Tony Evans: Monday's Merseyside Derby is a Watershed Moment for Liverpool
Looking back, it struck me that very few of my favourite derby memories took place at Anfield. Most were at other grounds – Wembley, Maine Road and Goodison.
The standout games across the park were the 3-2 in 1985, when the teams were arguably the two best sides in Europe, and the 5-0 in 1982. Gary McAllister’s winner in 2001’s 3-2 victory was truly remarkable.
More recently, the Sadio Mane late, late winner was a brilliant moment. The Street End’s groan when the added time board went up with (if I remember rightly) six minutes on it was one of those astounding psychological moments when you realise the three points are coming your way. You just knew Liverpool would score.
The FA Cup finals of 1986 and 1989 stand out for the joy of the first and the misery of the second. Despite the victory in the latter game, the misery of Hillsborough hung over the experience.
It was as bad for Everton. Neville Southall didn’t want to play. His thought process was simple: no one wanted the Blues to beat a team that had experienced such tragedy. The big man had a point.
As for Maine Road, the day in 1977 was unforgettable. Clive Thomas and the signature disallowed goal of Evertonian folklore. I was in their section and got kicked up and down the Kippax after celebrating the absurd refereeing decision.
The home games, though? I’ve very little memory of the two 4-0s in the past decade. Maybe it’s in part because of Everton’s poor record at Anfield this century. The match that I think of first when I recall derbies in front of the Kop is the Graeme Sharp game in 1984 when the Scot scored the only goal and Evertonians flooded onto the pitch.
It’s hard to believe that it’s five years since Divock Origi’s header but that was as much comedy as drama. Was that when Jordan Pickford’s T-Rex arms became a thing?
The point of this? There’d be no better time for Jurgen Klopp’s team to give Anfield a performance that is unforgettable. It feels like a watershed is arriving. The result on Monday might be the defining moment of the season for both teams.
The ‘friendly derby’ cliché will be trotted out on Monday. It’s probably the least friendly it’s ever been and it wasn’t very matey back in the 1980s.
In the 1985 game mentioned earlier, I was in the Enclosure. When Kenny Dalglish scored after 21 seconds, a short, sharp, nasty exchange took place near where I was standing between young scallies on both sides. There’s always been an ugly undercurrent and town on derby night was generally worth avoiding. Not that we ever did.
At the 5-0 game I was in the paddock. When the fifth went in someone kicked me really hard in the shin as I celebrated. No one would admit to it. The lump is still there.
But the cowardly Evertonian actually did me a favour. At bad times over the years, I’d gently run my finger over the bump. It always makes me smile. It transports me back to November 1982 and one of the finest football-supporting days of my life.
So thanks, you Bluenose get. You gave me a permanent memento of your worst nightmare.
I suppose we should talk about Wolves. I love those furry, pack-animal bastards. What do you mean that’s not what you expected?
The social construction of Wolf packs starts with the Alpha. Joel Matip and Joe Gomez are not alphas. Both prefer to play alongside a more dominant presence and Virgil van Dijk fits the bill.
Neither of the ill-fated duo at the heart of the defence at Molineux is a leader. Nor do they organise the back line with any conviction. Each has talent but they let themselves down with their callow approach to the game. No wonder they have only started together less than 10 times in the four years they’ve both been at the club. Nat Phillips is about to get another chance.
The Premier League this week charged Manchester City with more than 100 breaches of the financial regulations. That’s after a four-year investigation.
The ruling body were keen to get it out before the White Paper on football governance, which was slated to be published this week. Of course, the Government recommendations were delayed.
The Premier League wanted to send out two messages. The first was to counter the demands for an independent regulator by showing that football can get its own house in order. They also want to rein City in.
Four years is a long time to make your case cast-iron solid. City, however, take the same approach to lawyers as they do with players – they’ll buy the very best, whatever the cost, in numbers. They will drag the Premier League through every court possible. By the time there’s a resolution they may well have won eight out of 10 titles.
What does it mean for Liverpool? FSG’s main concern has been City’s ability to spend with impunity. They owners always planned to sell on but the Etihad’s financial power hastened their exit strategy. I can’t see this latest development changing their mind.
Very little will happen in the short term but curbing City’s spending makes other clubs more viable in the long haul. Any buyer might take that into account.
It also pushes the European Super League down the agenda. The feeling was that the only way to counter City was to create a new league with strict, American-style limits on salary and outlay in the transfer market. If the Premier League can restore the declining competitiveness in the English game, the top flight elite might be more inclined to sit tight rather than look to jump ship to a completely new system.
Let’s see if the Premier League have the cojones to see this through.
The new Super League proposals are laughable. A new European competition is inevitable but the latest manifesto is short on detail and has no clear information about how it would be funded.
It’s hard to see many teams signing up for this. There will be much better offers down the line.
Bill Shankly used to say football teams were like a piano. You need three to play it and eight to carry it.
That does not make the slightest bit of sense.
The point is that if you’ve got three high-class players and the others work hard, you’ll win. Trent, Thiago and Salah are top drawer. There’s a trio, even at a time of too many injuries.
That’s enough manpower for Klopp to get a tune out of the team. Everyone at the club is running out of excuses. Turn that corner on Monday.