Part 14 - A Quarter of a Century of Liverpool FC in the Premier League Era, 1992-2017
Darkest Nights and False Dawns
As the turmoil surrrounding the ownership of Liverpool FC finally headed towards its seemingly inevitable descent towards the courtroom, events on the pitch, including a managerial sacking and contorversial - to put it mildly - new appointment seemed to be on a parallel downward spiral.
Originally written by TTT Subscriber Anthony Stanley, this major series was first 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.
Covering the period from the onset of the Premier League in 1992 to Klopp’s arrival in 2017, 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.
The autumn and winter months of 2010 will never be remembered fondly by any Liverpool fans. Indeed, excluding the twin H-bombs of Heysel and Hillsborough, there was probably never a more depressing time to call yourself a Red, and certainly not since the formation of the Premier League. Even the frustration and relative fallowness of the Souness years paled in comparison with those dark months. Atypically for the terraces of Anfield, with a crowd mobilised further, if not in unity, then certainly in a common cause of hatred for the owners of the club, by October the new Liverpool manager was being castigated mercilessly as he haplessly rubbed his face and made vainglorious excuses. Results on the pitch plummeted to new lows while affairs away from the actual football were equally depressing as the club’s very existence was briefly threatened.
Despite retaining a hugely loyal cadre of fans, Rafa Benítez had also become a divisive figure on the terraces by the summer of 2010 and had lost the support of two of the most influential members of the playing squad. With the toxic friction that was the Spaniard’s relationship with an increasingly convoluted board room, and following a disappointing campaign that had seen the Reds finish seventh in the Premier League, Benítez was never going to survive the chop. On June 3rd Liverpool announced that he would leave the club ‘by mutual consent.’ Recently appointed chairman, Martin Broughton, who would now be tasked with finding a replacement as his bosses sought to sell the club, said:
“Rafa will forever be part of Liverpool folklore after bringing home the Champions League following the epic final in Istanbul, but after a disappointing season both parties felt a fresh start would be best for all concerned.”
This less than ebullient and effusive epitaph was emblematic of the corrosively erroneous view of Benítez that was held by many within the media and, evidently, those within the corridors of power at Anfield. He had taken a club on its knees and made them the most feared side in Europe within the space of a few years. Dion Fanning, writing in The Independent, prophetically declared that Liverpool supporters would look back at the Spaniard’s tenure as a golden age and, even though there was a deeply fractured fan base during his reign, few Reds with even a smattering of footballing knowledge would now dispute this prescient prediction.
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