Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Perfection - 13.04.1988

Once in a while a team hits its peak.  For me the Liverpool of the 1980's did that on the 13th of April 1989.

As we build up to another Premier League season I can only dream that my club will produce anything close to the way they played that night.  I have never seen them play better, nor seen any other club or National side get close.  (I am very biased about that, obviously.  But don't let that stop you arguing with me.)  The closest to it I've see was last season.  Real Madrid 2 Barcelona 6.  Barca were outstanding that night, but they did let in a couple...

You can watch the goals on YouTube if you want, but that's not really a reflection of how well Liverpool played.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Every supporter of every club will have a moment like it.  A point in time that you can point to and say, that was it, that was the day that my club exceeded my expectations.  For Newcastle fans it's probably the 5-0 win over United at St James', for United fans (so many games to choose from) I'd pick the 3-2 win over Juve in the Champions League Semi Final of 1999 and smaller clubs too have their moments.

What was different on that night in 1989 was that Forest were a good side.  A good side that came to Anfield and played well.  They had chances but they just couldn't live with us.

We had a great year that season.  Two defeats in the League, loads of goals and all after we'd lost Rush to Juventus.  Dalglish had brought in Barnes, Beardsley and just before the end of the previous season Aldridge.  Later Houghton would join, check out his début goal against Wimbledon, it's extraordinary (if you can find footage of it anywhere let me know).  To say the four of them clicked with McMahon and Whelan (later replaced by Spackman after an injury that year) was an understatement.  At times we just destroyed teams.  The ball from Beardsley to Barnes out wide left and then crossed for Aldridge to bury would be repeated time after time.  But there were wonderful solo efforts too, particularly from Beardsley and Barnes as well as pile drivers from McMahon.

That squad for me was just the best Liverpool squad ever.  Sure you can cherry pick players from other eras and put together an all time squad that would maybe include none of them, apart from Barnes at his pomp and Hansen, but pound for pound they were the best I've seen.  Why?

Pass and move.  At all times.  When it's done well it's a joy to watch.  When it's done at pace with direct results and mixed up with long and short balls it's heaven to watch.  And it started at the back with Hansen, Gillespie and Nicol, all capable footballers.  Nicol in particular had an outstanding season bagging a hattrick against Newcastle.

So what happened that night?  Why so special?

We won 5-0.  And we played football at a level no team could have lived with for the whole ninety minutes.  Tom Finney, who was there that night, described it 'As one of the greatest exhibitions of football I've ever seen.'  And he'd seen a few matches.  I have it on VHS, I have nothing to play it on any more, but I do have it.

The 'beautiful game' has moved on a lot since then.  It's over twenty years ago.  But I dream of seeing a performance like that again, from any club, but most of all from Liverpool.  It was sublime.

Souness came along and ripped that squad to bits and we've spent the last twenty years recovering.  Sigh.  But King Kenny is back at the club this year and it would be nice if some of that old magic wore off on the current squad...

So why write about this today?  Convo on twitter (where else?) got me thinking about my favourite ever Liverpool squad and it sort of fits with yesterdays post in an '80's sense at least.  And I make no apologies for  football being a big part of my life, one day I'll get round to telling you about why that is, as previously promised.

I should clarify something though.  This was not a piece about the best game I've ever seen.  Again, that will be for another time.

So here's to beating Forest 5-0 at Anfield and to football teams, every once in a while, hitting perfection.  And cheers to @butterflygrrrl  and @Octaneflyer for the inspiration.