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
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...