to become league champions and beat the time United spent in the football wilderness? We will have to wait and see. 

Calling all Liverpool fans: Manchester United had to wait 26 years between winning titles from 1967 to 1993. Are you confident that Liverpool can become champions of England again before 2016? Do you think Rodgers is taking the club forward? Where do you think the club will finish this season? Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.

Follow me on Twitter at @sqf_illingworth


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Antony Melvin



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