By Richard Morgan
Football journalist – @Richiereds1976
Watch Liverpool vs Chelsea, live on Sky Sports Premier League from 8pm; Kick-off 8.15pm
Last Updated: 21/07/20 11:49pm
Surprisingly, John Barnes cannot recall scoring the penalty that confirmed Liverpool as top-flight champions in 1989-90, which until this incredible season was the club’s most recent title win.
“I do not remember it much at all. Who did we beat? When I scored a penalty, was it against QPR?” he says of the 2-1 win against Queens Park Rangers at Anfield on April 28 1990 which saw Kenny Dalglish’s side win the league for a record-extending 18th time.
Well, it was 30 years ago, which perhaps explains Barnes’ foggy memory of the occasion, although it also reflects a different time.
It was a time when Liverpool nearly always won the league. And if they did not, they were second. In fact, between 1973 and 1991, Liverpool only ever finished outside the top two places once, when they were fifth in 1980-81, although they did go on to lift the European Cup that season.
So for Barnes and the rest of his Liverpool team-mates in action against QPR that April afternoon 30 years ago, it really was just another match, another championship, nothing out of the ordinary.
“At that time, Liverpool was just about playing games and winning matches and the consequence of that was you won the league,” he says. “And that game was not bigger than any other game because we had to win games to get in that position anyway.”
When the final whistle went to signal the title was theirs, by some accounts the players were met with slightly muted celebrations from those inside Anfield as thoughts already began to turn to the following campaign and championship number 19.
“It is one of those things that you forget about it and move on to and try to do it again the following year.
“So I do not know if it was subdued, but that is the way Liverpool always was when they won the league as it was about doing it again. You work hard to win it, but once you have won it, you stay focussed to do it again.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but at that time I did not think it would be three years before we won the league again, never mind 30!
“It was not the furore it is these days when anyone wins the league.”
Little did all those inside Anfield that day realise it would be another 30 years though before the then perennial title winners would be league champions again.
“We would have savoured the moment more if we thought it was going to be another 30 years! But we fully expected to be winning the league, or be there or thereabouts, the following year,” Barnes adds.
“And it was not till about four years later that I thought I’m now in a team that will be finishing in the top four, which means third or fourth as by now Man Utd and Arsenal were the teams dominating by 1994-96.
“Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but at that time I did not think it would be three years before we won the league again, never mind 30!
“You just think every year, this is what it is going to be like. So after 1990 we won the FA Cup and the League Cup, but that was it and it just was not meant to be.”
The 30 years of hurt are over now, erased by one of the finest sides Liverpool have ever produced, which is saying something when one considers some of the previous vintages.
Now the challenge for Jurgen Klopp and Co, however, is to back up this title triumph with another next season, a feat not even the teams from the Barnes era ever accomplished.
In fact, it has been 36 years since Liverpool managed to retain the title.
“We did not retain it because in 1989 we lost in the last minute to Arsenal with that 2-0 defeat,” Barnes explains, “It was not that we did not retain because we lost loads of games and we were second by 20 points.
“You think about Hillsborough and the games we had to catch up, playing five games in two weeks, and all the emotion of it coming down to the last game was just a bit too far.
“And then we won it the year after, so that could have been three years in a row. But when we win or we lose, you do your best, try 100 per cent and do not dwell too much on your successes or failures.”
So, what chance Liverpool drawing level with arch-rivals Manchester United on 20 top-flight titles next season?
“They could have won back-to-back titles after getting 97 points and only losing one game last season – any other season, they would have won it and they won it this year,” he says.
“But of course, Man City are going to be strong again, Man Utd, but it is more difficult now because of the financial situation if a lot of clubs, they can spend a lot of money to get good players to challenge you next year.
“So once upon a time, in the 1980s you always knew it was going to be Liverpool and Everton as the top teams and then Arsenal and Man Utd in the late 1990s and 2000s.
“But now any team, with the right owner, can now challenge, like Man City did and Chelsea and Man Utd can do it again. So it is much harder to win it year in, year out now, let alone retain it next year.
“But what I do know is this side with Klopp will be consistent to be challenging – not to say they are going to win it, but they will be challenging again next year.
“As to what other teams do, we do not know. We know Man City will come good again, but I do not necessarily expect Liverpool to lose just one game. But I know they will be up at the top and there or thereabouts to be challenging to win.”
Liverpool vs Chelsea
July 22, 2020, 8:00pm
Liverpool vs Chelsea fanzone available to everyone
Sky Sports Fanzone will be made available to everyone for Liverpool vs Chelsea and the Premier League trophy lift on Wednesday evening, whether you’re a Sky Sports subscriber or not.
Sky Sports will show Liverpool’s game against Chelsea (Kick-off 8.15pm) and the presentation of the Premier League trophy free to air on Sky Pick, where Liverpool’s players and staff will be presented with their medals and the Premier League trophy on a special podium built on the Kop, surrounded by fan banners.
And all Liverpool supporters will be able to have their own Premier League title party at home and the ability to watch with family and friends thanks to Sky Sports Fanzone.
Whether you’re a Sky Sports subscriber or not, everyone will be able to use a new feature on the Sky Sports website on your phone (optimised on iOS for iPhone 8 and above), laptop or PC to watch select matches with friends in a video room and interact while the action unfolds, giving them the chance to chat about the match and influence the crowd noise they hear on screen. It will run from an hour before the game until an hour after the game.
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Source : Sky Sports