Liverpool FC are one of the most popular and successful football clubs in the world and now on June 3rd, we celebrate 129 years of Liverpool FC. Let’s take a look at their history, from the highs to the lows, from the wins to the disasters.
Liverpool FC were born, from the very beginning, as a rival against Everton. John Houlding was the president and owner of the land at Anfield, Liverpool’s current home ground. Originally, Everton was the team residing at Anfield but there was quickly a dispute.
Houlding was pushing the club to purchase land by floating Everton FC. Houlding would have made a tonne of money from this land deal, but the club wasn’t having any of it. The club members accused Houlding of trying to make a profit at the club’s expense, so in January 1892, the 279 club members met to discuss the matter.
That meeting didn’t go anywhere but they met again on 15th March 1892, and they decided they were done with Houlding’s crap. Everton FC decided they would leave Anfield and move to Goodison Park, their current home ground.
An empty football ground was all Houlding had now, so he thought he would make his own football team. He called it, Everton Athletic, possibly as a jab to his former club. But this giant middle finger to Everton didn’t work out as the Football Association wouldn’t allow them that name because it was too similar to Everton FC. So, Houlding named it Liverpool FC.
Now that the club had a name, they played their first game on 1st September 1892, a friendly match against Rotherham Town. Liverpool won 7-1. This was just a taste of what was to come.
In Liverpool’s debut season, they won the Lancashire League and shortly afterwards reached the Football League Second Division at the start of the 1893-94 season. Liverpool were then promoted to First Division in 1896 and Tom Watson was appointed the manager that same year.
Watson led Liverpool to their first League title in 1901 and then they went on to win it again in 1906. The club managed to reach their first FA Cup Final in 1914 but unfortunately lost 1-0 to Burnley.
Their success continued when Liverpool won two consecutive League championships in 1922 and 1923 but that would be the last taste of victory the club would have for some time. The club didn’t manage to win again until the 1946-47 season, but this success was also short lived.
During the 1953-54 season, Liverpool dropped to Second Division. This was already a demoralising moment but what made things worse was a 2-1 loss to a non-league team, Worcester City, in the 1958-59 FA Cup. Something had to be done because things were going from bad to worse. They brought on Bill Shankly as manager to remedy this.
The first thing Shankly did when he arrived was release 24 players and convert a boot storage room at Anfield into a room for discussions of strategy. The ‘Boot Room’, as it came to be called, was where Liverpool coaches and managers would reshape the team.
It paid off. In 1962, Liverpool was back into First Division, and they managed to win the League in 1964, their first championship in 17 years. Their success continued the following year when the club won their first FA Cup in 1965.
Their success continued into the 1970s. Liverpool won both the Football League First Division and the UEFA Cup in the 1972-73 season. After this, Shankly retired and was replaced by his assistant Bob Paisley.
While Shankly’s retirement was a blow for the club, Paisley was no slouch. In 1976, Paisley’s second season as manager, Liverpool won another League and UEFA Cup double. The following year, Liverpool retained the League title and won the European Cup for the very first time. They retained the European Cup in 1978 as well.
Paisley built on Shankly’s success and his tenure as manager was one of Liverpool’s most successful periods. During Paisley’s nine seasons as manager, the club won 20 trophies: 3 European Cups, a UEFA Cup, 6 League titles, 3 consecutive League Cups. The only domestic trophy Liverpool didn’t win was the FA Cup.
Things weren’t good, they were fantastic, and this success would follow the club into the 1980s, but it came with a terribly dark shadow.
Paisley retired in 1983 and Joe Fagan, his assistant, replaced him. During Fagan’s first season, Liverpool won the League, League Cup, and European cup. Liverpool was the first English side to win all three trophies in a season.
The club was riding high. They were one of the most popular and most successful teams in all of football. Their fans were rabid and immense, and it would all come to a head in 1985.
Liverpool had reached the European Cup final against Juventus at Heysel Stadium. It was a highly anticipated match. But disaster loomed.
Before kick-off, Liverpool fans breached a fence that separated Juventus supporters and Liverpool supporters. The Liverpool supporters charged the Juventus fans, cornering them against a retaining wall. The weight being pushed up against the wall caused it to collapse, killing 39 people, mostly Italians. Despite protests from both team’s managers, the match was continued. Liverpool lost 1-0.
The aftermath of this event was felt throughout football. Given that Liverpool fans were mostly to blame for what became known as the Heysel Stadium Disaster, English clubs were banned from participating in European competitions for five years. Liverpool themselves received a 10-year ban but that was eventually reduced to six years. 14 Liverpool fans received convictions for involuntary manslaughter. It was a dark day for the sport but unfortunately, it wouldn’t be the only one of the decade.
Just before the disaster, Fagan had announced his retirement and Kenny Dalglish was brought on as manager. Under Dalglish’s management, Liverpool won another three League titles and two FA Cups. During the 1985-86 season they managed to secure a League and Cup double.
Liverpool’s success would be overshadowed by another disaster in 1989. The Hillsborough Disaster occurred during an FA Cup final against Nottingham Forest. During the match, hundreds of Liverpool fans were crushed against the perimeter fencing of the stadium, killing 94 fans on the day. The 95th died from his injuries four days later, and the 96thdied four years later without ever waking up from his coma.
It was a travesty, and someone had to be blamed. The disaster initiated a government review of stadium safety in the UK. The resulting Taylor Report found that the main reason for the disaster was overcrowding due to a failure of police control. The Report thus paved the way for legislation that required all top-division teams to have all-seater stadiums.
It was hard on Dalglish. He has since stated that the Hillsborough disaster and its repercussions were the main reasons for his resignation in 1991. He was then replaced by Graeme Souness.
Liverpool started the decade strong with an FA Cup win in 1992 but that would be a high point for the whole decade. Their League performance was slipping. Over the next two seasons they finished in 6th place. This resulted in Souness being dismissed in 1994.
Roy Evans was brought on as manager and he helped the club win the 1995 Football League Cup Final. Evans also managed to pick up the team’s league performance with third place finishes in 1996 and 1998. Things were starting to pick up again, but Evans was beginning to tire. Gerard Houllier was appointed co-manager in the 1998-99 season and eventually became the sole manager in November 1998 after Evans resigned.
The New Millennium
While the 90s were a mostly disappointing affair for the club, the beginning of the new millennium started with a bang. In 2001, Houllier’s second season, Liverpool won a rare treble; the FA Cup, League Cup, and UEFA Cup.
The 2001-02 season went well for Liverpool with a second-place finish behind Arsenal. In 2003, Liverpool won another League Cup. But the next two seasons were disastrous for the club as they couldn’t achieve another result.
The club had thought maybe Houllier was the problem and replaced him with Rafael Benitez at the end of the 2003-04 season. Liverpool ultimately finished 5th, another poor showing for the club.
But it was only a minor dip. In the following 2004-05 season, Liverpool won the UEFA Champions League. Next year they came third in the Premier League and won the FA Cup Final.
During the 2008-09 season, a new personal best was achieved by Liverpool, they won 86 points in the Premier League, their highest Premier League points total. They still finished behind Manchester United, however.
Despite their moderate success during the 2000s, by 2010 the club was almost bankrupt. To save the club, it was sold to John W. Henry, the owner of the Boston Red Sox and the Fenway Sports Group. This decision has since been controversial especially considering the recent Super League debacle.
With the finances of the club sorted for the meantime, Dalglish was brought back on as manager in 2010. The 2011-12 season was a mixed bag. The club won another League Cup, they reached the FA Cup Final but lost, and they finished 8th place in the Premier League – their worst league finish in 18 years. As a result of this performance, Dalglish was fired.
Brendan Rodgers was brought on in order to increase morale and performance. The 2013-14 season brought an unexpected title charge for the Premier League, but they ultimately fell short and earned second place behind Manchester City. Liverpool also saw themselves return to the Champions League. Overall, they scored 101 goals in the season, the most they have scored since the 106 in the 1895-96 season.
These results were great, and people were excited to see Liverpool making yet another comeback, but it was not meant to be. A disappointing 2014-15 season saw Liverpool finish 6th in the Premier League, resulting in Rodgers being sacked in October 2015.
Rodgers was replaced by Jurgen Klopp, and Liverpool’s real comeback began. In Klopp’s first season, Liverpool reached the finals of the Football League Cup and the UEFA Europa League but unfortunately won neither. They may not have won but it was certainly a better placing than 6th.
The 2018-19 season saw Liverpool finish second in the Premier League with 97 points after losing only one game. This is a points record for non-title winning side. Klopp took the club to two successive Champions League finals in 2018 and 2019. While they were unsuccessful in 2018, the managed to win the Champions League final against Tottenham in 2019.
It wasn’t over. During the 2019-20 season, Liverpool won the Premier League. This was their first top-flight league title in 30 years! Liverpool set multiple records in this season: they won the League with seven games remaining – the earliest any team has ever won the title, set a club record of 99 points, and a joint-record 32 wins in a top-flight season.
It isn’t over for Liverpool FC and after 129 years, they are still surprising people. Here’s to another 129 years!