A Quarter of a Century of Liverpool FC in the Premier League Era, 1992-2017, Part 6
The sixth instalment of this major new series on Dynasty looks at Gérard Houulier’s time in sole charge of Liverpool FC.
Originally a series of articles covering the period 1992 to Klopp’s arrival in 2017, it was written by TTT Subscriber Anthony Stanley, serialised on The Tomkins Times and then published by TTT as a book called A BANQUET WITHOUT WINE - A Quarter-Century of Liverpool FC in the Premier League Era.
The book is available from https://www.amazon.co.uk/Banquet-Without-Wine-Quarter-Century-Liverpool/dp/1521850674. It remains a definitive matter of record of Liverpool FC during the period in question.
Most people had never heard of the club, let alone the player.
Willem II, an obscure Dutch club.
A Finnish defender with two ‘y’s in his surname.
There was a collective shrug of the shoulders throughout Liverpool and beyond when Sami signed, and a general air of ‘who’?
Within a few months, this titan in the heart of the Reds defence was getting comparisons with legendary stoppers from Liverpool’s history.
But – and this has entered Reds’ folklore – we were fortunate to get the Finn, and it was not down to Gérard Houllier’s extensive European knowledge. Peter Robinson tells the story:
“It was midway through the 1998/99 season when there was a knock on the door of my office at Anfield”, Robinson said. “I had never met the chap. He came in and introduced himself as a cameraman who covered football in Europe. He knew we were looking for a strong defender and recommended we take a look at Sami, who was playing for Willem, one of the smaller Dutch clubs. That is how it all started. I passed the message on to Gérard and, over the next few months, members of the staff went to Holland to watch him on several occasions.”
Hyypiä signed for the Reds on 19th May 1999 for a bargain £2.5 million, and would go on to represent Liverpool with distinction for the next decade, winning everything apart from that elusive Premier League title and writing himself into Anfield mythology.
The signing of the gifted Finn was emblematic of the new Houllier modus operandi; the European model of player, rather than home-grown, was now the order of the day. The Liverpool manager – in the summer of 1999, now looking forward to his first season in sole charge – had identified the need to shore up a leaky defence as one of paramount importance if the Reds were to begin to be rebuilt as a genuine Premier League force. The exuberance and thrilling but ultimately brittle days of Evans’ teams would be a thing of the past as the new French manager would implement a counter‐attacking style that could be devastating on its day but also have the capacity to veer into sterile territory.
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