FOOTBALL: Liverpool fail to recreate Shankly's Anfield

Liverpool 2 Coventry City 0

THE TABLES in the match programme hinted that this would not be a normal day. Preston North End were there in black and white commanding the heights of English football while Burnley and Fulham were just two points behind. Liverpool? They were mid-table mediocrity in the Second Division.

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.

Attendance: 44,024.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

h2 Recruit Ltd: Senior Sales Executive - SaaS/ Cyber Security - £60,000

£32000 - £34000 per annum + Uncapped OTE £65,000 : h2 Recruit Ltd: Looking for...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Sales Executive - Software-as-a-Service/ SaaS - £42,000

£28000 - £31000 per annum + Bonus + Progression: h2 Recruit Ltd: Are you looki...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Inside Sales Manager - SaaS/ Financial Software - £90,000

£60000 - £65000 per annum + Bonus + Benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Rapidly expandin...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager - Bristol

£31000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the UK, the major project fo...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game