Liverpool v Manchester City: Current Reds look uncannily like ’64 Beatles-inspired band


The resemblances are uncanny. A Liverpool team that finished outside the top six the previous season launches an unexpected title challenge. Their success is based on a striking duo who both hit over 20 league goals in the campaign. A run of successive wins carries them on a tide of growing excitement towards a first championship in over a generation.

Yet this is not 2014. It is 50 years ago this month and Bill Shankly’s first great Reds team was about to clinch the 1964 First Division title with a 5-0 destruction of Arsenal in front of a swaying, jubilant Kop. Moreover they did so at a time when Liverpool, led by The Beatles and the genius of Lennon and McCartney but also thanks to the likes of Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Searchers and Cilla Black, had rocketed to preeminence in the pop charts. During the 1963-64 season, of the 14 British No1s an incredible 10 were by groups or artists that hailed from Merseyside – and one of the few that didn’t, Peter and Gordon’s “A World Without Love”, was written by Paul McCartney. That spring Liverpool must have felt like the centre of the entire planet.

“It was all so unexpected,” recalls Liverpool historian Eric Doig, who was an Anfield regular in 1963-64, grew up in the streets surrounding the stadium and whose grandfather played for the club. “We had a steady, settled team, I think we only used 16 players that season and some of them only got a game or two. We went on a great run and the excitement grew and grew.

“The crowds were incredible, you had to get there hours beforehand to be sure of getting in and they would sing all the Merseybeat songs. It was very special.”

To put Liverpool’s success in context, two seasons before they were still in the Second Division, having endured several agonising years of just missing out on promotion. Shankly put an end to that. Appointed as manager in 1959, the Scot helped the side to take that final step back to the top flight by signing a pair of tough compatriots: Ron Yeats, a rugged centre-half who Shankly invited reporters “to walk around him in the dressing room”, and Ian St John, a clever and brave centre-forward who rapidly established a prolific partnership with Roger Hunt.

Liverpool ran away with the Second Division championship in 1962 and finished eighth in their first season back in the First Division. Nevertheless, a tilt at the title did not look on the cards at the start of 1963-64, after all they had just finished 17 points behind champions Everton. The signing of Peter Thompson from Preston helped change that. “Peter was tremendous, a real tricky winger, we had him on the left and Ian Callaghan on the right,” says Doig. “St John played a little deeper, with Roger Hunt as the out-and-out centre-forward, and the team really started to play for one another.”

They got off to a slow start, losing their first three home games, but turned a corner by beating Everton 2-1 in the Anfield derby on 28 September, Callaghan scoring twice.

A rare win at Manchester United clinched by an even rarer Yeats goal followed in November, but Liverpool hit a rough patch in February when they were knocked out of the FA Cup in the quarter-finals by struggling Second Division side Swansea. They were back in fourth – with games in hand – in mid-March but seven straight wins, including a crucial 3-1 success away at Tottenham Hotspur on Good Friday, Hunt scoring a hat-trick, saw them to the club’s first title in 17 years.

It all culminated with the trashing of Arsenal on 18 April – “an incredible day”, remembers Doig. Thankfully the BBC sent a camera crew to Anfield – this was several months before Match of the Day started – and captured not just the five goals but the spectacle of the Kop in full flight, 28,000 delirious people belting out “Can’t Buy Me Love” and, ahem, Cilla’s “Anyone Who Had A Heart”.

Sunday’s home match with Manchester City, combined with the 25th anniversary of Hillsborough, promises to be a special, moving occasion, but it will have to go some to top that.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power