***In this series of blogs, OptaJoke member Carl McQueen goes ‘back to the future’ and utilising his selection of vintage Premier League Merlin Sticker Books, he’ll ‘preview’ a team’s chances for that forthcoming season…therefore written as if the season had only just begun, rather than looking back with hindsight and saying what a great/awful team it was…***
Blog originally dated August 19th 1994
So the third instalment of the F.A. Premiership kicks off tomorrow, and after two relatively dismal seasons, many would suggest Liverpool are overdue the moment they get their act together. Since taking over in January this year after a shock FA Cup exit at the hands of Bristol City saw Graeme Souness depart, Roy Evans has finally found himself as manager of the team he has been part of since 1965. First as a player and then as a coach, he’s personified dedication and hard work to now rule the roost at Anfield…but for how long? With previous tutelage from messrs Shankly, Paisley, Fagan & Dalglish, he’s certainly learnt from the best.
Liverpool needs to return to winning ways. An 8th place finish last season with 60 points, and a 6th place finish with just 59 points the season before that, suggests the club is becoming stagnant, but Evans and co have reason to be optimistic. The last league title they won was in 1990…the last time they went more than 5 years without topping the table was between 1967 & 1972. Not a record they want to replicate anytime soon.
But has Evans made his impact on the team? Has he still got purely the side he adopted from Souness? And what could he make of them? Some would say Souness wasted his opportunity as it’s widely regarded in footballing circles that Liverpool currently has on it’s books some of the hottest prospects in English football. He’s strengthened his side defensively too with the signings of Phil Babb from Coventry City & John Scales from Wimbledon. But is that enough? Let’s find out and see if at 3 o’clock tomorrow afternoon, the Kop will have a season to look forward too…
A goalkeeper who is growing in stature game by game. Signed from Watford for the start of the Premier League era, many say he’s now the answer to England’s problem when it comes to replacing Peter Shilton. Renowned for his calmness, you can count on one hand the number of glaring individual errors he’s made during his career. A suave sense of fashion and style belie his young age, as shown with his profile picture here. If he maintains his ability he could play on well into his thirties…despite the fact he has openly admitted in recent months he would like retire by the age of 30 and not go on for years and years and years and years…
The son of new West Ham United manager Harry Redknapp, Jamie Redknapp is a great midfield hope. After being signed from Bournemouth, he’s renowned for his excellent fitness and lack of injury-proneness, which will benefit the first team no end. A deadball specialist, at 21 years of age he has his best years ahead of him and has already played over 60 games in the Premier League in it’s first two seasons. He’s already voiced his interest in going into punditry and commentating when he retires like other Anfield legends such as Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson, with many people at the club saying he’s one of the most articulate talkers of the game they’ve ever come across.
A genuine prospect and just 19 years old, Robert Fowler (or Robbie as he prefers to be called) is the successor to Ian Rush’s crown. Last season Welshman Rush managed 14 league goals, with Fowler just one goal behind him with 13. He was part of England’s under-18’s 1993 European Championship success and is now a regular in the under-21 set-up. He’ll expect to be in the starting XI from the word go this term, and his popularity is strengthened further by him being a local lad. Watch out for his quirky-looking nasal strip which he’s been wearing during pre-season to help with breathing.
So there’s a few of the bright hopes for you to watch out for. Elsewhere, and the mix of youth and experience runs throughout the team – stalwarts such as Jan Molby, John Barnes and of course, Ian Rush, remain at the front of Evans’ plans, but these 3 prospects, along with others such as Steve McManaman, Dominic Matteo and goalkeeper Anthony Warner, means the Reds are in good stead.
Elsewhere in the league, threats come from the likes of Manchester United obviously. Two league wins on the bounce, Liverpool’s arch rivals will want to make it three out of three, but Kenny Dalglish’s Blackburn Rovers will want to put a stop to that, especially after coming second to them last time out. Interestingly enough, Liverpool host Blackburn on the last day of the season – many fans will be hoping it could still decide which way the title goes at that point.
But after a few seasons of mediocrity, can Liverpool fans realistically expect them to challenge for the title? Pre-season has shown they have excitement and flair going forward, but even with additions at the back, they still look shaky. Although it’s never out of the question with Liverpool, the league title still looks just out of reach. Yet, a strong cup run is a sure-fire possibility, with strong squad depth throughout the team. If they qualify for Europe, some will call that a success. Yet those who remember the very recent glory years will not be satisfied with another season lacking silverware. Roy Evans…you may finally have the chance to manage your side…but time is not on your side.
***Of course, in reality, Liverpool managed to win the League Cup that season and managed fourth in the league as Blackburn won the league on the final day of the season, despite losing at Anfield that afternoon – James, Redknapp & Fowler all played over 200 games each for the club and were capped numerous times for England – Fowler played every game that season & was voted PFA Young Player of the Year, as well as scoring a hat-trick in just 4 minutes & 33 seconds against Arsenal – a record which still stands. Roy Evans stayed in charge until November 1998, when an attempt at ‘joint-managing’ the team with Gerard Houllier failed and Evans left for pastures new***