In January 2010, times were difficult here. Out of the European Cup in the group phase with a game to spare, and unrest brewing on and off the pitch, it wasn't a very Happy New Year. A snowbound Anfield postponed the home game against Spurs, and we couldn't deal with Reading in the FA Cup, even after a replay. Unirea Urziceni dropped out of the European Cup to face us at Anfield in the UEFA Cup. It wasn't a mouth watering draw, and it took 80 minutes to make the breakthrough. We found the away leg more comfortable, but comfort was scarce to find at home. A win over Portsmouth papered over the cracks before the trip to the toilet, with the usual result at the time.
After progressing through the UEFA Cup, we reached the semi finals and a trip to Madrid. Then just as we thought we had enough problems to deal with, a volcano in Iceland blew up, grounding all air travel for a week. With a Monday night win at home to West Ham in the bag, everyone had to find a scenic route to Madrid. The train to London, the connecting trains to Paris and Bordeaux, where it was time for a press conference held at about 200kph. Sanity returned in Bordeaux for the flight to Madrid. The game was less eventful, an early goal in a 0-1 loss was the third straight loss in Europe, giving us plenty to do at home. The second leg saw Aquilani emerge from obscurity and Benayoun give us the lead in extra time. A final against Hodgson and Fulham awaited, until Atletico nicked an away goal, and that was us out of Europe for the second time in 6 months. The following Sunday, we all had to examine our conscience as to what we really wanted against Chelsea. A win would hand over our title record to the mancs. A loss would end our top 4 hopes, which duly happened, as the team packed it in after going 0-2 down. The last game at Hull passed everyone by, and 3 weeks later Benitez was out.
For the first time in 6 years, there was white smoke around the place, Roy Hodgson arrived here, as the Manager Of The Year and UEFA Cup Finalist. What we got was an appointment that just didn't work. Our star summer signing, Joe Cole, arrived on a free. Within 45 minutes of the first game of the season, he was sent off. Ngog got our season up and running, only for Reina to get a strain of the butterfingers late in the game. A sobering loss at City summed up the underwhelming start to the season. There was no improvement in September, as draws against Birmingham and Sunderland kept the fans restless. And then there was Northampton. A League Cup home game should have been a straight forward win, and it was seen as such a formality that there was no tv coverage. They all missed a new low. A scrambled equaliser late on brought us back on level terms at 2-2. Still, surely the penalty shoot out would end the madness. Except it didn't, and out we went at the first hurdle.
By October, unrest became revolt. Amid protests outside the ground and threats of administration looming, we took on Blackpool, going into it in 16th place. We would have to wait a bit longer though for the penny to drop, as the embarrassing loss that resulted, exacerbated the situation.
The boardroom issue finally resolved, we went over to the neighbours looking for a bounce. But there's nothing like a turgid loss over there, for anarchy to take hold. Roy just didn't get us, and try as hard as we might, we didn't get him. A modest improvement brought a 7 game unbeaten run in all competitions, with a win at home to the reigning champions the highlight. But within 3 days, we dropped 2 points at Wigan, and meltdown returned. As the away losses piled up, Roy lost what was left of the fanbase. Despite qualifying from the UEFA Cup group in Bucharest with a game to spare, the calls for him to go grew on a daily basis. Relatively good home form meant that by the time we faced Wolves at Christmas, everyone expected 3 more points, even if some didn't want it. They got what they wanted though, as the unbeaten home run ended, and we were 12th in the league, 6 points above the drop. When he lashed out at the fans by the end of the evening, the end was nigh. It came 10 days later after another bout of travel sickness, when FSG finally pulled the plug, 6 months into a 3 year contract.
There was no danger of the new man not getting us or vice versa. I say new, but actually it was the next man getting the job. Dalglish was back in the hot seat, and his first game was an easy one, mancs away in the cup. Within 5 minutes, Howard Webb had given them a penalty and half an hour later he dismissed Gerrard. Out of the cup again in Round 1, the next league game was at Blackpool. It was our turn to take the early lead, but it wasn't enough in the end. Blackpool are long gone from the league, but remain one of the few teams we haven't beaten at the highest level. As his last home game in charge was against Everton, it was appropriate that his next home game was against Everton. A Kuyt penalty salvaged a 2-2 draw.
As time went on, things improved somewhat, but were still mixed. Luis Suarez arrived, Andy Carroll followed him for a club record fee. Kenny had his first European tie in charge, but the Road to Dublin hit a road block against eventual finalists Braga. With 2 games remaining, one win would be enough to secure European football next year. What we got was 2 defeats and a massive rebuilding job to get underway.
The new season saw someone called Jordan Henderson start the campaign at home to Sunderland. An early lead was cancelled out, but our first win at Arsenal in 11 years followed, and we were top of the table by the end of August. What could possibly go wrong? A 0-4 and 9 men loss at Spurs was a reality check. Norwich nicked a point here, Fulham nicked 3 points from us. Lucas picked up a ACL in the League Cup, Suarez picked up a 9 game ban as a Christmas gift from the FA. With a title challenge long since abandoned, 2012 promised more mediocrity.
The first game of the ban followed within hours of it taking effect, a trip to City. The 0-3 loss wasn't a hopeful sign for the League Cup semi final there the following week, but Gerrard scored an early penalty for the win going into the return leg, where a 2-2 draw sent us back to Anfield South for the final. Cardiff were up for it and took an early lead. Having got back into the game and a winning position, we couldn't hold out, and penalties were needed again. The standard of penalties from both sides left much to be desired, but we got there in the end, and the 6 year trophy famine was over. The downside was, the team dozed through the rest of the league campaign which petered out, though the FA Cup was another route back to Anfield South, with a bonus trip thrown in for a derby in the Cup semi final. As usual we won, and after no sign of the place for 16 years, we were there 3 times in 3 months. The final didn't go quite as well this time, and with the league season abandoned, FSG started to ring the changes. The net was tightening on Kenny, and he was summoned to Boston to be sacked.
Brendan Rodgers was the man they wanted next up. As Brendan initially turned them down, others were lined up instead, one or two even headed to Boston, which was a bit of a wasted trip once Rodgers accepted the job. His time began in calamitous fashion, with a heavy 10 man loss at West Brom. Still, a draw at home to City offered fresh hope. It didn't last, and we would spend the rest of the season hobbling around in mid table. Topping the UEFA Cup group after Hendo's winner at Udinese did little to transform the season.
Not much changed as the New Year dawned. Suarez took the law into his own hands to win the cup tie at Mansfield, though the commentator for the host broadcaster took it badly, and was read the riot act. We didn't make much more progress however, as Oldham was too big a hurdle in the next round and questions were been asked of Brendan. Carragher gave his own verdict by refusing the offer of a new contract, to announce he was packing it in. He then made the mistake that put St. Petersburg through on away goals. Suarez took it badly, and we would never see him playing for us in Europe again. The season spluttered along, with great comeback wins at home to Spurs, swiftly followed by insipid 0-0 draws at home to West Ham. The last derby for Carra was an academic 0-0 draw, before he made his final appearance at home to QPR. It was my first home game in 7 years, and it was the last game without goalline technology. Which we needed 3 minutes in, with a goal well over the line, not given. We won 1-0 against the already relegated side, but it wasn't just Carra's last game, several others would join him out the door, most notably Reina.
So a new goalkeeper was unveiled to us all. Another one from Sunderland. Migs made his mark on Day 1, saving a late penalty in a tight win against Stoke. In fact, it would be 4 games before he would concede at all. Once one went in though, another 49 would follow over the season. Lovren got the winner for Southampton here. But wins against the mancs and big wins against the cannon fodder at home, finally saw Brendans project motoring. November though was the fly in the windowsill, with just 4 points taken from 3 games, and the year ended with back to back defeats at City and Chelsea. It was a time when you could go from 1st to 5th in the table and back again in a couple of weeks.
A routine win over Hull got us back on track. Then we went to Stoke. The place has been a graveyard for LFC since 1984, but thanks to a "Spanish Penalty", we finally dug a 5-3 win out of there. With us losing further ground in the title race at home to Villa, a miracle was needed to challenge for the title. Still, Everton were next up at home, and they were dismantled in half an hour. The 4-0 walkover kickstarted our challenge. That was too long by comparison, to the next home game v Arsenal, where we were 4 up in 20 minutes. And the goals kept stacking up. Another 4 against Swansea, 4 against Spurs, 6 against Cardiff, 3 each against Southampton, City, Norwich, and the mancs. With the rivals slipping on banana skins, an 11 game winning streak brought about a home game against Chelsea, and a chance to settle a score after losing the return fixture. Unfortunately we never got going and no luck went our way. The week long break before the trip to Palace, gave us plenty of thought of how many goals we needed. When we went 3-0 up, we didn't celebrate, just got the ball back to the centre spot, and a first win away to Pulis was sealed. Then one deflection later and the can of worms opened up. The much anticipated home game v Newcastle dissolved into a damp squib. But we got a lot more points than most expected back in August.
Suarez had seen enough, and we never recovered. The following season was a Chelsea walkover, and we couldn't keep pace. The European Cup nights returned, but one win in the group was not enough to qualify. A year that promised so much, and entertained a lot, petered out.
Gerrard scored two penalties on New Year's Day, but we couldn't beat Leicester at home. He promptly dropped the bombshell that it would be his last season. Chelsea were taken to extra time in the League Cup semis, but we fell just short. It ended up as yet another fight for a top 4 spot, and it failed again. Steven packed up his tent, and the team took the last day dead rubber at Stoke off.
The knives were out for Brendan before the football resumed at Stoke. Everyone was switched on however, and Coutinho scored a fantastic winner. After 3 games we were back on top, and we thought last year was a blip. It was another month before we won again, and Brendan's press conferences became more erratic. The end when it came was after a hard earned point across the road. Despite been 6 games unbeaten, it was not enough to keep him in the job, and he was sacked over the phone.
Jürgen came in and stretched the unbeaten
run to another 6 games. He was limited in what he could do, as the team could be fantastic one game and pub standard the next, so much so that a draw at home to West Brom was celebrated like a win. Bogdan made his first appearance at Watford, and made a mistake inside 2 minutes, on one of the worst pitches I've ever seen. Obviously it didn't go well, and the year ended with a mounting hamstring injury list.
A transitional team got transitional results. West Ham was too difficult a task in the league and Cup. The trip to Norwich had everything except coolness and composure. We won 5-4 in injury time. Villa were dismantled 6-0 on their own patch. We hammered the mancs at home, yet still lost. We made the League Cup Final, but couldn't win it again. 2-0 up at home to Newcastle who had lost their last 10 away games, but they still ended up with a point. Europe was the main highlight, as the mancs were swept aside and Dortmund went all the way to the wire. It mattered little in the end, when Seville won the trophy again. With the season over, the rebuilding work got underway on and off the pitch.
The football began with 3 straight away games, and an away win at Arsenal was followed by a loss at Burnley. Our first home game was in September at home to Leicester. The new stand meant a new tunnel, a new tier, and a new camera angle, the first one since 1972. But at home at least, the year ended with a derby win and a win against City. Fortress Anfield was back.
January and Klopp though don't usually get on well. A title challenge faded away, and both cups went by the wayside. But the top 4 was still on and despite a few setbacks, we beat Arsenal to it by one point. Rarely has one point made such a difference in a club's fortunes. We've kicked on, and Arsenal, well we know what has happened to them.
The defensive issues dominated the early part of the following season, and clean sheets were hard to find. By October, the title was over, and Europe returned slowly with 2 early draws. We could win 7-0 one game, then lose a 3 goal lead the next. With Klopp's record compared unfavourably to Rodgers, the away game at Spurs was the straw that broke the camels back. With calls growing for him to be sacked, something had to change.
At home to a toothless Huddersfield, the comeback began. 48 minutes and 1 missed penalty later, the first goal was scored, and we've never looked back since.
January opened with all eyes on the home game v City. After the last game, we had business to finish. A 10 minute blitz had us 4-1 up. The ending was a bit more nervous, but the business was finished.
And then it was off to Swansea, for VVD's league debut. We lost and the result was used as ammo against us every time we looked like we might start making progress. Despite thrashing Porto in their own backyard, City were expected to take us down a peg or two in the quarter finals. They were still the bookies favourites, despite their away record here and no European Cup wins. We were 3-0 up in half an hour, and thrashed them 5-1 on aggregate. Another 5 goal haul was scored in the next round against Roma, with them all coming in 36 minutes. Then things started unravelling. With 10 minutes to go, we had a dangerous 7-4 lead, and it went all the way to the wire, but a 7-6 win was the most amount of goals in a semi final, and sent us off to Kiev. Having secured our spot in next year's competition, we headed East full of confidence, which lasted half an hour before we headed back home full of regrets.
With Alisson in goal, we kicked on further, going the rest of the year unbeaten, beating the mancs at home for the first time in 5 years, and top of the tree at Christmas. This was finally going to be the year.
We took our 7 point lead to City, looking to maintain it at least, but nothing went our way. Goalline technology went against us, they should have had a red card, but we still headed to Brighton with a healthy lead, which we extended after playing Leicester at home. Within a week, the advantage was gone, and after another frustrating derby across the road, we had to play catch up. We gave it everything, but nobody helped us out. So the wait goes on.
Beyond the pressure cooker of the EPL, we looked elsewhere for success. Barcelona arrived here cruising the European Cup semifinal. With just one of the front three available, the task looked hopeless. It was time for others to step up. The deficit was wiped out in less than an hour thanks to our Dutch and Belgian duo. By the time TAA won the decisive corner, they were so frazzled by the atmosphere, that even basic things such as marking Origi at corners were too much for them. All the talent on the pitch, and it was a goal straight out of Stanley Park. That was enough to finish the job. Most of us jumped for joy, but I had an ankle injury at the time and could barely get up, let alone jump around with everyone else.
Within 2 minutes of the final in Madrid, we were ahead and never looked back. Since then we have become World Champions. It's a long way from that game at Reading, but we head into the new decade in a far better place than we were back then.
What will the 20's bring? Hopefully a smoother and more successful journey for us all.