What Was Liverpool's Secret?

Growing up I was always impressed by Liverpool.  It was hard not to be I suppose.  They were the team to beat every year for most of the 70's and 80's and for a spell practically dominated the league and Europe.

Liverpool are the most successful club in the history of English football, having won 18 league titles, seven FA Cups and a record seven League Cups. They are also the most successful English club in European competition, having won five European Cups (now Champions League) and three UEFA Cups.

Liverpool had this special aura.  It was like they had a secret that no one else knew of.  It started with Bill Shankley who really was the architect and builder of the Liverpool that went on to be so successful.  Then when he retired, they promoted from within (Bob Paisley) and again with Joe Fagan, and finally with player manager Kenny Dalglish.  When Dalglish resigned, for the first time Liverpool went in a different direction by appointing a former player, Graeme Souness.  This was different because Sounness, although a former player, had been away from the club for a few years and managed other clubs.  So it wasn't a case of continuing the "Liverpool system" so to speak.

This is when things started going wrong.  Sounness only won one FA Cup during his four years and was replaced from within by Roy Evans in the hope that they could recapture the methods of Shankly, Paisley, Fagan and Dalglish, but Evans failed to restore Liverpool to its previous heights and Gerard Houllier was hired as co-manager.

There is no point in going forward with this brief history lesson, but let's take a look at how good Liverpool were until the end of the Dalglish era.

Shankley got Liverpool promoted from the 2nd Division to the 1st Division (now EPL) and then in a 10 year spell, won three league championships, two FA Cups and a UEFA Cup.

Paisley was even more successful.  In the nine seasons in which he was manager, Liverpool won 21 trophies, including three European Cups, a UEFA Cup, six league titles and three consecutive League Cups.

Paisley's assistant, Joe Fagan took over at Liverpool when Paisley retired.  In his first season Liverpool won the League, League Cup and European Cup, becoming the first English side to win three trophies in a season.  In his second season, Liverpool were runners up in the league and the European Cup.

That runners up in the European Cup final, might very well have been the beginning of Liverpool's slide from prominence.  It was the Heysel Disaster, which resulted in Liverpool being banned from European competition for six years.  Check this link for more details.  Anyway, Fagan retired after this game.

But more success followed for a while with Kenny Dalglish in charge.  During his reign, the club won another three League Championships and two FA Cups, including a League and Cup "Double" in the 1985–86 season.

But when Dalglish resigned, the club for some reason, didn't promote from within and went with Sounness.  I have no idea why.  In fact, I would love to know what their thinking was at this time.

The questions I have are:

Why did Liverpool decide to not promote from within and hire Sounness?

What the heck did Liverpool know that no one else knew during their period of success?

We all heard stories of how they did things but didn't really believe it could be that simple.  We heard that they played a lot of 5v5 and 8v8 at training.  That they did everything at full, game speed.  We heard that they didn't do the kind of tactical training sessions that other coaches did and just "played" at training sessions.  But no one really believed it so they continued on their own path.  A few might have tried it but couldn't replicate it.  It certainly was a one-off situation that hasn't been replicated by any other club.

Regardless, Liverpool were a great team to watch in those days and it's kind of sad to see where they are now.

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