FOOTBALL: Liverpool fail to recreate Shankly's Anfield
Liverpool 2 Coventry City 0
Monday 20 December 1999
The economics of the modern game exposed the information as a fragment from history. Preston, with a small population and limited resources, could no more lead the League today than Doug Ellis expect a warm welcome at Upton Park, but it did underline how far Liverpool have travelled. The programme was the first published while the club was under Bill Shankly's management in 1959; the Anfield it was being sold in a monument to his work.
"Every thing you see here is a tribute to him," Kevin Keegan, the great communicator's brightest jewel, said. "Other people worked hard too, but the man who deserves most credit is Bill Shankly. He changed my life. I miss him."
Keegan led a group of former players who were paraded on the pitch to mark the 40th anniversary of Shankly's arrival at Liverpool. Anfield was hushed, pipers played "Amazing Grace" and the Kop held up cards that made up a mosaic with the word "Shanks" crowning the St Andrew's flag. Nostalgia swirled in the icy wind, you were invited to look back and the temptation grew stronger the longer the match went on.
Two very good goals were a compensation but Liverpool present are a long way short of Liverpool past. Perhaps the players were, as Gerard Houllier suggested, overwhelmed by the occasion but you were left gasping for a touch from the men who had departed. Keegan, Peter Thompson, Ian Callaghan, any would have done, even Peter Cormack, who is not the first name you would pluck from the Anfield galaxy but whose subtle artistry would have illuminated a dull midfield.
There were compelling performances in that department but they came from Coventry's old men, Gary McAllister and Carlton Palmer, who eclipsed Dietmar Hamann and Jamie Carragher and were unfortunate not to have taken home something for Christmas from Anfield.
Noel Whelan missed with a free header from 10 yards after eight minutes; McAllister made a hash of an attempted lob when he was clear after 28; Palmer should have hit the target with another header; Vladimir Smicer cleared off the line from Cedric Roussell; if the scoreline had finished 2-2 it would have been hard to mount a case that an injustice had been perpetrated.
Instead Liverpool, who have won seven of their last eight matches, got the three points that keeps them in touch with the leaders thanks to a delightful turn and stabbing shot by Michael Owen that suggested reports of his demise might be premature and a 25-yard shot from Titi Camara which may or may not have been deflected off Owen's back.
That was the assertion of Gordon Strachan, whose antics are becoming more eccentric by the match. On Saturday he eschewed the stairs and leapt into the crowd to get from the stand to the touchline, and received a stern wigging from a steward as a result. You shudder to think what the Coventry manager's reaction would have been if matters on the field had taken a turn for a worse but the fact that the man in the yellow jacket is not having Strachan's pen removed from a painful place reveals a compromise was reached.
What had galvanised Strachan was an off-the-ball incident between Gary Breen and Owen which left the England striker on the floor clutching his face. The crowd, the players and the linesmen did not know what had happened and the referee, who was similarly mystified, took the "if in doubt" option and booked the Coventry defender.
Houllier said the referee was "brilliant" even if he was wrong - it had to be either a red card or nothing and as the consensus afterwards was it was an accidental collision, Breen has every right to feel aggrieved - but the Liverpool manager was also effusive with his praise about his team's performance, so perhaps he was so taken by the Shankly celebrations his judgement was impaired.
On this evidence the parade of Houllier "greats" in 39 years time is unlikely to include anyone other than Owen and Sami Hyypia.
Goals: Owen (45) 1-0, Camara (73) 2-0.
Liverpool (4-4-2): Westerveld; Gerrard, Henchoz, Hyypia, Matteo; Thompson (Smicer, 36; Murphy, 89), Hamann, Carragher, Berger; Owen, Camara (Heggem, 86). Substitutes not used: Song, Nielsen (gk).
Coventry City (4-4-2): Hedman; Telfer, Breen, Williams, Froggatt; Hadji (Norman, 74), Palmer, McAllister, Chippo; Keane, Whelan (Roussel, 70). Substitutes not used: Eustace, Gustafsson, Ogrizovic (gk).
Referee: A D'Urso (Billericay).
Bookings: Coventry: Keane, Breen.
Man of the match: Gerrard.
Latest in Sport
Arsenal transfer news and rumours: Gabriel Paulista sent to Paris to speed up move; Luis Suarez bid planned; Gunners eye Daniele Rugani
Chelsea vs Liverpool match report: Branislav Ivanovic seals classic semi-final with extra-time header to send Blues to Wembley
Gabriel Paulista: Talented Brazilian could grow into world-class defender at Arsenal
Andy Murray vs Tomas Berydch: Murray cool over reunion with coach Dani Vallverdu at the Australian Open
Transfer news live: Gabriel Paulista to Arsenal CONFIRMED; Juan Cuadrado to Chelsea; Liverpool close in on £14m Ezequiel Lavezzi
- 1 King Salman: Just five days in, Saudi Arabia's new king has already overseen a beheading
- 2 The BBC has just done more to eradicate ‘terrorism’ than all our wars since 9/11
- 3 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 4 Presidential optical illusion offers clues to how brain processes faces
- 5 Grumpy Roald Dahl letter warning student to 'eschew beastly adjectives' rediscovered after 35 years
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Front End Web Developer is re...
£250 - £300 per day: Investigo: Growing international marketing business requi...
£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ORM Consultant is required t...
£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of educat...