The Wilderness Years by Wooltonian

Liverpool's team in 1969: back row: Geoff Strong, Gerry Byrne, Chris Lawler, Tommy Lawrence, Ray Clemence, Larry Lloyd, Ian Ross and Alec Lindsay. Front row: Ian Callaghan, Alun Evans, Roger Hunt, Tommy Smith, Ron Yeats, Emlyn Hughes, Ian St John, Peter Thompson and Bobby Graham.

My memories of Shankly's reign like many others are coloured. Selective memory is probably the main culprit. The Messiah had come from Huddersfield to Liverpool and dragged us out of the old Second division.

In his early days he had won the title twice and finally brought THE CUP home for the first time in our History. Happy days indeed for the Garston Rag Arse. But 1966 the year England won the World Cup in the summer, saw my family and I move from my beloved Garston, to the more "Snobbish" Woolton.

Little did I realise that this was going to be a major turning point in my life and every other REDS. We were League Champions. We were World Champions. Surely we were on the brink of a great new era?

My memories of the next 7 years are happy ones. My dad was taking me to games more often, in fact I rarely missed home games. I was still on a shilling a goal when I scored for the school team. I'll never forget the look on my Dads face when he handed over 5/- for one game.

What a shock I got recently when it was pointed out that these were the years when Liverpool actually won NOTHING. It can't be true I thought, they were some of my happiest years of my life.
These years included:

My first pair of long trousers
My first pint
My first proper girlfriend
and money in my pocket on a regular basis.

Hunt was still knocking the goals in, Hateley came and went, knocking in more than a goal every two games. Times could not be better. Yeats was still at the heart of our defence and I swear blind he grows another inch every year. Yosser Hughes arrived.

Clemence the worlds best goalie was between our sticks. Lawler was the best right back in the country and NO ONE would argue that, not only was he a great defender, he scored goals regularly. Lindsay our left back could peel an orange with his left boot.

Tommy Smith was still frightening anyone who came within 50 yds of him. Alun Evans arrived and totally dismantled Bayern Munich, a night I will always remember. Keegan and Toshack came an dproved ESP did exist! Heighway was that fast, I thought I needed glasses, he was just a blur. Callaghan must be playing his 1000th game by now surely. With all the talent we had in those years, we must have been the greatest side around.

So off to the record books I headed:

66/67 Nothing
67/68 Nothing
68/69 Nothing
69/70 Nothing
70/71 Nothing
71/72 Nothing

How the hell could these be classed as happy years?

Surely I must have had a few scraps over our abysmal record, but no. How could my memory have blanked out such a period of failure. So deeper I dug into the record books. Looking for some sort of answer. I concentrated on home games because I didn't see many away games until later years. What kept me happy, what kept my belief as strong as ever? What made me turn up to games week in week out? Was Shankly the greatest ever conman?

Then there it was, staring at me straight in the face. What I was watching was Liverpool winning at home. It was the games I didn't see that was a blank in my memory. Our Home record over those years included:

66-67 Two defeats only WBA and Blackpool, but included a 5-0 win over Leeds and a 4-0 win over Forest.

67-68 Again two defeats only Man Utd and Sheff Utd, but included a 6-0 win over Newcastle and a 6-1 win over Forest.

68-69 Only one defeat all season against Forest, but 4-0 wins over Ipswich and Leicester.

69-70 Four defeats (our worst home record in this period, but I missed two of these losses) Arsenal, Man Utd, Derby and Everton, but 4-1 victories over Chelsea and Southampton.

70-71 NO DEFEATS, but good wins over Huddersfield and Forest.

71-72 The only defeat was by Leeds, but consecutive wins that will live with me for a long time: 2-0 Sheff Utd 3-0 Man City 4-0 Everton 5-0 Newcastle. The following game at home we played Stoke and I like many others greeted the players with "We want SIX". It wasn't to be, the run had to end somewhere, we begrudgingly settled for a 2-1 win.

72-73 Only defeat was Arsenal, but we did stick five past the hapless Sheff Utd.

The fact is, we were absolutely BRILLIANT at home.

After that season the trophies began to return home EVERY YEAR. My only conclusion can be, that what you don’t see can’t harm you. Ignorance certainly can be bliss. There is no great shame in losing an away game, if its followed by a series of home wins.

We must have had appalling away form in those years, but I wasn't there to witness any of them. The pain of an away defeat would only last until the next home game. Trophies are nice, but in those years of winning absolutely nothing, the fans remained happy because we hardly ever lost at home. And even when we did, we went down fighting until the very last kick of the game.

The Liverpool PINK was a great help, the home side was always featured on the front page and there for all to see was the "Kopite" dancing and swinging his rattle, while the Toffee lady stood whinging. When the time came, where I could afford to go to away games, we were slaughtering teams right left and centre. Not only in the league but all over Europe too.

© Wooltonian 2004

St John's career was in its twilightIan St John's criticism of Houllier's side got the following response from assistant manager Phil Thompson: "What Ian should remember is from 1966-73 we never won a competition. He was part of that. He will remember he was a part of the team which lost to Watford in the FA Cup. That was a team which went down without a fight. That was a team I loved - a team which brought great honour and credit to the club over many years."

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